Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Fri Sept 30
1 SW 3rd
Early this summer, word spread like wildfire among the musical elite (read: internet geeks) about the oppressively named Brooklyn/Philadelphia quintet Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. If you happened to hear of them, it wasn't because of a premeditated industry hype so often compartmentalized into neat little press kits, nor was it the result of a hard-working PR agency's guerrilla marketing campaign. No, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah—who have shipped over 25,000 copies of their debut disc since July primarily from their homes—have done so organically. The band has no label and only recently began working with a publicist. They've never even been on tour before.
"I think a lot of people [were] intrigued by the same thing," says CYHSY frontman Alec Ounsworth of the band's grassroots success. "I guess [people] think there's something sort of ostensibly virtuous about it all."
Formed just over a year ago, CYHSY took shape when Ounsworth first met guitarist Lee Sargent while the two were living in Cambridge, MA. Before splitting for their respective home cities (Sargent is from Brooklyn, Ounsworth from Philly), Ounsworth passed Sargent a batch of demos. Sargent's interest was piqued by what he heard, and soon recruited twin brother Tyler and friend Sean Greenhalgh to play bass and drums, respectively.
From their earliest gigs in New York, CYHSY's reputation was solidly built by word of mouth, which led to moderate internet and local press coverage before they even released their record. But it wasn't until June, when online snarks www.pitchforkmedia.com garnered the self-titled finished product with a 9.0 review (for the uninitiated, 10.0 reviews are reserved for "legendary" records) that they became a sensation not seen since... well... last year, in the form of the Arcade Fire.
"[Pitchfork] certainly helped move it forward as far as a large number of people taking a chance on an unknown band," says Ounsworth. "I didn't know Pitchfork at all before this, [but as] they were responsible for getting a wider number of people into us, I can't help but be thankful."
Recorded in Providence and Brooklyn, CYHSY's debut is remarkably rich for such a green band. Opener "Clap Your Hands!" introduces Ounsworth as David Byrne rallying boozy pirates for a sing-along. The album then gives way to the throbbing New Wave of "Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away." "Over and Over Again (Lost and Found)" introduces Ounsworth's singular vocals, with their yawning vowels ("Liiiiight another fiiiiiiiire/and watch it slooowly diiiiiiiiiie"), while on "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth" he approaches a paranoid trill, like a frantic Tom Verlaine. The record's epic closer, "Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood," builds and pulsates before being abruptly cut mid-note—a maliciously yearning finale for such an otherwise satisfying conclusion.
Now on their rookie tour with the National, CYHSY prepares to douse the blaze of hype that they've started with a little lighter fluid. Ounsworth does, however, express some reservations about CYHSY's overnight success. "You see those movies where folks are drifting down some sort of calm stream and then they see the waterfall come and they try scrambling to the shore. Sometimes they go over and maybe it turns out okay. This is kind of like the waterfall," he says, laughing. "Oh God, that sounds like I just smoked a huge joint!"