Let's first get the similarities between Yellow Ostrich and Dirty Projectors out of the way: meticulous arrangements that break apart melodies and piece them together again, lots of crisscrossed loops, a recorded output well beyond their frontmens' 20-some years. So there's that—certainly nothing to scoff at. But there are also songs like the beautifully depressing "Slow Paddle" from Yellow Ostrich's first proper full-length, The Mistress, and the way its pared-down folk feels so intimate when sitting alongside the more experimental fare, allowing the emotional range of the album to swing open. Whereas Dave Longstreth has taken knocks for being weird for weird's sake, Alex Schaaf's natural ear for melody has yet to lead Yellow Ostrich astray.
Favorite NYC venue?
I've only been here since last August, so I haven't been to all the venues yet, but so far it's definitely Bowery Ballroom. I just love how it's got that small and intimate feeling but it's big enough to have some great bands. I also like climbing to an impossibly high floor to get to the dressing room.
Percentage of shows played in Brooklyn vs. Manhattan?
I think we've played about twice as many shows in Manhattan as Brooklyn. But we did a residency at Pianos that kind of skewed the balance, as well as CMJ, which was mostly Manhattan. Our hearts are more evenly divided.
What New York band from the past has had the biggest influence on your sound?
For older bands, I'd say the Talking Heads. New stuff: Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Wu-Tang Clan.
Favorite song about NYC?
"New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" by LCD Soundsystem. Sorry for the obvious choice, it's been a long day. Anything but that Jay-Z song.
On tour for a month, what album would get the most play in the van?
We just did a tour for a month, and we didn't play too many things twice, but we had just gotten the new Fleet Foxes so we played that a couple of times. Oh, and that Girls record; we played that a bunch.
Ideal four band bill, realistic:
Realistic in the sense that they are still alive/still together: Bob Dylan, Andrew Bird, Jon Brion, Neil Young.
Ideal four-–band bill, dream:
Elliott Smith, Neutral Milk Hotel (reunited), Dirty Projectors, Talking Heads (reunited)