Interview: Ira Kaplan - Yo La Tengo set for new album and UK tour
On keping things fresh and working with John McEntire of Tortoise on new album Fade
‘We don’t get too deep into comparing experiences,’ muses Ira Kaplan. ‘We just want to make things as exciting as they can be in the moment and it will all take care of itself.’ The Yo La Tengo frontman knows a thing or two about staying power, having spent 30 years at the head of America’s most enduring experimental rock outfit.
The New Jersey trio have just released their 13th record Fade, but even now, indie rock’s elder statesman admits he still gets a kick from playing live. ‘I wish we knew what we were doing,’ he laughs. ‘There are times when I am happy not to know and we throw in some songs and covers without any notion. For a couple of months now all we have been doing is rehearsing and trying to come up with live arrangements which are exactly right. Then we start playing and things start changing and we even come up with second versions. You need to be willing to make your mistakes in public.’
It has been three years since the band released the critically-acclaimed Popular Songs, produced by long-time collaborator Roger Moutenot, a presence behind the faders since their 1986 debut Ride the Tiger. Former Seam and Tortoise multi-instrumentalist John McEntire found himself in the hotseat this time and helped shape a different kind of Yo La Tengo record.
‘Every time we worked with Roger we always explored the notion that there might be something we wanted to do differently,’ says Kaplan. ‘The answer was always “no” before then, but this time we just felt it was right. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to work with Roger, it was more that we really wanted to work with John.’
What seemed to make it easier for the band was not getting too obsessed with freshening things up when working with the same producer time and time again. ‘With John, we hadn’t worked together before, so trying to make things different never entered the equation,’ notes Kaplan. ‘It might have made things less self-conscious. The release of the record has been so exciting because it means we are heading out on the road again.’
The guitarist has revealed the band will be performing two sets in Glasgow, one quiet and one loud, but admits the setlist changes every night to keep things surprising.
‘The songs on this record are very emotional and singing them is a pretty powerful experience,’ Kaplan goes on. ‘Hearing people respond to them is very moving, and it’s interesting to find new ways of making them blend. We treat the tour like it’s one long show. Songs that appear one night, especially the older tracks, are not likely to appear the next. Fade is so much faster than our previous record so it seems like it has been embraced more easily. Touring is one of the reasons we do what we do.’
Yo La Tengo play O2 ABC, Glasgow, Fri 22 Mar