Yo La Tengo Announces New EP ‘Sleepless Night’ & Shares The Byrds Cover


Yo La Tengo will release a new EP entitled Sleepless Night on October 9 via Matador Records. The record contains one new original song and five covers, including a version of The Byrds’ “Wasn’t Born to Follow,” which can be streamed below.

Along with their new original “Bleeding” and The Byrds cover, the EP features covers of songs by The Delmore Brothers, Bob Dylan, Ronnie Lane and The Flying Machine. The songs were chosen by the band — Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew — in collaboration with Japanese artist and longtime Yo La Tengo fan Yoshitomo Nara for the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art’s (LACMA) exhibition Yoshitomo Nara. The EP will be issued as a single-sided 12-inch vinyl with cover art designed by Nara, a drawing of the band by Hubley and an etched illustration by McNew on the record’s B-side.

Kaplan shared the following message regarding Sleepless Night:

We met Yoshitomo Nara in 2003, would see him at his art shows and our concerts. We DJ’d at an opening at the Asia Society, and on another occasion he drew a picture of Georgia strangling me on a Gloomy pencil case that became one of Georgia’s prized possessions until it was stolen from her at the bar at the K-West hotel in Shepherd’s Bush. To make the catalog of his 2020 exhibit at LACMA more personal, the idea came up to include an LP of some of Nara’s favorite songs as part of a deluxe edition. We were asked to provide one side of the LP (and that one track be a new composition), with the other side being another six songs selected by Nara, in their original versions. Here are the six songs we contributed to the LACMA record, chosen in collaboration with Nara.

I probably was introduced to “Blues Stay Away from Me” on NRBQ’s Workshop LP, working backwards to The Louvin Brothers and The Delmore Brothers (with a detour to Doug Sahm and Band). Our version was recorded by Mark Nevers in February 2011. Charlie Louvin had died just a couple of days before. We were on a tour with William Tyler that came to an end in Nashville. The three of us and William and Kurt Wagner threw together an arrangement of “Blues Stay Away from Me” as a tribute and closed our show at the Exit/In with it. Since we were hanging around Nashville for a few days before going home, we went to Mark’s studio and recorded it.

“Wasn’t Born to Follow” was recorded by Gene Holder as part of the sessions that resulted in Stuff Like That There. Dave Schramm on lead guitar. I’m sure I heard The Byrds’ song for the first time when my mom took me and a bunch of my friends to see Easy Rider. (One kid was forbidden by his parents from joining us, as was my younger brother. My dad took my brother to see Butch Cassidy instead, and I’m guessing my friend stayed home and did homework.)

Ronnie Lane didn’t write “Roll On Babe,” but his is the version we’re covering. James recorded it in Hoboken. (And that song was among the songs Georgia played when we DJ’d at the Asia Society.)

While making And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out in Nashville, Roger Moutenot recorded Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” for a John Peel birthday show. As best as we can tell, we sent the one and only copy of the master to England. Yes, we’re as dumbfounded as you are, if not more so. After a lot of sleuthing, we came up with this.

“Bleeding” was written by us, recorded in Hoboken by James.

James also recorded The Flying Machine’s “Smile a Little Smile for Me” for Michael Shelley’s Super Hit Tsunami!, available to people who pledged to WFMU’s 2019 fundraising marathon.

Sleepless Night follows Yo La Tengo’s improvised instrumental release We Have Amnesia Sometimes that came out in July. The band will reissue their 1995 album Electr-o-pura on September 4. Listen to Yo La Tengo’s cover of The Byrds’ “Wasn’t Born to Follow” here:

Sleepless Night Tracklist

  1. Blues Stay Away
  2. Wasn’t Born to Follow
  3. Roll On Babe
  4. It Takes a Lot to Laugh
  5. Bleeding
  6. Smile a Little Smile for Me
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