Pete Yorn Talks About His Fave L.A. Venues And Who 'Crushed' Coachella
Pete Yorn, who first made a critical and commercial splash in 2001 with his debut release musicforthemorningafter, has embarked on a short tour of California with a sold-out stop at the Roxy on Saturday night. His You & Me acoustic shows are exactly that: the musician and the audience, with Yorn playing deep tracks and taking requests from the crowd. Since his debut, he's since released five solo albums and released a 2013 record under The Olms' (Yorn and J.D. King) moniker. He still calls Los Angeles his home.
LAist had a chance to catch up with Yorn earlier this week:
This feels like a busker / coffeehouse/ bar tour. Why this kind of tour right now?
Years ago, while I was on a regular tour with my full band in 2006 [for Nightcrawler], I did these little acoustic shows at indie record shops, and those were really a snapshot of what this [tour] is. Those were only like five songs; these shows are much longer and extended. That was where this tour came from—I liked doing that and everyone seemed to have a good time, and I wanted to bring that kind of feel to the venues.
I’ve been slowly working on my new solo record, and while I was doing that, I was just itching to get out and play live and interact with everybody. This was just a simple way to do that. So we started last May in Portland, Oregon, and we did five shows up in the Pacific Northwest and they went really well, so we just kept adding to it. It’s been coming up on a year since we’ve been doing these, and finally, L.A.
Do you use set lists or do you make it up as you go along each night?
First thing: One rule for the tour is no set lists. So there is no set list, ever. I got a few hundred songs kind of floating around in my head that I can pull from, but I really encourage the crowd to just fucking yell out...That’s kind of free form and kind of fun for me, and everybody, I think.
The music industry has changed quite a bit from a listener’s perspective from the 2001 release of musicforthemorningafter. How has that affected you as a musician? And how do you decide to distribute your music these days?
My first record came out at the very tail end of the old way of doing things [for an album’s release]. The old status quo. Sometimes, I laugh about that. There’s nothing you can do; you just got to embrace the change that happens. I know a lot of artists who can’t get over it. It really bums them out. At the end of the day, I do it for music. I love music. That’s what I choose to focus on...the rest of it, we kind of figure out.
I’ve put records out a few different ways, from major labels to indie labels to giveaway songs online. There are so many ways to [distribute]. Even in the past few months, I feel like stuff is changing a lot. We’re getting streaming-focused, but people are getting a lot more into vinyl, too, which is cool.
Back when I was first coming up, it was everything to get a record deal. People were so excited about getting a record deal that they forgot to make a great album. And that’s the kind of way I live my life in most areas. I just try and bring it back to the simple...and the 'what are we talking about here?' instead of getting lost in all the other noise. When you do that, usually things kind of start to line up the way they should.
This is a great weekend for 'singer-songwriter' acts playing L.A. Matt Pond was at the Troubadour, Damien Rice plays the Greek and then you. Do you think that’s a legit genre/label?
I feel like every great band has a ‘singer-songwriter’ driving the train. I write songs and I sing them, but I don’t put any label on it. I think one thing about singer-songwriters is that people are quick to lump them in with other singer-songwriters. And there are ones that are really mellow, and all the songs kind of sound the same. And there are some that rock more, are more country infused or [feature] rapping.
For me, I embrace a lot of different things at once, so my acoustic shows kind of have a lot of dynamic to them. It's where some of my mellow songs and some of my more aggressive songs meet—blending them all together. There’s a lot of talented songwriters out there….I also heard that Gregg Allman is playing the Roxy the night before I am, too. [True: Tickets are $100 each for the all-ages Allman show tonight.]
Where do you like to listen to live music when you’re in LA?
There are so many great venues around. The Roxy and Troubadour are always cool. The Hollywood Bowl is a really special place to catch a show. The Greek, I love; the Ford Amphitheatre is cool. Wiltern’s cool. Largo is a great, great venue. There’s so many places. it depends on the night, and who’s playing and what kind of mood I’m in. It’s definitely not a town lacking for cool venues. But I think the most important thing is the sound. I like to have good sound. Oh, I like the El Rey, too.
What’s the last moved performance that’s moved you?
Good question. And I’ll probably think of 10 of them afterwards. Let me just think for a second. [Long beat.] You know, I was just at Coachella on Saturday night, and I saw Jack White. He fucking crushed it. He was amazing. That also was the last show I happened to see, so maybe it’s top of mind, but he was great. It was a good one. There’s so many of the years. I mean, if you want top-top two favorite shows, that’s a different question.
Do you have those shows at the ready?
Sure. One was Radiohead at The Palace. Now it’s the Avalon, I think, and they were supporting The Bends. Jesus, that was a while ago.
And one band that affected me was a band called Sloan [from Halifax, Nova Scotia]. They were actually at Coachella on Sunday. I saw them at the Troubadour, years ago, and it was right before I started making musicforthemorningafter. I saw them play, and they were so good, so talented that it made me want to just not even play music anymore. I was like, ‘You guys are so fucking good, I don’t even know what the point is.’ I don’t think that at many shows, but that night, I was so blown away. Then after the show, I met this kid Walt Vincent, who would go on to co-produce my record with me. So it was a big night.
And finally, what’s the one song that you’ve (so far) never tired of playing?
I don’t really get tired of playing them for the most part. I couldn’t really pick one. But, I’ll say...I’ll give you a song...'Black'...that I always like to play. I’ve never really thought, ‘Ugh, I can’t believe I gotta play this song again.’ I really think it’s an honor to play these songs. I embrace it.
Pete Yorn plays the sold-out Roxy Theatre (9009 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood) on Saturday, April 25. Doors at 7 pm. Show at 8 pm.