We’ve Got A File On You: Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan

Cheryl Dunn

We’ve Got A File On You: Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan

Cheryl Dunn

We’ve Got A File On You features interviews in which artists share the stories behind the extracurricular activities that dot their careers: acting gigs, guest appearances, random internet ephemera, etc.

I was worried Yo La Tengo might break this franchise. As explained in italics above, in these We’ve Got A File On You interviews, we tend to focus on all the things an artist does outside their main discography — and even compared to a catalog as sprawling and accomplished as Yo La Tengo’s, the trio’s extensive history of extracurriculars feels overwhelming. Over the course of four decades, Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew (who joined spouses Kaplan and Hubley in 1992, solidifying a lineup that had been in constant churn) have piled up so many covers, collaborations, and random moments of pop cultural ephemera that there was no way to cram even a small percentage of them into one hourlong phone call. The many guests who’ve joined them at their annual Hanukkah residencies alone would provide enough material for a whole week’s worth of conversations.

Yet despite that wide-reaching resume of one-offs and special projects, the band has not lost the thread on its studio albums. They’ve remained fearless experimentalists with impeccable pop instincts, mild-mannered yet formidable, a little family of music lovers who’ve built a cottage industry out of running wild with inspiration. Part of the reason 1997’s I Can Feel The Heart Beating As One is generally regarded as their masterpiece is because it presents so many different sides of a band that never seems to stop exploring. (That, plus all the classic songs on it.)

This Stupid World, out Friday, is another staggering collection of music, echoing chapters from Yo La Tengo’s past while also stretching out into new horizons, somehow, 39 years into their career. As singles like the fuzz-bombed guitar-pop gem “Fallout” and the gentle acoustic ballad “Aselestine” have already demonstrated, they continue to be an incredibly versatile act while retaining the unmistakable essence that’s made them one of the most beloved bands in the history of indie rock. In particular, those fond of Yo La Tengo’s noisy excursions to the brink might find themselves in giddy disbelief, and then, gratitude.

A few days into the new year, I called Kaplan to discuss the new LP and dart across Yo La Tengo’s history. Below, hear the newly released opening track “Sinatra Drive Breakdown” and read our conversation.

This Stupid World (2023)

Did you have any particular angle or intent going into this album? Was there a certain point of view or emphasis shaping it?

IRA KAPLAN: The simple answer is no. We just kind of get together and try to make some music that we like. And not even necessarily thinking about writing a song or even thinking about playing it a second time. We just get together and play all the time, and eventually something takes shape. But there’s no concept that organizes what we’re doing.

I assume the choice to self-produce this one was a COVID thing?

KAPLAN: In a certain way it was just putting the next foot in front of the one before. We’d gotten closer to it with the last couple of records we’d done. James, he’s gotten over the years more and more comfortable, more and more adept at recording. We’ve gotten more equipment. So when we recorded Fade, we had some pretty elaborate demos. In fact, we even released — the “Stupid Things” 12″ is what James recorded in our practice space — so we brought those to Chicago and utilized quite a few of them when we were working with John McEntire.

And then on the next record, the one that became There’s A Riot Going On, we were working the same way, doing a lot of stuff in our space, we thought in anticipation of recording — maybe with John, maybe with someone else — and then just kind of looked at each other and realized, “We can record the whole thing ourselves. We don’t really need to start from scratch. We’re making the record.” We didn’t realize it, but we were. We mixed with John out in LA and added a couple of tracks and a couple of vocals but essentially recorded the whole thing ourselves.

And I think with this record we essentially went into it thinking that’s what we’re going to do again. Go somewhere else and mix. But at a certain point we just had that lightbulb realization that we can mix it too. We can just do the whole thing ourselves. And so even that was not a plan. It just was something that we were the last people to recognize that’s what we’ve been doing.

It’s interesting, since you are such notorious collaborators, that it’s almost like the proper Yo La Tengo album discography is becoming more and more of a closed system with just the three of you.

KAPLAN: Yeah, you know, I’ve not made that connection before. That is interesting! I think one of the things that we enjoy so much about collaborating is the opportunity to make it different and to see what happens if we introduce other people into the mix. So in a certain sense, it makes sense that we lay the groundwork and set this template and then allow it to change shape after that.

