August 18, 2005

Hey everybody, how’s it going?  Like Mayor Tommy Shanks before me, I’m doing pretty good myself.  Haven’t had a nightmare about squirrels in days (although I feared a relapse after seeing Charlie & the Chocolate Factory).  Leaving for Europe in a couple of days, so it’s time to tie up a few loose ends.

Speaking of the cinema, we want to encourage everybody to go see Junebug, which opens on August 3 in New York and Los Angeles, and elsewhere later.  It’s the feature film debut of Phil Morrison, who directed many of our rock videos, including “Sugarcube” and “Tom Courtenay.”  We scored the movie, and we couldn’t be prouder to be part of such a beautiful work.  For more information, check out the web site.

A lot of you—to be more precise, none of you—have been asking about the progress of Yo La Tengo, that plucky group of sixth through eighth grade girls who rampaged through Division 3 of this year’s Maplewood softball league (see Letters: May 2005).  To be frank, the season was a bit of a disappointment.  The schedule appeared to be being made up as they went along.  There were mutterings that this was all done to disturb the between-starts sideline throwing of star hurler Leila Rosenthal.  Perhaps that’s just raging paranoia, but undeniably it was all but impossible to keep track of their exploits, so let’s check the web site.  What the . . . ?!  0-3!?  That simply cannot be.  We were in attendance on opening day when Yo La Tengo vanquished The Law Office of Drew J. Bowman.  Calling John Sayles—it’s time for your next feature, Eight Girls Out.

Do I have another complaint?  I’m afraid to say I do.  I don’t want to point any fingers, but we’re getting an unusual amount of emails asking for information that’s easily available to anyone with a computer and a search engine.  Like the guy, once again not to point any fingers, who wanted information about our appearance in Urbino on August 7th.  I know we don’t have a link to the festival on our Schedule, and of course we should.  But still, how hard would it have been to look it up yourself?

Well, thank goodness Rob, I mean he, didn’t.  Because it got me to do a search of my own.  Going into it all I knew was the date and the city.  I discovered the festival’s name is Frequenze Disturbate, and performing another search was directed to their official site.  As I speak no Italian I took Google up on their generous offer to “Translate this page.”

First of all, you can see we’re in some esteemed company:


Scrolling down, there’s a bio of the band.  You’ll note that there’s a few words of Italian that apparently can’t be translated, and have to forgive misspelling of a famous singer’s name:

The Yo I hold It are one of the band piu’ important of world-wide the independent scene. One inexhaustible source of ideas that give the end of 80 years ‘ door ahead with succeeding its job through the lines of shadow of the rock intellectual. Music of this band, true and just beacon for the cult scene Indian rock, leaves from an exquisite search in within POP, going to touch the nervous angles and noisy facts of walls of feedback of matrix postpunk experience them, in a sonorous synthesis that does not have equal and possible imitatori. Recently the sound of the Yo I hold It e’ always turned piu’ towards a sound that it absorbs times and ways of the jazz and the free jazz as testifies the homage to Sun Ra of the recent EP Nuclear War. Ira Kaplan (guitar and voice), Georgia Hubley (battery and voice) and James McNew (low and voice) represents how much more better in these years has moved the American world underground; a band in a position to creating a various and innovative language that has conquered one large first formation of artists between all Micheal Stipe of the Rem. The Yo I hold recently have published It a triple collection that between unknown and bside it tells their history from 1985 to the 2003 (Prisoners Of Love – Matador/Self).

you go to the situated one:

Feel free to ignore that last sentence, because you’re already here.  But I’m gone.  See you in Europe.


July 6, 2005

Don’t miss our next adventure:

Squirrel Bait

— or —

Pardon me, miss, have you ever been kissed by a real live squirrel?

