David Tattersall on their new LP, his folk roots and why music should be fun

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When you look back over all the Wave Pictures stuff, are there things you’re particularly pleased with?
The thing is you never listen to them again, so it tends to be from singing the songs live a lot. I love to sing a song like “Tropic” and a song called “Like Smoke”. Most of the time it’s the process, you just enjoy making stuff. I liked doing all of it – some of it’s really embarrassing now and some of it seems surprisingly good, but it doesn’t really matter all that much. It bothers me much more if I’ve gone too long without having written something new. There are some things on City Forgiveness that have held up really well. We were in a bar and they put on A Season In Hull on the last German tour and I was surprised that that sounded as good as it did! I usually think our music’s really good if it’s put on in bars! I like all of it really, because it’s always a happy memory. I don’t understand why people get so embarrassed by their early stuff, it doesn’t make any sense – of course you were a different person then. Some of the things you did that were embarrassing have a certain strength to them and you think, ‘I wish I could embarrass myself like that now’! Because they have a naivete about them that’s nice. I don’t know if that makes sense, but you have a funny feeling towards it all really.

We’ve got a really big number of active live songs now, maybe 300, something like that. And we don’t use setlists, so you go on and start playing and you try to follow the arc of some kind in the air, and sing what you want to sing and what you can remember in the moment. Don’t play something too many times if it’s going really well – because it’s got to be active in some way. There are always those things that you can play if it’s going really badly…

Like what?
If it’s going really badly I might play “Pea Green Coat” or “Spaghetti”, say. Something that everybody knows.

It must be good to be a band like Yo La Tengo, where there are no songs that you absolutely have to play at a gig.
We got stuck with one song, where people were always upset when we didn’t play it, so Franic said, ‘Let’s just never play it again.’ That was “Love You Like A Madman”, which is a pretty song but there’s a limit to how many times you can sing a song – I start getting the words wrong, and you lose all feeling for it. So we just decided to do a whole tour of never playing it once, and it was great, it was so liberating. Then after we got through that, now there’s nothing that we would have to play, it’s great. We’ve done three nights where we’ve not repeated one song! You get crazy people come up to you after shows sometimes, people who are not well, delirious – I got thrown up against a wall once in Spain because I wouldn’t play “Just Like A Drummer”. I told him I’d played it the night before, but that was just no good for him. It’s not that often that something like that happens, but you have to keep on keeping it fresh and exciting for yourself. Audiences feed off that, and they feed off hearing the song they want to hear in the moment they want to hear it as well, but you can’t only do that, otherwise it’s completely dead. I know the feeling of being in audiences when it’s like that – it gives me the creeps, all that performing classic albums. It’s totally against the purpose of live music, and it’s totally against those feelings of creativity that made them make the classic albums, so in every way it’s weird. The point of a live show is that you don’t know what you’re gonna get. But that’s not to say I go out there and try and piss off the audience!

Well, I look forward to your 2028 Look Inside Your Heart anniversary gigs. Or what would be your Don’t Look Back album?
Oh, maybe City Forgiveness? It’s too early to tell. And we’d never do it anyway. Well, I say that now…

The Wave Pictures play London’s KOKO on February 21

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