3 Questions for: Karen O

Salon Staff
March 28, 2006 1:15AM (UTC)

The record industry has anointed and cast aside so many next-big-things since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs burst onto the scene back in 2001 that singer Karen O and her bandmates -- whose second album, "Show Your Bones," is out this week -- almost seem like veteran figures of the indie music scene. We caught up with the iconic frontwoman via phone and asked her about being a woman in rock and why it took so long to get the second album out.

It seems you have been very much the focus of the media interest in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Is this a natural state of affairs, or one influenced by the demands of the industry?


That's something that we try and control, but it's only in our control up to a certain point, then the power is really out of our hands. We try and represent ourselves as three people in a band as opposed to "me me me" whenever we have that chance but it's really kind of not something that we can always really control because that's just crazy. I'm sure that with the industry and the label, it just makes sense that they would want to focus on, you know, the female lead singer in the band. But I think that we always try and represent ourselves as a three-piece. It's another hard question to answer because there's like reality, and then there's what we feel, what would be nice. I don't want to be completely denying the fact that being a woman, being a lead singer, is going to draw a lot of attention to myself, one way or the other, but at the same time if you talk to Nick or Brian or you get to know them, what they do in the band ... We all work really, really hard at our jobs in the band and I think we're all really fucking good at what we do in the band, and if any of us slip up, we're totally fucked.

As ever, it seems women are underrepresented in the indie/alternative world: How conscious are you of your position with regards to this -- any particular hurdles you've overcome, and are you conscious of being a role model yourself?

If there's any kind of question that I'm a little bit more nervous or a little bit more self-aware about regarding the new record, that is the one. Being one of the only women at this level in rock -- maybe being more of a role model and someone to look to for girls -- out of everything, that makes me feel a little bit more pressured than anything else. I think that it's probably because it must mean something to me. It must be important to me in some way. I didn't think about it that much [when writing the album] because I think the success of liking what I'm doing or feeling like the song is good and the music is good has to do with not thinking about stuff like that. But now that the album's done, that's something that's on my mind. I didn't really think about it when we were coming up. Some of the disadvantage of being a woman only started its ugly head along the road, I'd say.


You seem to have waited longer than most to release a follow-up album -- was there any particular thinking behind this?

I think we needed time off and time to plug back into our lives outside of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. For one thing, I was completely drained and tapped out after almost three years of playing the same songs. For another thing you can't really write music -- I don't think you can write good music unless you live a little life that is outside of touring and being on the road playing music all the time. It was important for me to take that year in-between finishing the last cycle and starting this new one to just get involved with living again a little bit more so I would have more to offer with the music.

-- Matt Glazebrook

Salon Staff

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