Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O Tackles Folk Music, Porn

Singer is collaborating with MC Kool Keith on porn project.

Forget “Kumbaya” and “Home on the Range.” Next year the lyrics of punky-spunky Karen O may be heard around the campfire.

While her band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are in the very early stages of a new album, Karen says they’ve been toying with some folky sounds for their follow-up to Fever to Tell.

“There is some acoustic guitar — a first — and Brian [Chase] has been studying tabla, so we may throw some of that in there, too,” she said in an e-mail. “YYY campfire sing-alongs, YYYs go rustic.”

While her tongue may be planted firmly in her cheek with that remark, the back-to-basics approach does hark back to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ formative days. The group began when Karen and guitarist Nick Zinner met at a New York bar and started penning pretty little acoustic ditties together, well before they developed what would become the band’s distinctive art/punk/disco sound.

One thing is for sure about the forthcoming effort: Karen and company are approaching it with a gypsy spirit. “We’ve only just begun, and we’re playing around with new ideas,” Karen said. “YYYs have never done a studio album before, where we write all the songs in the studio. This is a radically different process with radically different results — or not. Too early to identify what direction it is going.”

KO has hung fairly low since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs finished touring behind their debut LP, chilling out in her new home base, Los Angeles, and spending some of the spring vacationing overseas. She recently turned up singing on an Adidas commercial directed by her boyfriend, Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation”), called “Hello Tomorrow.” Karen’s whimsical vocals capture the ad’s dreamy feel as it follows a guy drifting through a bizarre and beautiful fantasy sequence wearing his computerized Adidas “smart shoes.” The song was composed by Jonze’s younger brother Sam Spiegel, who records under the name Squeak E. Clean.

” ‘Hello Tomorrow’ came about because I live in Los Angeles now. The film industry trumps the music industry out here, and in my spare time I’ve been exploring how to combine one with the other,” Karen said. “It was more like scoring a movie than writing a song. Spike wanted something dreamy and simple, so we came up with a song that’s not too unlike what a little kid might hum to himself or herself aloud or in their head.”

Asked about rumors of a larger side project with Spiegel, Karen gave the polite but curt reply: “No details at the present moment.” One collaboration she’s not tightlipped about, however, is her recent pairing with former Ultramagnetic MC Kool Keith. The pair hooked up in March to record “The Tease” for an upcoming release called Deep Throat vs. Lialeh. The project features a Seattle supergroup of artists who call themselves the Peepers staging a sort of musical rivalry between the 1974 porn classic “Deep Throat” and the first major black porn movie, “Lialeh,” released the same year. In addition to Keith and Karen, the album will feature guest appearances by Danger Mouse, Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals and others to be announced. An EP version of the effort is due in September on Light in the Attic Records, and a full-length is slated to follow early next year.

“I’m really excited about it,” Karen said of “The Tease.” A video is expected to be shot for the song. In other Yeah Yeah Yeahs news, drummer Chase is finishing up his second album with his side project the Seconds, and Zinner’s YYY photo book is expected later this year (see “Yeah Yeah Yeahs On Display, Bruises And All, In Photo Book” ). The band also can be heard on an upcoming Gang of Four remix album (see “No Doubt, Beck, Yeah Yeah Yeahs Plan Gang Of Four Remixes” ).