Discover Jersey Arts 5 Live: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
A few weeks ago, Jersey Arts chatted with Alec Ounsworth about summer music, arts funding, being a dad, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's new album, Hysterical. On-site at the XPoNential Music Festival, we continued the conversation with Alec, bringing CYHSY's drummer, Sean Greenhalgh, into the mix as well. Jonathan Elliott for JERSEY ARTS: Following up on what we talked about a few weeks ago—you guys are one of the first acts to prove, definitively, that you don’t need major label support to get the job done. How has that changed in the last five or six years?
Alec:That’s a good question—and a big question! I definitely think that it was surprising to us to be taken as the model for that—I think we fell into the model for that because the alternatives just weren’t there, and it seemed to work for us. Soon enough, everyone was doing it. I think these days, artists sometimes can’t get the support.
(Alec’s ADORABLE three-year old daughter, Rosemary, runs through our conversation. We all smile. Continuing:)
Alec:The thing that I’d like to point out is that we did have a built-in network; all of us had different marketing skills we could bring to the table, networking, web work, and so on—so if you’ve got those skills, this option is always open. And with labels—they’re often faced with the option of holding onto bands or letting them go. Sometimes, you’re better off on your own from the start. It’s tricky.
JA: I remember—my boyfriend heard about you guys from John Krasinski’s blog, from "The Office." I think it was the first time I’d gotten independent music secondhand from a celebrity recommendation like that.
Sean: Yeah? Cool.
Alec: I know how we’ve moved through this process—we’ve more or less been staying with the model we started with. We needed representation in Europe and other parts of the world, but otherwise, we’ve kept it pretty close.
And now, the questions we’ve asked everybody:
JA: Who are you most excited to see play here?
Sean: Booker T. He’s starting right about now. Alec: Ted Leo was walking up, feeling sorta overheated, and a moment later I wandered past his set and he’s whipping around, and totally on it, and amazing. Complete transformation.
JA: How do you guys adjust to brutally hot conditions like this?
Alec: That remains to be seen! (laughs)
Sean: I’ve got one of those camelback water things (laughs)
Alec: I think it happens with every set—you sort of black out and then you’re at the end of it.
Sean: You leave all your troubles at the door, pretty much.
JA: What do you like best about New Jersey?
Alec: Camden Aquarium!
JA: Hey! My prom was there!
Alec: I just think Jersey gets a bad wrap—I mean, I grew up near here, going to the shore. Princeton’s really nice. And Grounds for Sculpture—it’s really sweet. All you need to do is explore a bit.
Sean: It’s also worth noting—we recorded Hysterical, our new album, in Hoboken, at this really incredible place, Water Music. It was a great experience.
CYHSY went on to play an amazing set to cap off the Saturday lineup; the band's new album, "Hysterical," drops September 20.