Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Our Way to Fall

There was this summer a bunch of years ago when I was off from school, my parents were away, I'd just turned 21, my job was flexible (I was the ice cream man), and I first met certain people who would be in my life forever.

The year was 1995, and we spent many nights awake, smoking Camel Lights, laying in fields and golf courses, watching fireflies and listening to trains until the sky brightened and the sun rose. It was glorious. And the soundtrack to that summer was an integral part of it -- listening to that music takes me right back to that time. We'd sit up in my room and watch the light outside change until it was the same shade as the walls, listening endlessly to Sonic Youth, Pavement, Neil Young, Jeff Buckley, Jane's Addiction, Grant Lee Buffalo, Morphine, Luna, Sebadoh, Leonard Cohen, Smashing Pumpkins, Phish, Weezer, and Nick Drake. For my money, it doesn't get any better than Nick Drake.

But the music that's accompanied more ups and downs in my life than any other is by a dorky band of Jews from New Jersey called Yo La Tengo. Wherever I am, wherever I go, Yo La Tengo will always remind me of people and places and crazy, sad, euphoric, and truly remarkable times.

So last week I got an email from a friend who I'd met for the first time that summer, telling me she's interviewing Yo La Tengo for the music paper she writes for. We share the same feelings for YLT, so she asked me what kinds of questions she could possibly ask them without sounding like a sycophant. When you've made that much of an emotional connection with the music of people you've never met, it's virtually impossible to prevent yourself from coming across as a sycophant, as she truthfully pointed out.

I thought the best question might be to turn it around and ask them what kind of emotional connection they've made to music over the years. Who's made music that keeps coming back to them, what can't they stay away from, what songs meant the most to them in dire times and times of ecstatic liberation? It's a question I think most people can answer, so whoever's reading this, leave a comment. It's interactive time!

And Amanda, let me know what they say.


Sara J. Allen said...

I don't know what I would ask Yo La Tengo, except maybe, play me some more music. But Mike and Amanda were always our musical geniuses. The rest of us just smoked the Camels.

Thanks to blogs for bringing a certain group of friends together after a long time. Amanda, I think it's your turn. This is what we used to do in sketch books anyway, right?

Amanda, I also have wanted to say for about two months since hearing you Andy's radio show that I think what you're doing with the mag is the coolest. Very jealous, very impressed, very happy for you.

amanda said...

I interviewed James from YLT today and it was great because we spent, like, half the time laughing. As far as the music he keeps coming back to or music the band keeps coming back to he essentially said that all the collaborations and covers and whatnot have come to them in nearly divine providence with no real effort on YLT's part. How lucky are we? This might surprise some of you but YLT are HUGE hip-hop fans and James, especially, has been collaborating with none other than El-P. Pretty sweet. We got to laughing because I told him my prediciton that soon enough there will be a plethora of YLT cover bands. I asked him 1) what should a YLT cover band call themselves and 2) would he go see himself play? He admitted that yes, without a doubt he would go see himself play though he suspects it may be painful. (I mean come on let's face it that's almost as Mark Twain-ish as going to your own funeral. ) He said that when he grew up in Virginia that a lot of bands didn't come through there and so cover bands were sometimes the only option to see live music. I told him that it's funny because usually cover bands are secretly talented musicians who in fact may be better than the bands they cover and he laughed and told me about ging to see a KISS cover band, realizing that these Berkley Music school grads were far superior to the likes of KISS and so it must have been kind of awful to stand on stage and play this crappy infereior music. He said for him it was truly a moral dilemma. I thought it was funny and so YLT to have an ethical problem with cover bands. As far as what a YLT cover band would call themselvees he was overwhelemed with the comic possibilities and actually giggled (!) when considering it. I told him there is an awful lot of material to draw from.

This all took place this morning, after the first snow in Raleigh in two years. It was lovely and kind of fun to interview him while in bed, snow falling outside and my kitten (Black Sabbath) stepping all over the digital recorder I use to get to the window and paw at the snow. If ever ther was perfect fodder for a YLT song it would be this set up, interviewing your rock band idol in PJ's and tossled hair with a curious cat (also named after a seriously great rock band)stepping on your recorder and pawing at the snow.
Don't you love it?

Read the full interview and pics from the double night shows at the Cat's Cradle along with a synopsis of both nights at the first of February.

Thanks Mike,
for everything

thanks Sara
for everything else


I wish you all speeding motorcycles and Autumn sweaters to keep you warm.