Karen O, front-woman for New York indie-rock trio the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, was in Sydney this week performing latest production Stop The Virgens as part of the annual Vivid Live Festival. We managed to score a rare and exclusive interview with her.
Ahead of our chat, the Sydney Opera House played host to the production and encountered a full house, five nights running. Stop The Virgens has been labelled an autobiographical psycho-opera, transcending the traditional boundaries of indie-rock music, theatre and performance art. We experienced a production of elegance and beauty, darkness and emotion with a soundtrack of original music Karen began writing seven years ago.
Joining her onstage were band-mates Nick Zinner on guitar, and drummer Brian Chase. Also along for the ride was long-time Beastie Boys collaborator Money Mark, as well as Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler from The Greenhornes / The Raconteurs.
We were lucky enough to meet with Karen O and ask her a few questions.
Is the show a good indication of what we would find if we climbed inside your head?
Oh dear. Yeah, I guess so (laughs). I mean, it’s a good indication but you wouldn’t want to go any further then that (laughs). It can get pretty ugly up there (laughs).
How long has this production been in the works?
I started writing the songs in 2005 and had no idea what it was going to be at that point. The psycho-opera has been in production since 2010, about a year before the first shows in New York. So we have kept the music a secret for about seven years but the production process was really quick.
What would be your ideal collaboration?
It’s crazy because I’ve already collaborated with David Lynch on his album, and there’s some talk about doing some music videos for that. So, that would be right up there I would say. He’s a huge hero of mine (laughs). Outside of that, my mind still goes immediately to film directors like John Waters. There’d be a huge list actually (laughs).
What’s on the cards for Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in 2012?
We’ve been working on some new tunes and trying to hammer them out in the studio recently. So we’re hoping we’ll get a new record out sooner rather than later. But it’s definitely on its way and it’s going to feel pretty different to the last one I think. We’re using some of the same producers but we are trying to take it in a bit of a different direction.
Can you tell us a secret?
That’s a tough one (laughs). Is this just between you and me? Gosh, I don’t really have any. I mean, I keep my heart on my sleeve man; it’s all out there. That’s just who I am (laughs).
Below is a 31-minute behind-the-scenes making of Karen O’s Stop The Virgens production and its debut on October 2011 at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn (courtesy of The Creators Project):