July 4: Rocked, rolled, etc. in Battery Park with Stephen Malkmus, Laura Cantrell, and 15,000 screaming punters. (Are they still punters if it’s a free show? Must ask Noel Gallagher next time I see him.) Had a great time, almost got out without getting stuck in fireworks traffic.

artist’s rendering

July 5: Woke up much too early, the unbearable sound of jackhammers leveling the building across the street doing the job usually assigned to the clock radio tuned to Modern Rock. Made my way to the living room, looked out the window and found myself staring at a squirrel perched on the sill.

Hey, like the singer of “Lola,” I’m not the world’s most masculine guy. And one thing I’ve taken for granted in life (so much so that I took it for granted that I’d taken it for granted) was that when approaching a squirrel, the squirrel heads for the hills or the nearest telephone wire, whichever is closer. Not this one. I stared at the squirrel, the squirrel stared back. It was kinda unnerving. Was this scene one in some rethink of “Willard” or “Night of the Lepus”?

It appeared to us (by now I was in consultation with noted rocket-j-squirrologist Dr. Georgia Hubley) that this might not be the healthiest specimen in the animal kingdom, and that it might be time to bring in a professional squirrel-catcher. But first, a fact-finding expedition was deemed in order. Dr. Hubley utilized a probe that looked to the layman like a drumstick, and banged twice on the screen. The squirrel . . . well, it . . . honestly I’m not sure. It didn’t seem to actually run away, more of a fall. In any case, there it lay, on our fire escape, having left in its wake some squirrel poop and a bit of blood.

I picked up the phone and, calling upon every bit of bravery I possess, resisted the urge to call 911. The phone rang and rang over at the Hudson County SPCA, without being answered by human or machine. The Hoboken Health Department transferred me to Environmental Services, who switched me to some other area code. Maybe I caught the Humane Society on a bad day, but sadly they seemed part of that increasingly prevalent trend of being named for precisely what they don’t provide (Customer Service, Clear Skies Initiative, etc.). I’m certainly willing to consider that I mistook the dispatcher’s grace under pressure as apathy.

Have I mentioned that it was over 90 degrees and the squirrel, since vacating the window sill, had not moved in two hours?

Presently I received a call back to assure me that help was on the way and to warn me that said help was “retirement age.” It was recommended that I remain at home, though the Humane Society’s ability to pinpoint his arrival made the cable company look like a synchronize-your-watches heist by comparison. Time marched on, the squirrel didn’t, and I called back. More than once. Not every word out of my mouth was profane.

I was informed that in fact the driver had been by, but had not been able to spot the squirrel, so had departed. I inquired why no one had bothered to call me when that happened, and we agreed to disagree on the quality of the response to that question. The driver was on his way back, sooner or later. I sat tight.

A mere six hours after the first phone call, the driver arrived. He was easily identifiable by both his badge and the know-it-to-smell-it stench of someone who spends his day collecting dead and dying animals. I expressed some regret for our earlier phone conversation, specifically what my mom would refer to as “a few choice words,” and then stood back to watch the professional at work.

Armed with nothing but raw guts, a pet carrier, and one of those gizmos used to get the single roll of toilet paper off of the highest shelf in the bodega, it was man vs. squirrel. It was a rout. The squirrel somehow eluded the gizmo’s clutches, relocating to the fire escape landing below ours. Our next incursion originated from the street. I pulled down the fire escape ladder and the “retirement age” squirrel-catcher climbed up. The squirrel easily made his way back to our floor and then, in what looked to me–admittedly not an unbiased observer–like a suicide attempt, leapt to the street. Fully expecting to see its carcass splattered on the sidewalk, instead I saw it run away. Pressed, I might even concede it scampered.

When the jackhammers awoke me today, I was almost surprised when I didn’t see it back on the sill. I’ve typed this entire scene report facing away from the window, and still anticipate my nemesis to have returned the next time I dare a look. I don’t know what the hell happened, although I’m pretty sure I owe an apology to more living things than I want to think about right now.


You guys are following the Nike vs. Minor Threat stuff, right? We first read about it on the WFMU blog, and if you missed it, here’s the original story and the followup. Anyway, among dozens of suggestions for future album art/advertising tie-ins was, pardon our immodesty, our favorite, submitted by Pleasant Plains.

