In and around 2007 Merrill creates tUnE-YaRdS. She thinks the exasperating capitalization will buy her some time.
"Merrill! Can you hear the songs?
"Listen! as though listening were humanity's life-buoy.
"Recycle! as a noble form of thievery.
"Do-it-yourself! because it makes you feel good.
tune-yards came from parents who sewed their lives together with music, and at age seven she proceeded to hum her way through days. She hummed her way through the family record collection: old timey fiddling, Revolver, Django. She hummed her way through mid-‘80's pop radio and an obsession with Christmas music. She hummed her way through folk music camp, through Smith College and a theater degree, through anarchist puppet training, through brazen, all-women a cappella singing, through heat rash in Kenya, through deeply scrutinized puppet performances in Europe, through her lonely, swirling 20's. The hum slowly became a yell.
In 2008 she released BiRd-BrAiNs, which she had recorded over a span of 2.5 years on a hand-held voice recorder. Sampling snippets of her life as a nanny on Martha's Vineyard and later as a young musician in noisy urban settings, she weaved sounds together to make substantial rhythms and then layered her ukulele and vocals over top. The album came out on recycled cassette tape to the chagrin of many, but was also offered by donation as an online digital download.
tUnE-YaRdS toured with Thao with the Get Down Stay Down in the summer of '08, and then with Disposable Thumbs on a self-booked cross-country tour for two long months in the fall of that year. One result was the release of BiRd-BrAiNs on vinyl through Marriage Records in Portland, Oregon.
Pitchfork even reviewed her album and mistook her ukulele for a guitar (which made the ukulele blush with pride.) tUnE-YaRdS was featured on Said the Gramophone as the #5 Best Song of 2008. The live performance was rated Best of 2008 by Portia Sabin at Kill Rock Stars. She opened for Beirut in February of 2009, and has been featured on Stereogum and other blogs.