If I remember correctly, on There’s A Riot Going On there were a lot of loops involved and James piecing things together on the computer. Whereas this one feels a lot more live-sounding. Is that another spontaneous thing or a conscious pivot away from the cut-and-paste style?

KAPLAN: There might be more cutting and pasting and looping on This Stupid World than might instantly be apparent. I think it was pretty spontaneous. We’re always talking to each other, and it’s not only about what we watch on TV, so I’m sure there was some discussion. But mostly it’s just a reaction to what we’re hearing and not really going in with that much of an intention.

You mentioned being in the moment and not even thinking about playing the song again. I hear songs here that sound like they would just be great to stretch out on stage. That doesn’t necessarily factor into how you record them?

KAPLAN: No, definitely not. That’s something we thought about right from the start, that we were going to treat recording and playing live as separate entities and not let how we were going to play it live affect how we made the record and vice versa. It’s the part of the process we’re about to embark on, which is trying to figure out how to present the songs live and what format they’ll take. Some of the songs may change pretty radically, and we’ll find out.

As the lead single, “Fallout” really scratched an itch for me. It feels like it’s in the lineage of a certain kind of Yo La Tengo song without being a straight-up repeat of previous fuzz-pop type songs. Do you worry about repeating yourselves? Obviously you have so much music at this point. Is there a conscious effort to subvert the prior catalog in some way or call back to it in some way? Or is it just a song-by-song, “What does this song need?” kind of thing?

KAPLAN: I think it’s more the latter. I think we’re aware of those songs, and we play them live. If we found ourselves doing something that we thought was exactly like something we’d done before, but it came out of an organic place and not like “we need a single,” then I’m not afraid of doing that. I think it’s more just the inspiration than it is anything else. And so if it sounds like something we’ve done before, that’s OK. If it doesn’t sound like something we’ve done before, that’s OK too. I can’t remember ever doing something where we thought, “This is too much like something we’ve done before? What can we do to change it, to keep that from happening?” We try to just deal with the song and not worry about the other stuff.

What’s Up Matador? Fake Children’s TV Show (1997)

You appeared in this farcical promo for your record label doing some kind of guitar thing — I’m not sure exactly how to describe it. Do you remember how that was pitched to you and how you got looped into it?

KAPLAN: I barely remember. I believe there’s some post-production guitar noise or feedback or something that really called upon my acting to imagine something was going to happen. When you saw that, did you know who Bill Boggs was?

I didn’t.

KAPLAN: Yeah, I wouldn’t think so. He was like a local news personality. It seemed really hilarious that he was there. It was a great bit of casting. [Laughs]

Appearing As Bobby Knight Ranger On Parks And Recreation (2014)

KAPLAN: I guess it would have been 1997 probably, we were playing at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. And I was selling merchandise, and somebody came up to me and said they worked on The Simpsons. And I asked his name, and he goes, “Well, you’re not gonna know. My name’s Donick Cary.” I said, “You’re Donick Cary? Oh my god! We’re such huge Simpsons fans.” So we became friends with Donick and still are to this day. He came to one of our Hanukkah shows this year, he and his whole family.

Prior to the Parks And Rec thing, we recorded the Simpsons theme for the closing credits of one of the Simpsons episodes, and that was because of Donick. He got us involved. And then Donick went to work on Parks And Recreation and got us involved and pitched Bobby Knight Ranger to us. So it was thanks to him.

So he was the one who came up with the concept of Bobby Knight Ranger?


It just seems like the kind of thing you guys would have come up with, like with all the fake band names in your liner notes and whatnot.

KAPLAN: [Laughs] Maybe we could have, but we didn’t. And once he explained how little of “Sister Christian” we had to play, it’s like, OK, I feel like we can pull this off. [Laughs] If we needed the whole song, I didn’t think we were the right people for the job.

Junebug (2005) And Film Score Work In General

You did the score for your longtime friend Phil Morrison’s movie Junebug, which was a breakout role for Amy Adams. You had done the soundtrack for Jean Painlevé’s The Sounds Of The Sounds Of Science a few years before this, but was this the first non-documentary score you did?

KAPLAN: It was and it wasn’t because in just a crazy coincidence we got asked to do a score for Game 6 at the exact same time. So having never done it before, we were simultaneously working on two scores, which presented itself with some challenges. And that is also completely different from what we did for the Painlevé movies. Because with the Painlevé movies we were able to whatever we wanted. We were in charge. With Game 6 and Junebug and any other score, we’re not in charge. We’re at best collaborating with the director. But our goal is to give the director what they want.

