tUnE-yArDs stopped by KEXP to perform "Sink-O," "Real Thing," "Water Fountain," and "Hey Life" from their new album, Nikki Nack. Watch the video above.
Frontwoman Merrill Garbus begins "Sink-O" with a series of handclaps. She makes her loops live, before the song begins. It's interesting to watch as she layers different hand clapping rhythms together, revealing how the track on the album was recorded. However, now that she has backup singers, she doesn't need to rely on vocal loops as much as before, though some are still used. She has a call and response dynamic with her band, singing on alternating beats. This makes the vocals bounce around the room as they pop up.
At the beginning of "Real Thing," Garbus and drummer Dani Markham have the same call and response, but with their drums. As she hits the drum on the downbeat, Markham hits on the upbeat. It's something that sounded like the production magic on the album. One of the cool things about watching tUnE-yArDs perform is seeing where the sounds are coming from. It's hard to distinguish the pounding precessions, blips and bleeps that come out of the record. Some noises that sound synthetic are made through percussion, and some that sound like percussion are made on an electronic drum-pad.
After performing two songs, Garbus talks to KEXP's Troy Nelson about the band's influences. Garbus explains that Ladysmith Black Mambazo is responsible for inspiring her band to have more movement. As a result, backing vocalists Jo Lampert and Abigail Nessen-Bengson have choreographed dances. It makes the band feel organic. In fact, that organic approach to the band is also the reason why she named the album Nikki Nack, saying, "She was a character that came out lyrically and then I kind of liked that she was a she and that an album can be an organism, a creature of some sort, independently of us."
After the interview, the band gets back to performing with "Water Fountain." Lampert and Nessen-Bengson demonstrate that Ladysmith Black Mambazo mindset, as the two of them bounce around, and hold drumsticks in the air. "Hey Life" had Garbus using a vocal loop, singing, “One two three o’clock, four o’clock, walk and talk and talk and walk.” She harmonizes with herself, and accents different rhythms each take. However, this frees Lampert and Nessen-Bengson to add their own vocals layered on top of it. It builds to a sonically dense outro, though only containing drums, bass, and vocals.
For more music, news and tour dates, head over to tUnE-yArDs' Zumic artist page.
tUnE-yArDs LIVE ON KEXP 5.24.2014 SETLIST:
0:19 - "Sink-O"
4:23 -"Real Thing"
7:54 - Interview
18:07 - "Water Fountain"
22:00 - "Hey Life"