The makeup of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has changed quite a bit over the years, but there’s no question it has always been singer-songwriter Alec Ounsworth’s band.
“The Tourist,” the latest CYHSY release, is a departure from the indie rock act’s prior albums, with the idiosyncratic but catchy single “Fireproof” setting the tone. The album, written entirely by Ounsworth, is the most melodic and surprising CYHSY project yet.
“I try to make them (CYHSY albums) as different as possible,” Ounsworth says while calling from Mississippi. “I feel like this is an honest album. When I look back at some of the things that we’ve done, it’s almost to a point of dishonesty after the second album (2007’s “Some Loud Thunder”). Some things sounded phoned in.”
Ounsworth is quick to point out that he isn’t blaming his former bandmates for any of that. “It’s not their fault,” Ounsworth says. “If it’s anybody’s fault, you can blame me. But I’ve moved on, and this is where I’m at.”
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Mercury Rev’s Dave Fridmann, who mixed “The Tourist” and worked on prior CYHSY albums (“Only Run” and “Some Loud Thunder), added his creative spin to Ounsworth’s compositions.
“I work well with Dave,” Ounsworth says. “I’ve worked with him for years. He’s been part of things for awhile. He had an impact on ‘The Tourist.’ ”
In fact, Fridmann has spent more time with Ounsworth than any of those backing him on his tour, which stops Wednesday at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro. Ounsworth laughed when asked if it has to do with the Philadelphia suburb, Conshohocken, where he lives. Conshohocken was once home to Marah, a band from the same town, which went through about a dozen rhythm sections over the years.
“I think it’s more of a Philadelphia thing,” Ounsworth says. “You tend to move on in Philadelphia. I’ve moved and somehow kept this going.”
And Ounsworth has five albums to show for it.
“That’s the best thing about it,” Ounsworth says. “We have plenty to draw from live. That keeps it interesting. Part of the problem early on in the band was that say, after two albums, we didn’t have much to draw from. Early on with this band, I felt fenced in, but that’s not true anymore. . . . It was always difficult for me to grasp the concept of a group, the same people, riding it out in a band for 20 or 30 years. You don’t have to do that. I’m perfectly comfortable making music with this band like we are now.”
Ounsworth admits that when he made the recent album, over the course of a week in a Philadelphia studio, it wasn’t the best of times for him.
“Everybody goes through ups and downs,” Ounsworth says. “I was going through it, but I made it, and have this album to show for it.”