Tuesday 24 April 2018

Q&A: Alec Ounsworth

Alec Ounsworth
Alec Ounsworth
Ed Power

Ed Power

Alec Ounsworth of jangle popsters Clap Your Hands Say Yeah talks about the early hype that engulfed the group, the inevitable backlash and his reputation as the grumpiest man in indie

Hey Alec. So, it's been four years since CYHSY's last record. A lot of people suspected you had split up. Did it ever cross your mind that the band might be over?

Well, I never take anything for granted. I never assumed there would even be a second album. The way it works for us -- and I imagine for creative people generally -- is that you can't force a particular situation. If something doesn't seem to be working, you don't push it. You let things progress at their own pace.

There was a lot of hype around your first record. How does it feel to be at the centre of something like that?

We were a bit stretched. There was very little time to do anything creative. Don't get me wrong, I like going on the road. It's an opportunity to do something in a different way. That being said, the idea of creating music at home is something I was accustomed to. I'd been doing it for years, even before Clap Your Hands. The attention pulled me out of that situation. I felt a certain obligation. People wanted to see us. You make your effort to go and do what they want. But it was difficult to recapture what I was doing at home. After a while that got to be threatening.

It was around then the caricature emerged of you as somewhat of an introvert and maybe even a grump. You didn't exactly flourish in the spotlight, did you?

I think a lot of that had to do with how I answered questions in interviews. It was to do with not having a real appreciation of how far we had come, to a point where we could communicate to a lot of people. I do believe I took [success] for granted to a degree. At the same time, when you are operating at that level, there are lots of things that are very artificial. It carried me away from a grounded territory which is very important to me. I mean, you seem like a reasonable person. Trust me, there are many out there who are not. I'm old school. I can be aggressive if needs be.

Then your second record, Some Loud Thunder, came out and the critics loathed it. Was it jarring to be on the receiving end of a backlash?

No, no, no ... We just do whatever job we can at any given moment. If some people didn't like it ... well, there were people who preferred it to the first one. I can't really speak to how people reacted.

For your first two albums you famously didn't have a label. Is this also the case with the new LP, Hysterical?

That's the situation in the States and Canada. We don't have any help. That's as far as we can maintain control. In Europe and elsewhere we have a label.

You must have been schmoozed to death by the record industry when your first album came out?

Oh yeah. I remember going up to New York and sitting down in some restaurant for hours on end. It was a stream of a&r men coming in and making their case. Some of them had good points for sure. At the end of the day, we happened to have the ability to do a lot of the work a label does ourselves. We had someone who designs records, someone who was good at websites. The groundwork a label looks after -- we were able to take care of it.

Hysterical is out now. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah play Tripod, Dublin, on January 25 and Pavilion, Cork, on January 26

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