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Pete Yorn interview

We caught up with Coldplay's current support act

With singer-songwriter Pete Yorn nearing the end of his string of support dates with Coldplay, we called him up to find out how he’s been getting on.

Hello Pete, how are you?
Hey man, I’m good.

So, you’ve been on the road with Coldplay for a couple of weeks now, how’s it been going?
It’s been great. They’ve been taking very good care of us. They provide wonderful meals for us and the fans have been great. And I’ve been getting to hang out with Howling Bells: I’d never met them before and they’re good people. It’s been a good experience.

Presumably you’ve supported bands before?
Oh yeah.

Do you approach support slots differently?
Well, you have a shorter period of time to play, so you try to cram things into a tighter window – I don’t really talk too much because I just want to play songs! And I try to be respectful. Coldplay has given us a good opportunity and gotten us out to all these shows and I just wanna go out and put on a great show, but at the same time knowing that they’re coming up next and it’s their house. But the fans are really cool. A lot of times you’ll do these opening slots and the place is not that full yet, but these have been pretty filled in by the time we go on, which is great.

Do you think a support slot can genuinely help an artist?
Well it’s all about timing and where you’re at. For me, right now, I have a record that’s coming out in the third week of June and I haven’t really toured in two and a half years, so this is just an amazing way to get out and work the material up. And I feel like we’re definitely getting some new fans too.

Have you toured with a band of Coldplay’s size before?
Yeah, I’ve toured with some pretty big acts like REM, the Dixie Chicks, Dave Matthews and the Foo Fighters.

How does Coldplay’s catering compare to those bands’?
Well, this catering is definitely up there, but Dave Matthews’ took some beating. The chef he had was ridiculously good. But I certainly can’t complain about Coldplay’s. It’s been great.

So, you’ve got one album out in a few weeks, then another in September.
That’s right.

What’s the difference between them?
Oh, they’re very different! Back And Fourth comes out on June 24th, I made it in Omaha, Nebraska and it’s got a nice, organic sound to it. I recorded it with a bunch of friends of mine, pretty much live in a room, with a lot of acoustic instruments on it. The other one is a duets record with Scarlett Johansson which comes out September 8th and has a completely different sound. It’s just kind of a quirky, fun production. They’re two very distinct projects.

What role does Scarlett take?
She sings. We made it about three years ago. I had this idea in my head that I wanted to make like a kind of male/female duets record and I had this idea in my head about Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot: although more the dynamic than the sound. I thought maybe I could get Scarlett to do that and she agreed. I’d been sitting on it for a few years and all my friends were like, "Dude what are you doing with that, you gotta put it out?" So I found a home for it and it’s coming out now.    

Did you know Scarlett could sing?
I didn’t actually. It was just a leap of faith, really. But then she came in and did all her parts in two afternoons and it sounded great.

What sort of voice has she got?
I think it’s a kind of old time, smokey voice. She just naturally sounds like she’s coming out of 1942 or something. I hadn’t heard the record in a long time and when I first played it, I was like, "Did we put an effect on her voice?" But she just sounds like that naturally: like she’s coming out of an old microphone.

It looks from your blog that you’ve been having some fun on this tour, including a ride on a roller coaster.
That’s right! My bandmates went on a crazy roller coaster in Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania, but I wasn’t going to do that. They were all complaining about neck pain afterwards. But I did go on three rides: the monorail, which was kind of a sightseeing thing; the choo choo train, which was just relaxing; and then I went on a Level 3 roller coaster which was very simple and just my speed. No loops, nothing crazy.

Do they really have official categories of roller coaster?
Yeah. Level 1 is the kiddie rides, then Level 2 is still really for kids, then Level 3 is the entry roller coaster. Then there’s Level 4 which is the mild thrill rides then there’s Level 5 which is the aggressive thrill rides. Fives are the really crazy ones.

But you’re not prepared to go on a five?
You know, I might if the timing was right, but the timing was wrong in this particular instance.

What did you do with your unexpected day off after the show cancellation last week?
I checked back into the hotel that I’d checked out of the day before and I walked around Philly a lot just exploring. Then I ended up getting some of my favourite food from this Italian area in Philly: meatball sandwiches and all the other things that I rarely get to eat and I always love when I come through town. And then I hung out at my hotel and watched the basketball game – the Laker game vs the Denver Nuggets. It’s play-off time.

Are you a Lakers fan?
No, I’m a New York Nicks fan. They’re way out of it right now. I was actually rooting for Denver, but the Lakers won.

It looks like there’s been a lot of rain on this tour.
Yeah, there were a few great nights with really nice weather, but then somewhere around Hershey Pennsylvania the downpours started. That was actually the first show without a covering and the stage was very slippery. I remember walking off hoping they dried it off or someone could’ve really hurt themselves – especially someone like Chris who moves around a lot. Then we had some nasty weather in Camden, New Jersey as well. But most of that venue was covered so it wasn’t too bad.

Have you been watching Coldplay’s shows?
Yeah, I’ve seen them a number of times over the tour and I’ve been just blown away.

Is this the first time you’ve seen them?
I hadn’t seen them in a long while. We did some shows years ago – we did one in LA early on together and then one in London at the Royal Festival Hall. But they sound amazing every night on this tour. They’re a band I’m definitely enjoying being able to watch repeatedly.

Do you know how you came to be on this tour?
I don’t know if this is true or not, but I heard that they were able to get my latest CD to Chris and Chris obliged and invited us on tour.

Finally, what’s your favourite Coldplay song?
Speed Of Sound. They haven’t been playing it, but I love it. I also like The Scientist a lot. And Fix You.

Why is Speed Of Sound your favourite?
At the time, when it came out, I was like, "Yeah, that’s a cool song". But then right before the tour started I was driving in my car in California and it came on the radio and I was like, "Man! I love this tune!" And maybe now it’s even more my favourite because I haven’t heard them play it – y’know, I can’t have it and I want it!

When you’re on stage, are Coldplay’s set lists already taped to the stage?

Hmm. So you can’t just scribble Speed Of Sound on there.
Sadly not. Maybe I’ll have to put in a formal request for it before the tour ends.

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