Distracted: A moment with Yellow Ostrich’s Alex Schaaf
Synconation had the opportunity to speak with Alex Schaaf of Yellow Ostrich, a great indie rock band originally from Wisconsin transplanted to NYC. He’s quickly gaining visibility, as we went through two different managers to eventually reach him and he sounds too busy to respond altogether. Forgivable though, as he’s about to embark on a lengthy tour of the US in support of his new album Strange Land. I admire his brevity. The payoff is at the end.
How do you feel about being lumped in to the “freak folk” genre?
I wasn’t aware that we’ve ever been called “freak folk”, but it sounds fine to me. People can try to categorize something a hundred different ways and it doesn’t really matter in the end, so whatever people would like to call it for their own sake is fine.
How did moving to New York effect your style or process?
It’s hard to tell. I think just by being exposed to so many different people and ways of life, that it will seep into the music somehow.
The cover art for The Mistress is really clever. Who’s responsible for that?
Sarah Mulligan (www.smulligan.com)
I’d read that some of your recording has been done in vacant movie theaters. Was that an artistic choice or out of necessity?
Just out of necessity, it was a cool room that wasn’t being used during the day so I set up shop in there sometimes.
You’re known as a multi-tasker during live performances. With an additional two members, how do you plan on continuing with this work ethic?
We’ve been a three piece for over a year now, so I don’t do as much multi-tasking as I did when this first started. But we are all still doing lots of different things live, with looping and harmonies and so forth.
A lot of your press right now references your bandcamp page. As a bandcamp success story, how do you think bandcamp is changing the way the music industry works?
Bandcamp was nice because it was a clean and easy way to get music to people. And I liked the pay-what-you-want feature, since it made since for those early releases that I put on there. We don’t use it anymore, now that we’re on a label, but it was really helpful when we did use it.
Is there something you get out of Yellow Ostrich that you weren’t getting out of The Chairs?
It’s just a totally different thing, and I don’t live in the same place as the guys from the Chairs, so it’s just a new band.
Echoey guitar and vocal harmonies are a cornerstone of your sound. Is that by influence?
I’ve always liked vocal harmonies, I don’t know where exactly it comes from but I grew up singing in choirs and things like that, so I’ve always been into strong vocal stuff.
What were your three favorite albums of 2011?
Girls “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”
Delicate Steve “Wondervisions”
James Blake “James Blake”
We love and cover a lot of “chillwave” and are pretty self deprecating about it. One of our favorite things to do is make up fake chillwave band names. If you were going to start a chillwave band, what would be your band name?
Al Borland and the Flannels.