With Junebug, “Green Arrow” from I Can Feel The Heart Beating As One factors in a lot. Was that Phil’s choice?

KAPLAN: I’m sure it was. There was a lot of music we recorded for Junebug that didn’t get used at all, a lot that got used in different scenes than Phil thought they were going to be used initially. There was a decent amount of rethinking that went on in the editing room.

Doing film score work seems like another thing you just kind of tried and learned and ostensibly mastered over time without much experience going into it.

KAPLAN: Well I certainly don’t think we’ve mastered it. Our working methods are pretty idiosyncratic for that world, which is, I think, a big reason why we don’t do more of it. It’s an interesting process, and you do learn things from it. Not just learning about making music but also learning — I think one of the reasons we were able to record ourselves and make the records by ourselves is because of the interpersonal experience of recording the soundtracks. Not just what we’ve learned in the music making but also just the process of getting along with each other and working together.

So making the film soundtracks helped you learn how to produce your own music better?

KAPLAN: Because the fact that you’re working with a director who’s in charge, it’s helped us let go of things, to try to look at anything we’re recording from a variety of angles and not just the one, and not cling to your opinion, which is really valuable when there’s three people trying to come to a consensus on a piece of music. You can have an opinion and believe in it, but you still want to be open to another way of looking at it. And I think working with directors who ultimately have the last word has had the additional benefit of us dealing with each other in a more effective and positive way.

I read Jesse Jarnow’s book about you guys, Big Day Coming. If I remember right, Phil went on tour with you as a roadie a few times?

KAPLAN: One time in particular, way, way back before James was in the group, our first cross-country trip was Georgia, me, Stephan [Wichnewski], and Phil in a minivan.

And he was an intern at Coyote Records or something at the time?

KAPLAN: Pretty much! He may have worked for our booking agent Bob Lawton at the time. I mean, he was just a friend. Part of our approach back then was so unprofessional. We just wanted to have a friend with us instead of somebody who could actually do our sound [Laughs] or change a guitar string. But it was great having him, and having come through it alive, I’m so glad that’s what we chose to do. But there have been many times over the years I’ve looked askance at some of the decisions we made.

Phil is in a cover band with you too, right? Double Dynamite?

KAPLAN: More than in! He’s the frontman.

I read a review of some performance in an old Spin article that talked about about him doing the splits and all that.

KAPLAN: [Laughs] Yeah, the act hasn’t played in a while, but it’s quite a performance.

Did Phil [who is from North Carolina] connect you with Mac McCaughan and Superchunk and all them, or did those relationships form independently?

KAPLAN: That is a great question! I don’t remember! I feel like we met Mac at the Cat’s Cradle at a show. Superchunk were on Matador and we were just fans. I feel like that was the initial meeting. But certainly the relationship solidified and grew in large part because of Phil and other mutual friends.

It kind of wove together again later when Mac was in a video that Phil made for you.

KAPLAN: By then we were very good friends with Mac.

Hanukkah Residency (2001-2012 At Maxwell’s, 2017-Present At Bowery Ballroom)

Mac was just one of your surprise guests at your Hanukkah shows a few weeks ago.

KAPLAN: Yeah, that was great! Any musician friend of ours who says they’re coming to a show does so at their own risk because we invariably ask them to perform with us. That was the same way Corin Tucker ended up doing a couple songs with us. We found out she was going to be in town and wanted to come to one of the shows. We were like, “We’d love to have you. What do you want to sing?”

Do you try to curate the lineup over the eight nights of Hanukkah? How purposeful and strategic is the list of performers? Do you aim to have a good mix?

KAPLAN: Mostly it’s who says yes. And then yeah, I think we’ll try to match the surprise guest with the opening act to whatever extent possible. No one’s getting paid. It’s so generous that people are willing to come and do this, that we’ll accommodate people as best we can. And sometimes if we can orchestrate it a certain way, we will, but if we can’t, it just happens the way it happens.

This year one of your guests was Lucy Dacus, who covered your song “Tom Courtenay” a couple years ago. How did she end up at the shows with you?

