Things You Should Know About Pete Yorn & musicforthemorningafter
In an industry torn between artistic credibility and
commercial viability, Pete Yorn's Columbia Records debut,
musicforthemorningafter, is that rare record that satisfies
the demands of both criteria. On the one hand, the album
is steeped in the kind of thick, lush pop-rock melodies
and indelible hooks that send the chills down the back
of your neck; on the other, one finds a sardonic, self-deprecating,
keenly-observant lyrical sensibility that wears its
heart on the sleeve of a comfy college sweatshirt, yet
still chills to the bone. "I wanted to make a record
I would be proud of and believe in. I didn't want to
make it for the wrong reasons, just to get on the radio,"
Pete states firmly, before adding, "but I also
want people to hear it."
The album's first track,
"Life On A Chain," opens with a scratchy
78rpm-on-an-old-Victrola feel before bursting out
with a yearning openness that pulls you into its vortex
with a siren-like seduction. Pete Yorn was born in
New Jersey, his father a dentist, his mother a former
concert pianist turned schoolteacher. He taught himself
to play his older brother's drum kit at the age of
nine and was learning the guitar by the time he was
12. Around the time of that first blush of adolescence,
while on vacation with his family in the Bahamas,
Pete was turned on to Morrissey and the Smiths by
a girl from Pensacola, Florida.
Pete insists the origins
of every song on the new album began with a beat.
"A lot of the songs were written off the drums,"
he says. "I would kinda just get a natural rhythm
going in my head
the way it should feel. Then
I'd write around that." The dark, insistent thump
of "Black," which began with a drum track
and a bass line, was initially an homage to Joy Division.
Pete started singing, and writing
his own material, following a particularly memorable
talent show at Montville (New Jersey) High School
in 1990. Though he'd never sung in public before,
he was recruited by his bandmates to croon the Replacements'
"Talent Show" from behind his drum-kit.
The performance caused such a stir that the members
of a different band in the competition cajoled Pete
back to the stage to join them in belting out a raucous
rendition of Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free
World." Since that night, he's never looked back.
"When I first started writing," he admits,
"I didn't know how to do anything other than
sing with a fake English accent. It evolved from there."
After graduating from Syracuse,
Pete migrated to Los Angeles, where he began to attract
a following with his performances at Cafe Largo. Bradley
Thomas (producer of the Farrelly Brothers' "Kingpin"
and "There's Something About Mary") caught
Yorn's act and asked him to send along some rough
demos for inclusion in the Farrelly's new Jim Carrey
movie, "Me, Myself and Irene." The Farrellys
used "Strange Condition" and "Just
Another" in the film. "Strange Condition"
was recorded with Brad Wood (Smashing Pumpkins, Liz
Phair) and R. Walt Vincent while "Just Another"
was recorded in the basement of Pete's home with the
young tunesmith playing all the drums, bass, and guitars
and singing all the vocals on the track. "Just
Another" was featured on "Felicity"
and the Songs From Dawson's Creek Volume 2 album.
Both songs are included on musicforthemorningafter.
In addition to picking two of Pete's songs from the
demo, the Farrellys asked Yorn to compose the film's
score. "They wanted someone who'd never done
it before," he remarks. "We did the whole
score in R. Walt Vincent's garage in about three weeks--in
between mixing my album."
After signing with Columbia
Records, Pete began recording his album in the garage
of R. Walt Vincent's Culver City, California, home
and a guest house in the oppressively hot San Fernando
Valley, playing most of the instruments himself. By
the time he'd completed musicforthemorningafter, Pete
had worked with a series of producers--including Brad
Wood, Don Fleming (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.) and
R. Walt Vincent ("Prayer Cycle"). "We
were able to just do our thing and not put pressure
on ourselves. We were able to save the money for the
mix," Pete explains. "Tom Lord-Alge really
did it up. I was trying to make a record that captured
everything I liked about Americana roots rock and
meld it with everything I love about Britpop."
Inspired by an actress who
was living in his house at the time, "Just Another"
exhibits Yorn's ability to capture how physical proximity
can first encourage, then repress intimacy. He weighs
the tug-and-pull of human emotion, often counter-posing
dark, painful lyrics with deceptively hopeful choruses.
Scratch the surface of this romantic and you'll find
a cynic underneath. And vice versa. "Every four-year
relationship is the same," he observes with a
laugh. "The first two years are about getting
into it and the last two years are trying to figure
out a way to get out of it. It's a hard thing to end
a relationship because you get comfortable. Some of
these songs are inspired by just getting out when
you think it's alright instead of misleading people."
Yorn wrote "Murray" in
Auckland, New Zealand, after reading "Heroes
& Villains," a biography of the Beach Boys
and their father, Murray Wilson. Pete's not worried
about cutting through the clutter of modern-day pop
to make his mark nor is he thinking about his image.
"I like an element of mystery. I don't want to
explain myself. I couldn't really if I tried. I don't
think it would make much sense to anybody anyway,"
Pete states reflectively. "Sometimes I think
lyrics are channeled through me. The words just fly
out after I finish reading something. I should definitely
"Sense" was inspired
by "Cole Sear," the character portrayed
by Haley Joel Osment in "The Sixth Sense"
and has the spiritual quality of R.E.M. at its most
sacred. "I related to the weight he apparently
feels due to his perception of the world around him,"
Yorn based "Simonize"
on the Jack the Ripper legend. "It was just meant
as a romance piece, more about the vibe than anything
I'm saying," Pete confesses. "It was inspired
by this whole image of Jack the Ripper luring these
women and trying to take them to a greater place.
Because all the murders started off on a sexual level.
Just romance, ya know? At the end of the day, I just
try to make it hopeful." With "Simonize,"
Pete explores the complexity of psycho-sexual dynamics,
using the same serrated razor's edge that cuts the
line between sex and violence in rock classics like
Neil Young's "Down By The River" or folk
standards like "Lily Of The West" or "Down
By The Ohio."
Pete, who has already toured
with Sunny Day Real Estate and Blues Traveler, is
ready to hit the road and come to a town near you.
His live band consists of Waz and Joe Kennedy, two
of his fellow Syracuse University classmates, on guitars,
co-producer R. Walt Vincent on bass, and, of course,
a great drummer. "I wanted a band that was honest
and could represent the music well. Not just a bunch
of studio pros." His goals? "Twofold. I
want to be able to keep doing this and consider it
a career. And I don't want to be obscure. This is
music a lot of people of all generations can relate
to. The more people who can hear my music, take something
from it and feel good about themselves, the better."