do you prepare for a tour?
and get our songs and the cover songs ready. There's so much to
do, especially since this will be the first wave of touring in support
of this record. We assembled our team, got all of our equipment
fixed, even purchased some new things. Now it's just packing. It's
sort of like getting ready for an international flight and the mania
that takes over your life the 24 hours before going to the airport.
The last week or so was like driving around in the furthest parking
lot away from the terminal, cursing. Now I feel like we're on the
shuttle bus headed toward the terminal, and once we're on the plane,
it'll be OK.
the new songs part of the process?
A lot of times
nothing is finished before we head into the studio. We just have
song ideas. Lord knows there are never lyrics until the last absolute
possible moment in recording. We come up with an idea, flesh it
out into a song and then cover the song. We have to go back and
learn the thing we made up. I think it may not be as literal as
that all the time, but certainly with overdubbing instruments in
the studio and adding things that the three of us can't cover at
once, we try to figure out things to do to make the arrangements
sound right live.
How was writing
the soundtrack to the film Old Joy different than putting
together a typical Yo La Tengo album?
different. With Old Joy and any of the movies that we scored,
there's quite a bit of literally sitting down in front of the recording
meter with the director of the film, who has a pretty clear vision
of exactly what he or she wants. So you're composing music and trying
to react emotionally to what you see on the screen, and at the same
time trying to do exactly what someone else wants. That's new, because
writing records is for ourselves and no one else. Here, we're trying
to please a director and his vision of the mood of the movie or
a scene, but at the same time trying to retain our identity and
How has your
role in the band changed since you joined?
It's very different.
I originally joined as a temporary substitute bass player filling
in for a three-week American tour and three-week European tour in
the summer of 1991. I learned all the songs that ended up being
on the record May I Sing with Me, but didn't have a hand
in (writing) those songs. Afterward, I moved to New York (from Providence,
Rhode Island) and started practicing and making up songs that ended
up being on Painful. Now I have a key to the room.
marked the band's return to Matador Records. How has the label changed
When we signed
over to Matador I was so excited because almost all the records
I bought were on that label. I saved a tremendous amount of money
because we got free cut-out copies of their releases. It's different
at Matador now, and many of the people who were part of the crew
early on are gone, but at the same time the core of the original
crew is there. The owners, label managers and some people who have
come on since then are amazing and great to work with.
and Georgia being married, what's the dynamic like in the band?
It's hard to
describe. We get along really great. The very first time I drove
down and rehearsed with them I'm pretty sure we wasted half the
day talking about SETV and movies and records and stuff. It's kind
of what practices are still like now. We talk about something until
it's time to go. Our personalities work well together. We support
each other and push each other and challenge our own notions of
the group and making music.
Do you expect
that there will be fans in towns like Omaha that you've never played
Well, you hope
so. We've gone to places that just seemed impossibly far away that
we've never been to before, and received a warm reception. It's
an amazing experience. Whether Omaha or Brazil or Taiwan, it's an
So what are
we in for when you get to Omaha for the first time?
For this first
wave of traveling we'll be playing a lot of the new songs, but Omaha
will be different. We've never been there, so not only have we never
played our new songs in that city, we've never played any songs
in that city. It will be different than many of the other shows
on this tour. We'll be opening up the catalog.
Published in The Omaha Reader Oct. 4, 2006.
Copyright © 2006 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.