Yo La Tengo Cook up a Cover-Rich Soundtrack

The indie icons present a playlist of tunes that pair well with cayenne pepper and beer.

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Photo courtesy of Matador Records.

For over 30 years, Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley have recorded everything from acoustic ballads to noise pop as two-thirds of indie stalwarts Yo La Tengo. That diversity is evident on the group’s latest album of (mostly) cover songs, called “Stuff Like That There.” Here they are to stir up a playlist for your next jambalaya feast.


Georgia Hubley: Hi, I’m Georgia. This is Ira.

Ira Kaplan: Hi there.

Georgia Hubley: We have a new record “Stuff Like That There“…

Ira Kaplan: … by our band Yo La Tengo.

Georgia Hubley: [Laughs] And this is our dinner party soundtrack.

Benny Spellman – “10-4 Calling All Cars”

Ira Kaplan: Since there’s an excellent chance that we’ll be serving jambalaya at our dinner party, I thought we’ll pick a song from New Orleans. “10-4 Calling All Cars” by Benny Spellman, written by Allen Toussaint under his pseudonym, “Naomi Neville.”

Ira Kaplan: I think I first encountered that pseudonym with The Rolling Stones’ “Time Is On My Side” — I always wondered who “Neville” was.

I’ll probably put that record on while I’m cooking.

Georgia Hubley: Ira makes a mean jambalaya.

Ira Kaplan: My brother gave me Paul Prudhomme’s cookbook at some point prior to 1993. So I’ve been making jambalaya for a long time.

Georgia Hubley: And we have spent a lot of time in New Orleans. It’s definitely one of my top five favorite cities in the country.

Ira Kaplan: I’m sure anyone who walks in will need a beer, ’cause the room will still be a little redolent of cayenne pepper being cooked.

Miriam – “So You Say You Lost Your Baby”

Georgia Hubley: So the next song would be a Gene Clark cover. Miriam’s “So You Say You Lost Your Baby.”

Georgia Hubley: She’s a great singer and drummer from The A-Bones, and runs Norton Records with her husband Billy Miller. In the A-Bones, she’s kind of more of howler and a screamer; pretty raw, garage-y. But here it’s very melodic.

Ira Kaplan: You know, it’s funny. When we record cover songs and play cover songs, we’re frequently asked, are we doing it to promote the song, or “expose” the song? And the answer is, “Not really, that’s not our motivation.” But playing records around the house when people come over? That might be part of the motivation for playing the Miriam record. It’s like, “Have you heard this? You really should hear this record!”

Georgia Hubley: “You would like it. I’m sure.”

NRBQ – “Bye Ya”

Ira Kaplan: The first time I ever heard Thelonius Monk was through NRBQ — a song that NRBQ did all the time, but only recorded recently: “Bye Ya.” I mean that was years before I had heard Monk’s version. So, for the next song, I’ll pick NRBQ’s version of Thelonius Monk’s song “Bye Ya,” from their “We Travel the Spaceways” record.

Ira Kaplan: It occurs to me that I may have to explain to some listeners who NRBQ is, which pains me very much.

Georgia Hubley: NRBQ stands for “New Rhythm and Blues Quartet.”

Ira Kaplan: They’ve playing together for almost 40 years now. One of the most amazing things I ever saw them do– they had puppets made of themselves, and the puppets sang a duet of “Mellow Yellow!” They were pretty remarkable.

Yo La Tengo – “Before We Stop To Think”

Georgia Hubley: For our last song, we will play, “Before We Stop To Think” from our new record. “Before We Stop to Think” is by Great Plains, [a band from] from Columbus, Ohio. But our version’s pretty different than theirs.

Ira Kaplan: When we need people to go home, we just put on our own records.