A year ago, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were a promising little unsigned trio with fans in at least two of New York’s five boroughs. Today – without even releasing a full-length album – they’re a promising little unsigned trio with fans around the world. Thanks to the five songs on their EP, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, scads of laudatory press and their funked-up, punked-out live shows, the Yeahs inspired a good ol’ fashioned bidding war that was still going on at press time. “We really need to decide,” says singer Karen O with a sigh. “It’s been hard.” O, drummer Brian Chase and guitarist Nick Zinner recorded an album on their own this fall and, come hell or high water, they plan to have it out in early 2003.
What’s the most mischievous thing you did this year?
ZINNER: The backstage high jinks at [music-industry convention] South by Southwest.
KAREN O: I was drinking margaritas with my girlfriends, and we were totally trashed. We destroyed Clinic’s dressing room and stole all their masks. We got kicked out, and on our way out we shoved Courtney Love. Then we went back to our $5,000 suite that some record label was paying for and freaked out more. It was a big rock-star night.
What was the most extravagant thing a label did to woo you?
CHASE: There’s a bar in the swankiest hotel in London, the Sanderson, called the Purple Bar. Martinis were running about sixteen pounds. It was us and a bunch of our friends, and we racked up about a $1,600 bar tab.
Did you feel bad about it?
ZINNER: Not when you only have two pounds in your pocket.
Favorite record of the year?
CHASE: Music was released this year?
What’s been the most rewarding aspect of being the Yeah Yeah Yeahs this year?
KAREN O: The Karen O look-alikes are my favorite. They come to the shows with a glove on one hand and all decked out Karen O-style. It’s, like, back to Madonna in her early years in Japan. I like having those die-hard fans. There are a lot of them in Cleveland. Some girl made me a neon orange bracelet, and other girls had Karen O pins they made themselves. I felt a lot of love from my girls.
How do you pass time on the road?
KAREN O: When we were sharing a bus with the Liars in Europe, we had a serious love affair with Tony Hawk 3, the Xbox game.
CHASE: One night, a bunch of us were in the back playing Tony Hawk and listening to the Smiths, and [Liars singer] Angus [Andrew] said, “You know what? The only thing that separates us from Blink-182 right now is the fact that we’re listening to the Smiths.”
CHASE: . . . Michael Jackson.
ZINNER: Karen is going to single-handedly resurrect Michael Jackson’s career.
KAREN O: That’s the plan. We’re just going to rebuild his whole thing.
This story is from the December 12th, 2002 issue of Rolling Stone.