Does tUnE-yArdS – aka Merrill Garbus – really need an introduction? The drum-banging, ukulele-playing singer with the (sometimes terrifyingly) huge voice has been quietly gaining ground over the last year or two and is now back on centre-stage with a new album. whokill (released through 4AD) is more polished and shouty than the intimate, DIY feel of Bird-Brains. And as Merrill says below, it’s probably a better reflection of the incredibly visceral live shows that have made her name.
The Other Side caught up with the clean-living Merrill to talk about ‘home-made stuff’, hummus and why she’s not out to ‘outbrain’ the fans.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Selda, Kamuran Akkor, Pat Jordache…the latest Chris Weisman. I just went on a time warp back to my love for MC Solaar. And right RIGHT now, some choral tunes from Georgia (the European one) that a friend gave me during work I did with a vocal group in the States called Roomful of Teeth.
Tell us about your new album – is it a big departure from BiRd-BrAiNs?
I think that will be most people’s consensus; it wasn’t intentionally a departure. But it is definitely reflective of where I am now, which is incredibly different from where I was 3 years ago, so it is necessarily different. I think fans of the live show will like this one for the ways it captures some of that live sound energy.
If money was no object, what would be your ideal music video?
I just made one [see below] with dancers and a director, choreographer, and crew who all worked for free for the love of the thing…and it’s gorgeous. I also like homemade stuff.
What are your favourite post-gig munchies?
I’m a green vegetables kind of gal. And I’m always appreciative when there are carrots, cucumbers, and hummus in the dressing room.
What is the one thing people should know before they listen to your music?
No prior knowledge necessary! I’m not trying to outbrain anybody. If you feel it, you feel it.
What’s your favourite place to play in London?
Our absolute best show was at Cargo…but is it the place or the people? I find it hard to tell.
Where in the world have you had the best ever crowd?
POLAND. London is a close second, though. Maybe a tie.
Vinyl or digital?
Oh, jeez. Both. I wish I could listen to vinyl more often, because it’s so wonderful to sit and relax and hear a whole album, or actively DJ, which is so different than the iPod DJ. But we’re barely home and the amp broke on our stereo, so now we only listen to vinyl very quietly with only one stereo channel. I depend on digital music, and have since the beginning. Also I like cassette tapes, they make me think of slower times like the ’80′s.
What is the best gig you’ve ever been to?
The Wu-Tang set (backed by the Roots) at the Roots Picnic in Philly last year was rather supreme. If I had seen Prince last week, that might be my answer…Also when I was 10 I saw the Stones and it was probably the most memorable gig I’ll ever experience in my whole life.
What would be your ideal rider and why?
No bread, no alcohol, no sweets, tons of fresh stuff, green and herbal teas and kombucha. Being on the road makes a body sick…I’m always trying to be healthy even when it’s rather impossible.
What is your favourite magazine or blog?
I love Tom Tom Magazine. It’s a mag about women drummers. You rarely hear stories of women who do active, aggressive things in the music business, and hearing these women speak about how they got started, what they’ve chosen to do and even how they practice is inspiring on multiple levels for me.