Altmejd says that, at the time, mailing his sculptures to the Catskills—where Yeasayer was recording Amen & Goodbye, the band’s fourth studio album, due to debut Friday—just seemed like the intuitive thing to do. But it was also meant to send a message. As Altmejd told me, “It was a way for me to say, ‘Listen, I am a sculptor. I make objects. That’s what I do. Whatever our collaboration is, it’s going to really take shape and form itself around objects.’”
The heads in question weren’t of the once-living variety. Rather, they were, as the rest of Altmejd’s sculptures, amalgamations of organic and inorganic materials that form melted-away, hollowed-out, and grown-upon vestiges of a human form. The band was wooed, says frontman Chris Keating, who was on the other line of our call. (Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton, and Anand Wilder together form Yeasayer.) “We set them up in the studio and had them just staring at us for months. It was kind of creepy,” said Keating, laughing.
A shared sense of humor and affinity for the strange sewed the seeds of their collaboration, which bears its fruit on the album cover of Amen & Goodbye. Altmejd and the band crafted the cover’s characters—some sculpted, some played by humans—collaboratively. “Some of the names were obscure, some of them were just references from songs, some of them were different people we were influenced by,” said Keating. Altmejd says he didn’t want the sculptures that would grace the album to come from his own landscape and established artistic vocabulary: “I wanted them, the objects, to be coming from the band’s music, their work, their landscape,” he said.