Nick Zinner pulls a double shift with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. When he's not playing guitar, he's running around taking a massive amount of pictures to document the band's life on the road for an upcoming photo book. And in his spare time, he's been working on a few projects for other artists, including bandmate Karen O.
Zinner's "I Hope You Are All Happy Now," due in the spring, is a collection of photographs taken over the last three years with his point-and-shoot camera. In much the same style of his previous two photo books ("Slept in Beds" and "No Seats on the Party Car"), the guitarist captures moments that might have otherwise been considered mundane or glamorous and places them in different contexts, so that, for instance, the bruises, cuts and scrapes incurred as a road warrior become almost pretty.
"It's good to do something with [the photos] instead of letting them gather dust," he said. "It's not so much a documentary about that period or the band's diary as fragmented moments, impressions, images — [it's] more like an art book."
Zinner said that people are so used to him snapping away by now that they don't question his ever-present camera, so the bands the Yeah Yeah Yeahs tour with (for this book, Sleater-Kinney and the Icarus Line, among others) become characters as well. Fans caught in the momentum of the crowd are also a favorite subject. But now that he has taken so many pictures — some 500 total, he says — the task before him is to whittle them down and organize them into something presentable.
"I'm working on the layouts now," he said. "And I'm having to organize this by instinct, because I wouldn't want to make a storyline too obvious. It feels best to just put it together intuitively. Like, maybe I'll have a section of the bruises, because they seem so abstract, if that's not too macabre of me."
Zinner isn't sure how much text will be included, but the book may contain a tour diary by the band's tour manager as well as a foreword by Karen O. And in return, Zinner is producing Karen's solo material, which is still so embryonic that she's hesitant to call it an actual "solo album." "It's way too early in its development," she said. "It's just a project."
Zinner recently teamed up with Har Mar Superstar for his new record, The Handler, playing bass as well as guitar on three tracks. "It's just kind of summer jams," he said. Karen also appears on The Handler, on a track called "Cut Me Up." "I've been really picky about who I do things with," she said. "That's the only [collaboration] I've done so far." But that might change: If she gets the chance, Karen said she'd love to work with Missy Elliott, whom she met in Miami during the Video Music Awards.
Just because they've been freelancing doesn't mean the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have forgotten their primary mission: to deliver a new album of their own music. They've already written six or seven songs, with titles like "Sealings," "10X10" and "Down Boy," and a few of those will be included on their first DVD release, "Tell Me What Rockers to Swallow," due October 19 (see "Yeah Yeah Yeahs Summon The Spirit Of Jacko In Spike Jonze-Helmed Clip"). But they're still not sure which ones will make the final cut for the new album.
"Our plan is to take a break and work on these side projects and get these different experiences," Karen O said. "By the time we get ready for the second record, we're going to bring it a whole new range of stuff, and it'll be completely different than our first. We just need to take a step back and get some perspective on our lives again."