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xmag.com : January 2004: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

 

You've heard their music in all the finest local strip clubs. It's the stuff that wakes you out of your Portland winter blues and makes your loins twitch and yearn to be stroked. The woman's voice goes from bewitching to maniacal and back, the guitar is at turns percussive and scratchy and then melodic and utterly eighties and the drums are where they should be, where you don't notice them. Spin voted their recent album Fever to Tell #5 of 2003, they are the it band of the moment, their lead singer is splashed across every hip fashion mag at Stumptown and they're up for a FUCKING GRAMMY. They are the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

I first heard of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs when I lived in NYC. They played a couple dive bars and overnight were hot fucking shit. At first all I heard about was their lead singer, some freaky chick who embodied Patti Smith and Patty Smythe, with a dash of Iggy Pop thrown in. Months later I was dancing at Mary's and met drummer boy Brian Chase at my rack when he stopped by with Jon Spencer, Russell Simins and Judah Bauer. He was hot fucking shit.
Another year later and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are on the jukebox at Mary's. And everywhere else. Karen O., the lead singer, is a superstar ą la Warhol. Instant icon. Fashion loves her Asian Chrissie Hynde D.I.Y. look. Guitarist Nick Zinner is BUST's “Boy Du Jour” and just published a book of photographs of beds he's slept in.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs passed through Pornland in support of the insipid White Stripes—who were completely upstaged—at the Keller Auditorium last September. I was stoned with heartbreak and could barely speak. It was three fuckin o' clock in the afternoon. I was not myself and not even mascara-d, unless you count the shit from the night before. I fell in love with Nick anyway.
 
 
VIVA: All the sexiest bands lately are two and three pieces. I personally have always loved a really strong bass line to get the hips shaking, but the new formula—you, the Kills, Peaches—using beat boxes or just guitar is pretty fucking effective. What is it that makes music sexy?
 
NICK : Simplicity and confidence. And a girl singer.
 
VIVA: Yeah! No shit! Although Portland seems to be a town where they really don't cotton to that philosophy. All the cool kids in town are strictly Jagger school, guy singer. But you guys came out of nowhere and were instantly a big deal. It's almost like you had a formula planned. Did you think “we're gonna have a sexy band with a sexy chick and we're gonna go straight to the top?”
 
NICK : No, we were following our gut instincts.
 
BRIAN: We just let our natural sexiness guide us. I mean, we're sexy people so obviously we're gonna be one of the sexiest bands in the world.
 
VIVA: Yeah, yeah... That makes perfect sense. Who influenced you?
 
BRIAN: Hustler Magazine, mostly.
 
VIVA: Really? Hustler? Why Hustler and not, say, Perfect 10? It's more raunchy?
 
BRIAN: Yeah, totally, yeah, definitely. It's more in your face. That's how we are.
 
VIVA: Is Karen like that too?
 
BRIAN: Yeah, on stage. Yeah.
 
VIVA: What is her background? Is she English?
 
NICK: She's half Korean and half Polish.
 
VIVA: Was she raised in America?
NICK: New Jersey.
 
VIVA: Ohhh, fuck. Got it. Alright. Something about your music and Peaches and the Kills has this element of danger that I think is really sexy.
 
NICK : Yeah, danger is totally sexy.
 
VIVA: Is Karen O. dangerous?
 
BRIAN: Oh yeah! You never know. She could be totally sweet, and then....
 
VIVA: Yeah?
 
BRIAN: Yeah, yeah.
 
VIVA: Dreamy. What is the sexiest song of all time?
 
NICK : 10 Seconds to Love by Motley Crue.
 
BRIAN: I Wanna Fuck Myself by G.G. Allin. Cunt Sucking Cannibal.
 
VIVA: Sexiest Stones record?
 
NICK : “Slave.” It's pretty much instrumental. It's rad. I used to DJ at a burlesque night at Barmacy and “Slave” was always in there. “Slave” was the one where all of the elements sort of came together.
 
VIVA: How is the burlesque scene in New York? How is New York? I go back there every few months and lately it's seemed more sterile than ever. Bloomberg out-Giulianied Giuliani.
 
NICK : Yeah, it doesn't seem that exciting or dangerous as it once was.
 
VIVA: Yeah. That's everywhere.
 
NICK : Yeah, yeah.
 
VIVA: What is the sexiest city?
 
NICK : Berlin.
BRIAN: Good ol' New York.
 
VIVA: Where do you guys live in New York?
 
NICK : I just live in Manhattan.
 
VIVA: Where?
 
NICK : East Village... [looking suspicious]
 
VIVA: Apartment number?
 
NICK [laughing]: It's basically First and First.
 
VIVA: Mmm hmm. And you?
 
BRIAN: East Williamsburg.
 
VIVA: Cute. What is it that makes New York so sexy?
 
BRIAN: The diversity, you know. You really just meet so many incredible people. And so many beautiful people also. Yeah.
 
VIVA: Where'd you meet your girlfriend?
 
BRIAN: I met her in Ohio. Right outside of Cleveland.
 
VIVA: Yeah?
 
BRIAN: One of the least sexy cities out there.
 
VIVA: That's why so much good rock comes from there. Something's just fucked about Ohio that makes Pere Ubu, the Dead Boys, Gaunt.... Is she Ohioan?
 
BRIAN: No. She's from Maine.
 
VIVA: What's so sexy about Berlin?
 
NICK : Everything's so sexy. Maybe the fact that it's so secretive, that it's in denial of its own past.
 
