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I s s ue 1 // M ay 2010


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Words Dominic VonTrapp Photography Sam Hiscox Illustration Rachel Williams

Yeasayer talk politics, presidents, warfare and music... “We’re not doing any wacky shit,” Ira from Yeasayer announced to our photographer early on. The rest of the band nodded in agreement. “We’ll just stand against this wall and you can take a picture”. We don’t argue. Sam snaps a few shots and†quits while he’s ahead. “What – That’s all?” Ira sounds a little surprised and gives a wry smile “If we’d known you were going to be quick we might have gone easy on ya.” We make the short walk to a cafè down the road and sit down for the interview. “By the way, I'm Ira, and this is Chris. Just so you know. Don’t make me sound like him or him sound like me” I assure him my preparation for this interview stretched to finding out their names. Yeasayer have been on tour for three months, and it has taken its toll on their patience. While they are at all times polite, and as accommodating as they feel they are able to be, there is an un-mistakable air of “We’re tired, don’t fuck with us.” In the interest of our dwindling relationship, I reach into my notepad, tearing out all the “Hi, how are you?” questions. Ira is having some trouble with his tea strainer, I show him how it works “Tea is serious business in England” I quip, “I'm from America” he counters, “We’re serious about war. You guys always back us up though” Oh shit.

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Issue 1 // May 2010

Luckily Chris chips in “You guys have guys dying for no reason out there too” Ira continues, “Afghanistan is doomed to fail. All we can do is make it worse and worse and worse. What are we going to do, continually escalate it? Repeat what the Russians did? Repeat what the English did??” Where they hoping the current administration would end the war? Ira adopts a slightly condescending tone: “The thing about the United States president people that people tend to forget is that their chief job is to be the

head of the military. Master in commander. There is never going to be a US president who is just a peace-nic” I ask if they ever see themselves officially backing a president the way that REM backed Kerry during the 2004 election? “No” is Ira’s short answer. Chris is less sure “In some ways we endorse Obama. The guy is smart. He’s the smartest guy in the room. He seems at least fair-minded. I don’t believe he’s a real lefty. He has left wing policies and right wing policies” Ira adds “It’s naïve to think that Obama can really get that much done. You have to go through congress. A lot of those people have been there forever. It’s kind of twisted” Time to talk about their careers. I ask them if they agree with a quote in Guardian saying Yeasayer “set about being as uncool as possible” “I agree with it because I told them that. They paraphrased me” Chris said with some indignation “You could listen to some Celine Dion shit, and it’ll be kind of a whack song, but there’ll be one little part of it you like. Somewhere to get an idea from.” “I think we’re students of what we are doing” Ira adds, “We try our best to learn from a lot of different sources. That was one of the foundations of the band. We try our best to learn from, say Celine Dion, or whatever song it is. Try to find something in it that we can learn from. We’re trying to build something new so you have to start with as many different pieces as possible” Chris continues “It doesn’t have to be some pop shit either, it could be a Boredom song, or a Suicide song or something” Have Americans heard of Boredom?? A short discussion about Alan Vega and Suicide follows. The comparisons between Yeasayer and Suicide, though not immediately obvious, are certainly there. Neither group shies away from a heavily political output. Both reject traditional song structure and have long synth-instrumental passages. Both are fond of loud, abrasive electronic textures.

Did the overwhelmingly positive reviews for ‘All our Cymbals’ make things easier or harder for them I wondered? Chris isn’t bothered “The reviews don’t translate to selling out Wembley Stadium. The pressure that has been put upon us comes from ourselves. As Andy Warhol said, “Don’t read your good or bad reviews, put them on a scale and weigh them” I ask them about the writing process itself and Ira is first to answer: “We usually go a variety of ways. Sometimes Chris will bring a song that’s pretty much completed. What we’ve done so far is block out a certain amount of time where the three of us get together and set about producing, creating the tones for each track. Sometimes that track is completely manufactured when we start, sometimes it’s just a riff” Chris adds, “All together we then jam things out. We are all very much a part of the creative process. It just depends on what song, and what part” Ira continues “We all have a strong desire to be part of the process. It makes for kind of a nice relationship. I always feel encouraged by the rest of the band” Yeasayer have obvious choral patterns and religious influence in their music. I wonder is this a reflection of their beliefs? “I have felt religious devotion to bands” Ira offers “But no, we are not religious”

