Cool Kids Belong Together: A Tribute to “Fever To Tell” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (art by Dima Drjuchin)
Being a true music nerd who cut her teeth and cemented her music tastes/habits in the the 90s and early 2000s, I am a huge fan of a comp to tell a story—of a scene, of a label, of a moment in time—and a covers comp is perhaps the best way to tell the story of a landmark album and the impact it had on a city. And even more than that, the mark it made on the cultural landscape of DIY music within that city and how its legacy continues in the scenes that exist today because of it.
Just in time for the 20th anniversary of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs debut album, Fever To Tell—which was released on 4/29/2003—the Brooklyn music community has created just such a comp to pay tribute to, and tell the story of, the album and the creative seeds it sowed, inspiring countless musicians in the two decades since to blaze their own musical paths and forge unique sonic identities. Twelve bands in all have left their individual marks on each song from the now classic album, interpreting the songs in new and compelling ways, just as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs did with their fresh retelling of rock music that ended a decade of grunge and nu metal, and helped kick off an indie rock revolution.
Jon Daily (who plays drums in Kissed by an Animal and sings in The Black Black) is instrumental in running the DIY spot East Williamsburg Econolodge aka EWEL which also serves as the nucleus for the scene that created the comp. He shared that the idea arose like many great DIY ideas do, when shooting the shit after a show: “A handful of us were just talking after an Econo show one night and the idea of putting out a cover album compilation came up. We thought it’d be a fun project and a good way for a bunch of us all to be on a record together. I always loved comps when I was younger and first discovering independent music. It was a great way to hear a bunch of bands and I would usually end up getting a full length from one or two of the bands on it. We wanted to do a record by a New York band that we all loved and that was perfect the entire way through. Kasey (from AVSE) suggested Fever To Tell, and we pretty much all went, ‘Yeah, that’s the one’.”
And thus began the process of coordinating the project, picking the bands and doling out the songs as well as recording, all of which speak to the commitment all of these bands have to DIY and the special place it holds in our lives. Working around full time jobs, partners, kids in some cases, and numerous other commitments, the bands all came together to make this comp a reality. Daily shared on the selection process: “We asked bands that were around Econo Lodge—hanging out there and playing shows there. Unfortunately there were more bands we wanted involved than there were songs on the album so we originally planned to ask other bands to do other YYY tunes, but the project started ballooning and we had to limit it to the twelve songs on the album. Hopefully we’ll do another comp soon and we can get more bands involved. Once we had all the bands on board we asked them to rank three or four songs from the album that they wanted to do. And then we just kind of mixed and matched to get to a place where we felt like everyone would be reasonably happy and where we felt like we’d have a cool mix of styles and approaches.”
The comp also got the blessing of the band and Daily told us that drummer Brian Chase was “very supportive and got that we were doing this from a place of love,” adding “I was really impressed that he listened to all of the songs and he seemed to be into it.”
Daily also related that the album was an big inspiration to his younger self and said, “Today, being an active musician in the DIY Brooklyn scene, and being a part of making this tribute, really feels full circle for me. While the records I make with my bands don’t have the impact that FTT did and don’t sell even in the same ballpark as that record did, the fact that I’m part of a community that can come together and make this record is mind blowing to me. If people take one thing away from this release, I hope it’s the power of community. There’s no way I could have done this by myself, nor would I have wanted to. It’s the support and the excellence of craft of the people in this community that made this happen.”
Perhaps most poignantly, he also reflected on the place of love that made this tribute possible and what it means to be creating DIY art and music in an increasingly hostile world, in a city that has so radically transformed—and not for the better—since Fever To Tell was released: “To me, the DIY ethos and the community around that is so important right now. We are living in a world that is increasingly dominated by global media. We are constantly inundated with incredibly talented people pushing their very highly produced entertainment at us with tons of money fueling that push. It’s very easy to feel like nothing we would make is worthwhile because it won’t be able to compete at that level. But it’s so important for us to express ourselves in creative ways, because if we can’t, that energy ends up coming out in destructive ways,” a sentiment anyone who has a creative bone in their body can surely agree with.
He went on to say “I find the act of creation to be incredibly soothing—it helps me feel worthwhile on this very crowded planet where it is very easy to feel not good enough and unvalued. I see the creation of art in a local community as part of a self fulfilling creative cycle. Just because I can’t write a song that gets a million plays on Spotify does not mean it’s not worth it for me to write that song. It’s worth it to me, and it’s worth it to the community that I live in, because it helps me feel good, and I use my own good feelings to support those around me to make their own art and so forth and so on.”
This comp is indeed full circle and beyond for the musicians who had a hand in making it, a true love letter from the DIY community of NYC. You can’t ask for a more fitting tribute than that.
Cool Kids Belong Together is available now for digital pre-order from EWEL Records and has also been pressed as a limited run vinyl edition for Record Store Day available in local shops or direct from EWEL.
- Ilithios (ft. Ana Becker)- Rich
- The Black Black– Date With the Night
- Phantom Handshakes– Man
- Gorgeous– Tick
- Desert Sharks– Black Tongue
- Nihiloceros– Pin
- Shadow Monster– Cold Light
- A Very Special Episode– No No No
- DDMD- Maps
- The Royal They– Y Control
- Kissed by an Animal– Modern Romance
- Awful Din– Poor Song