As a Wisconsin native, Yellow Ostrich front man Alex Schaaf is confident the Milwaukee Brewers can make it to the World Series. Bassist Jon Natchez thinks his childhood team, the Red Sox, have a chance of going all the way as well. "There won't be a band after that," says drummer Michael Tapper, who is not so sure the band can withstand the stress of the two teams facing off in the World Series.
Yellow Ostrich recently re-released their debut full-length album, The Mistress, on Barsuk Records and embarked on a brief tour through the American south with The Antlers. Their music is filled with looped vocals, clever percussion and a sense of overwhelming happiness. Pegged with a difficult Sunday morning set time at Austin City Limits festival the band delivered for fans who were willing to wake up early and brave the lambent sunshine.
For the time being Yellow Ostrich is a cohesive unit. But go see them while you still can, if the World Series doesn't tear the band apart, the Super Bowl surely will.
Yellow Ostrich lead guitarist Alex Schaaf (left) ponders the Milwaukee Brewers World Series chances, while drummer Michael Tapper (center) and bassist Jon Natchez (right) look on. Photo credit: Ranjana Thomas
Mark Collins: What are your sports allegiances?
Alex Schaaf: I root for Wisconsin teams so Brewers, Packers and Badgers.
Jon Natchez: I grew up outside Boston so the hated Boston teams. But when I was younger it was the noble, struggling Boston teams. We've been spoiled lately.
Michael Tapper: I grew up in Texas and was a really big Texas Rangers fan. I would score all the games. But when I went through puberty I didn't care about sports anymore. I considered extreme sports fandom a very childish thing.
MC: Do you have fond experiences of going to the ballpark?
AS: I've never been to a Packers game. You had to have season tickets and I didn't know anybody with season tickets. But I went to a lot of Badger college football games in Madison. And I go to one Brewers game per year. They played the Yankees in New York this year and I went. They got killed.
JN: My mom was great and she would buy tickets for a couple games a year. She would always buy tickets for the last game and hope that something awesome would happen. Because baseball is baseball it never did. But we were there in '87 during the final game of the season and if the Red Sox won they were in the playoffs. We were sitting pretty far back behind third base. And there was arcing fly ball to deep right field. The right fielder Tom Brunansky -- who was slow and not particularly good at fielding -- made the most incredible diving catch in the ninth inning to thrust the Red Sox into the playoffs. The place went bonkers.
MC: What are the fondest sports memories from your youth?
AS: I remember Super Bowl XXXI when the Packers beat the Patriots in 1998. That is one of my earliest memories.
MT: 1998 is one of your earliest memories?
AS: Ummm [awkwardly]. I remember things before that.
JN: My early sports memories happened around the mid-'80s so Larry Bird and the Celtics were a big deal. It was pure bliss being a young kid in that era. But then '86 happened which was when the Patriots made the Super Bowl and got destroyed by the Bears. And the Red Sox got to the World Series and Bill Buckner happened. So that was a sad time.
MC: Who are your favorite sports heroes?
AS: Aaron Rodgers is unanimously loved. Especially because he is the Favre replacement. I don't really like to talk about Favre. When he retired and came back with the Jets it was kind of weird and annoying but it was fine. But the Vikings thing. That's way over the line. He's not spoken about in our family anymore.
JN: For people my age there is a real fondness for off-the-radar, scrappy Red Sox players like Ellis Burks, although he had a few all-star seasons. Everybody loved Sam Horn his rookie year. Jody Reed. Spike Owen. John Valentin. All these players who were never famous but had really good seasons. They weren't superstars but we felt like they were really ours.
MC: Will there be discord in the band if the Red Sox and the Brewers face each other in the World Series?
JN: It's nice because Alex is an avid baseball fan but he has an NL team. I have an AL team so we can enjoy each others' success during the regular season. We haven't been in a band together when this is a possibility but we're both pretty friendly about it.
You know when there is a World Series the mayors of the competing towns make a bet. Like the Boston mayor says, "If your team wins you get a years supply of clam chowder." We made a bet like that during interleague play. The Red Sox won and Alex has not yet fulfilled that bet.
AS: I'm waiting for it to come in the mail. That's all I'll say.
JN: We will do something like that on a larger scale if they meet in the World Series. That's the nice thing about being a Red Sox fan post-2004 is that the stakes are lower. You can enjoy the game a little more.
MT: I think we should raise the stakes. You have to do something humiliating if the team loses. You have to play a show naked.
MC: Did you guys play sports growing up?
AS: I played basketball, football and golf.
MT: I played sports. Ultimate Frisbee.
JN: You were a champion runner.
MT: I ran cross-country in high school.
JN: And was a champion at it.
MT: I'm a champiooon!
JN: I also ran cross-country in high school and my nickname was "the boose," as in caboose.