A long time ago — way back in 2005 — many thought the internet would democratize the music business, cutting out the fat cats to create a clear creative and pecuniary relationship between audience and artist.
A success story from that time was Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s self-titled debut. With no record label, and on the strength of internet word-of-mouth alone, the album became a breakout hit.
Twelve years later, CYHSY front person Alex Ounsworth tells me he didn’t set out to take down the music business. Instead, he was simply hoping people could make creative choices by themselves without interference from record labels or PR firms.
Over time, “it’s become more complicated. It’s been taken over by the old model,” Ounsworth says of the music business.
Nevertheless, Ounsworth and CYHSY haven’t gone away, producing a string of consistently challenging, critically acclaimed albums.
Last year, CYHSY released The Tourist. On it, songs like “Better Off” feature Ounsworth’s slurry and silvery tenor, kind of a sad-sack higher-register corollary to Matt Berninger of The National. The music is drifting yet fundamentally grounded indie rock: a little nervous, a little romantic and a little dreamy.
If you’ve been around Eugene for a while, maybe you saw The National play with CYHSY at WOW Hall. The National have gotten huge, I mention, immediately wishing I hadn’t. “That’s what I hear,” Ounsworth replies, a little prickly. Ounsworth has battled the “flavor-of-the- month vs. here-to-stay” debate from the very beginning.
Maybe Ounsworth’s career choices have relegated him to more of a niche career, but he doesn’t mind. “I’m where I need to be,” he says. “I’m appreciative of anyone who comes by.”
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah comes to Eugene celebrating the 10th anniversary of their album Some Loud Thunder 9 pm Wednesday, Feb. 14, at Hi Fi Music Hall; $16 adv., $20 door, 21-plus.