“There’s a punkrock spirit where you don’t have to be pretty, and neither does your music. It’s something I value about the genre I’m in”
The were heavily vocal. There’s no doubt these collaborative workouts not only encouraged her to experiment with sound, but have shaped and moulded her voice. And it’s that voice that has caused the superlatives to fly. Ranging from feral to Amazonian, part ululation, part punk siren, it is the central cog in her DIY musical aesthetic.
The tape-hiss feel to the songs is a fundamental element of the tUnEyArds sound. It’s what marks it out from over-polished pop and it’s one of the reasons Garbus thinks people like what she does. If puppetry has influenced her physical approach to performance, there is a vast bedrock of sound under the surface of her songs. She thinks of the songs as pop and hopes the world “will see beyond the lo-fi nature of it”.
Given the broad palette of influences on the record, it might sound surprising to hear Garbus so unashamedly planting a flag in pop territory. “My focus is on bending the definition of the pop genre. When I started making music, it was an avant-garde folk thing because I was playing ukulele, but now – in my mind, anyway – the tUnEyArDs albums are pop. I adore Beyoncé, Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson. They’re amazingly inspirational figures in a genre that is pooh-poohed because of it accessibility. People are always surprised when I cite Woody Guthrie as an influence, but it’s that
Merrill Garbus, aka tUnE-yArDs: “It made me realise it was the songs that had the power”