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Tune-Yards: ‘The shared experience of music is sacred’

Merrill Garbus was raised in Connecticut, and after working for a puppet theatre in Vermont, self-released her first album as Tune-Yards. Bird-Brains was picked up by the label 4AD in 2009. After moving to California, Garbus recorded 2011’s acclaimed Whokill and 2014’s Nikki Nack with bassist Nate Brenner. Garbus presents Claw, a radio show for Red Bull, playing work by “female-identifying producers”. Tune-Yards’s latest record, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, is out on 19 January.

I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life is a great title. Where did that come from?
People assume it’s some kind of privacy, Google thing, but it actually came through a meditation course that I did related to race and white privilege, trying to sit with the deep feelings of what it means to grow up in racism. These aren’t things I can just sign petitions about or go to marches about – actually, there’s a place that it lives inside of me. There’s a concept of white fragility that’s very hard for white people to hear when they are being racist. It’s about trying to take that in without defensiveness.

It’s so easy to think “I’m not like that” or “it doesn’t apply to me”.
Exactly. And I recognise that most of the time [racism is] not personal, it’s pretty institutional. But the personal part is: how can I push back, when the tides are flowing in the direction of white supremacy?

The lyrics to Colonizer on the new album talk about cultural appropriation, about who gets to tell the stories. Was that something you were wrestling with?
Yeah, totally. We’re becoming very aware of the voices of history that we grow up with. I love my job, but I also have doubts about

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