Alum Alex Schaaf returns with new band Yellow Ostrich

Cameron Carrus

Lawrence alumnus Alex Schaaf ’10 is returning to campus Nov. 17 with his new rock trio, Yellow Ostrich. Older students may remember Schaaf from his work with his former Lawrence band The Chairs.

Since graduating from Lawrence, Schaaf has moved to New York, equipped with the solo CD “The Mistress,” which he recorded himself as a Lawrence student. “The Mistress” provides a raw, straight-out-of-the-basement feel.

Yellow Ostrich used to be Schaaf’s one-man band, but Schaaf found it to be limiting. He had to make use of extensive over-dubbing to produce the thick vocal harmonies he desired. The instrumentation from track to track was also spare, but the textures are still interesting.

Nevertheless, it is hard to say if Schaaf’s oneness limited the potential of the album, or helped him to achieve exactly what he wanted to in the project.

In the midst of his tour, Schaaf shed some light on the album’s adaptation to a trio setting.

“[The material] has a more loose, more musical feel to it,” Schaaf said. “When I was working solo, the songs were heavy on loops, and the music was more intellectual. I had to focus more on the concept behind it. Now that I’m working with a trio, the music is more interactive, with a live, louder, and heavier sound. We’re a full-blown rock band.”

Schaaf also attributes this adaptation to his musical growth since graduating from Lawrence. He has noticed that his communication skills with other musicians has improved, and being able to delegate the musical responsibilities allows him to play looser.

“The Mistress” was recently re-released by Barsuk Records. There were no major changes made to Schaaf’s original solo album, but there were a couple bonus tracks added, including an alternate take of a song performed by the new trio and two additional full band tracks.

Schaaf believes that the re-release is “a good way to update the material, and provide the audience with something new.”

It was not long after Schaaf’s trio started gigging in New York City that they landed a U.S. tour with Ra Ra Riot, in addition to various shows with The Antlers. Apart from the sheer talent of the group, Schaaf says that their success is due partly to “a chain of lucky events.”

Through their shows, they linked up with a booking agent that put them on tour with Ra Ra Riot. Their bass player is also friends with some of the members of The Antlers. When they were starting out, they were playing clubs with no more than 100 people. Now, they’re transitioning into larger theater venues.

Schaaf is very excited to return to Lawrence once again. Constant tour dates have kept him from visiting, so stopping at Lawrence on his tour is very special for him.

He said, “It will be good to see people again. It will also to be cool to be on the other side of the Band Booking Committee, since I was a former member booking bands like the one that I’m in now.”

Make sure you treat him right, BBC. He knows what to expect!