Multi-instrumentalist and songwriting visionary Alec Ounsworth, better known as the lone remaining component behind Philadelphia based indie superstars Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, is touring in support of his fifth full length release under the moniker, including a stop at The Independent on Tuesday, March 21.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s 2005 self-released debut album — which Ounsworth wrote entirely by himself — received widespread critical acclaim and was named one of “The 50 Most Important Recordings Of The Decade” by NPR. By 2012 the band that had not undergone any lineup changes suddenly found themselves short a bassist, lead guitarist and keyboardist. Only drummer Sean Greenhalgh stuck it out - but by 2014 he too had departed.
But that hasn't slowed Ounsworth down in the slightest. In 2015 alone, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah toured in Latin and South America, Japan and Europe, allowing for Ounsworth to refine and focus on his vision and where he sees the future of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, eventually giving way to the fifth studio album, The Tourist, to be released under the moniker.
The Tourist is a deliberately sharp departure from previous Clap Your Hands Say Yeah albums with melodically anxious vocal builds, sweeping keyboards and a nervous-tic guitar that manage an unsuspectingly clean harmony. The lead single "Fireproof" is a great example, check it out below:
“The album was a type of purge,” he says. “A purge of certain emotional confusion that manifested itself in the last several years. It was not an easy album to make, by virtue of the fact that it was an emotional time for me. I wanted to experiment with packing lyrics and on this album, the lyrics and vocal melody effectively carry the songs, maybe more than anything else. I wanted not to overdo it lyrically, but do try to squeeze as much as I could out of certain phrases.”
Recorded over the course of a week in the private studio of fellow Philadelphia phenoms Dr. Dog, Ounsworth enlisted the aide of studio musicians on bass and drums for the meat and potatoes of the album and spent "a few months tidying things up" and adding appropriate embellishments with engineer Nick Krill.
“I’d rather not say that it was a dark time, but it was a difficult time in my life—among the most difficult,” he says. “But I needed and need to try to let it go. And this is how I let things go. Though it’s the same for any album—this one probably more than the others.
“But I have to try to do something each time that’s new and engaging for me,” he adds. “I mean, I could very well just write songs the way they were early on. But I don’t think that people would appreciate listening to someone just going through the motions. We have to build something to last, rather than just build it because it looks good at the moment.”Clap Your Hands Say Yeah