Yo La Tengo - We Will Leave A Light On For You

May 18, 2005

Alright, it’s been nearly a year since we updated this web site. The reasons for this are various and ultimately irrelevant. James did not win the Nobel, Georgia barely touched the guy, and Ira continues to maintain that there’s lots of people with that name. Still, that’s no excuse, we’re the first three to admit. But a lot of stuff has happened in the last nearly a year, and should we pretend it hasn’t? No! What follows is a somewhat dated (ok, extremely dated) but hopefully still heart-tugging account of what we were up to . . . last September and October. And while we recognize the danger of making promises, we can tell you that it will be less than nearly a year before we update the site again.

rockingly yours, Yo La Tengo

What do you think of when you hear the word “improvisation”? A 20-minute guitar solo? Hey, us too! But inspired by the political landscape and Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, we decided to improvise a tour that would concentrate solely on visiting the “swing states,” such as Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and, um, Ohio, in hopes that we could encourage a few people to think seriously about their choice and their involvement in the election. The idea was that we’d get a bunch of our friends to join us, whenever they were available. The lineup would change every night, with everyone playing each others’ songs (usually not all at once) and lots of cover songs. Intersperse it with some comedy. So Yo La Tengo’s Patriot Act was born, three weeks in September and October, an 18-show tour through many of our lesser-played cities (Kansas City, here we came).

Rehearsal was limited to sound check. James finally found a use for his three semesters at cartography college, and whipped up a slew of charts, both for our songs and covers. 20 years in the business, and we finally have a “book.” Awesome. The shows were long–no opening act–and spontaneous. No set lists–it was not unlike a game of Spud. Ira would call out a song, and some people would scramble for the cheat sheet, others for the maracas. And, well, even though the tour couldn’t prevent the 2nd term of an administration that’s worse for you than being under the (allegedly–legal dept.) Dave Matthews Band’s tour bus, it was hugely important to us and our friends to let you know how we felt, and equally as important that you came. Thanks.

So many highlights . . . playing Dave Schramm’s brand-new song “Honestly Now;” Eugene Mirman’s “Swiftboat Veterans” video and air brushes; learning “Hungry” in honor of Yom Kippur with Dave, Fred Armisen, William Tyler and Sue Garner (so much fun we had to do it again the next night with an even bigger band including Doug McCombs); fucking Knoxville: Todd Barry got pelted with a glass of water, Ira invited the audience to go home, and the nine-piece band (Sue, William, Deanna Varagona, Paul Niehaus, Rick Brown and David Kilgour) took it out on a murderous medley of “From a Motel 6” and “Point That Thing Somewhere Else.”

Too many highlights . . . James howling out “Psycho” in St. Louis as a tribute to the late Janet Leigh; the look on Sue’s face when Sun Ra Arkestra members Tyrone Hill and Danny Ray Thompson took off on her “Asphalt Road” at the last show in Philadelphia; Fred Armisen as Saddam Hussein jamming with James and Georgia, and then answering questions from the audience with an aging British rock star’s accent and attitude; Georgia’s achingly beautiful vocal on George Harrison’s “Behind That Locked Door,” with the steel-guitar lead handled by Dave, Doug or Paul Niehaus, depending on the night (and oh man what about William Tyler’s atmospheric guitar on that same number); Naomi Yang’s percussion debut; Calvin Johnson’s version of the Chris Stamey classic “The Summer Sun” and especially his preaching-to-the-choir speech.

I wish you could have seen the one-two punch of Georgia and Ira singing “I’m Your Puppet” followed by Jon Benjamin and Jon Glaser singing their original composition “PT Cruiser” (which bore a passing resemblance to “I’m Your Puppet.” Alright, it was the same song). And Hazel Rigby! The 15-year-old dynamo dropped jaws throughout Cleveland’s Grog Shop with her show-stopping version of “The World’s a Mess; It’s in My Kiss.” And somehow we still haven’t mentioned Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner, Allen Lowrey and Tony Crow, Mac McCaughan, “I Hate Hate,” Chris Stamey, Rick Rizzo, Victor Halm from the Wombats, “Love Is in the Air,” Leigh Sabo and Gretchen Gonzales (formerly of Slumber Party), Damon Krukowski, Mark Greenberg or Will Rigby, but we want to make sure this update gets out to you in a timely manner.

