As Yo La Tengo close in on 30 years as a band, the trio has secured their name as one of the most beloved and longstanding survivors in indie-rock. While most of their contemporaries have already broken up and launched reunion tours, Yo La Tengo continue on their sonic journey without interruption, and with a legacy and longevity revolving around consistency— not so much a consistency of sound, as much as providing a standard in making great, timeless records that will go down in the permanent lexicon and discography of indie-rock music.
Beginning in 1984, and based around the husband and wife harmonies of founding members Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, the addition of James McNew in the early ’90s put the band in a unique position where each of the members was now a potential singer and songwriter, making their music all the more diverse.
They have scored films, appeared on numerous compilations and they even dared to take their already underground following to more obscure levels by creating a garage rock cover band known as “Condo F—s” for anyone following along.
With the recent release of “Fade,” their 13th official LP, the band seems to have created one of their most thematic and introspective records to date.
Beginning with the lines: “Sometimes the bad guys come out on top/ Sometimes the good guys lose/ We try not to lose our hearts/ Not to lose our minds,” you get the sense that this is an album dealing with maturity and a search for answers.
And though the feeling seems to continue on throughout the record, according to the band, the theme may not have been conscious at all.
“I probably would say it’s not true,” says singer and guitarist Ira Kaplan. “But I could be lying. Although the songs are written over a year, the lyrics are not. The lyrics are written very quickly. We tend to sing along in a sort of nonsense kind of way and even record the songs without lyrics and at the last second come up with them. I think because of the speed and the concentrated space in which the lyrics are written, the songs end up talking to each other. But in no way is there a plan. It just sort of takes shape the way it does organically, not with a concept put behind it.”
With access to friends and jazz musicians who appear on “Fade,” Yo La Tengo’s sound progression seems to continue to grow stylistically in dynamic while continuing to soften in decibel. But even that is put into question.
“Sometimes we’re also not the best judge of those types of things,” says Kaplan. “We think we create a balance and maybe certain things jump out more than others. What we are doing on this show though, is extremely different. We will essentially be our own opening act. So we do a first set of quieter songs and then the second set is louder.”