Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 16th
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

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

A Different Revolution

Aries Moon late Wednesday and Thursday. We think new thoughts and initiate new ideas. Sun in Virgo with Saturn in Scorpio help disciples to create orderly structures to anchor and bring forth new ideas. Stabilizing Taurus moon Friday and Saturday. We anchor new ideas into form and matter, like seeds planted in the soil. We tend them, waiting for green shoots to emerge. Like the gestating Virgo Sun Madonna, awaiting the birth of the holy child, the Soul, the new light at winter solstice. Mercury and Chiron converse about what hurts and what heals.Saturday is a complex day with Mercury (communication), Mars (action!) and Uranus (revolution). Mercury in Libra is opposite Uranus in Aries. Oppositions (recognizing something new appearing over there somewhere) eventually synthesize. Mercury in Libra calls for Right Action and Right Relations, especially with money. Uranus in Aries—the revolution this time must be different.  Also on Saturday, Mars enters Sagittarius. Where are we going, what are our goals, where’s justice, where’s the mountain, do we have good shoes? Sunday Venus trines Pluto—in-depth assessment of money, values and resources. Gemini moon Monday; we talk a lot, tending to tasks in gardens and neighborhoods. Cancer Moon Tuesday and Wednesday; we nurture and nourish. The stars and planets remind us.Note: William Meader, esoteric author & international teacher, will be speaking on “The Soul of Humanity Evolving Through Crisis” at Meditation Mount, 7pm, Friday, Sept. 12.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 12

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wood Fire Woodie

Scotts Valley pizzeria gets fired up the old-school way

 

What's your all-time best Skyview Flea Market score?

Santa Cruz | eBay Business

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Soquel’s Pinot Winner

When you taste Soquel Vineyards’ extraordinary 2012 Partners’ Reserve Pinot Noir, you will know why it won a Double Gold in June at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition.