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The Suburbanite
  • The return of indie rockers Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

  •  Clap Your Hands Say Yeah never really went away, it just felt like it. Especially after that rock-’em-sock-’em beginning. It was 2005, and the power of indie rock blogs to break acts virtually overnight via a blizzard of hype was approaching its first peak. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s...
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  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah never really went away, it just felt like it. Especially after that rock-’em-sock-’em beginning. It was 2005, and the power of indie rock blogs to break acts virtually overnight via a blizzard of hype was approaching its first peak. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s eponymous debut that year – one of the decade’s best albums – was a ferocious wonder, full of jagged guitars, piercing synth and a nonstop, anxious pulse that drew on everything from the Feelies and Neutral Milk Hotel to Talking Heads and countless other forebears without sounding like any one or two of them.
    There was no press kit or marketing machine. The band – many of whose members hailed from the South Shore of Boston – mailed copies of the album out from home in Brooklyn. Before they knew it, Pitchfork and other indie rock blogs were all over the sound and promoting it. Crowds started to expand, hipster gods like David Byrne and David Bowie turned up in audiences, and soon the band had to do another pressing of “Clap Your Hands Say Yeah” because the initial run couldn’t keep up with demand.
    Those were heady days for frontman Alec Ounsworth, Lee and Tyler Sargent (keyboardist/guitarist and bassist, respectively), drummer Sean Greenhalgh and multi-instrumentalist/singer Robbie Guertin.
    The band had played a strong but sparsely attended show at Great Scott in Allston, Mass., in May 2005, then a heavily buzzed show at T.T. the Bear’s Place in Cambridge, Mass., with Dr. Dog in September 2005, just as word was getting out.
    By the time it pulled back into the former Fenway-area room Avalon, in April 2006, it had sold the place out handily, with adoring throngs and a line halfway down the Lansdowne Street sidewalk to greet them.
    Ounsworth, the only original CYHSY member who doesn’t hail from Massachusetts (he’s a Philadelphia guy), remembers those years rather nonchalantly.
    “I almost kind of wish I had felt more pressure about it at the time,” Ounsworth told The Patriot Ledger in a recent interview.
    “In my mind, it really was as simple as, we’re playing for 300 people one week, and then 3,000 people showed up the next week. To me, it was OK, fine, cool. People do want to hear it.”
    The Clap Your Hands Say Yeah that’ll take the stage at The Met in Pawtucket, R.I., this Thursday and at Paradise Rock Club in Boston on Friday is different from that fivesome. The Internet hype has long since subsided – though plenty of devoted fans have remained – and beyond subtle shifts in the band’s sound overall, CYHSY has pared itself down from five core members to three.
    Both Guertin and Tyler Sargent left CYSHY this past summer, the former to focus on another indie band, Radical Dads, and the latter also tending to other projects.
    Page 2 of 2 - Joining CYHSY’s remaining crew on tour now are members of Elvis Perkins’ backing band, Dearland, including multi-instrumentalist Wyndham Garnett and bassist Brigham Brough.
    Live, they sure sound like CYHSY is supposed to, especially when the band uncorks material from that can-you-believe-it’s-7-years-old debut album.
    But now, more than ever, it’s Ounsworth’s band. It was Ounsworth who put aside CYHSY for a few years to work on other projects, and it was Ounsworth who rebooted it, though he’d probably agree there was no distinct end or beginning.
    “I didn’t want to be fenced in by one particular sound, didn’t want to stick with one single project or one single record,” Ounsworth said of CYHSY’s intermittent years.
    Asked about CYHSY playing regular shows again, Ounsworth said: “People don’t buy music the way they used to, so we have to be out on the road a bit more, It’s one of my favorite things to do and also one of my least favorite things to do.
    “I like to communicate with the audience directly, but I also like space. It takes its toll. But people want to invest in music differently these days, so to be a band you have to be out there and keep moving.”
    It’s harder to get a handle on CYHSY’s pulse these days. After the debut record, 2007’s follow-up “Some Loud Thunder” was an able torch carrier.
    After that, however, came four years of sporadic shows, a lot of “are they still together” speculation, and then 2011’s “Hysterical,” a strange entry into the CYHSY discography that felt unusually empty, with edges filed down, less oomph and jitter than before.
    Many of the indie tastemakers who had so effusively praised the debut album six years earlier handed it harsh to lukewarm reviews, dismissing it as a placeholder to convince fans CYHSY wasn’t permanently done.
    Ounsworth’s never been one to let that kind of feedback motivate his next moves, though, and the CYHSY road continues.
    Ounsworth thinks the band is getting to another creative period, and he said there is a fourth CYHSY album in the offing – possibly as early as next year.
    “I’m hoping we can knock that out and get it moving again – figure out what to do with it,” he said.
    “Records have been more of a trial than they could be, but I think we’ve gotten to that point again where you have a window of something happening – you’re working, working, working and you hit it.”