This month I wrote a piece on one of my favorite bands, Yo La Tengo for the local paper the Portland Mercury:
(signed ticket stub from one of their Chanukah shows a while back)
For the Mercury piece I did an e-mail interview with their bass player James. Only a small portion of which was featured in the piece.
Here’s the whole thing, slightly edited.
Jack: Only through the magic of Googling that I found Stuff Like That There was a song by Betty Hutton from 1944, later covered by Bette Miller (from the movie For the Boys) and Kelly Clarkson (during her American Idol run). Did the band have any connection to the song in particular? The lyrics are pretty funny/sxualized
“I want some huggin’ and some squeezin’
and some muggin’ and some teasin’
and some stuff like that there.
I want some pettin’ and some spoonin’
and some happy honeymoonin’
and some stuff like that there.”
Was there any talk of covering that song? (why/why not?)
James: No, we never thought we’d cover it. I think we were drawn to it by the recent discovery of Sun Ra’s version. It kind of gives you pause, here’s this ferociously original composer/ performer, who always kept his arrangements of standards in the Arkestra’s book. “Take The A Train” could appear right after “Discipline 27.”
Jack: I’m probably reading too much into that song, but it seems to be about feeling like your out of the game but getting excited by something again. Did these the songs on this album feel like getting your juices flowing?
James: You probably are. Nope, everything flows.
Jack: On the album you cover a Special Pillow song, a band you played in. Were there other Special Pillow songs in the running?
James: There weren’t, but they have a ton of great songs. I was lucky that Dan Cuddy asked me to be the guitarist in the original lineup. I was a giant fan of his band Hypnolovewheel.
Jack: Are you as much of a baseball/Mets fan as Ira (i’m not sure about Georgia and Dave)?
James: I am a fan to be sure. Measuring it is like asking how religious someone is.
Jack: Is it hard being on tour overseas while the World Series is happening?
James: Yes, it’s murderous.
Jack: Do you try and arrange daily schedules to watch the games or tape them/watch them later? (especially since it’s the Mets).
James: No, it usually fits right in with our daily lives, unless we’re in Europe, and then all is chaos.
Jack: I read this was the first time you played upright bass? Is the true?
James: It was my idea. What was I thinking? Actually, I know what I was thinking. Al Greller played upright on “Fakebook” (and Wilbo Wright played upright on the subsequent tour), so I thought I’d go 100% on the concept of this record and try it. It’s a challenge, all right. Playing it every night on tour has been rewarding, probably in the way a boxer feels after winning a heavyweight match (every night).
Jack: Any plans to use some upright bass on the next Dump record? (any plans for the next Dump record?)
James: No plans (for either). One song on a new Shrimper records compilation (Led Zeppelin’s “Down By The Seaside”), and one new original 15-minute song on an upcoming cassette compilation.
Jack: Could you tell us a little bit about the recording process? Was it similar to previous records or did you try anything different? (IE- Instruments first then vocals, all live, different for different songs). Was it challenging to decide how the upright should sound/be mic’d recorded? I can imagine it’s challenging to get an upright mic’d right for live shows.
James: It was nothing like previous records (except “Fakebook,” I guess). Almost the exact same basic setup for every track, minimal overdubs. Our live sound engineer has used a combination of mic/ direct techniques for the upright, he won’t even tell me. I’ve been playing it through a Fender Super Reverb onstage, but only for monitoring purposes.
Jack: Have you kept up on independent comic scene? What’s been some titles/writers you’ve enjoyed in the past few years?
James: I haven’t kept up too closely. I have mostly followed the careers of a handful of the same artists for a long time, and their work has just gotten stronger over time, particularly Jim Woodring and Adrian Tomine.
Jack: What have you been up to the past few days? Any good/bad site seeing? (London, Paris, Berlin)
Jack: Have you had any special (or not so special) guests join you on stage for this tour besides Dave Schramm?
James: In Brooklyn, we played “Walk Away Renee” and “Rollers Show” with Nick Lowe. In London, we played “Rings Around The World” with Gruff Rhys.
Jack: Any plans to visit the Portland tree featured on Fade’s album cover? (in Overlook park) while you’re in Portland?
James: No plans, but it could happen, especially if it starts serving coffee.