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Page last updated at 11:07 GMT, Monday, 6 April 2009 12:07 UK
Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 'incredible' decade

By Greg Cochrane
Newsbeat music reporter

After almost a decade as Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase look back, and forward, by talking anniversary parties, solo projects and Reading Festival.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The follow up to 2006's Show Your Bones is due this spring

Almost 10 years ago, Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase tentatively picked up their instruments at the "crappy but quaint" Tu Casa rehearsal space on Avenue B in New York City.

It seems almost unimaginable now, as they seem as vital as they did then, but Yeah Yeah Yeahs will be a decade old next year.

"That's really overwhelming when you think about it like that," purrs guitarist Nick Zinner, squeezed onto a couch. "Just in the sense that a lot of everyone's favourite bands are only around for four or five years - so ten years feels like an absolute eternity.

"I never ever ever thought we'd still be playing music nine years later," he says reflecting on those first sessions.

Looking back

Yes, closely tailgating friends The Strokes into popular consciousness early this millennium, YYYs have arguably been one of the noughties' most influential American bands.

"Maybe the tenth year anniversary extravaganza!" blurts an excitably Karen O. "Just have us playing and then maybe special guests joining us."

"Marking it is a good idea - we hadn't thought about that," says Zinner.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner live on stage

Understandably, the trio sat before us today on symmetrical hotel sofas, aren't the same three people who crafted their debut self-titled EP in 2001, debut album Fever To Tell in 2003 and Show Your Bones in 2006.

It's been a whirlwind adventure of extravagant live shows, smudged make-up and, above all, some exceptional music.

"I'd go with the rough and smooth," laughs O by way of description. "And the most incredible decade of my life."

"Only just in the last year and a half or so has it really started sinking in the amount of gratitude that I have for being in this band and the places that it has taken us.

"The snapshot of us on the Great Wall of China - the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the Great Wall of China! - was just a career landmark thing for us."

New record

All of which has brought them to this point and the release of their new record It's Blitz, an LP which they say ushers in a fresh sense of control and depth.

"It's not a maturity but it's a sense of self," ponders Karen. "Its not maturity, its wisdom in a way - the music feels more ecstatic without feeling as confrontational because that's where a lot of the energy came before.

Only just in the last year and a half or so has it really started sinking in the amount of gratitude that I have for being in this band and the places that it has taken us
Karen O, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

"There are ballads on this record, and a fragility that I think like also is wisdom and only arrives after feeling a sense of comfort in ourselves."

As with their two previous full-length albums, It's Blitz is co-produced by Dave Sitek of much heralded art-pop band TV On The Radio.

"I think that he came to a place with his last record Dear Science which feels similar to where we've come with this record," adds Karen.

Not bad thing, Dear Science was critically considered a coming-of-age album, and It's Blitz could be the same.

Time taken

The intervening time between Show Your Bones and It's Blitz has seen all three members test the water with a number of solo projects including film scoring and Karen's maritime-themed work as North Korean Rock.

"It's pretty important," says Karen of their projects outside of the band. "One of the projects that I'd been working on leading up to this [It's Blitz] really did influence maybe vocally and the sentiment on some of these songs because I was working on the score for a children's movie. I had to think like a child."

"Brian and Nick they're both performing and playing with other musicians, playing on other people's records and collaborating constantly.

"There's no way that could hurt anything, that just helps you grow as an artist. The palette becomes larger."

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
YYYs will play this year's Reading and Leeds festivals

The band argues that, in fact, their dalliances with other musicians actually reinforces YYYs' own focus.

"It makes it much more eventful and fun when we actually do get together," argues Zinner. "More purposeful."

Live shows

After an appearance at this month's Camden Crawl and a clutch of headline London shows Yeah Yeah Yeahs return to this August's Reading and Leeds festivals. It's a weekender the band has had an interesting history with.

"The first time we played there was so much pressure, the hype around us at that point was at it's peak," recalls O.

"So for me it was a highly self-destructive performance at Reading that year. I think Leeds was better. But Reading, because it was the first one I think I blew a fuse in my head."

Fortunately they received an invite to return in 2006.

"You played the last Reading Festival with one arm," says Zinner, nodding at drummer Brian.

"I did. I had an arm injury earlier in that tour, the only way I could go on was by playing the set one-handed," he laughs.

"But you would never know is the crazy thing. Brian is so good, it'd be impossible to tell.

"You could actually be playing with another band at the same time and no-one could tell."

The band end the interview in a fit of nervous giggles. Probably the same way it started nearly ten years ago.



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