Yeah Yeah Yeahs Biography

The White Stripes and the Strokes opened up the floodgates for other early punk/garage rock outfits shortly after the start of the new millennium, with bands such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs followed in their wake. Comprising the striking figure of Karen O aka Karen Ohm (Karen Orzalek, 22 November 1978, South Korea; vocals), and her male band mates Brian Chase (b. 2 December 1978, Long Island, New York, USA; drums) and Nick Zinner (b. Nicholas Joesph Zinner; guitar), the Yeah Yeah Yeahs originate from the same home town as the Strokes, New York City. Originally formed during 2000, Zinner and Karen O first met while attending Ohio’s Oberlin College. With Chase added to the line-up, they built a buzz locally that led to the trio issuing a debut EP a year later. They opted to bypass established record labels completely, issuing it on their own Shifty imprint. Produced by former Boss Hog /Chrome Cranks guitarist Jerry Teel, the five-track EP was supported with steady touring, including their own headlining UK tour. The Machine EP followed on Touch & Go at the end of 2002.

By now, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were being fêted as one of Rolling Stone magazine’s ‘Ten New Artists To Watch’ and had become a fixture in the music and style press, with particular attention paid to Karen O. The singer’s dynamic stage presence helped, of course, but the media noted a genuine talent behind the theatrics, with her swooping vocals taking inspiration from sources as diverse as Patti Smith and Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill. All the media coverage inevitably led to a major label recording contract, with Interscope Records earning the band’s signatures. Their 2003 debut Fever To Tell struggled to live up to the hype, rather predictably. The trio brushed with greatness on tracks such as ‘Y Control’ and ‘Maps’, which revealed a beating rock ‘n’ roll heart beneath all the artifice.

The trio lapped up the plaudits and set out on a lengthy tour to promote the album, during which they began working on material for the follow-up. Unhappy with the results, they scrapped a lot of the songs and began work afresh, spurred on by the sundering of a number of personal relationships outside the band. Released at the start of 2006, Show Your Bones was a more restrained offering than the punkish extremes found on their early EPs and dotted throughout Fever To Tell. Again the trio failed to come up with the bona fide classic many believed them to be capable of, but in the process managed to turn out two of their greatest songs to date, ‘Cheated Hearts’ and ‘Turn Into’.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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