Music Features

Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Interview with Brian Chase)

Have you ever had one of those days, where everything is left to chance and disaster is looming like an atomic dust cloud, but the dark is soon lost in a whirlwind (perhaps too many weather metaphors?) of coincidences and chaotic surprises and letdowns? No? Ah well, lets just say it was just one of those days that we all have from time to time.

This is probably the first and last time I will write in the first person, as I feel that the subject is the focus and not the person writing it, but this is a good story and you'll all be reading my books sometime in the hopefully not too distant future anyway.

Living in a small/developing/overpopulated town brings its fair share of problems, when you are a music lover and you want to attend gigs by bands that have a slightly higher profile than your average hermit and it means travelling sometimes-ridiculous distances. This usually involves imposing oneself on old friends, in strange cities and taking many different modes of transport, or numerous changes of the same kind of transport, just to see a band that you love, play a set that lasts for just over an hour. So it was with headphones surgically implanted (to drown the sound of the inane chatter made by the dreaded amplified voices of the cell phone addicted populace) and an extortionately priced train ticket in hand, that I ventured out into the big bad world to travel the 150 miles or so north to Manchester.

09:00: The first train is to the arse end of the midlands that is Leicester and everything goes swimmingly, I have 22 minutes until my next train, so molten, chocolate-flaked coffee is sipped in a waiting room full of worker drones and rollerblade wielding idiots. 10:07a.m. The next train to Sheffield (home of No Ripcord) is approximately 15 minutes late and now a slight panic begins to swell in the depths of my empty stomach, as I am supposed to be interviewing Yeah Yeah Yeahs at 2p.m. in Manchester. With an already tight schedule, leaving me 56 minutes to step off the last train, battle through the city traffic to the venue and then locate the tour manager, I am understandably anxious.

The train leaves Sheffield another five minutes later and the music being fed directly into my canals is starting to grate a little, but I can't be bothered to read a book. Luckily there is a guy sat in the opposite seat, in a rather worrying ensemble of pinstripe suit and filthy white Dunlop tennis shoes. He is casually flicking through the new NME, so I decide to do something that is completely foreign to me (I am not a very sociable animal); I strike up a conversation and ask him if I could have a quick look. He obliges with a smile and then we actually engage in an interesting conversation, he asks me where I am going, I fill him in on the details and then he hits me with it.

"That's the only reason I bought the NME, I'm the bass player in the support band Ikara Colt and I couldn't remember where I was playing tonight".

Of course this immediately warmed me towards him; a bigger fuck up than me! Ha! So we start to talk about our favourite bands and our love/hate relationship with "Metal" and we totally ignore the beautiful scenery surrounding us, passing us by with misty irrelevance. Of course, if I was a professional/careerist sort I would have whipped out my Dictaphone (Insert appropriate sexual innuendo) and leapt at the chance of an impromptu interview, but we'll leave the information hungry to wonder what if, as I meander sketchily through a ravaged memory.

Our mutual love of drugs and the resulting haphazard mental states leave us chatting non stop and I soon discover that a band with a reasonably high profile, at least in indie-schmindy circles, have next to nothing to live on and the illusion of a band straddling the globe in pursuit of their chosen dream is nothing but a broadsheet illusion, to perpetuate the myth of sex, drugs and... as a lifestyle, so that $&£ line the pockets of the socially irresponsible money men. Well there's a cheery thought, but I guess the world needs the dreamers or we might as well tie a rope as soon as the chord is cut.

13:50: And we arrive with a better understanding of a fuck-up with a child, a wife and a black cloud and a fuck-up with a band, an audience and a lust for life, but more importantly, 10 minutes to navigate Manchester and find our venue. We ask a guy "Who might know" and he turns out to be Dutch or something, but proceeds to tell us the precise directions to the Academy and so two English boys take a walk. With the nonchalance that comes when only truly lost, we put one foot in front of the other and forget about our separate schedules and begin to consider the impending war, but soon ditch the political diatribe in favour of something we know about i.e. music and the casual and random thoughts of a screw-up's mind.

14:10: And we are lost, but we at least try to find the venue, with the help/hindrance of the Manchester student community, who give us directions that seem to contradict at every turn.

