Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Jon Ashley
Two things occurred over the last 12 hours that Alex Schaaf would have appreciated. Neither of them are all that spectacular in and of themselves, but they are the instances that it seems that the lead singer of Yellow Ostrich enjoys thinking about, cutting up in his head, editing and trying to live in them a little bit. The first is something that the Wisconsin native doesn't likely experience much anymore, having moved to New York City. Near midnight last night, a big raccoon, already fattened for the winter ahead, was roaming around in the backyard and my wife and I couldn't help but stand at the back window and stare at the critter as it took a tour, getting it's paws on whatever it wanted, looking for something and nothing in particular. The big guy spent 15 minutes back there and there's not much to see or handle, so it was a long 15 minutes. He didn't seem to care. He took his time and after a while he, his furry, curved back and his ringed tail were waddling over to the neighbor lady's joint. You can hear in Yellow Ostrich music that Schaaf is a man who - like us - would be intrigued for the full 15 minutes - watching a raccoon mill around in his backyard. He'd want to see what would happen and he'd be curious to know what kind of electric excitement was ripping through that tiny animal heart that would stop in its chest if it heard another animal approaching or tripped the motion sensors on the outdoor lights.
Schaaf takes little jumping off points that shouldn't have too much to do with his daily life and he crafts them into bigger lessons or greater explorations on all of the stuff that needling him, all that stuff that breaks him up some. He writes himself as a vulnerable guy, but not one that's weak or scared, just one who's apprehensive and somewhat tired. He's not hardened though. He's got one of those soft hearts. He hopes for good things. He wants his friends to be happy. On "Mary," he bemoans the substance abuse by a formerly smiley friend, singing, "Mary, you are doing drugs/Don't you think we know?" He sounds like he's there for her, if she wants the help. The song "Marathon Runner," has him singing about sore legs and commenting, "I'm anxious to see what I'm running for," as if the purpose had not been considered before any of the running started. It might not be how any marathon runner ever gets started - not knowing what the end result is going to be - or is the completion of those many miles never the finish of anything, but more of a start?
The other little thing that's still happening, that Schaaf would have an interest in is this girl in the coffee shop, across the room. She seems to ooze sunshine. It's the first thing in their morning and the light sparkle that surges from her eyes and gleams off her lips as she speaks to her friend is contagious. It's the look she has, the feeling that she's giving off that Schaaf might be expressing in "Whale," when he sings to the beast, "I'll open my heart if you'll open your heart/Open your heart." Even though he's thinking about riding on a whale's back, out into the great blue yonder, we're aware that there's more to it. There's a rummaging, there are some wild animals, a twinkling girl, some delayed happiness and a whole bunch of gray matter also up there for the ride.