Woman At Work: tUnE-yArDs
Photo by Anna M Campbell
“I started with open mics where it would have been pretentious to say, ‘Hi, I’m tune-yards. Lowercase ‘t,’ uppercase ‘u,’ etc.,’” says Merrill Garbus, who goes by tUnE-yArDs. The New England native, who now calls Oakland, Calif. home, first performed under this moniker in 2006 at The Bread Factory in Montreal.
Her shows are characterized by “large amounts of energy, some overwhelming joy moments and some laughing,” she says, referring to her sound as “janky trash-can synco-pop with a deep lady voice.”
She draws influence from artists ranging from Michael Jackson to Aretha Franklin and Björk to Johnny Clegg and Hukwe Zawose—and her experimental music runs the gamut as far as genres go, too. (She’s also a member of the indie noise-pop outfit Sister Suvi.)
In addition to her distinctive and primal voice, layering techniques and variety of musical styles, Garbus plays ukulele and drums. And, in the live setting, Nate Brenner joins her on electric bass—he also penned several songs with her on this year’s sophomore release w h o k i l l —along with Matt Nelson and Noah Bernstein-Hanley on horns.
Known for her rhythmic and textural styles as well as her looping methods, Garbus notes that she likes the three-part harmony at the end of the bridge on the song “Powa,” adding, “it’s not often that you can enjoy moments of your own music over and over again, but I’m keen on that one.”
Her 2009 debut BiRd-BrAiNs was a D.I.Y. effort—created with a handheld voice recorder and laptop, and distributed on a cassette with recycled packaging—and “was all about the ukulele.” And Garbus says that “ w h o k i l l was written on the road for the most part, and via drums and beats.” (She also knows what it’s like to be a struggling artist: in past lives, she has been a subway busker and a puppeteer, even interning for a stint at Vermont’s hallowed Bread & Puppet Theater.)
“I had written a song that had a lyric, ‘we’ll fly over tune-yards in our dreams,’ about harvesting songs from a specific place,” she says. “It was written at a time when it felt like the songs were just there around me—ready for me to bring them into being—and I wanted that specific charm to follow me with this project.”
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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