Sonic Youth Wrapping Up A Thousand Leaves Album

Guitarist Lee Ranaldo says singing makes for less ambient LP than recent SYR series.

Although he was reluctant to reveal what the strangely intriguing title meant, Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo said Thursday that the band's upcoming album, A Thousand Leaves, would be full of vocals and less abstract than their recent releases.

"I guess it's a little different from the EPs because all the songs have vocals," Ranaldo said about what sonically separates the album from the recent three-CD series of abstract studio experiments released on their own SYR imprint. "The vocals immediately make it less abstract," he said, "but these tracks are from the same sessions as the SYR stuff, so there is a connection."

To top that off, Ranaldo expected the group to be done recording and mixing the 11-track effort by the end of this month, he said. It is currently scheduled for an April 21 release.

The track listing for the LP is: "The Ineffable Me," "Wildflower," "Hits of Sunshine," "Heather Angel," "Sunday," "Contre le Sexism," "Female Mechanic Now on Duty," "Karen Koltrane," "French Tickler," "Woodland Ode" and "Snare." The first single is "Sunday," which features guitarist/singer Thurston Moore's vocals.

Longtime fans might see a "logical" connection between Leaves and the band's sprawling 1995 album, Washing Machine, he said. Plans for a tour with punk-poet legend Patti Smith, who recently won critical acclaim with her 1997 release, Peace and Noise, have seemingly fallen through, Ranaldo added. Current plans call for Sonic Youth to hit concert halls in the U.S. in late April through the end of May, after which they will travel to Europe for the summer festival circuit.

As for an eyebrow-raising interview by Moore and his wife, bassist/singer Kim Gordon, in the January-February issue of Index magazine (www.indexmagazine.com) -- in which Moore talks about converting fanatical Phish fans into Sonic Youth fans -- Ranaldo said he suspected Moore was not being serious. In the wide-ranging interview, Moore not only speculated that perhaps the new album should be called Hits of Sunshine, but said, "I'm telling you, man, if we're going to go on tour with Phish ... you have to buy into flower hippies because flower hippies is the only way we're going to make money in the future."

After noting -- with tongue-firmly-in-cheek -- that Phish sell millions, while SY sell "hundreds," Moore further lamented on this target audience that SY have failed to exploit with their marketing and musical agenda. "[Phish have] usurped the Grateful Dead's audience," Moore said, "which is the audience that we should have usurped, but we weren't as clever as them."

Moore then calmly explained that the reason he yearns to tour with the Vermont jam-boogie kings is because "the kind of music we make is more in tune with their aesthetic than it is with any K-ROCK [a New York-based modern-rock radio station] or Geffen rock aesthetic. So it's only fair to us and that audience. We deserve each other. And I think we can expand their horizon, although they can do nothing for us."

But Ranaldo sought to put these comments in perspective.

"[Moore]'s probably never even heard Phish," he explained. "In fact, I know he's never heard their music for a fact. Ninety percent of that is just him bullshitting." [Thurs., Feb. 5, 1998, 5:30 p.m. PST]