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Yo La Tengo

It Takes Two To "Yo La Tengo" Band

Wilbur Kane

Tuesday 12 September 2006, by Webmaster

Jersey rockers Yo La Tengo release ‘I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass’ this month. It will be the tenth studio album from a band formed by husband and wife team Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley over twenty years ago. They’ve been a mainstay of the ‘underground’ scene, frequently drawing comparisons with the Velvet, ahem, Underground for their mixture of grimy urban rock and poppy melodies, but is it true they are as subcultural as we’ve been led to believe, particularly when they’ve appeared on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Simpsons? Bassist/multi-instrumentalist and long term-member James McNew laughingly explains to The Skinny; “Oh that, well, It was season ten, so I know a lot of Simpsons purists had abandoned the show by then, so it doesn’t count.”

True to Yo La Tengo form, McNew is reticent to give away any details of the new album; highly anticipated as recent Yo La Tengo outputs have shown increasing diversity of musical influences. “I don’t like to tell people what to expect. That’s no fun. It’s much more enjoyable not to prepare anyone for what’s coming ‘cos people who know us are aware our records change every time. We don’t really have a formula. Things get difficult, they can get weirder. It’s all good."

So is it difficult to fight the natural tendency to stagnate after so many years in each other’s company? “I think the opposite’s the case. After you play together for a long time, you get very comfortable doing so and with that comes a confidence. You feel like you can try anything, that maybe you wouldn’t have in the past.”

Try anything eh? Does this include instrumental concept pieces about fish? “Oh, well that record [’The Sounds of the Sounds of Science’] was actually sound track music we made to accompany these short films that were undersea documentaries [by Jean Painleve]. Occasionally we’ll play that show live with the films. Different and very fun, but this new album is more of a ‘proper’ record.”

McNew speaks enthusiastically with the genuine verve of someone who can’t quite believe his life has been so good. Working with the likes of Yoko Ono and the Sun Ra Arkestra, and supporting My Bloody Valentine on their last ever live tour in 1992 all adds up to an interesting career. “All sorts of excellent crazy shit has happened to our group, it’s hard to pick favourites. We’ve wound up working with people who I idolised when I was a kid. I’m still rather fond of those people. Ray Davies, David Byrne and it still feels very strange when Danny Ray Thompson, who’s been in the [aforementioned] Sun Ra Arkestra since the late 50s, rings you up to go clothes shopping with him. I mean, have you seen what those guys wear?”

I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass is out through Matador on Sep 11 Yo La Tengo play Indian Summer, Victoria Park on Sep 3

Links: Yo La Tengo