• All Ages Welcome
• Fox Theatre - 660 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 - 855-285-8499 - http://foxtheatre.org/
• Tickets available at the Fox Box Office, online, or by phone
I was born in Dumbarton, Scotland. It was what was called a breech birth … which often means butt first … which was probably exceedingly difficult for my mother and may have been indicative of a bad attitude on my part. I was there, but I don’t remember.
My parents had what was called a mixed marriage, which made life difficult. And there was little work in Scotland in those years. We moved to Canada on a boat, the QE2, when I was very young and after some years in Hamilton, the family moved to Baltimore, where I had my primary and secondary education. I loved art class and was asked to leave the school choir. I played guitar in a band with some friends; I think Ricky Brewster was the singer. At a high school battle of the bands, a rival band pulled the plug on us. We lost the contest.
I wanted to be able to study both art and engineering—as I saw creativity in both areas—but that didn’t seem possible, so I went to art school in Baltimore and Rhode Island. There I encountered people with backgrounds very different than mine. Very different class, cultural, and economic backgrounds. This was all new and hard to understand at first. I made music at the same time I was at art school, but not having training, I never considered it as a career. For a while I wore old suits and had a beard—local children in Baltimore asked if I was “one of those people who didn’t ride in cars.” I hitchhiked around the U.S., stayed on a commune and busked for money … but eventually I came back East, discovered I could write songs, and with some friends we played at art school events and parties. I moved to NY with some wild art-related ideas—one was a sort of rating system for the arts influenced by the books on cybernetics and systems theory that I was reading. I reconnected with my friends and we auditioned at a local club playing our own songs. A handful of people liked us, and so we stuck to it and surprisingly soon we were playing our music all over the world. I still do this from time to time, it’s hugely enjoyable. I have been lucky to be able to do these things.
Though music took up much of my time for many years, I eventually went back to re-engage with the visual side of things—directing some films and making picture books, art, and installations. I lived in L.A. for a while but now spend most of my time in NY. I began riding a bicycle as a way of getting around, and I wrote a book using those experiences as a way to talk about the things I saw. I made some custom bike racks for NY, for BAM, and for Stanford University. We need places to lock up.
I then wrote a book about music, or rather the contexts that shape and affect music.
I love working with other people. Though there are sometimes forks in the road, for the most part the convoluted path is worth it as together collaborators often end up somewhere neither expected. I wrote two musicals about powerful women—Imelda Marcos and Joan of Arc. When it works, a song can express a character’s inner feelings in ways that go beyond words. Songs help us understand things in a different way. There have been collaborations with Robert Wilson, Twyla Tharp, St. Vincent, Fatboy Slim, De La Soul, and Brian Eno. Recently I conceived and presented a show that brought together ten musical acts and ten colorguard teams.
Now I’ve made a record that just has my name on it but is also the result of the contributions of many other people. I suspect that like me it is asking what are we like, what do we want, and what are we looking for.
- David Byrne
“What should I do?” That’s the question Merrill Garbus asks herself halfway through “ABC 123,” the stunning centerpiece of the new Tune-Yards album, I can feel you creep into my private life.
In 2014, Tune-Yards released Nikki Nack, which NPR called “dazzingly imaginative,” while the NME hailed it as “easily Tune-Yards’ finest work,” and New York Magazine dubbed it “possibly the catchiest record of the year.” The album earned Tune-Yards performances on The Tonight Show and Conan in the U.S. and Later… With Jools Holland in the U.K., along with sold-out international headline shows, support slots with Arcade Fire, The National, and Death Cab For Cutie among others, and festival performances everywhere from Pitchfork to End Of The Road. The album followed her similarly acclaimed 2009 debut, BiRd-BrAiNs, called “ingenious and often irresistible” by the New York Times, and their 2011 sophomore release, w h o k i l l, which landed on nearly every major outlet’s Best Of list and topped the Village Voice’s prestigious Pazz & Jop poll as critics’ favorite of the year.
The new album is an unflinching examination of modern identity, intricately rendered in the manically infectious way that only Tune-Yards can. Drawing on a recent foray into DJing and inspired in part by C.L.A.W. (Collaborative Legions of Artful Womxn), her radio show highlighting female-identifying producers, I can feel you creep into my private life finds the band flirting with the dancefloor more than ever before, as four on the floor kickdrum underpins wild polyrhythms and slinky bass grooves. The atypical arrangements seem to defy gravity, bursting like fireworks one moment and retreating inwards the next as the band blends pop, hip-hop, soul, folk, rock, 80’s house, African, and Caribbean music.
While the album was written prior to the 2016 presidential election, it’s not difficult to hear hints of political anxiety throughout the record. On album opener “Heart Attack,” elements of vintage soul crash into frenetic drum machines as Garbus frets over the unraveling of progress, and the swirling “Coast To Coast” imagines a New York swallowed by rising seas.
In addition to being the band’s most pointed work to date, I can feel you creep into my private life is also the most fundamentally collaborative, with Garbus' long-time partner Nate Brenner co-producing, heavily influencing not just his basslines but also the shape of the songs themselves.
“This album is the most writing that Nate and I have ever done together,” says Garbus. “The first iterations of Tune-Yards were just me by myself, but this really feels like a true collaboration between us, and it’s the first record where Nate is listed as a producer. These songs are the result of what we’re each bringing to the table.”
If there’s an underlying thesis to I can feel you creep into my private life, it’s that uncomfortable questions often come with uncomfortable answers. Garbus has always been known for pushing the limits of pop musically, but here she tests just how much weight the genre can bear lyrically, too, challenging herself to look inwards rather than simply point fingers and assign blame. It’s a radical act of accountability, a candid self-examination delivered with ecstatic energy that calls on the audience to take their own long hard looks in the mirror. In the piercing silence after the record stops spinning, only one question remains: What should I do?