After a troubled second album and a hiatus that would make Steely Dan proud, new album Hysterical marks an assured return to form for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. With the Brooklyn-based quintet set to hit our shores in November to play Harvest Festival, along with a couple of headline shows, Tone Deaf spoke to lead singer Alec Ounsworth (via a slightly dodgy Melbourne/Philly phone hook-up) about the new album and their upcoming visit to Australia.
Hysterical has been a long time coming for CYHSY, with the band taking a four and a half year break between this album and their last offering Some Loud Thunder. Ounsworth says the band has been keeping busy during that time.
“Everybody’s had other projects they’ve been working on. Robbie’s working with a couple of different bands. Tyler and Lee have been doing some film work, and have been doing their own composition for different people. Sean’s been doing some production work and I’ve been busying myself creating an enormous pile of demos that I’m not entirely satisfied with.”
But while the album has been a long time coming, Ounsworth says the finished product is worth the wait. “I think of it as a great record. I think it’s the perfect third record for us, and we are exactly where we need to be. I think we’re moving forward in a very important and significant way for us, and we’re already itching to want to present this live.”
In terms of why he thinks that Hysterical is the “perfect third record”, Ounsworth explains that it has to do with a shift in his mentality; namely “my own recognition that this is a band.” “I think it took me awhile to come around to that, and the fact that everyone has their own unique skill set. I did identify that a bit more abstractly at first, but now everyone is starting to work with that to our advantage.”
It’s difficult to discuss a CYHSY album without placing it against the background of the hype and critical acclaim that accompanied their eponymous debut – certainly, the approach taken by most reviews of Hysterical has been to directly compare this album to their previous efforts. On this, Ounsworth says he “can’t necessarily fault everyone for that…or can I? Maybe I can! When I come to certain records, I usually come to them for what they are.”
In any event, Ounsworth says that he doesn’t really read reviews anymore. “I’ve never learned anything from them in the past. Any reviews I’ve read, I’ve generally come to the conclusion that, one, I’ve never really learnt much about myself or any important way of applying this to what I do and, two, more or less, the reviewer and I simply don’t like the same types of music.”
The band are excited about visiting Australia, and particularly about playing the inaugural Harvest Festival. “I’ve come to like festivals. At first I didn’t, and now I do. I think a lot of that comes from being able to finish and then go out and see what everybody else is experiencing. Before I just liked to hide away.”
As for what the band is planning to do when they come to Australia, Ounsworth says that they won’t have much spare time. “I would like to see some friends if they’re around, like the Architecture [in Helsinki] guys. I can’t come in with any absolute optimism because I don’t usually have enough time to see anything at all.”
But he says that playing in the festival environment will give them a chance to soak up some of the Australian summer atmosphere. “Even though I might not be able to run off and see a museum or go to a café, I think that way I can still engage people or be engaged.”
Saturday November 12 – Harvest Presents “The Gathering”, Melbourne, Werribee Park
Sunday November 13 – Harvest, Sydney, Parramatta Park Tickets
Monday 14th November @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney Tickets
Wednesday16th November @ East Brunswick Club, Melbourne Tickets
Thursday 17th November @ Rosemount Hotel, Perth Tickets
Saturday November 19 – Harvest, Brisbane, Botanical Gardens Tickets