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INTERVIEW: Yo La Tengo
Laurie Tuffrey , February 19th, 2013 09:47

The American Conservative journal suggests Yo La Tengo be their house band; James McNew responds: "do a little research and consider Skrewdriver before nominating us"

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A few weeks back, right wing journal The American Conservative published a blog post making the surprising case for appointing Yo La Tengo as their house band. We put a few questions to the band's James McNew to see what they made of the offer, and asked him about their recent Fade album, their upcoming UK tour and his forthcoming Dump reissues.

Have a read of his answers below and scroll down for the UK and Ireland tour dates and the video for 'I'll Be Around' from the album.

How would you respond to the suggestion that Yo La Tengo should be The American Conservative's house band?

James McNew: It must have been a very slow news day over there. I would urge anybody writing something like that to at least do a little research and consider Skrewdriver before nominating us.

Do you think Yo La Tengo embody the principles of continuity, commitment to place and "the hyper-aggressive Breitbart wing of conservatism"? If not, what would you say are the guiding tenets of the band?

JM: No, of course I don't. A guiding tenet would be the urge to take all our earnings from our newfound American Conservative fanbase and give it to organisations for marriage equality and Planned Parenthood.

If you were going to be a house band for anyone, political or otherwise, who would you choose?

JM: If Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson's late night talk show The Magic Hour came back on the air and offered us the opportunity, I wouldn't say no.

Fade's a brilliant album, and one that’s also been received phenomenally well across the board - how does it figure for you in the Yo La Tengo back catalogue?

JM: I don't know yet. It felt right to us when we were making it; there are many new things happening on the recordings, and there are also some moments that recall our earliest days. I don't feel the need to look back and evaluate very often, I am more interested in what is happening now. Most of the songs from our back catalogue are in our live repertoire, so they all still feel current, and alive.

Why did you choose to work with John McEntire [of Tortoise and The Sea And Cake] as a producer? How did the partnership come about?

JM: We've known John for a very, very long time. We became friends on the YLT/ Seam tour of Europe in the summer of 1992. As well as being friends, we were fans of Tortoise, The Sea And Cake and Gastr Del Sol, plus his great production work for other bands. Why we had never worked together was beyond us, so we decided to rectify that.

For Fade, you opted for shorter, more concise tracks than on some of your previous albums - why so? Was it a conscious choice or simply the way things played out?

JM: Conscious, we were very interested in making a shorter record. In fact, it was originally a 12-song sequence. Shorter song arrangements were feeling right to us, so we followed that path.

Along with the album sleeve, the videos you’ve released for Fade all feature shots of nature scenes, be that Mac McCaughan playing guitar among the trees or static time-lapse footage of a tree in the park - what’s the fascination there?

JM: When we all saw that tree in person for the first time (thanks to photographer Carlie Armstrong of Portland, OR), it was absolutely overwhelming. There are plenty of symbolic concepts that lend itself to the image, but I won't tell you what ours are.

Can you tell us any more about the upcoming Dump reissues?

JM: The first two Dump CDs, Superpowerless and I Can Hear Music, are being reissued on the Morr Music label. Remastered, on vinyl for the first time, bonus tracks, photos, art, notes. Hopefully in the spring/summer of 2013!

What have you got planned for the upcoming European tour? Will you be doing any Seinfeld read-throughs, or for that matter, any other TV shows?

JM: Don't tempt us. Seriously. We'll be playing two sets, one quiet and one loud, no support band.

MARCH
Wed 20 - The Barbican, London - SOLD OUT
Thu 21 - The Ritz, Manchester
Fri 22 - O2 ABC, Glasgow
Sat 23 - Vicar Street, Dublin


Feb 19, 2013 6:50pm

James is a great guy, YTL a terrific BAND who do more with less talent than anyone. Someone should really note, however, how remarkable it is that NONE of these three have a way with lyrics, nor even the interpretation of them, as their generally horrific covers (especially of John Cale) have proven... This isn't a "criticism" per se but compare their lyrical facility to, say, Quietus faves like Babybird or Aidan Moffat and their weakness there is glaring...

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JC
Feb 20, 2013 12:19pm

In reply to :

o my days, what twaddle.

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