New Music Monday: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
It has been 10 years since Clap Your Hands Say Yeah started, and they’re about to release their fourth record, Only Run. Like the previous three, CYHSY will market and distribute the album independently. From the get go, this ethos struck a chord with fans, but it was merely an extension of lead singer/songwriter Alec Ounsworth’s core belief: “The general rule is to be appreciative of your audience,” he recently told Fast Company magazine. “If you can organize and are motivated, you should approach fans directly.”
So, 10 years later, while much has changed, many things aren’t so different now. For instance, Ounsworth has spent all of 2014 thus far crisscrossing the United States playing living room shows. He still needs that direct connection with fans; it validates his vision of how art should work and confirms his belief in the music.
Before taking to the road, Ounsworth poured himself into the making of Only Run. Like the band’s fateful first album, it’s an artist’s singular vision. Once again, Ounsworth crafted the songs himself before bringing them to the studio for completion and the album is further proof that CYHSY thrives because of a strong sense of identity. Fostered from his love of uncompromising songwriters (e.g. John Cale, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Tom Waits), Ounsworth believes in an artist’s creative control. “Some people seem surprised when you shift gears aesthetically between records, but to me that’s the point,” he says. “We have a responsibility as musicians to take chances.” Ounsworth continues, “There is a reason I have all of Tom Waits’ albums, for example. I believe in him.”
Only Run aims to loosely document Ounsworth’s observations of his life in music over the last 10 years. “Lately, I’ve been assaulted by news, both distant and near, that suggests a certain sense of frustration,” he says. “But Clap Your Hands Say Yeah—the entire concept of the band, the name itself—is about balancing optimism in the face of overwhelming odds. I’m coming around to this myself — finding that renewed sense of optimism.”