Sidereal Choices (a mixtape)

Hey all, since we’ve got a new album coming out on October 9 called ‘Sidereal Time’, I (that’s Hiram) put together a mixtape of songs that aren’t necessarily influences, but have the same feel as the album.  Although, that’s not necessarily true. So here’s the file to play:

and here’s a download link:
Sidereal Choices (a mixtape)

Oh, and here’s the playlist:

Stay Awake–Julie Andrews
Long, Long, Long–the Beatles
Theme from a Broken Heart–Jack Nitzsche
Nothin’–Townes Van Zandt
Somewhere Over the Rainbow–Ferrante and Teicher
Guardian Angel–Harpo Marx
Bulent Ortacgil–Kediler
Kangaroo–Big Star
Perpetuum Mobile–Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Waking Up–Monroe Mustang

Enjoy it…

The Story of Yo La Tengo (and Cockaboody)

Today’s been weird because of a bout of insomnia leading to 3 hrs sleep, but here’s the good thing.

When I was a kid and sitting through an HBO summer (see here for an explanation of HBO summer) I watched a cartoon with these two little kids talking little kid stuff involving toilets.  I saw it two or three times.  I thought it was really funny.  It’s been over 20 years–maybe over 25–and all this time I thought the cartoon was called “Cockadoodie”.  I’ve searched for this cartoon a couple of times with alternate spellings on the Google and never found it.

So, this morning I’m listening to Soundcheck on WYNC and John Schaefer is talking to Jesse Jarnow about YLT’s album I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One and how it’s been 15 years since it came out.  Jarnow just published a book on YLT, so that got my interest well piqued.  I check his website and find this page and there it is, a youtube video of “Cockaboody”.  There was a B in there!  Turns out that Georgia Hubley’s parents had created the cartoon in 1973 and that one of the kids voices is that of Georgia (the other is her sister Emily, a fine animator/artist as well).  I had known that the parental Hubley’s were animators, but here it was, the damn cartoon I’ve been looking for forever.  So, here it is, “Cockaboody”

I should thank YLT, not only for all of the great music but for finally leading me to the cartoon I’ve been looking for for so long.  So, uh, thanks YLT and all the rest who led me down a strange path today.

I’m gonna go sleep now.


New Album!

We’ve been doing lots of things lately (involving electronics and working and dealing with health issues), but have been ignoring everything web related.  That should change soon… we’ve got a new album coming out in October!  It’s called Sidereal Time and will come out as electronic files and a limited edition CD.  So, there’s that.  Talk to you soon.  (Oh, and our old computer with most of the pictures of the things Hiram’s been building, died this weekend, but there may be posts about those soonish as well.)

A Very Big Delicious Christmas

Hello all. We hope that the end of the year finds you in good spirits and good health.

We decided to continue the sound collage/mashup project that we started way, way back in 2008 called A Very Big Delicious Christmas and place them all in one spot. So you can listen to/download all six parts of A Very Big Delicious Christmas at our soundcloud page:

(edit: the songs have been deleted from soundcloud.  sorry.  you can check it next christmas!)

There may be more coming… it depends on how the ghost of Jacob “Bob” Marley wants us to continue. At the end of the year, we’ll stick all of these on our site for safekeeping.

We wish you the happiest of holidays.

Lots of love,
Melissa, Hiram, Mushi Mushi Gila Monster, and The Big Delicious

The Harvey Girls influence mixes (Night Time = Right Time)

Night Time = Right Time (59:19)

night time

A couple of years ago Ian Manire asked us to make some “influence mixes” for his blog Musicophilia and we being the overachieving music geeks we are, we sent him three. The third one never made it to his site because he became busy with other stuff (and, honestly, that’s a whole lot of Harvey Girls). So this afternoon I was doing some cleaning of hard drives and I found the third mix! It’s called “Night Time = Right Time” and, of course, followed “Good Morning” and “Afternöön Röck Blöck” (links are to Musicophilia and contain download links for the mixes as well as the essay posted below and track listings). Did you catch the diurnal conceit? Yeah, we figured you did.

It’s one continuous track at a little over 59 minutes and the track listing along with an essay I wrote that discusses the unknown connections that bring people together and that we gather to create our tunes are below. This is also cool because the album we’re working on right now is decidely mellow and will have our own night songs.

Anyhoo, thanks again to Ian for asking us to do this and the wonderful things he said about us (click the above links to the other mixes). We hope he’s well.