I feel like I know them well enough now to ask them about how tired and slightly irritable they seemed when we first met. I try to be subtle “You’ve been touring for three months, and you’ll be touring till may…” “Then we’re off again” Ira interjects. Surely that must be tough? “There are good days and bad days” Ira says rather flatly. “Touring in the states by the time you hit the west coast, you have to turn around and go all the way back. Touring in Europe is a completely different experience. I just think it’s funny to see bands that think something is just going to suddenly happen for them. That’s not the real world. You have to get out there and really make it happen yourself to be successful. Not even mega successful, just to have a job. This is our job”

“I have felt religious devotion to bands”

Yeasayer’s album mirrors this attitude. The record bears all the hallmarks of self-production, featuring meticulous attention to detail, with no easy roads or short cuts. Only the personally and emotionally invested make albums like that. As CD sales dwindle, the ability to tour for long periods of time and still put on a blistering performance becomes all the more necessary and important. Even if it does make you a little grumpy.

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mat tsewell.co.uk spot tingandjot ting.co.uk

Illustrator Matt Sewell designed our back cover for issue one. Here he talks to Spindle about work and women… What inspires you when you create your illustrations when not commissioned by a client? The spark of inspiration for an idea for personal work comes from me bugging out over something. Like an old illustrated children’s book, a chord change, a repeat pattern, a phrase, mysticism, some kind of esoteric knowledge. Inspiration can come in all shapes and sizes but only stems from me being incredibly excited about something. How much creative freedom are you given on a commercial job? It really depends as all jobs and clients are different. I am quite lucky as a lot of my clients want to work with me just because they love my work, so they’re really keen just to let me do my thing. But most editorial illustrations have been planned out in advance by an art director and a graphic designer so its just a case of the illustrator interpreting their ideas. But personally I’ll always try and squeeze in a few of my things in there to keep it interesting, like a pod of dolphins swimming through space, or a fox hiding behind a tree.

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Aside from your talent, how did you ensure that you stood out within the very competitive world of art and illustration? I think I’ve just always tried to do my own thing whilst keeping abreast of what is going on out there. I’ve never had any kind of plan, just been free-wheeling. It’s a really tough business though with new illustrators being born every minute willing to work for nowt to get a break, so yeah maybe a plan would be good.

Who are your favourite artists of the moment? I don’t really follow new artists, there’s too many, it does my head in. Especially now with the internet, your just bombarded by new shit all day and everyday. Its like lots of people all shouting at the same time, so I don’t go looking. I prefer to go and stumble upon an old book, poster or record sleeve get hyped and research from there.

What is your favourite piece of your own work and why? To be honest I cant really pick one out, anything where I have had a chance to get out of the studio, travel and meet cool people. I'm very lucky and my job/career/path every now and then gives me amazing opportunities to live life.

Theres seems to be a practise these days of art students being taught to copy. I get a lot of emails from students and up-and-comers asking me about how I do my stuff and what’s my inspirations, like there are short cuts to being good. You need to get out there and do the work, draw for years in your own style and be creative as much as possible, rather than surfing the net and copying whatever is cool.

Who would your dream job be designing for? Some company in California, Japan or anywhere with a warm climate that would take me and my lovely girlfriend over for a month or so and give me the chance to make some of the work that’s in my head. There is so much I want to do, just finding the time and the funds is the hard part.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom, I'm lucky as I have some of the most creative and amazing artists as friends whose work is always around me. Like Pinky, Neasden Control Centre and Eko, these dudes are in it for the long haul, crafting their style for years through the ups and downs, just trying to keep up with them is my mission.

Do you like to think your work has a message or do you work purely on aesthetics? I’ve never really tried to convey a message with my work but I do try to get across a “feel” in all my personal work. I want people to get a buzz or a glow or something, just a tiny spark is all I want. Women feature frequently in your work, are you inspired by women in any way? They feature in my work because they are amazing, aesthetically and beyond. I am really interested in stone-circles, ancient civilisations and ley lines and all that. Many moons ago early-Britains worshipped the earth mother, they saw and felt the magic and wonder of life/birth in the hills, trees and mountains that surround us. I think we need to go back to simpler times, we are surrounded by magic but we’re so caught up in the net of everyday life we don’t want to look for it anymore. When did you realise you were good enough to make illustration your career? I’ve always known that I was going to do something creative as a job since I was a kid, theres never been an option really. I try to run away from it sometimes but it keeps pulling me back. I don’t really see my career as being an illustrator either, sometimes I feel more of a hustler because I may not have an illustration job for a month or so but in that time I will have been commissioned to paint walls, teached workshops, had an exhibition and painted a flock of birds.

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