By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The American trio Yo La Tengo return to Brazil for two shows with Lapa’s Circo Voador as their first stop on Saturday, May 31st. Playing together for over three decades, Yo La Tengo in their thirteen studio albums released to date have blended folk, melodic pop, noise rock, and even pieces of jazz to craft a sound that has garnered them both critical success and a strong world-wide cult following, including fans in Rio.

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Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew, photo by Carlie Armstrong courtesy of Matador Records.

“We are very excited to return to Rio, it has been many years since we were there,” Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew told The Rio Times in an exclusive interview about the upcoming show at Circo Voador.

The trio was last in Brazil as part of the 2010 SWU Music & Arts Festival held in São Paulo, where they will return following the Rio show, to play at the city’s Cine Joia on June 3rd.

Yo La Tengo, or YLT as they are sometimes known, were formed in Hoboken, New Jersey (U.S.) in 1984 by the husband and wife duo of Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley. The two first encountered each other in New York City and were drawn together due to their mutual love of music and of the NY Mets baseball team.

When they formed the band, Kaplan played guitar and sang, and Hubley played the drums and also sang. They combined their mutual loves, choosing the band’s name from a piece of the Mets’ history.

In 1962, Richie Ashburn, the then center fielder for the Mets, instead of yelling, “I have it”, when calling balls during games, would say, “Yo la tengo” so that shortstop Elio Chacón, a Venezuelan who spoke mostly Spanish, could understand him and the two would not collide in the outfield.

In 1986, Yo La Tengo released their first album entitled Ride the Tiger. Four more albums followed between the years of 1987 and 1992 but it was not until the 1993 release of Painful and permanent addition of bassist James McNew, that Yo La Tengo found and cemented both their sound and their lineup. “We have become very strong together, and interested in learning how to do new, and more, things,” said McNew.

Six more studio albums followed between the years of 1995 and 2009, with 1997s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One earning high praise from critics. Rolling Stone magazine included the release in its Best 100 albums of the 90s list. 2000s And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out was also well received, earning a place on Rolling Stone’s Best 100 albums of the 2000s list.

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Yo La Tengo performing live in 2009, photo by Dave Ungar/Flickr Creative Commons License.

While the critics and their ever-growing fan base adore them, YLT have yet to see mainstream success. When asked if that concerned them, McNew said: “No, it doesn’t bother us. It is a waste of energy to worry about such things. We are more interested in making our music and being happy.”

During January of last year, the band released their thirteenth studio album, Fade, which included the songs: “Is That Enough”, “The Point of It” and “Before We Run“.

“We get together and play, with no plan,” said McNew explaining the band’s songwriting process. “Sometimes we hear things that we can turn into songs. It is a slow process sometimes, and usually the words are the very last thing to be finished.” He said earlier that when creating lyrics for Fade, “We choose to write about who we are and what happens to us, rather than making up stories.”

Entering the Billboard charts last year at number 26, Fade became the band’s highest charting album to date. After more than thirty years, YLT are not fading in the least and if anything, appear to be gaining strength.

The band is well known for switching things up during their live shows and for throwing in a variety of surprise covers. Saturday night at Circo Voador promises to be a show not to be missed by indie rock fans in Rio.

What: Yo La Tengo
When: Saturday, May 31st. Doors open at 10PM.
Where: Circo Voador, Rua dos Arcos, S/N, Lapa
Entrance: R$80-R$160


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