Night Time = Right Time
1 “Blabber n’ Smoke” Captain Beefheart *The Spotlight Kid* 1972 [0:00]
2 “That’s How Strong My Love Is” Otis Redding *The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads* 1965 [2:46]
3 “Block of Wood” The Bats *Live on WFMU* 1993 [5:02]
4 “Sunshower” Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band *Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band* 1976 [7:47]
5 “Don’t Answer Me” Alan Parsons Project *Ammonia Avenue* 1984 [11:43]
6 “Let Me Come Closer to You” Colin Blunstone *One Year* 1971 [15:46]
7 “Garden Song” Bill Fay *Bill Fay* 1970[18:03]
8 “The Way Love Used to Be” The Kinks *The Great Lost Kinks Album* 1973 [21:09]
9 “Never My Love” The Association *Insight Out* 1967 [23:20]
10 “All I Have to Do Is Dream” The Everly Brothers *Everly Brothers Best* 1959 [26:25]
11 “Swinglargo” People Like Us (single) 2000 [28:44]
12 “Northern Sky” Nick Drake *Bryter Later* 1970 [33:58]
13 “Little Sparrow” Dolly Parton *Little Sparrow* 2001 [37:36]
14 “Baby That’s Me” The Cake (single) 1967 [41:45]
15 “Francesca” Roy Harper *Flat Baroque and Berserk* 1970 [44:28]
16 “The Man With the Child In His Eyes” Kate Bush *The Kick Inside* 1978 [45:25]
17 “‘Cause I Love You” Johnny Cash *Hello, I’m Johnny Cash* 1970 [48:02]
18 “Putting the Fountain to Sleep” Mike Seed *Songs For The Wintering Show Troupe*2005 [49:43]
19 “Desperado” Sheila Behman/Hans Fenger *The Langley Schools Music Project: Innocence and Despair* 2001 [52:17]
20 “Llorando” Rebekah del Rio *Mulholland Drive Soundtrack* 2001 [55:48]

Reconstructing Unknown Connections

“Construction tears the elements of reality out of their primary context and transforms them to the point where they are once again capable of forming a unity, one that is no less imposed on them internally than was the heteronomous unity to which they were subjected externally.”
–Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory

When Melissa and I first started dating, I had just finished a long term relationship with three guys. We were called Teriyakis and had been together for something like 10 years playing music that was a cross between Can and Captain Beefheart. We never officially broke up, someone just moved and we never completely finished the last album we were working on. It happens.

I still received e-mails from different magazines and people about the band for a long time afterward. One from a national magazine said that we could have a song on their latest comp for $500 or something ridiculous. I sent an e-mail to Melissa saying:

“I always thought that music was an art until I ran a very, very small label and get e-mails like this, which always make me feel a little sick.

I guess I’m too sensitive.”

She wrote back:

“Music is an art. It can be commodified, appropriated, poisoned, stolen, burned, and ripped like any art, or for that matter anything good. But it’s funny — someone gets a cd like this, hears a song by some obscure band, and doesn’t hurt anymore. Or makes something beautiful, that no one else ever hears. The obscure band never knows this, is never any less obscure, and most of its members end up bitter and depressed because of all the money and time they lost. One hundred years from now all the connections created by these circumstances create a child who can play pianos filled with flames. The universe is built out of little closed circuits like this. The biggest book you’ll never read is The Book of Unknown Connections. You never know how the beauty you create changes the world. But it does. So you keep doing it.

And yes this is an allegory.”

For the most part that’s been the working principle of The Harvey Girls (and the title of our first EP and also why I love Melissa a whole hell of a lot).

There are connections on these three mixes of influences and songs we love, “Good Morning”, “Afternöön Röck Blöck”, and “Night Time = Right Time”. Some of these connections are good for music geeks: Colin Blunstone sang on some Alan Parsons Project tunes; The Cake sang backup for the song “Why Are We Sleeping?” from The Soft Machine’s first album, a song written in part by Robert Wyatt and The Cake’s tune on this mix, “Baby, That’s Me” was written by Jack Nitzsche, arranger and conductor for Phil Spector; Truck Stop Love and Zoom were two amazing Kansas bands from the early 90s that we used to see play all the time. Some of these connections are relevant to the band: we’ve covered “Don’t Answer Me” and “Burning for You”; we wrote an entire album based on and named after the Captain Beefheart song “Blabber n’ Smoke”. And some of these songs are connected to us personally: “Block of Wood” was a song we used to dance around my little house to; we listened to “Mr. Blue Sky” every morning for about three months straight (more on that later); “Come to Me” by Bjork was the last song on the first mix that Melissa gave me; we agree that “Fateful Pavement” by Dsico is the greatest song about do-nothing twits ever constructed; and that if there’s a god, then (s)he was Led Zeppelin.

We share music equally in our house. Melissa pointed out how great the songs of Elliott Smith and Rufus Wainwright were to me as well as the absolute beauty of Kate Bush. I showed her how funky Germans could actually be with my Can collection as well as how amazing turntablism could be in the right hands.

There’s a few things you can gather from these songs. We like rhythm and we like solitary sounding singer/songwriters. We have an inexplicable love of British pop from the 60s to the 80s. We love noise and sweet sounding pop in equal measure. We freaking adore the girl group sound. And, finally, we’ve got a thing for strings. Strings are proof of a higher power inasmuch as music is our religion. And there’s a lot more stuff we’ve left out: no delta blues, no religious choirs, no Fela Kuti, no John Fahey, no Bollywood soundtracks, no Archies, not enough dub, not enough country, no Alton Ellis, no jazz, no kids records, no classical… you get the idea.

