Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit takes a break backstage at Firefly Festival in Dover, Delaware on June 23rd, 2013.
Frontrunners of the New York rock revival that erupted at the turn of the millennium, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were about as fun as an arty punk band could get: a swirl of dangerous riffs, stomping propulsion and the sexy howl of Karen O, who dressed in tattered clothes, flung beer at crowds and sounded like she'd eaten Pat Benatar for breakfast. The excited splatter of Yeah Yeah Yeahs' early records eventually gave way to a more focused sound and even the occasional tender ballad — in 2004 the Yeah Yeah Yeahs scored an MTV hit with the rather gorgeous love song "Maps" — without losing its vibrant oddness. By decade's end, Karen O was flinging her beer at much, much larger crowds.
Karen O (born Karen Ozelek) and guitarist Nick Zinner originally met as students at Ohio's arty Oberlin Univeristy in the late Nineties. The pair decided to make music together, originally conceiving their group as a folk duo, but soon veered in the opposite direction, drawing on by the late 1970s New York and Ohio art-punk scenes. They recruited drummer Brian Chase, a college friend of O's and on the strength of their early demos, earned opening gigs for the Strokes and White Stripes.
In 2001, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' self-released, self-titled EP, which included the stomping rocker "Bang" (which had the immortal line "as a fuck son, you suck") and the shout-along anthem "Our Time." The band garnered attention both in the U.S. and abroad, and appearances at the South by Southwest Music Festival and tours of the U.S. and U.K. throughout 2002 generated further buzz.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs signed to Interscope Records and released their first full-length record, Fever to Tell (Number 55), in 2003. Fever to Tell didn't clean up their sound much but still proved the band's breakthrough record, thanks in large part to "Maps." The follow-up LP, 2006's more restrained Show Your Bones, debuted at Number 11 in the U.S. and Number 7 in the U.K. and earned the band a Grammy nomination. By this time the Yeah Yeahs were headlining festivals around the world and their members were pursuing side projects in their spare time — most notably O.'s soundtrack work for the 2009 film Where The Wild Things Are.
The band recorded much of 2009'sIt's Blitz! (Number 22) at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas; ironically, the rural location made for some of the band's most electronic, most danceable music yet. The album added dense layers of synthesizer to the band's already heavy aesthetic, most notably on lead single "Zero," a pulsating disco burner that finished ninth on Rolling Stone's best songs of 2009. The album was perhaps the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' best-reviewed yet, and the band's U.S. tour included a stop at Bonnaroo.