New York City Buzz and the Alter Egos of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

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By the fall of 2000, the future of rock n roll in the city that never sleeps seemed dismal. There hadn’t been a powerful and prominent rock scene around town since the explosion of punk in the 1970s. As for the radio world…well that was being ravaged by boy bands and pop diva’s. Oh what a glorious time it was for rock n roll! The scene was in desperate need of a resurrection. This came about through a wave of bands known as the ‘class of 2001’ and included ‘The White Stripes’, ‘The Strokes’, ‘Interpol’ and of course the ‘Yeah Yeah Yeahs’. Injecting the spunk and the snarl back into a musical landscape that was bland and lifeless.

At the front of this charge was the emotional, raw, garage-punk fueled music of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Bursting onto the stage of a tiny lower Manhattan club one cold and lonely Sunday night, the trio had no idea just how important they would become in the musical world. For Nick, Brian and Karen O, it was less about saving the future of rock n roll and more about finding something exciting and entertaining to do in the city of New York. According to Nick, ‘we just wanted to play at clubs and entertain ourselves. And honestly, we didn’t have anything better to do’.

Fast forward thirteen years and they have just released their fourth studio album titled ‘Mosquito’. It’s been a journey filled with unflattering critics, emotional pain, anxiety, depression and moments where the band almost fell apart into a million little pieces. Through it all though, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have survived to become one of the most iconic bands in musical history.

Renowned for their electric and colourful live shows which never have a bland moment, the trio seem at home on the world’s biggest stages. Oozing confidence, poise and charisma, one would think that everyday life would be a breeze for Nick, Brian and Karen. In fact, it’s the polar opposite. According to Karen O, ‘you’ve never met three more awkward rock stars’. Reduced to a mumbling mess when asked what they would like to order at a restaurant, the band share a somewhat hightened sensitivity to the world. This hypersensitivity bleeds into their daily lives, hiding behind their strong and powerful artistic alter egos. Off stage, Brian is a shy and consummate classical and jazz nerd who can still be seen performing in various experimental projects around downtown New York. Nick reminds you of a gangly Tim Burton type character who can be found hanging out at local bars and gigs. However, he sometimes floats around the room in silence and doesn’t say much to other people. Karen O lives her life like a hermit crab and is rarely seen out in the public eye. A stark contrast from the performer who fearlessly struts and leaps across the stage in outlandish and extravagant costumes.

Despite this complete Yin and Yang existence, these three unique individuals are never shy to wear their hearts on their sleeves when it comes to creating the music of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. From furious and explosive punk inspired tracks like ‘Date With A Night’ to the heartbreaking love story of the song ‘Maps’, this trio of ‘awkward rockstars’ prove that there will always be hope for the weird, wacky outcasts of the human race and are true testaments to the words, ‘great art comes from great suffering’.

“Take these rings and stow them safe away, I’ll wear them on another rainy day”

By: Ariana Pelser

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