If you’ll forgive, here’s another anecdote about why we’re a perfect match musically. I wrote this for the blog “sing us your favorite tune” (which seems to be down at the time of this writing) about “Mr. Blue Sky”, but it’s relevant here.

“I spent my early childhood in the late 70s and early 80s, so my brain doesn’t really see what’s wrong with androgyny, polyester (as long as I don’t have to wear it), or overly-dramatic and completely overblown pop songs. I love Black Sabbath as much as I love ABBA. I can listen to a lot of proggy goodness in the way of Guru Guru and then turn on the sixth Beatle Jeff Lynne and his bubblegumilicious candy-prog band ELO. But it hasn’t always been that way.

You see, I have a problem with nostalgia. It’s a game for losers and advertising firms and I really had worked hard on getting rid of it in my life. Around 2002, however, I had a small change of heart. It was around then a lot of things ended for me and I was stuck in a horrible job and living in a three-room house in Lawrence, KS, with holes in the floor; I couldn’t even pace back and forth because there was no room. I had begun hanging around my friend Melissa a lot more, because she saw that I wasn’t doing well at all. We watched movies together and went out to dinner. We had drinks at local bars (even though she doesn’t drink) and talked about books and music and art and our past lives. We both came to a few conclusions: H.I.‘s words in Raising Arizona, “Sometimes it’s a hard world for small things,” are some of the truest spoken by a film character in recent history; no one should read a novel by a man written from ‘65 to now in which the main character comes to terms with his father through sports/cars/art/women; love is bolder than hate; and literature degrees are kind of worthless.

I had planned a trip to New Mexico in early spring to camp by myself for a few days, but a huge snow storm was coming directly in the path of my trip, so I couldn’t go. Getting ready for the trip, I heard “Mr. Blue Sky” on the radio or in a shop or something and had flashbacks to my older cousins’ rooms with posters of the Bee Gees and Olivia and John in Grease and that weird flying neon ELO jukebox symbol. What was that thing? It wasn’t as cool as the spaceship on Boston albums, that’s for sure. I thought about how much I wanted a vocoder and that the song was actually really good, even if it was a complete Beatles ripoff, and then it left my head. Anyway, in lieu of New Mexico, Melissa decided that we should go a couple of hours north to Omaha and spend the weekend. I’m all like, “Omaha? Yecch!” and she said, “No, it’s great. Let’s go!” So I relented.

We get to Omaha and it is great and we have a wonderful few days. On our last day, we step into a book store with a record store in the basement and an art gallery upstairs called The Antiquarium. While walking around the art exhibit we accidentally walk into an NA meeting. Whoops. We slowly backed out as they said their prayer and we made our way to the record store downstairs. There we met the older man and twenty-something working the register (named by us Dinosaur and Dinosaur Jr. for their record store crustiness—they were nice fellas, though). We looked around and I noticed ELO’s Greatest Hits for $3, so I pick it up and debate. “I’m really not sure if I should get this,” I tell Melissa, “it’s pretty corny and it just brings back feelings of nostalgia more than anything.”

“Nostalgia, shmostalgia. If you like it, get it. If you don’t get it, I will,” she said and smiled. So I walked it up to the counter with the other purchases, which D. and D. Jr. liked and commented on even as they balked and frowned at my copy of ELO’s Greatest Hits, and we walked out of the store.

Soon Melissa and I’s occasional being together became being together all the time and not wanting to spend any time without one another. I also became obsessed with the song “Mr. Blue Sky,” and its second-rate Beatles progressions, so much so that every day when we’d wake up together for about three months, I’d play it on the stereo. I’d play it loudly. Sometimes I wouldn’t even wait for the gratuitous ending before I would pick up the needle and start it again, dancing off to the shower. I no longer had ghosts of the late 70s drifting through my thoughts whenever I heard it, just how happy I was to have Melissa around. Now when the song comes up in a commercial or movie or on the radio, I remember how it feels to be loved enough by someone that they would offer to buy an album that I liked but was too afraid to buy because of nostalgia—to be loved by someone who knows me better than I know myself and doesn’t care—and that makes me infinitely happier than anything else in the world.

I honestly like Supertramp as well. Journey, not so much.”

Oh, and that Adorno quote at the beginning? Well, I was going to go into how our influences in art–including literature, movies, music, painting, sculpture, nature, food, love–have come together in the construction of our own music, tearing bits from reality to form them anew to our own liking. We take what we think are the greatest parts of something and place it into what we create. We write songs that don’t sound anything like the other one you just heard. Not in a Beck sort of way (because he has this thing where there’s the dancy cosmic joke Beck and the serious singer/songwriter Beck, and we find that kinda contrived and lame), but in a living, living, living, living, living life sort of way, to quote Daniel Johnston. Theory is boring, though, so let’s just say we’re about the unknown connections that bring people together. It’s the biggest book you’ll never read.