It hardly seems possible that a decade has gone by since the original formation of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, although given the band’s current status, there’s an argument to be made that the quintet didn’t actually make it to the 10-year mark. At last check, the only member of CYHSY still standing is frontman Alec Ounsworth, making it more solo project than band.
CYHSY coalesced when Philadelphian Ounsworth came across twins Lee and Tyler Sargent (guitar and bass respectively) on a visit to see his sister in Boston. Ounsworth and the Sargents recruited Connecticut College friends Sean Greenhalgh (drums) and Robbie Guertin (keyboards/guitars). After solidifying the lineup, Ounsworth returned to Philadelphia and the rest of CYHSY relocated to Brooklyn; Ounsworth shuttled between cities, collaborating with his new bandmates on their unique Indie Rock/New Wave material. They intended to start with an EP, but once in the studio, they chose to do a full album, then made the momentous decision to self-release rather than sign with a label.
Within months, a glowing Pitchfork review, an opening slot on The National’s 2005 American tour and a relentless gig ethic resulted in sales of more than 100,000 copies of their eponymous debut; by the following year, it was approaching a quarter million.
CYHSY released its Dave Fridmann-produced sophomore album, Some Loud Thunder, in 2007 to a somewhat quieter response, although it debuted in Billboard’s Top 50; a digital live album appeared later that year.
Two years later, Ounsworth released his solo debut, Mo Beauty, and the album Skin and Bones from his side project Flashy Python, while Tyler and Guertin concentrated on their side band, Uninhabitable Mansions (Guertin also plays with Radical Dads), and Greenhalgh pursued a production career.CYHSY shrugged off break-up rumors and released Hysterical in 2011 to mixed reviews; later that year, both Guertin and Tyler announced their departures. With the recent release of Only Run — which relies primarily on synthesizers and drum machines and features the song “Little Moment,” featuring vocals from The National’s Matt Berninger — it would seem that CYHSY is a band in name only. Greenhalgh played on the album, but has apparently left the group as well. What does this all portend for the live presence of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah? Wait and see.
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