VIVA: Yeah, yeah.
 
NICK : The impression that I've got from Germans is that they're very protective but at the same time very open about trying to go against that instinct. So there's like sex clubs everywhere.
 
VIVA: Yeah, yeah... Is sex still sexy when it's so overt like that on every corner?
 
NICK : No. It's funny, too, because there's porn on TV and you'll be talking to a German and say, “Yeah, I was watching TV last night and there was crazy porn!” And they're like “zhat eez not sex.”
 
VIVA: Germans are into like vomit porn and shit porn. So are the Japanese. A writer friend theorizes it's because they lost World War II.
 
NICK : I think that up until ten years ago Germany was incredibly repressive, and you find that in any society the more repressive its culture is, the more fucked up its underground sexual culture is.
 
VIVA: I didn't realize Germany was so repressive.
 
NICK : East Germany. That's where all the fucked up shit comes from.
 
VIVA: Yeah, like Eastern Europe, where all the women want to be whores. So in my experience living in New York, New Yorkers seem to be more into love and romance than anywhere else. Do you find that to be true?
 
NICK : No.
 
BRIAN: I think that New Yorkers and New York are a people and a city that are more in love with their own misery, you know, and love to celebrate that.
 
NICK : There is a romance to that, too, the downtrodden poet.
 
VIVA: Do you think there's something sexy about love, loverboy?
 
BRIAN: Not inherently. There's something that's hot about sex when it's sort of like crazed and unattached to anything that you have to be accountable for outside of the sex. That's the fascination with one-night stands. It can be about the sex and that's all. When you have sex that's attached to romantic love there's a little too much baggage and responsibility.
 
VIVA: The moment is sexy. I think what's sexy about love is that it's an impossible dream, totally irrational.
 
NICK : The mysterious and the unattainable are always sexy. I agree with you there.
 
VIVA: What is sexy about the White Stripes?
 
NICK : Meg White is sexy. Her little girl charms.
 
VIVA: Sexiest bands around today?
 
NICK : The Icarus Line. They're sorta like snotty punk.
 
BRIAN: The Applicators from Austin. Their guitar player is very sexy. The drummer from Oneida, a Brooklyn band. Every once in a while he'll take off his shirt.
 
VIVA: Favorite article of clothing that gives you supersex powers?
 
BRIAN: My cock ring.
 
NICK : My t-shirt that has a tuxedo on it.
 
VIVA: Sexiest drink?
 
NICK : Whiskey with rohypnol.
 
*NICK*: No. It's funny, too, because there's porn on TV and you'll be talking to a German and say, "Yeah, I was watching TV last night and there was crazy porn!" And they're like "zhat eez not sex."
 
VIVA: Germans are into like vomit porn and shit porn. So are the Japanese. A writer friend theorizes it's because they lost World War II.
 
*NICK*: I think that up until ten years ago Germany was incredibly repressive, and you find that in any society the more repressive its culture is, the more fucked up its underground sexual culture is.
 
VIVA: I didn't realize Germany was so repressive.
 
*NICK*: East Germany. That's where all the fucked up shit comes from.
 
VIVA: Yeah, like Eastern Europe, where all the women want to be whores. So in my experience living in New York, New Yorkers seem to be more into love and romance than anywhere else. Do you find that to be true?
 
*NICK*: No.
 
BRIAN: I think that New Yorkers and New York are a people and a city that are more in love with their own misery, you know, and love to celebrate that.
 
*NICK*: There is a romance to that, too, the downtrodden poet.
 
VIVA: Do you think there's something sexy about love, loverboy?
 
BRIAN: Not inherently. There's something that's hot about sex when it's sort of like crazed and unattached to anything that you have to be accountable for outside of the sex. That's the fascination with one-night stands. It can be about the sex and that's all. When you have sex that's attached to romantic love there's a little too much baggage and responsibility.
 
VIVA: The moment is sexy. I think what's sexy about love is that it's an impossible dream, totally irrational.
 
*NICK*: The mysterious and the unattainable are always sexy. I agree with you there.
 
VIVA: What is sexy about the White Stripes?
*NICK*: Meg White is sexy. Her little girl charms.
 
VIVA: Sexiest bands around today?
 
*NICK*: The Icarus Line. They're sorta like snotty punk.
 
BRIAN: The Applicators from Austin. Their guitar player is very sexy. The drummer from Oneida, a Brooklyn band. Every once in a while he'll take off his shirt.
 
VIVA: Favorite article of clothing that gives you supersex powers?
 
BRIAN: My cock ring.
 
*NICK*: My t-shirt that has a tuxedo on it.
 
VIVA: Sexiest drink?
 
*NICK*: Whiskey with rohypnol.
 
BRIAN: Budweiser.
 
VIVA: Would you rather go bowhunting with the Nuge or drink til ya puke with Lemmy?
 
*NICK*: Definitely the latter.
 
VIVA: Yeah.
 
BRIAN: They both sound pretty unpleasant, but I'd go with Lemmy.
 
VIVA: Yeah, yeah.
 
BRIAN: Well, can you shoot the Nuge?
 
*NICK*: That would be a great video game. Shoot the Nuge.
 
VIVA: What color panties are you wearing and how long have you been wearing them? [Guitar shows 'em.] Hee hee! Blue... boxers...with checkered pattern.
 
BRIAN: I go commando.
 
*NICK*: Do you have any good Russell Simins stories?
 
VIVA: Hee hee.

 

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