Prior to the March 11 release of his latest record ‘ArrangingTime,’ I interviewed singer-songwriter Pete Yorn for a now-defunct website. He plays a show this coming Wednesday at the El Rey Theatre, so I thought I’d republish the interview. This came just before the album dropped, as well as before his first Coachella performance in almost 15 years. This ran March 7, 2016.
In the mid-00’s, songs from Pete Yorn‘s ageless debut Musicforthemorningafter made it onto nearly every mixed CD I made. On Tuesday in Santa Monica, Yorn performed some of those classics at Apogee Studios for a KCRW session that broadcasted March 11 – but he was also there to turn the page with stuff from his first new solo record in six years.
Titled ArrangingTime (due March 11 on Capitol Records), Yorn returns to his “original style of creating and recording.” The new tracks he played at Apogee really shined and give reason to be excited for what’s coming. Yorn will also performing at Coachella for the first time since 2002. I caught up with the singer and talked about the creative process behind his new record, Coachella and more.
Q: It was your first show with a band in quite awhile, what was that like?
PETE YORN: Good. That’s a pretty gentle place to have your first show because it’s a studio, you can get your sound together pretty good. I played with the drummer (Scott Seiver) before and the keyboard player (Joe Kennedy) before and that the first show ever with that bass player (John Spiker), and I think he did a good job. I think we’ll just continue, as we get more shows under our belt, we’ll just continue to keep expanding and getting tighter. But no major flubs last night for the first one, so I can’t complain.
Q: What is your recording process?
YORN: I like to go into the studio with a super open mind. I don’t like to close myself off to too many preconceived notions of what stuff is supposed to sound like, because then you don’t let the studio magic happen. There’s always this thing that happens that you can’t account for, this unknown thing that happens in the studio. Sometimes you get something you weren’t even thinking of trying, or that’s just interesting. So a lot of times you just have to start tracking.
You know, you’ll have a song that’s maybe 75 percent kind of developed and you go in there and you let the moment kind of take over. … That’s kind of that process, that’s one of my favorite things about creating music. It’s taking those steps and seeing where it’s going to take you, and how a song can take a life of its own and guide you.
Q: You’re playing Coachella, it’s been awhile since you were there. But you were there last year to see it. How do you think it has changed in the time since you last performed there?
YORN: I feel like in ’02, it seemed like it was a big festival. Now it just feels like it’s a rite of passage, for like kids out in southern Cal or wherever they’re coming from to go. My 15-year old niece went last year for the first time and I was like, what the fuck? I saw her there with her girlfriends. It’s just so funny to me.
Q: Do you feel like you still fit there like you did back then?
YORN: Yeah, I have no idea. I’m just going there to play a rock n roll show and do what I do and I hope people come check it out. It’s been awhile since I was there and I’m definitely grateful for being asked back all these years later. It’s kind of cool. But yeah, music is evolving. There’s definitely a lot more EDM on the bill than you would see back in 2002. But anything has to be a living, evolving thing or it will die. They seem to know what they’re doing as far as attracting people to the event, so they seem to be doing a good job with it.
I’m not sure what time we play at, I haven’t gotten word on that but as long as we’re not opposite Beyonce or something, hopefully people come check us out. I know Beyonce’s not playing, but the equivalent of whatever the Beyonce is at the festival, you wouldn’t want to miss that. If I was playing against Beyonce, I wouldn’t be at my own show, I’d be in the front row for Beyonce.
Q: Does it feel like it’s been 15 years since your first album dropped?
YORN: It does and it doesn’t. When I hear the music, it sounds pretty timeless to me and that’s something that’s pretty amazing we were able to pull it off. I think it came from, a lot of it just not really paying attention to pop culture or what was on the radio at the time. I remember I just turned it off and said let’s just make something that’s not gonna fall into the traps of trying to sound like what was popular and what other people were doing. We kind of just got in a zone and made some music that built a pure representation of what we were feeling at the time.