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tUnEyArDs: The Real Thing

Tune-Yards has confirmed a string of December dates including 4 intimate nights at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg on Dec. 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th and a performance LA’s Wiltern Theatre on Dec. 10th. Cibo Matto set to open all December dates. A limited ticket pre-sale will begin Tuesday, 10/7 at: http://tuneyards.com

PREVIOUSLY: Merrill Garbus has this weird obsession with eating babies. It comes up a lot, and she doesn’t even try to hide it. For example, there’s a spoken-word track smack dab in the middle of the highly anticipated new tUnE-yArDs album, Nikki Nack (4AD), called “Why Must We Dine On The Tots?” that goes, in part:

What good were those kids before they were our food?
Outrageously smelly, impulsive and rude
Plus you know very well that the fresh produce rots
So clearly we’ll dine on the tots

Years ago, before tUnE-yArDs even existed and she was working as a puppeteer in Vermont, Garbus mounted a Punch & Judy opera based on Jonathan Swift’s child-chomping manifesto A Modest Proposal that she called Fat Kid Opera. And before that, she created an experimental theater piece called Kinder Munch, which in English means “munch kids.” And this from a woman who once worked as a nanny in Martha’s Vineyard. Right now, however, she’s munching on Thai food, not kinder meat. She’s ordered the flame-thrower-hot green curry with vegetables because she likes it hot. Like, Pope-Of-Chili-Town-hot. I puss out and order the merely volcanic red curry. We’re sitting on a bench in the Lower Pacific Heights section of San Francisco, a few blocks away from the legendary Fillmore, where tUnE-yArDs is staging a triumphant two-night hometown stand in the midst of a standing-room-only national tour in support of Nikki Nack.

These days, tUnE-yArDs—at core Garbus and BF/bassist/songwriting partner Nate Brenner—is living pretty high on the hog, relatively speaking. In the bad old days, the starving-artist days of the early-mid aughts, the curry did not flow like ambrosia. Food stamps only went so far; there’s only so many nights you can eat popcorn for dinner. So, Garbus would improvise. Some nights she’d dumpster-dive, or when all else failed, she’d shoplift some sustenance. “The organic shop was my favorite (dumpster-diving spot),” she says. “Because I could get organic whatever—Brussels sprouts—and know I was getting something for free that would have just went bad and costs, like, $12. There’s something very satisfying in that.”

As for the shoplifting, “It was only twice because I’m such a wuss,” she says. “I was such a goody-two-shoes, straight-A student, so it did not last long. It was just kind of, you know, in moments of—I say desperation, but again, it’s like, there’s no excuse for that. And, you know, oftentimes I’ve felt like a complete asshole because there are real homeless people doing the same thing. And that’s a theme in my life, that there’s this kind of overwhelming privilege that’s an umbrella over my poverty. You know, I have a Smith College education, I have parents who, as much as I don’t like it when they lend me money, had lent me money. In a lot of ways, mine was a chosen poverty.” MORE

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