KAPLAN: Actually, Lucy was supposed to do it in 2021 and then had a last-minute conflict and couldn’t do it. So that was one of the earliest things we knew about 2022. She was very apologetic about having to back out. She said, “I’ll be there in 2022 no matter what.” So that was one of the first things we knew about the shows. In fact, I think we did the same three songs we were planning to do in 2021. So yeah, we started three down, 147 to go.

Do you always just ask them which songs they want to do, or do you suggest songs to them, or is it kind of a mix?

KAPLAN: Both. Lucy proposed “Home Again,” and we suggested “First Time” and “Walking In The Rain.” But it’s on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes people have ideas, but I think sometimes it’s so daunting that they’re happy to have our suggestions, at least as a starting point.

Did you feel any trepidation about bringing this back at Bowery after Maxwell’s closed? [Note: Maxwell’s in Hoboken was Yo La Tengo’s home base for decades until it closed in 2013.]

KAPLAN: I did. I was the last person to agree. James and Georgia both thought it was a good idea, so I finally came around. In general, I think we try to avoid not doing something because we’re afraid to do it. So it seemed like if they both thought it was a good idea, it probably was. Certainly worth a try. And then it went great, so we kept doing it. My mom was so happy to have it back. That alone was reason enough for doing it.

She closed out this year, right?

KAPLAN: I can’t remember which year — she was not a part of the first one, but then she started being part of them, and then one year we finally realized that she should be closing the whole event. And ever since she’s sung the last song. But that piece was not in place from the start. It was something we came around to.

I didn’t realize she did that every year. Is it always “My Little Corner Of The World”?

KAPLAN: It’s always “My Little Corner Of The World,” although on a couple of occasions, she’s sung — last year I think she also sang “Here Comes My Baby,” and in I think it was 2019, she asked if we could get Peter Stampfel to sing “Griselda” with her, and we made it happen.

That must be pretty nice to be able to coordinate duets for your mother.

KAPLAN: Oh god! It was amazing. It was amazing!

Re-Creating The Onion’s Yo La Tengo Article At The Onion’s Holiday Party (2002)

You’re the subject of the famous Onion article “37 Record-Store Clerks Feared Dead In Yo La Tengo Concert Disaster.” I’ve seen you mention in a couple old interviews that you re-created the incident at The Onion’s holiday party. When and where was that?

KAPLAN: It’s the venue that’s now called the Music Hall Of Williamsburg, but at the time it was called Northsix. It’s probably the same year as the piece came out, I’m guessing. And they asked us about it, kind of letting us know how much money they had available, and we counter-proposed, saying money was not important as long as they could help us — as long as we could do that, we were in. I remember it took them a little bit of time to warm up to the idea, but then they were wholeheartedly involved. It ended up being really fun. The thing we wanted to do was instead of it killing audience members, which we thought would be rude, we ourselves were killed by the falling debris.

How did the special effects work? Did you do your own stunts?

KAPLAN: Well, they put up a fake rigging, so in addition to the PA, there was fake PA. And the article referred to us doing “Moby Octopad,” which I think it acknowledged that we don’t play live, so it would have been really exciting that we were doing this song that we never play. And it was true. I think at the time we never played it. So we started playing the song, and then the lights flickered. And I don’t remember how they did this, but they came up with some kind of sound effect of a short circuit or electrical disaster. The lights flickered, went out. The power went off and came back on. And then the rigging fell on all three of us. And David Cross was the emcee, and he came on stage kind of doing like a Hindenberg, like — he probably literally said, “Oh, the humanity!”

And then the other thing was that the rigging that was supposed to land on me and kill me didn’t fall, so I had to feign dying of a heart attack or something. The shock of seeing Georgia and James killed. [Laughs] And then we were carried off on stretchers. We got six people to wear those old-fashioned doctor reflector headsets and white lab coats and put us on stretchers and take us off. And then we returned. We dressed up as angels. So we had halos, I guess? And came on and sang one more song.

If this happened now, there would be so much footage of it online, and blog posts about it, but I haven’t seen any videos of it. Do you know if anyone filmed it?

KAPLAN: I don’t know. I’m so much happier that there isn’t. As much as I utilize stuff like that to go look at things that I missed, I love that we did this thing, 400 people saw it, and that’s it. That, to me, is perfect.

Backing Up Daniel Johnston On “Speeding Motorcycle” Over The Phone On WFMU (1990)

This one was recorded. Before the collab performance came about, “Speeding Motorcycle” was on Fakebook. You do so many covers. How did you decide this one would be featured on your covers record?

