It’s pretty de rigueur for bands to integrate visuals into their live shows — lights, lasers, projections — if you’ve been to a gig in your lifetime, you’ve probably experienced some kind of light-spun eye candy. Yeasayer’s new live show, however, goes several steps beyond the tried-and-true stage visuals, with an out-there set and custom software that syncs what you’re seeing on stage with the music that’s eddying into your ears.
Yeasayer went all experimental for their third album, Fragrant World, in more ways than one. The music itself adheres to the band’s tradition of never writing the same album twice (it’s infused with a kind of dark R&B flavor not present on previous releases) and the release of the work itself included all kinds of offbeat twists and turns (physical copies of singles sent to random fans, a Internet-wide track scavenger hunt, etc).
So it’s really no surprise that the Brooklyn band sought the previously unsought when it came to conceiving their live show, hooking up with Vice and Intel’s Creators Project to get the juices flowing. The Creators Project has facilitated a bevy of music/tech/art partnerships in its history, including its own music and tech festival (held in multiple locations throughout the year).
The Creators Project introduced Yeasayer to software artist Casey Reas, who pulled together a team of architects and designers (Aranda/Lasch), video artists (Yoshi Sodeoka, who created a series of ethereal videos to accompany Yeasayer’s new songs), projection artists (Nicholas Gould) and developers (Reas and Aaron Meyers) to create a massive onstage multimedia experience.
“There’s a lot of people doing extraordinary visuals where it’s one person and a computer and we really wanted to do something different from that approach,” Reas says. “We built everything to human scale — the idea was to create a full environment that they’re performing inside of, in a way that augments the environment that they’re performing in and creates this larger, total holistic audiovisual environment for the audience.”
The result is a jagged, crystalline stage setting — inspired by laboratory outposts and communication hubs — that’s all mirrored surfaces and projections. Colors and Sodeoka’s videos play over the structures and the band, who — in addition to Nicholas Gould, who is on tour with the band — can control the proceedings using custom software. A motion capture application is also in place, which apparently maps and contorts the band’s faces.
“In the past I’ve done things in different ways and I’ve written software for performance where part of it has been controlled by myself and then part of it has been automated,” Reas says. “For this show, everything is done as a visual instrument. In sort of the same way that Anand [Wilder] and Ira [Wolf Tuton] are on stage playing their guitars and it’s an instrument with a lot of finesse that they can pull a performance out of, the same is true with the visuals.”
Inspired by Daft Punk’s mid-2000s performances, Reas took great care to build and change the visuals as the show progressed, knitting music and sight together. “It really serves as an environment for bands to perform inside of, rather than watching a film and listening to music,” he says. “It’s more like watching the human performance and watching the media integrate it together.”
Check out pictures of the set via The Creators Project here and let us know in the comments: What’s the most spectacular live show you’ve ever seen?