Another ancient interview with Yeah Yeah Yeahs. This one was their first ever cover story. Thought you might enjoy reading this as well.
Flushed by the (relative) success of the last Yeah Yeah Yeahs reprint – find it here – I thought I’d delve back further, to the legendary ninth issue of Careless Talk Costs Lives where we devoted 10 pages and the cover to an unknown Williamsburg band with just one EP to their credit. Just because we could. What follows is the final proof before it went through to layout.
Both of these reprints will implode and disappear forever from the Internet by midnight, this Monday.
YEAH YEAH YEAHS
Words: Everett True
Photography: Steve Gullick
“You know how in the 40s, Hollywood was lawless and glamorous and all that stuff… I feel that rock and roll is like that, for our generation. Hollywood was the dream-making business – music is more than that. You’ve got the songs, the memories, the moments that it creates. I’m 23 years old and I don’t know very much about anything but I do know about guitars and I know that our band reaches people. The world is confused and bleak, but doing something as innocent as playing a show can have a lasting effect. Since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to express myself. Music is complete instinct application and cheap thrills. It’s the most relaxed and easy way to get through to people. It doesn’t take too much work to accomplish, honestly. I mean, people write songs in two minutes” – Karen O
Here’s what rock’n’roll should be about.
Excitement. Trouble. Coming home at three in the morning and sending out emails to your friends, accusing them of favouring the profit motif over scruples. Feeling like you can fuck with the world. Feeling like you can fuck the world. Sex. Glamour. Little bunny rabbits, their fur all painted purple and gold. Sex. Shiftiness. Not being able to trust anyone for fear they might case more mischief upon you more than you can upon them. Sex. Live music.
My first encounter with New York debutantes Yeah Yeah Yeahs – sex, as exploded in vicarious steamed-up two minutes of noise – ran something like this. Fuck you. No, fuck you. Fuck you, corporate asshole. Fucking fuck you stupid parochial washed-up white boy critic. Screw you too. I returned home, and told everyone I could how crap and media-hungry and full of the opposite of fun everyone associated with them was – and that went for the band triple, despite a live show that dripped excitement and boy sweat in equal proportions. Interview was off. Screw them. Wasn’t it Huggy Bear (the band) that said, “Irritation is one of the greatest weapons we have at our disposal”? Isn’t half of rock music simply a desire to join the coolest gang?
Steve Gullick was so incensed, he spent the entire five hour photo shoot the next day winding up their smart, deadpan manager Asif: nasty in the toilets, drunk in the venue, pressed up against him by the stage, forcing him to take photos of his own band. “He had my balls in a vice against the sharp metallic front,” Asif told me a week later. “Another few inches and I would’ve been a eunuch. So I punched him. What else could I do?”
He deserved it, I’m sure.
This isn’t going to come out anyway. Right, what motivates you?
Karen O: “Is there a pause button?”
“It’s like a guttural instinct to create and disseminate at the same time. It’s really impulsive. I’ve been making things my whole life and this is what I feel I do best. It feels right. Like when you go to a new city and you’re walking without really knowing where you’re going to, but then suddenly you’ll wind up at an old cathedral or something and you’re like ‘This is exactly what I need’ but you didn’t know it when you set out. So I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. It’s a natural instinct. Also, what’s great is the idea that we can just get up and have fun. It’s satisfying all the way round. The songs are really clever, creative and challenging but also allow for total release. It feels like the best way to spend my time” – Nick Zinner
Here’s why we’ve put Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the cover of the new Careless Talk.
We’re the coolest music magazine in the UK.
They’re the coolest band in America.
Sure, it’s shallow. If you’re looking for fucking world solutions from rock’n’roll – man, you’re misguided. Go join a march against Israeli aggression. Go hassle The Sun to reorganise their priorities: to stop picking on easy targets like dole cheats and instead hassle fat cats with their fancy accountants minimising tax payments and spiriting billions of pounds from the economy. Join the fucking Peace Corps. Sweet.
That’s not the only reason they’re there, of course. One song on their debut Wichita EP sounds precisely like White Stripes with Meg on vocals (“Our Time”), another is like Brian Molko with a bee up his ass (“Miles Away”). Leaving the weaker tracks aside, the five-track EP boasts a riot of sinuous, supple, sexy noise – all staccato rhythms and indecipherable yelping – topped with a worrying dose of naughtiness. Live, they’re FUCKING ACE: movement and passion and beer spittle in everyone’s eyes. In Brighton, girl fans dance like I’ve never seen girl fans dance before.
We love the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ tight li’l New York asses.
I’ll make it simple – I don’t give a fuck whether you tell me the truth or not.
Karen O: “That’s more complicated.”
I interviewed Blondie two years ago and I sat down with them and asked, “How many interviews have you done?” They were like “I don’t know – a hundred thousand.” So I said, “Look, just make the entire story up for me, from the start.” And they did. Damn, we had a time!
Asif: “Just tell him you were born in Jamaica.”
Don’t hit the pause button. I’m the fucking interviewer.
Karen O: “You’re like the violent interviewer. The Hannibal Lector of interviews. Did you see that scuffle?”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs number three – the devastating, mercurial, bratty Karen O (vocals), the scrawny Nick Zinner (guitars) and bespectacled Brian Chase (drums: a dead ringer for Chandler from Friends, but I don’t have the nerve to tell him to his face). When Karen and Nick come down to Brighton a few days after the CTCL interview to catch Ms O’s boyfriend’s band, the dirty stinkin’ Liars, they line up on the white leather coach in my living room, trainers removed, all meek and sipping tea like smart li’l children. Butter wouldn’t melt. Karen’s voice is shot, absolutely gone, a salacious drool of a husk.
“I just got in an argument with my boy,” she announces, struggling with the zip of her jacket. “I turned up at the venue, and he was like ‘What the fuck are you doing here?’ I told him we’d come to visit Everett True, the coolest man in England and then we fought.’
I suggest the band write a tour diary.
“We didn’t get up to anything on this tour,” Nick complains. Hold up. Weren’t you just telling me about last night in Limerick, in a seedy strip club where Karen set light to your sneakers as you sat there, feet up on a table?
“Yeah. I didn’t realise they’d burn so fast,” the singer laughs.
“I see things in the big picture. I reiterate things that I feel are universal. We all have things that get us off, things that get us down. It’s rare that people are on the same wavelength. Even my boyfriend and me have the same emotions, but at different times, and don’t see eye-to-eye occasionally. When we’re playing music to a roomful of packed people from everywhere – they are different individuals but we can bring them to the same space, the same ground. That’s rad because it’s about having everyone… and not just any ground, fun ground. It’s not any ground, it’s real special” – Karen O