When I meet all three to discuss the new album, it doesn’t feel like much has changed since we met in 2007, other than a couple new haircuts. They riff off each other, moving from inside joke to inside joke—only Wolf Tuton answers my questions with any seriousness. Keating lapses into wild fake accents and elliptical trains of thought punctuated by unpredictable hand gestures that are not dissimilar to his stage spasms. But in reality, everything is different now. Since Cymbals, and after its extensive global touring, Yeasayer disappeared to work on solo stuff, linked up for some interesting collaborations (Wilder produced an EP for Suckers and wrote a musical; Keating and Wolf Tuton guested on Bat for Lashes’ Two Suns) and spent time upstate in a home studio owned by a dude who used to play with Phil Collins. While they were gone, a million little Brooklyn bands abandoned pristine sheen and buried their pop hooks under layers of lo-fi grime and fuzz; shows shifted to abandoned hotels and dicey yards under subway tracks where it seemed like everyone was playing their first shows ever.
Not only is Yeasayer’s music the complete opposite of the prevailing style, its members lead more subdued lifestyles. No one goes out like they used to. Keating is married. Wolf Tuton lives with his girlfriend and has a garden. Wilder seems content to hang out until his girlfriend gets off work so they can spend as much time together as possible before the band hits the road again. They’re not rich, but they’re certainly not struggling either, and all three live in relatively sedate neighborhoods. They treat Yeasayer as both an incredibly important personal project and a very serious job. They’re always on time, and they know their own schedules without having to ask a publicist or manager. Where many bands can barely get it together enough to practice, Yeasayer will spend all day every day refining its live show.
When I meet Wolf Tuton at his new house, it’s in Vinegar Hill—a neighborhood located in a historic pocket between the abandoned Navy Yards and upscaled DUMBO near the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a fitting place, sparsely populated and filled with odd character, but hardly a mecca for youth. “None of us are 18-year-olds trying to get a fast check,” says Wolf Tuton. “I know what it is to be a frustrated artist and I know when I see something that’s working. We’re so fortunate to have what we have and it’s up to everyone else to figure out whether they want us to have a career or not. So far so good. The goal now is to get the live show bigger and bigger. Reinvest in that. I want to make that more entertaining.” Then he pauses and looks around the room that will soon become his personal studio. “I’d also like to get a bookshelf.”