Yo La Tengo ‘Big Day Coming’ Book Author Documents History of the Band, Indie Rock
There is a new book out now chronicling the history of indie rock faves Yo La Tengo. Author Jesse Jarnow describes Yo La Tengo’s journey as a band and the changing indie rock landscape in ‘Big Day Coming: Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock.’
Yo La Tengo were formed in 1984 by the husband-and-wife team of Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, later joined by bassist James McNew. The New Jersey rockers achieved limited mainstream success and formed quite the cult following. They have released 12 full-length albums, the majority of them through New York City indie label Matador Records. Jarnow was inspired to write about Yo La Tengo when he was given a previous assignment to cover them and discovered surprising facts while researching the band.
“I moved to New York a little over 10 years ago and became a music writer, and I listened to Yo La Tengo in college, and not long after I moved here I got an assignment to write about them,” Jarnow tells Rock Book Show. “I’ve been into their music for a while, and just listening to it for that assignment gave me a reason to just go deeper and deeper into their catalog. The deeper I went, it seemed like the more there was to discover.”
Jarnow also covers the early history of indie rock and the various interpretations fans have of the genre in his book. He stresses that there is a distinct difference between indie rock and the definition of independence.
“One of the arguments that I hope to make throughout is that the idea of independence is different from the idea of indie rock, where there’s always going to be people who are always independent and free-thinkers who make rock ‘n’ roll music,” Jarnow explains. “To me that’s a really, really important point. In the late ’70s and early ’80s and going on through now, that has resulted in what we think is indie rock, which is a name that can be applied to all these different things. That is a lineage that comes out of people who love [bands] that develop an underground.”
He continues: “That specific lineage has gotten a lot different in the last few years, especially with the explosion of social media and kind of the collapse of the major labels. Everybody is indie rock in that way. In some regards, it’s lost a little bit of its luster and a little bit of its meaning because anybody can start their own label or put their MP3s online. But to me, the idea of independence and thinking through the reasons why you do things, inventing new ways to get your music out there or whatever, is more important than any sort of Catholic notion of indie rock.”
‘Big Day Coming: Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock’ is out now through Gotham Books. You can read an excerpt from the book at Rolling Stone.