14:15: We finally find the Ikara Colt white Transit van and the huge space rocket tour palace of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, before I know it I am ushered into the bus and the final ragged jigsaw piece of Ikara Colt is guided into the venue. Shouted promises of "A beer later!" are soon muffled shrieks, as doors are closed and the job at hand is finally a reality. I discover that the interview was not scheduled until 14:15 anyway, so as far as everyone else is concerned I am professionally prompt and ready to go, even though my mind is a whirl of timetables and wrong turns and my stomach is a chaotic melee of malnourishment and coffee-stained toxicity. So I finally sit down and am confronted (rather disappointingly, I have to admit) by Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Brian Chase, in the plush downstairs of the bus and this is what followed:

. . .

No Ripcord: So it must be a pretty exciting time for you guys; with the album coming out soon, a sold out tour and praise being heaped upon you from seemingly every corner of the world?

Brian Chase: Yeah, It's pretty hectic, but that's the way we like it; big crowds and crazy rock n roll shows and the album's out on the 21st, so everything's cool.

NR: Do you feel any pressure? Because expectations must be high now.

BC: Well the hardest part is meeting regular people's expectations, they're like "They're a shit hot band from New York and they've made it big, just from an e.p., they must be amazing, lets see what they got". Sometimes people's standards are set too high and we wanna do the best we can and we feel like we do deliver and leave people satisfied. As far as pressure from the music business and other similar sources, we don't even consider that pressure.

NR: Do you think it's more intense in Britain, for instance the media here?

BC: Definitely, it's ridiculous, they just make a big deal out of everything.

NR: Have people's attitudes towards you changed, since you've become more media acknowledged, shall we say?

BC: Ha Ha, I guess we've always been a little under the radar and mysterious you know, but since we've been headlining we've had more people coming up to us, asking for autographs and making more of a big deal out of us, because we're supposedly more prestigious.

NR: Are there more people hanging around and have hidden agendas with their dealings and contact with you?

BC: A lot of the fans are pretty sincere for the most part and it's pretty exciting for them to meet rock n rollers, but yeah you can never really trust people's intentions 100%.

NR: Do you have a pretty good bullshit detector?

BC: Yes, kinda, especially with music industry people, you can see through them in a second.

NR: You've moved up to a major now, is there more shit and backslapping to put up with now?

BC: You know what? A small indie company can be worse than a major, because an indie label needs a successful band more than a major label does, so they want you more. You can still get real sneaky bastards on smaller labels.

NR: Do you have any of the trend orientated celebrities hanging around you at the moment, just because you're the "next big thing"?

BC: No, not really.

NR: Shannon Doherty hasn't reared her head yet then?

BC: Ha! Unfortunately, not yet. We did have a guy from The Sopranos at one of our shows in New York and he just wandered into our dressing room, in a nice suit and gold chain and everything, but we didn't even recognise him. He said "Great show, I'm looking forward to the next show" and then just left and we suddenly said "Shit! Wasn't that one of the guys from The Sopranos?".

NR: Have you ever been starstruck?

BC: Just like some of our rock idols. We got to play with Sonic Youth and The Blues Explosion, so those are heroes. Jon Spencer is kind of like our mentor and he was really cool.

NR: Do you prefer being a background member and letting Karen have all the attention?

BC: Yes, I'm not really one for the limelight, so it's cool. It does get ridiculous sometimes, because every single photographer is like her shadow and it does get pretty annoying.

NR: So, finally, when do you think the New York bubble will burst?

BC: Well there's still some good bands there right now and still performing. A lot of people are saying the New York thing is over; it's lost its innocence, too many bands have made it into the public eye too much and when a New York band is playing they are a little too self-conscious for their own good.

. . .

With that, our fifteen minutes is up and it was a relatively subdued interview, but I guess you can't expect fireworks very second of every day, even the new Kings and Queens of the rock n roll revolution have to chill out sometimes.

As I step out into the surprisingly spring-like sunshine, I feel as though I understand the difference between that which is real and what people choose to believe about their idols and a certain lifestyle.

Of course the next time I saw anyone from Ikara Colt, was when they were shattering ear drums onstage, but I was kind of glad for the day and a brief glimpse into the less romanticised side of a much sought after lifestyle. You see, it's sometimes the happy accidents that happen along the way that make the day and the things that brought you there in the first place are just a catalyst for adventure.