POP­U­LAR­ITY HASN’T DESENSITIZED TUNE-YARDS FRONTWOMAN Mer­rill Gar­bus. Four years on from the com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful and so­cially con­scious Nikki Nack, Gar­bus and bassist Nate Bren­ner are back with a fourth al­bum that gazes head­long into the catas­tro­phe of Amer­i­can life. I can feel you creep into my pri­vate life finds Gar­bus speak­ing to white priv­i­lege, en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter and so­cial con­di­tion­ing in con­cerned, some­times apoc­a­lyp­tic tones. Tune-Yards’ pen­chant for en­er­getic, rhythm-ori­ented pop re­mains in­tact, but stream­lined pro­duc­tion and an in­creased em­pha­sis on elec­tronic beats make th­ese new songs sleeker than any­thing else in the band’s cat­a­logue. “I think for me to get through those feel­ings and those ex­pe­ri­ences,” Gar­bus says, “it’s been kind of nec­es­sary to dance my way through them.”

What are you up to?

I have a ra­dio show on Red Bull Ra­dio called C.L. A.W., which stands for “Col­lab­o­ra­tive Le­gions of Artful Womxn,” and we are about to re­lease our first film score for a film called Sorry to Bother You.

What are your cur­rent fix­a­tions?

I am pretty ob­sessed with this book called Rad­i­cal Dharma [by Rev. an­gel Ky­odo Williams, Lama Rod Owens and Jas­mine Syedul­lah], and look­ing at specif­i­cally how Bud­dhism in­structs us on so­cial jus­tice.

Why do you live where you do?

I moved to Oak­land to come be with Nate Bren­ner, who is the other mem­ber of Tune-Yards. I came out here to be with him, and I stayed be­cause it is more in­vig­o­rat­ing and di­verse, by which I mean ma­jor­ity AfricanAmer­i­can, and also rep­re­sent­ing more im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties and lan­guages and cul­tures than any other U.S. city.

Name some­thing you con­sider a mind-al­ter­ing work of art:

I was talk­ing the other day about

the Storm King sculp­ture park [in Moun­tainville, NY]. It com­bines to cre­ate an at­mos­phere where your scale feels re­ally dif­fer­ent, as th­ese sculp­tures are so huge that you start feel­ing very small.

What has been your most mem­o­rable or in­spi­ra­tional gig and why?

I would say, most re­cently, the Solange show at the Greek The­atre — the en­ergy she brought, and be­ing able to feel the crowd and feel her re­la­tion­ship with the crowd, even in such a huge venue.

What have been your ca­reer highs and lows?

Ca­reer high: There have been lots of them, but win­ning the “Pazz & Jop” [poll], which is the Vil­lage Voice’s cul­mi­na­tion of all crit­i­cal ac­claim for a year. That was in 2011 or 2012. Ca­reer low: Prob­a­bly play­ing to one col­lege stu­dent at a gig when I was first start­ing Tune-Yards. An au­di­ence of one.

What should ev­ery­one shut up about?

It’s not of­ten that I would tell peo­ple to shut up, but I think peo­ple of­ten need to check them­selves when they are stand­ing in judg­ment of other peo­ple on so­cial me­dia.

What traits do you most like and most dis­like about your­self?

I like that I’m gen­er­ous. I don’t like that I some­times con­sider other peo­ple’s needs be­fore my own.

What ad­vice should you have taken, but did not?

I don’t lis­ten to any­body’s ad­vice, and then I re­gret it later on, but I would say prob­a­bly car­ing what other peo­ple think about me. I have been ad­vised by so many peo­ple to just fo­cus on my work and not get bogged down by other peo­ple’s opin­ions, and I think it’s only re­cently that I’ve come to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween tak­ing in crit­i­cism and wor­ry­ing about what peo­ple think about me.

What do you think of when you think of Canada?

Happy times. I spent a lot of time in Mon­treal when I started Tune-Yards. Tune-Yards wouldn’t ex­ist with­out Mon­treal, and with­out my friends and with­out the ca­ma­raderie and the way peo­ple sup­port each other in art there.

What was the first LP/cas­sette/ CD/ eight track you ever bought with your own money?

I’m go­ing to say Thriller. I’m not sure if it was with my own money, be­cause I was very young, but I have a feel­ing my par­ents prob­a­bly had some kind of al­lowance sys­tem through which I could get such a thing. You know what, I take that back. It was the cass­in­gle of Björk’s “Hu­man Be­hav­ior,” now that I think about it.

What was your most mem­o­rable day job?

House cleaner. I was do­ing that when I was a pup­peteer, which was pre-Tune-Yards. I mean, you never for­get clean­ing peo­ple’s houses, and long hours spent wish­ing I was do­ing some­thing else.

What do you fear most?

Dis­con­nec­tion be­tween hu­mans. Not un­der­stand­ing each other to such an ex­tent that we com­mit vi­o­lent acts on each other.

What has been your strangest celebrity en­counter?

We saw David Has­sel­hoff at Coachella one year, and that was pretty bizarre. I think that I sat on his lap.

What song would you like to have played at your fu­neral?

“Ra­dio Gen­er­a­tion” by Pat Jor­dache — he’s my good friend up in Mon­treal. Be­cause I hope that if I die be­fore Pa­trick, he will be at my fu­neral, and be­cause it’s one of those songs that speaks to com­mu­nity, and to the com­mu­nity that brought me up, and that com­mu­ni­ties are pos­si­ble, and the pos­si­bil­ity of a love of com­mu­nity.

“We saw David Has­sel­hoff at Coachella. I think I sat on his lap.”

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