It seems like Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been on the brink of stardom forever, even though the band has only been together for about two years. Tipped as one of New York City’s hottest young acts in everything from Rolling Stone to YM, the three-piece group is readying its first full-length album for release later this year.
The garage band certainly has its college-rock credits in order: lead singer Karen O. first met drummer Brian Chase at Ohio’s Oberlin College and hooked up with guitarist Nick Zinner after transferring to New York University to study film. At the time, Zinner, a Bard graduate, was playing with the Boba Fett Experience with four other Bard alums. "It was more like psychotherapy than a band," Zinner told New York magazine about the Experience.
Zinner and O. brought in Chase after the departure of their first drummer, and the current Yeah Yeah Yeahs lineup was born in late 2000. The group set to work writing material and soon found itself supporting both the Strokes and The White Stripes, building a reputation for its no-holds-barred live show, centered around Zinner’s avant guitar stylings and O.’s sometimes over-the-top vocals.
In late 2001, YYY released their self-titled debut EP, produced by former Boss Hog guitarist Jerry Teel, on their own Shifty label. The band consolidated its reputation by supporting Girls Against Boys in the U.S. and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in Europe, following that with its own U.K. headlining tour.
The YYY approach to songwriting can be deceptively simple. While O.’s punky vocals can be sometimes deliberately grating, conjuring up anyone from Iggy Pop to early Blondie, the group is sure to include pop-friendly hooks and an occasionally sly sense of humor. "That's been our M.O. since the beginning," O. told New York. "It's putting those hooks in places you wouldn't expect, pairing very discordant and very catchy stuff."
Critical and audience approval led directly to major label interest, with the result that YYY has been getting courted pretty heavily by some of the biggest executives in the rock business. Not too shabby for a group that, as of October of this year, had released precisely five songs.