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Yeah Yeah Yeahs Tap Into Big Easy Groove

New Orleans R&B, gospel, hip-hop and more inspire trio's fourth album

Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in the studio
Nick Zinner
March 1, 2013 10:00 AM ET

Even the Yeah Yeah Yeahs can't quite believe they stuck together long enough to make a fourth album. "We've been making music together for 13 years now, which is an incredible rarity," says Nick Zinner, the notoriously combustible New York art-punk trio's guitarist. "Ninety percent of the bands that we came up with are gone."

The YYYs began writing songs for Mosquito, due out April 16th, in New Orleans last spring – tapping into a goth-industrial rock groove with elements of soul. "We thought New Orleans would be a great place to write – this magical, chaotic city," says Zinner. "We kept driving around, listening to this radio station playing all this awesome New Orleans soul."

100 Best Albums of the 2000s: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, 'Fever to Tell'

They went on to record the LP at Sonic Ranch in rural Texas, with their longtime production wingmen, Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio and Nick Launay. "Sacrilege" builds from a gritty guitar groove into a gospel-size chorus, with Karen O's most soulful belting – almost like the Birthday Party covering Madonna's "Like a Prayer." "That's the New Orleans vibe," Zinner says. "Just the juju in the air." The disc also features one song produced by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, with a cameo from Kool Keith's weirdo alter ego Dr. Octagon.

"It's not as labored-over as [2009's] It's Blitz!," Zinner adds. "Karen likes things that feel new. If something feels familiar, she automatically has zero interest in that. So we can't repeat ourselves, even if we wanted to."

This story is in the March 14th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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