April 18, 2005

  • 4/28: play some Yo La Breakout.
  • 4/26: new dates on our schedule.
  • 4/18: We have a new CD out, Prisoners Of Love: A Smattering of Scintillating Senescent Songs 1985-2003, a career-spanning 26 songs spread over 2 CDs, or 42 songs on 3 CDs. The two CD version crams together previously released highlights from Yo La Tengo’s pre-Matador tenure along with the hottest moments from their second decade in showbiz. The third disc is the sort of rarities collection that will have you wondering why we bothered to do a two-disc version. And it’s all beautifully packaged with liner notes from Byron Coley and former Yo La Tengo tour manager, Joe Puleo.

July 14, 2004

There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues, as the song goes. But then there’s also that song about there being hot fun in the summertime. Experts agree these are the two generally accepted angles on the whole summer situation, and we are no exception. Our May/June tour was hot hot hot like Suzanne Somers — Antietam were mighty every night, Bonnaroo was dirty and gritty (didn’t seem to be a shadow in the Bonnaroo), and our first-ever visits to Little Rock and Mexico City were insane and delicious. And the Lakers lost! Thanks to Marky, Gilly, Billy, Michael, and everybody who came – it was nice meeting you, if we met you.

Many years ago, Joni Mitchell drew a map of Canada and it’s a good thing she did. Otherwise we might never have found Vancouver, where we were thrilled to play with the Gay – their uniforms made ours look drab. In Seattle, we met up with Antietam and searched the Showbox in vain for Rick Nielsen guitar picks. Portland was rainy, making this nice poster an eerie coincidence.

Three nights in San Francisco, or “Frisco” as the locals call it, were awesome! We hung with local celebrities, played “Every Pretty Girl” and “Scissors” with Barbara and Terri Manning, saw the sights, and played “Shake Some Action,” “I Can’t Hide” and “Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown” with Cyril Jordan!

Around this time it began to get very, very hot outside. In L.A. – the city that never sleeps – we found that when one door closes, another opens and lets you hang with local celebrities. Tucson – too darn hot, still we we found the energy to hang with local celebrities. Albuquerque – also hot, compounded with the news that the M&J Sanitary Tortilla Factory had shut down, almost insurmountably so. But Georgia knows the show must go on!

Austin + 800 degrees + outdoor show + there’s a motorcycle rally 20 feet away = touchdown! Team players to a fault (just ask anyone), we didn’t do "Speeding Motorcycle" or "Little Honda," but we took a whack at "Wasn’t Born to Follow" from the Easy Rider soundtrack. And Ira joined Antietam for "Two-Headed Dog!" Oh, it was also the night of the Texas Pride parade. Who else but Austin could pull off that combo? Dallas – we arrived at the club to find this poster on the door and this poster on the wall – the second oddest welcome we’ve ever received. Then we packed up and got our passports ready for our first-ever show in Little Rock, AR, and it was ducktastic!

It’s now even hotter outside. Memphis was so hot that no one took any photos, but James did buy this great 45 by the Malibus. In St. Louis we played a fun in-store at the fantastic Euclid Records, and bid farewell to Antietam. See them if you can, and by all means pick up their new record Victory Park.

Bonnaroo – good god was it hot. Oh man. Luckily we were able to seek relief in the presence of the always-cool Todd Barry . We jammed with the String Cheese Incident, saw Neko Case with the Sadies, Patti Smith, and a little of Bob Dylan, and I think maybe Chris Robinson in the catering tent. Sweet. Till we realized that we had left our tents, sleeping bags and hacky sacks back in Texas. Sheepishly, we got the hell out of there and went straight to—

MEXICO CITY! Where, if is to be trusted . . .

