At Large /SHARE
Amen & Goodbye
It's around 5pm in New York and Chris Keating, frontman of synth-pop group Yeasayer, is telling me about his day. Specifically, where to find the best tacos in the city - a clue: "a secret place behind the grocery store in south Brooklyn".
A conversation with Keating doesn't feel like the first. He's friendly, relaxed - perhaps due to his recent move to upstate New York, Catskill Mountains territory; life away from the city tends to be soothing for the soul. Or maybe it’s because Yeasayer are about to release their fourth studio album, Amen & Goodbye, a record that they will then tour around the US and Europe, and it’s often easy to talk about the product of your creative passions. Here, he opens up about the (attempted) analogue recording process, life in the mountains and the meaning behind Amen & Goodbye.
You recorded the album out of the city, in upstate New York. Why was that?
You know New York can be very distracting. You manage to just waste whole days with doing stuff, just like I did today. It's hard to be productive and be holed up in a studio. There are so many friends to see and things to do. It's sometimes best to remove yourself completely from that contact. We just record all night. There wouldn't be a real strict, normal schedule.
Can you tell me about recording the album to analogue?
We tried to. The idea was kind of to mix two worlds. We thought originally we might try to track like they used to in the mid-70s. We were inspired by a lot of 60s and 70s music for this record. We started to change around our ideas, and then we lost some of the material and then we thought, maybe we can sample the tapes that we recorded and sort of act as if we're remixing our own music. It was almost as if we had created some things and we were able to dig through them ... like old records that we could sample, which I think was a really fun, creative process.
The album as a whole has a significant religious undertone. Was this deliberate?
It definitely was on purpose. When I started writing songs, a lot of stuff I was writing about seemed to be inspired by archaic religious practices and Biblical stories. I'm really interested in that kind of stuff and the way that one religion relates to the next. This whole idea of trying to create a future, and utopian religion with our music, I thought it was interesting. Sort of referencing all of these things became a good starting off point for us.
What do you hope that people will feel or think when they listen to Amen & Goodbye?
I don't know. There's no right way to interact with any kind of art. If someone wants to have just a surface interaction with it and they think it sounds pretty, that's great - they put it on in the background. If someone really wants to investigate the lyrics, that's fantastic too. If someone really wants to dance to some of the songs, that's fine. That's the thing; I don't really have any particular goal. Ideally you want [people] to be like, 'Oh wow, you're this amazing genius and what a fabulous work of art it is', and you get all the accolades and become rich, I guess, but you know that's kind of just the fantasy of being in a rock 'n' roll band. But the reality is, people engage with it in so many different ways.
What does success mean to you?
The ability to keep doing what I'm doing without having to compromise. As long as I can survive as a musician and artist and whatever and not have to compromise and make songs for you know, Pizza Hut. If they want to use a song then maybe there's negotiation there, but I don't want to have to be told what to do. I like to make things and hopefully have an engagement with an audience so as many people can hear it as possible. That's always a good feeling.