Paula Court "The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller" is a traveling live…
- Posted on Feb 14th 2013 3:30PM by Ian Gormely
One reason for Fade's success was the group's willingness to run against the grain.
"I like that as we get older that we're more interested in trying something new instead of curiosity diminishing," says the band's bass player James McNew over the phone from his mother's house in Charlottesville, Va., where he's having brunch before heading to soundcheck for the night's gig. "We're interested in things growing and changing."
That curiosity helped spark the group's latest shift; after working with producer Roger Moutenot for two decades the band -- McNew, singer-guitarist Ira Kaplan and drummer Georgia Hubley -- enlisted the help of John McEntire for their 13th full-length.
McEntire, a veteran drummer who plays with Tortoise and the Sea & Cake among many others, was a longtime friend. They met McEntire on a five-week European tour with his band Seam in 1992.
"All of us traveled in the same small unairconditioned van. So we got to know each other very closely," he recalls. Yo La Tengo were fans of the drummer's extensive production credits, but "we'd never worked together and we couldn't figure out why."
The group have traditionally worked on a fairly steady schedule, dropping a new record every two or three years. But Fade comes three-and-a-half years after the band's last full-length, Popular Songs. The gap a result of a lot of hand-wringing over the their recorded future.
"We talked about whether we were going to make an album at all," McNew reveals. "We talked about making singles, or EPs. We didn't know what we were going to do."
Thankfully for fans, the trio continued working, writing songs until they had enough for another record. "It turns out the songs worked really well together so we revisited the concept of an album."
Still, the process wasn't completely seamless. After 20 years of working with Moutenot, who instinctively knew the kinds of sounds the band wanted, they had to start from zero with McEntire.
"The three of us came together and worked really hard to express what we liked and what sounded good and what we wanted to John," says McNew. "I don't think we had really thought about that in the onset, but it was a really positive thing."
The sessions were "very personal and very private." There were no studio assistants and the band and producer were left to their own devices. McEntire was encouraged to play any additional part or instrument he felt would help the songs. "It was very comfortable."
Thankfully, the band and McEntire emerged with both their relationship intact and a tremendous record. At this point McNew says it's too early to say whether they would have made a different record with Moutenot -- he needs a bit more perspective on the album. But he acknowledges that the creative process was definitely different.
"But that's what we wanted. We wanted him and we wanted his ideas and influence. I think the best we could have hoped for was a collaborative effort and we got it."