KAPLAN: I don’t know! It’s hard for me to remember specifically. But I know that when Georgia and I were talking about that record before we made it and what songs we thought would hold together well, there were a couple more that we started. I don’t think we finished anything that didn’t end up on the record. And I do know that the original song “What Comes Next” was not something we were planning to do. Gene Holder kept encouraging us to do more original songs. And I think that’s the only one we added.

I remember we had a list of songs that we had played acoustically. We were doing these duo shows a fair amount, and we made a list of all the songs we had done. And kind of unsurprisingly to me, but a little bit surprisingly, there was a lot of agreement right off the bat as to which ones should be recorded. I’m sure there were a few discrepancies in our list, but it came together pretty quickly, and that was just one of them.

Nick Hill presented you with the idea that Daniel Johnston would call in during your appearance and you’d back him up while he sang over the phone. How do you prepare for something like that?

KAPLAN: You can’t. There was no preparation. Thinking back on it, we realized that there’s no way he heard us. We could hear him, but he couldn’t have heard us. Just the mechanics of a telephone. The closest we got to preparation was our friends and roommates Todd Abramson and Gaylord Fields, both — well, Gaylord’s not on the FMU schedule with you, but Todd-o-phonic Todd and Gaylord was on the air for years — they called in on the air and we did “Farmer John” with them singing. So at least that was kind of like tongue-in-cheek practice for playing along with someone on the phone.

You’ve played so many sessions on WFMU and released multiple albums’ worth of them, doing impromptu covers by request. Are there one or two moments that stand out in terms of most treasured memories?

KAPLAN: I think we all treasure any time one of them is over. [Laughs] The medleys end up being so hilarious and just figuring out in the course of the show which song will be a medley. I can’t even think what this year’s was. They do all blend together, that’s for sure. Doing the one from Berlin was amazing. There was one year where we were going to be on tour in Europe through the entirety of the FMU marathon. We’d already been doing it for many years and said, “Well this is the year we can’t do it.” And Bruce Bennett said, “If I flew over to Europe, would you think of doing it on an off day?” And, like, sure. [Laughs] Yes we would! So Bruce came over to Berlin, and we went into a studio there and did it.

Singing On Eluvium’s “Happiness” (2013)

KAPLAN: I just got an email from him asking me to do it, and it was such a beautiful track. I was happy to try something out. I don’t think he used everything I sent him. I think I sang more, but he used the piece that worked for him, and I was really happy to hear that. I thought it came out beautifully. That’s a great record — even the parts I’m not on.

Do you get a lot of emails like that? A lot of requests to appear on people’s records?

KAPLAN: Not too many. WFMU DJ Michael Shelley produced a record of his daughter singing, Juniper. And on her first album, I played a guitar solo on one of the songs. And he asked me to sing a duet with her on her second record, which I did.

Pete Rock’s “Here To Fall” Remix (2010)

How did you get Pete Rock to remix “Here To Fall”?

KAPLAN: As far as I know, we asked him! I was not part of that. The name was suggested, probably by James, but I don’t know how that happened.

That “Here To Fall” remix EP had De La Soul and RJD2 too. Was that a James brainchild since he’s kind of the hip-hop guy?

KAPLAN: Yes. We had done this really dispiriting festival in — I think it was Richmond, Virginia, with De La Soul. I think it was a one-day thing, and the weather was really bad, so nobody came. Bands and audience alike, no one wanted to be there. But De La Soul were on it. I’m pretty sure James met them that day. I can’t recall if Georgia or I did, but he most certainly did.

Being about town in New York yourself at the time, did you have any interaction with the hip-hop world back in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s?

KAPLAN: No, other than buying the records. Does that count?

Backing Up Aesop Rock On Colbert (2016)

You guys have been the backing band for a lot of people. For instance, I saw you back up David Kilgour at a Merge showcase at CMJ back in 2004.

KAPLAN: Oh, right right! At the Mercury Lounge.

Was backing up a rapper any different from your normal experience?

KAPLAN: Not really! It was a blast. They came over to our practice space and we rehearsed, and it was really fun. But no, not that different. Learn the song and play it.

Was that another connection through James?

KAPLAN: Well, we’d all met Aesop Rock before. But yes, though James. James has played on Def Jux records and pals with El-P, so he’s our connection to those guys. El-P did a Hanukkah show once. So we had the tiniest connection through James, yes.

