Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Mar 02nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Nothing To Hide

music YoLaTengoJames McNew of Yo La Tengo picks favorites: albums, sports teams, coffee…

On the classic surf rock jam, “Nothing to Hide,” off of Yo La Tengo’s 12th album, Popular Songs (2009), husband and wife indie rockers Ira Kaplan (guitar) and Georgia Hubley (drums) sweetly sing, “We all decide/how to draw the line/we’ve all got something to hide.”

On bass, James McNew—who is anything but a third wheel—gives off some serious attitude, while Kaplan’s guitar playing mirrors an emotional tantrum, reminiscent of the tension that builds by bottling up feelings for too long. These two minutes and 46 seconds are torturous for the devoted listener, who, despite hoping to hear at least one scandalous secret, is, alas, cheated—until now, as McNew comes clean about all sorts of YLT-related and unrelated things.

Let’s start at the beginning … not just because it’s logical and chronological, but because it still reigns supreme for McNew in his music career. Though Hubley and Kaplan created the band in 1984, in Hoboken, N.J., it wasn’t until 1991 that McNew solidified his position in the triad. What was supposed to be a temporary gig for the Charlottesville, V.A. native and YLT fan—touring the East Coast, in addition to Europe, for several weeks with the married indie dream team—became a permanent invitation to jam. It was “the most thrilling time of my life,” according to McNew.

More than 20 excellent years later, McNew confirms that there has never once been a hiatus; “Nothing ever approaching that.” McNew elaborates, “We’ll take a week off sometimes, and even during that week we’re emailing each other. We work all the time.” In fact, every night, McNew travels from his home in Brooklyn, N.Y. to Hoboken, where Kaplan and Hubley live, for band practice. When not playing music, the three bond over the New York Mets. “We wouldn’t ever be caught dead wearing a Yankees jersey,” admits McNew. Their fandom extends into basketball. “We’re longtime, long-suffering New York Knicks fans,” he says.

It’s easy enough for McNew to bash sports teams or films—given the challenge, he’d totally re-do the soundtracks for Footloose or The Big Chill: “some movie that I either didn’t care about or actively thought it stunk.” But when it comes to naming his favorite YLT album, the blunt bassist has met his match.

“I think it changes from time to time,” says McNew. “I’m very fond of Summer Sun (2003) [and] the record we put out in 2009: Popular Songs. All of them hold an intensely personal meaning for me today, [but those two] are the closest to my heart right now.

“We put out a new record every two to three years,” he continues, “and each one of them represents where I was at the time—it’s an unconventional way of documenting growth and experience.”

Three must-hear tracks on Summer Sun are “Season of the Shark,” primarily sung by Kaplan, and Hubley’s lead vocal hits “Little Eyes” and “Today is the Day.” All three highlight the band’s beautifully crafted, empathetic lyrics paired with wistful and dreamy experimental rock instrumentals.

Two years after their last performance in Santa Cruz, YLT makes its long-awaited return to The Rio on Friday, May 4—perhaps after they make a pit stop at Verve, McNew’s local caffeine fix of choice—only this time, the trio has tweaked its moniker to The Freewheeling Yo La Tengo: a reference to the variety show in store for fans.

According to McNew, it will be “almost entirely free-form, really fun, and totally spontaneous. The only thing that gets planned is we decide what song to play first, right before we go on-stage. Then we start talking to people—that’s all the preparation we do.”

If audience members can’t decide which songs in the band’s impressive discography to request, McNew says to, “Ask anything … I’m knowledgeable on a lot of subjects—basketball, television, Korean cooking …”

Yo La Tengo plays at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 4 at The Rio, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $21. For tickets, call 421-9200 or visit ticketweb.com. Photo:  Steve Gullick

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Green Swell

Local surfboard company greens up the industry with an eco-conscious business model

 

Two Fish Bound by a Golden Cord

Until March 20, (Spring Equinox), Earth and her kingdoms (mineral, plant, animal, human) experience the influence of Pisces, sign of the World Savior. Whereas the task of Aquarius is as world server, the Pisces task is saving the world—tasks given to the two fishes. Pisces never really enters matter, and as the last sign of the zodiac includes all the signs. During Pisces, having gathered all the gifts of the previous 11 signs, it is a good time to prepare for new initiating plans when Aries (sign of beginnings) begins. No wonder Pisces, like Scorpio, is so difficult (both are ruled by Pluto, planet of death, new life, regeneration, transformations). Both signs (with Scorpio drowning in dark and deep waters) find life on Earth a hardship, disorienting (from the spiritual perspective), at times feeling betrayed. Life is a paradox, especially for Pisces. Each zodiacal sign represents and distributes a different phase and facet (12) of the Soul’s diamond light, Pisces is the “Light of Life itself, ending forever the darkness of matter.” It takes two fish to complete this work (creating eventually an extraordinary human being). One fish turned toward the material world (in order to understand matter), the other fish toward the heavenly world. Around the two fish is a silvery cord binding them together. The two fish are forever bound until all of humanity is redeemed (lifted up into the Light). This is the dedication of all world saviors (Buddha, Christ, the NGWS). Thus the sacrifice and suffering experienced by Pisces. Knowing these things about Pisces, let us help them all we can. Sometimes all of humanity is Pisces.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Seal Change

Celtic selkie lore comes alive in dazzling ‘Song of the Sea’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Teresa’s Gourmet Foods

New owners for Santa Cruz’s leading local salsa company

 

What defines a good dive bar?

It’s slightly dirty, and they serve cheap drinks. Stella Celeste, Santa Cruz, Barrista

 

Picchetti Winery

After enjoying its contents, I couldn’t throw away the empty bottle of Picchetti Winery’s Red Table Wine.

 

Happy Birthday, Manny

Manuel’s turns 50, farmers market steel head pairs with Pinot, and a Birichino Malvasia