tUnE-yArDs' Merrill Garbus Loves Puppetry, and Other Quirky Facts
Holly Andres tUnE-yArDs are coming to Phoenix on Tuesday, June 3.
Following her critically acclaimed sophomore album Whokill, it seems tUnE-yArDs' brainchild Merrill Garbus was crippled with self-doubt, perhaps gripped by a feeling known as the Imposter Syndrome. As she chirps in her song "My Country," "The worst thing about living a lie / Is just wondering when they'll find out."
Whenever it comes to musicians with the same caliber of "quirky" intensity (Björk, St. Vincent, etc.), the authenticity of the artist is always called into question. Which is kind of annoying and stupid of critics to do. Garbus was not immune to this scrutiny, but by reinventing herself on her third album, Nikki Nack, which came out in May, she proved she was legit. If "Real Thing" doesn't speak to that, then nothing does.
We called up Garbus to discuss some of the children's TV show themes, what makes puppetry a genuine art form, and how to concentrate in a world of chaos and disorder.
Up On The Sun: The first thing I want to talk about are your music videos. I think that they are really inspiring, there's so much going on and it's really crazy and amazing and I love it. Do you have ideas for a web series or a show or something like that?
Merrill Garbus: That's a good idea. I would love to [laughs]. I think there are only so many things I can devote energy to at one time. If I ever have time, that'd be rad. But I do know that we like to make several videos per album so we'll do a couple others I think for these songs. We're kind of brainstorming and thinking about what those will be.
How closely do you work with the directors?
Well, really closely when we're the most successful. For the latest video, "Water Fountain," that was kind of our idea that we proposed to the director. I think more and more, as I grow older as an artist, I realize that I've always thought visually and really need to have input into the visual elements of what tUnE-yArDs is. I think for a long time, people kind of, ask you to defer, they just assume you don't want to have control over that stuff as an artist. "Let's just have somebody else do this work for you. Why would you want to do this work yourself?"
For me ... the visuals are very integrated with the music, and they really need to stick together. It was my initial concept of hosting a kids' show as the "Water Fountain" video's premise. Then, from there we went really back and forth with Joel, the director. That felt great to initiate the idea and say, "We're looking at Pee Wee's Playhouse, we're looking at these artists and these filmmakers." We started the conversation and he took it to amazing places, I think.