Acting Out An Episode Of Seinfeld Onstage

This was on the tour where you spun a game show wheel every night to determine which kind of set you’d play. One of the options was “Sitcom Theater.” Do you remember which episode you read?

KAPLAN: Oh, sure. Well, it was carefully chosen. We did the Chinese restaurant episode because we wanted an episode in which Kramer didn’t have much of a part so the three of us could [mostly do it ourselves]. This is the second consecutive thing you’ve brought up that involved William Tyler. Because William was also playing in the band that backed David at the Mercury Lounge. It was the three of us and William. And William was the opening act at the Cabaret Metro, so he and our guitar tech, Gil Divine, played some of the smaller roles in the Chinese restaurant episode.

I didn’t realize William Tyler was active all the way back to 2004.

KAPLAN: We met William in Europe when he had just joined Lambchop as an organist. He wasn’t even playing guitar yet. I think he was seven.

Was it only this one time that the wheel landed on Sitcom Theater?

KAPLAN: [Laughs] The wheel did not actually land on Sitcom Theater. It landed on Spinner’s Choice. And so the person out of the audience who had spun the wheel chose Sitcom Theater. Referring back to the internet and the way information just disseminates now: Ultimately we did Sitcom Theater two more times, but we never did the Seinfeld thing again. We didn’t want anyone to know that’s what was coming. So in Los Angeles we did an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. And I think it was Leeds in England, we did the episode of Judge Judy where John Lydon is sued by a former drummer of his.

I’ll have to go trawling around on YouTube for that.

KAPLAN: Yeah, we were dedicated thespians.

The wheel seemed like such a fun way to mix the live show up. Have you ever thought about bringing that back?

KAPLAN: We haven’t really thought about doing it again. It’s not like we’ve talked about it and decided not to. One of the reasons — I think that was specifically because we had made the Condo Fucks record and wanted to play that way but thought it wouldn’t be right to have somebody come to a Yo La Tengo show and instead we would be the Condo Fucks. And we didn’t feel like going on tour as the Condo Fucks either. So the spinning wheel kind of came up as an idea for that, and then it just grew from that. A way of playing some of the things that we like to do but not doing it as an entire tour.

I imagine if you toured as the Condo Fucks that you wouldn’t get the same turnout.

KAPLAN: It’s also grueling!

Working As A Rock Critic

Before launching Yo La Tengo, you worked as a music critic. Jesse Jarnow’s book made it sound like the New York Rocker office felt like the center of the universe at the time. Was there a lot of excitement on your part entering into that world?

KAPLAN: I guess so. I’m not particularly proud of the work I did as a rock writer, but the closest I come to it is the New York Rocker. I was and am proud to have been associated with that paper because I think it was great, and I think Andy Schwartz did an amazing job, and Michael Hill and Glenn Morrow and people other than me. It’s how I met Byron Coley and so many writers and people that I know to this day. And I thought I did a decent job editing the record reviews section, which was kind of my contribution. Record reviews were pretty haphazard until I suggested there being a bigger section. And I have very fond memories of all-night paste-up sessions and coming up with headlines and photo captions and things. Elizabeth Van Itallie was the fantastic art director, and not that long ago did an incredible job on the Michael Hurtt/Billy Miller book about Fortune Records. So I’m happy about the people I met and happy how many of them I still am in touch with.

Is there anything you wrote that you actually are proud of or stands out as good work to you?

KAPLAN: Possibly, but if anyone looked for it, they’d have to find all this stuff I’m not proud of, so I’ll just leave it at that. [Laughs] No, you know what? I am proud of one thing that I’ll name. I pitched New York Rocker on doing an article on NRBQ, who I adored then and adore now, and had the idea of doing a reverse blindfold test. I don’t even know if the blindfold test is — I guess it’s a thing now. But it would be like in DownBeat magazines where I would see it. The writer would play records for the artist and the artist would talk about the records. So I wanted the artist to play records for me. And NRBQ picked out these songs, and it was my introduction to the song-poems and “Teen Age Riot” by Portuguese Joe. I had the cassette of that day, and then the late Tom Ardolino made another cassette for me of just weird stuff from his record collection. And that was such a profound experience listening to those cassettes over and over. I couldn’t be happier about that experience.

This Stupid World is out 2/10 via Matador.

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