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The case of the Clap 

How Clap Your Hands Say Yeah came to spread the love

click to enlarge Seriously, Alec, I dont want to play Guess Whats In My - Hand anymore.
  • Seriously, Alec, I dont want to play Guess Whats In My Hand anymore.

Someone should tell Clap Your Hands Say Yeah that indie rock isn't supposed to be easy.

They've had it made: The worldwide fame (the band's current U.S. tour is slammed between jaunts through Europe and Asia), the Late Night with Conan O'Brien performance, the media embrace it's been quite a couple of months for the eclectic (think Modest Mouse with more synth) quintet.

And it all happened by chance. While visiting his sister in Boston, singer-songwriter Alec Ounsworth bumped into a former classmate of his from Connecticut College. The two gabbed until the topic of music came up. Their tastes were eerily similar, and Ounsworth played the demo tapes he coincidentally had on hand.

And, just like that, Ounsworth began weekly treks from his home in Philadelphia to Brooklyn to play with a group of guys he had never even known in Connecticut: Tyler and Lee Sargent, Robbie Guertin and Sean Greenhalgh, a New York foursome who had been friends since childhood.

"I wrote all the songs and I'd bring them up to New York and we'd play them," Ounsworth says. "It's not the type of band that needs to practice. We'd just play the songs."

And Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was born. Given the ease with which it all came, the band decided to cut a record. Not wanting to go the label route ease be damned, they weren't sellouts the guys decided to produce and distribute the record themselves. The task of production fell to bass player Tyler Sargent.

At first, it wasn't so daunting Sargent bought 2,000 CDs and went to town on his home computer, burning discs to sell to the group's loyal fans. And sell they did. Quickly.

Almost immediately, the blogosphere took note specifically a site called Gramophone (saidthegramophone.com), which ran a review of CYHSY's song "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth" and commented, "What's so great about it is how normal it is. It sounds like so many bands, but just way better."

With growing Internet buzz and a shortage of records for sale, Sargent went back to work, this time making 5,000 discs. Once more, the supply fell short. So, again, he upped the ante, this time to 10,000 copies. And again, it wasn't enough.

Outside of Sargent, though, Ounsworth says the band remained mostly oblivious.

"I didn't know the business," Ounsworth says with a too-cool-for-school nonchalant. "This is the first band I had ever been in. I guess it was a bit shocking. But I didn't know any different."

Still, it was enough for the fed-up and overworked Sargent to throw in the towel. Indie rock wasn't supposed to sell like this. Still anti-label, CYHSY found a loophole in the system and inked a distribution deal with Alternative Distribution Alliance, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Music. And out went enough discs to fulfill the requests, plus plenty more.

With two stops in Colorado as part of a monthlong U.S. tour, CYHSY continues to attract talk as, perhaps, The Next Big Thing even if Ounsworth and the rest of the guys like to pretend they haven't noticed.

"[It's different] only in the sense that I don't have as much free time as I'm used to," Ounsworth says. "But whether you're in one city or another, it's all the same."

If you say so, Alec. If you say so.


capsule

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah with Architecture in Helsinki and Takka Takka

Gothic Theater,

3263 S. Broadway, Englewood

Friday, Oct. 6, 9 p.m.

Tickets: $20-$22, 16-plus, unless accompanied by

guardian; visit ticketweb.com.

capsule

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah with Architecture in Helsinki and Takka Takka

Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder

Saturday, Oct. 7, 10:30 p.m.

Tickets: $20, all ages; visit bouldertheater.com.

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