In early 2001 Yeah Yeah Yeahs recorded their 5 track, self-titled debut EP(most commonly known as the Bang! EP - see track listing below) at Teel’s Funhouse studios in Manhattan.
Had the EP or their increasingly raucous live shows (for example their debut gig opening for the White Stripes) been nothing special, no-one would have cared either way. But the buzz about YYYs was fuelling mysterious excitement in the hearts of music fans and critics alike. The band released the EP in late 2001 on their own Shifty imprint and that excitement became a tangible,
ownable, playable thing. Shortly after, Kill Rock Stars released acompilation ‘Fields and Streams’ with an early recording of YYYs ‘Modern Things’.
In March the band played Austin, TX’s South By Southwest music conference,their electrifying show and the margheritta fuelled high jinx of Karen and her friend/dress designer and chief mischief maker Christian Joy making the front pages of the local press.
The UK’s first taste of live YYYs was in late March 2002 when the band came over to tour Europe with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Yeah Yeah Yeahs played their debut London headline gig at Metro on Oxford St before supporting Jon Spencer at Brixton Academy (Karen O cavorting around the huge stage in pink prom dress and frilly knickers ). An unhinged recording of ‘Our Time’ from a
show at Trash at The End appears on the Trash Companion compilation. Their cute bunny rabbit pin badges, t-shirts with ‘Wanna Fuck?’ logos and one-off,’ handmade clutch bags** became every Karen O wannabe’s latest must-have fashion accessory and sold out fast.
The EP had been picked up earlier by Wichita Recordings and was given a UK release in April 2002. (Later in the year it was picked up and re-released in the States by Touch & Go). Despite the tongue in cheek declaration ‘As a fuck son, you suck!’ repeated over and again in the chorus, Bang! slipped
past the censors and landed daytime radio play. The 5 track EP would have gone Top 30, but it didn’t qualify as a single - it was over long by a few minutes. YYYs returned that June to play at David Bowie’s Meltdown, Mardi Gras and The Garage. At the end of 2002, NME voted the EP No. 2 in their Singles of The Year.
Back in Brooklyn, YYYs had started recording sessions for their album. Faced with making their first record, the process took longer than anticipated which led them to make the hard decision of cancelling their appearances at the Reading and Leeds festivals. They were to be back on tour in America with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Sleater-Kinney in September/October, and then re-united with close friends The Liars (Karen dates singer Angus) for more US dates and a stint in Australia in December.
The second single ‘Machine’ (backed with Graveyard and a remix of Pin) was released on Wichita Recordings in September and with no video, very little in the way of interviews, but with some choice radio play made it to No. 33 in the singles charts. A credit to the fans, the success was largely due to word of mouth and those ever present rave reviews. The single made Kerrang!’s Single of The Week and X-Ray’s Single of The Month.
YYYs have now completed their debut album which was mixed with Alan Moulder in London early 2003 with all songs on the album brand new and previously unreleased. After a bit of window shopping, YYYs have signed a deal with Polydor in the UK and will release their album ‘Fever To Tell’ on their own imprint in April, preceded by a tour in late February/early March and a soon-to-be-announced single.
*Mischief catalyst and Karens dress designer
**YYYs hand bags designed and made by Rachel Hawkins
Machine single (Wichita Recordings September 2002)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs EP (with Bang!, Mystery Girl, Art Star, Miles Away and Our
(Wichita Recordings April 2002)