Published Apr 19, 2011As of today (April 19), tUnE-yArDs' new album whokill has exploded on contact with pop culture. Merrill Garbus's sophomore album is being repped by august publications such as Rolling Stone right on through a range of high, low and outside culture chroniclers. Whokill weaves heavy rhythm, delicate melodies, West African-inspired arrangements and electronics into a colourful yet attack-oriented sound.
Just prior to hitting the road for a long North American tour, which includes stops in Vancouver (April 30), Toronto (May 12) and Montreal (May 13), Garbus paused to talk with Exclaim! about the exact opposite of touring: the stable life, which contributed much to the sound of whokill.
"Life is more '30s,'" she surmises. "I just turned 32; it feels like there's a natural settling in and slowing down. I knew that I couldn't live out of my car anymore. For a good four- or five-year period, I was never in one place for more than two and a half months at a time. I needed a home, and now I have one."
Relocating to Oakland from Montreal, she and partner Nate Brenner fell into a more jazz-influenced group of musicians, which led to the horn contributions of Matt Nelson and Kasey Knudsen on the album. The meeting ground between Garbus's ukulele loops and horn arrangements was Afrobeat.
"With Afrobeat music you're sort of taken into the music," explains Garbus. "It's just about the sound. It's not about you standing there, it's about the music and us. I just wanted access to that, so the horns seemed like a good access point."
She admits, however, that the complex mix will be a challenge to carry off live. "Nate's going to be helping out on drums, and I'm going to be looping him as well. It's helpful for him to take on a greater role," she says. "We'll have the two horn players and thankfully Eli [Crews] will be on the road with us doing sound. That's a huge thing that I've struggled with, especially with the looping pedal."
But as tUnE-yArDs' recent SXSW performance proved (see below), the ensemble are obviously ready for prime time.
Whokill is out now on 4AD and you can see all tUnE-yArDs' upcoming North American dates here.