. . . fuimos saludados por tiempo de 70 grados encantador, Alfonso, Uili y el Monica muy-bien vestido. No sólo era nuestra primera exposición en México, era nuestra primera visita de cualquier tipo. Tuvimos un tiempo tremendo, y el concierto emocionaba realmente. Seremos espalda, como algún gobernador dijo una vez.

Who likes bunny rabbits? Everybody, that’s who, but especially James, who has designed a t-shirt for Seattle’s estimable Sonic Boom Records shop.

Does anyone have video of The Millionaire on "Jeopardy!"? Hook us up.

Robert Quine R.I.P,

April 16, 2004

Hi everybody,

Well, here we are, springtime again. It’s nice. Here’s what we’ve been doing. Mostly we’ve been watching our Freaks & Geeks DVDs. Some of us were so caught up in Freaks & Geeks fever that they even went to see Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, and oy, such a mistake that was. To wish Jose Reyes a speedy recovery, we’ve all pulled our hammies. What else, what else . . .

At the end of February, we played as part of the Tibet House benefit concert at Carnegie Hall — and we weren’t even asked! We just showed up! We figured that’s how you do it. Kidding, of course. We did “Autumn Sweater” (Ira playing Philip Glass’s piano), “From Black to Blue” with acoustic guitar by M. Ward (on loan from Bright Eyes), and “Tears Are in Your Eyes” featuring the natty Mr. David Byrne on guitar and vocals. Not only did we fulfill the life-long dream of playing at Carnegie Hall, we also fulfilled that of sharing a dressing room with Keb’ Mo’. Namaste, bitches!

The next day it was off to the sunny, tropical United Kingdom. We spent two weeks on tour with the flabbergastingly great Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. We had a great time with them, and on the tour. Both bands celebrated St. David’s Day in Wales by playing “Rebel Rebel” together. Highlights included our first ever appearances in Cardiff AND Basingstoke! And meeting the Terraplanes and John Perry of the Only Ones! James bought the Thin Lizzy box set! We ate haggis! It rained a lot! Then we came home!

We got home and found out we had a book out. The highly-motivated staff at Map have devoted their Special Issue #1 to us! It’s filled with tons of info, exclusive interviews, reprints of old YLT Gazette stuff, a Gorky’s board game, photos, color reproductions of posters, a manga comic adventure, cut-out figures, and 2 super-color postcards of Jad Fair’s YLT portraits. Oh…did we forget to mention it’s all in Japanese? Well, it is. If you ever learned how to read Japanese, this could be the reason why. Or it’s a good reason to start, if you need something to do this summer. Check out if this applies to you, or if you just like looking at things.

We got home and found out we had a new record out. Or at least a song on a record. It’s called The Q People: A Tribute to NRBQ, and we perform “Magnet,” sung by Georgia, with Lambchop/Calexico member Paul Niehaus on pedal steel. You’ve got to hear the Spongebob Squarepants track to believe it.

The next weekend we returned for our annual set on the beloved WFMU. For the ninth time, we took requests live on the air in exchange for pledges. Joined as always by the intrepid Bruce Bennett on guitar and vocals, we grappled with such requests as “White Light/White Heat,” “Hey Ya” and “Close to Me.” We were even joined by a few special guests — our own Leila Rosenthal Singers on “Build Me Up Buttercup,” and DJ Tom Scharpling’s velvety rendition of Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s The Night.” Thanks to everybody who called in — sorry if we didn’t get to your request (Larry from Summit, NJ, we owe you one), and most likely, sorry what we did to your request (Al from Edinburgh, Scotland, we definitely owe you one).

Now when we’re not listening to Air America, we’re rehearsing for some upcoming dates. Where, you ask? Check it out. We’re thrilled beyond belief to announce we’re bringing with us legendary NYC rock band Antietam, who’ll be promoting their first record in way too long, Victory Park (including Ira on “Chronicle of a Gift Horse”). Hope to see ya soon.

Go Knicks,