Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Yo La Tengo Won’t Compromise

The members of Yo La Tengo, from left, Ira Kaplan, James McNew and Georgia Hubley. (Carlie Armstrong)

The members of Yo La Tengo, from left, Ira Kaplan, James McNew and Georgia Hubley. (Carlie Armstrong)

During more than a quarter-century of making music, the Hoboken, N.J., indie band Yo La Tengo has drawn both critical acclaim and a devoted following.

However, they’ve never achieved widespread commercial success, something that doesn’t bother singer, guitarist and songwriter Ira Kaplan.

As he told Here & Now’s Robin Young, though the band considers its music something that can be enjoyed by audiences, “the idea of tailoring what we do to be sure that happens, that just feels and felt like a dead end… Right now we’re in control of what we do, but if you try to do something for someone else and they still don’t like it, then you’re stuck.”

Stream two tracks from Yo La Tengo’s new album “Fade”:

“Ohm” by Yo La Tengo

“Before We Run” by Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo has often been compared to the Velvet Underground, but Kaplan said he thinks the band has more in common with The Feelies and The Modern Lovers.

“In The Modern Lovers, I always loved the extreme direct honesty and communication in the lyrics,” Kaplan said. “Lyrically I don’t think we’ve been anywhere near as direct as Jonathan Richman, but I think emotionally we may have been. And The Feelies, watching them play live and just listening to their first record Crazy Rhythms so many hundreds of times, just the meticulous approach to putting a recorded piece of music together – or a live piece of music together – that was really kind of eye-opening to me, the importance that a well-placed tambourine hit could have… I think we’ve drawn on that many times over the years.”

Yo La Tengo releases its new album “Fade” on CD and vinyl next week.

“I think it does reflect who we are at specific time in our life,” Kaplan said. “But hopefully it’s something that anybody can relate to.”

Songs heard in this segment:

Yo La Tengo, “Paddle Forward”
Yo La Tengo, “Before We Run”
Yo La Tengo, “Is That Enough?”
Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers, “She Cracked”
The Feelies, “Crazy Rhythm”
Yo La Tengo, “Ohm”
Yo La Tengo, “Cornelia and Jane”


  • Ira Kaplan, Yo La Tengo singer, guitarist and songwriter. The band tweets @TheRealYLT.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.

Experts share a range of perspectives on how to combat the Islamic State militant group, and the role the U.S. should play.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

November 24 7 Comments

Ferguson: One Year Later

City council member Wesley Bell looks back on the past year since protests and violence swept the Missouri city.

November 24 3 Comments

Sam Sifton’s Tips For A Happy, Delicious Thanksgiving For All

The New York Times' food editor talks about his favorite dishes and how to accommodate everyone without going crazy.

November 23 3 Comments

James Taylor Is ‘Gobsmacked’ By Medal Of Freedom Honor

The five-time Grammy winner looks back on his career, ahead of receiving the country's highest civilian honor.

November 23 29 Comments

How To Travel While Black During Jim Crow

A postal worker created a guide for black travelers that was published almost every year from 1936 to 1966.