Tune-Yards (stylized as tUnE-yArDs)[1] is the Oakland, California based music project of musician Merrill Garbus (born March 3, 1979), with long-time collaborator, bassist Nate Brenner. Garbus’s music draws from an eclectic variety of sources and utilizes elements such as loop pedals, ukulele, vocals, and lo-fi percussion.[2] Tune-Yards’ 2011 album Whokill was ranked the number one album of that year in The Village Voice's annual Pazz and Jop critic's poll.[3]

Garbus smiling with make-up on her face, hitting a tambourine
Garbus performing at Café de la Danse in Paris, France, on June 2, 2011
Background information
OriginNew Canaan, Connecticut
GenresArt pop, worldbeat, indie pop, lo-fi
Years active2006–present
Labels4AD, Marriage
Associated actsSister Suvi, Beep, Dirty Projectors, Naytronix
MembersMerrill Garbus
Nate Brenner

The album Nikki Nack was released in 2014, with its first single, "Water Fountain", being picked up by Google Pixel in 2016 for an advertising campaign. The album I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life was released in January 2018. At the same time, the Tune-Yards provided an atmospheric score for the sci fi film Sorry to Bother You.

History and workEdit

Garbus was born in 1979 and was raised in New York City and in New Canaan, Connecticut.[4][5] She attended Smith College. She was a puppeteer for the Sandglass Theater in Vermont[6] and lived in Montreal where she played ukulele in the band Sister Suvi with guitarist Patrick Gregoire and drummer Nico Dann.[7][8] Merrill's sister Ruth Garbus is also a musician who has played solo and in the band Happy Birthday.[9] After releasing her first Tune-Yards album in 2008, she moved to Oakland, California, where her partner in Tune-Yards, Nate Brenner, also lives.[5][6]

The first Tune-Yards album, Bird-Brains (stylized as BiRd-BrAiNs) was originally self-released by Garbus on recycled cassette tape. It was recorded using only a handheld voice recorder.[10] A limited edition vinyl was released in June 2009, via the Portland-based imprint Marriage Records.[11] In July 2009, it was announced that Tune-Yards had signed to 4AD, and a limited edition pressing of Bird-Brains was released on August 17, 2009.[12] A full worldwide release followed on November 16, 2009 (and November 17 in North America). The autumn 2009 pressing was remastered at Abbey Road Studios by Christian Wright, and includes two new bonus tracks: "Want Me To" and "Real Live Flesh."

A second album, Whokill (stylized as w h o k i l l), was released on April 19, 2011.[13] A single from it, "Bizness", came out in February 2011. It was produced by Garbus and engineered by Eli Crews at New, Improved Studios in Oakland, California. Applying the live approach to Garbus' studio work for the first time, Garbus works with bass player Nate Brenner, who co-wrote some of the album's songs. Comparing the act to Sonic Youth, Frontier Psychiatrist said, "if Bird-Brains was Garbus' Evol, a record bursting with musical ideas that attempted to subvert the notion of song, who kill is Garbus' Sister, a record that embraces the traditional pop song as a vehicle to convey those ideas."[14][15] The album as well as singles "Bizness" and "Gangsta" received mention on many top 2011 album and song lists, including Time,[16][17] Rolling Stone,[18][19] Spin,[20] and the New York Times.[21] In early 2012, the Village Voice's annual "Pazz and Jop" poll of critics named Whokill the No. 1 album of 2011.[22] The song "Fiya" is featured on a 2010 commercial for the Blackberry Torch, while the song "Gangsta" has been used in the television shows Orange Is the New Black, Letterkenny, Weeds and The Good Wife and the song "Bizness" was used in Season 3 of Transparent.

Garbus started recording material for her third LP during the latter half of 2013, with a working title of Sink-o.[23] A May 6, 2014 release date was later announced with the title Nikki Nack.[24] The album spawned three singles, including "Water Fountain", which was featured in the soundtrack for EA Sports video game FIFA 15[25] as well as in a 2016 commercial for the Google Pixel.[26]

A fourth album was released on January 19, 2018, called I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life.[27] The album showed more of an electronic influence.[28] The single "Look at Your Hands" was released earlier, in October 2017, followed by "Heart Attack" in January.[29]

The Tune-Yards scored the satiric sci fi film Sorry to Bother You (2018).[29] The film was shown at Sundance in January, then began a theatrical run in July. Its soundtrack songs are performed by the Coup, fronted by the film's director, Boots Riley. Riley said he started working with the Tune-Yards in "early 2015" to create the film's score, with demo tracks already available before the script was complete, and before the start of principal photography. Riley said he was attracted to Garbus's voice, and to the band's "unorthodox use of percussion and vocal layering."[30]


Touring members
  • Hamir Atwal – percussion (I can feel you creep into my private life tour)
  • Noah Bernstein – saxophone (whokill tour)
  • Haley Dekle - percussion, vocals (Nikki Nack tour)
  • Kasey Knudsen – saxophone (whokill tour)
  • Jo Lampert – vocals (Nikki Nack tour)
  • Dani Markham – percussion, vocals (Nikki Nack tour)
  • Matt Nelson – saxophone (whokill tour)
  • Abigail Nessen-Bengson – vocals (Nikki Nack tour)
  • Moira Smiley – vocals (Nikki Nack tour)


Studio albumsEdit

Year Album details Peak chart positions
BE (Fl)
US Alt.
2009 Bird-Brains
2011 Whokill
  • Released: April 19, 2011
  • Label: 4AD
49 135 148 19
2014 Nikki Nack
  • Released: May 6, 2014
  • Label: 4AD
51 57 27 4
2018 I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life
  • Released: January 19, 2018
  • Label: 4AD
2019 Sorry to Bother You (original score)
  • Released: April 19, 2019
  • Label: 4AD


  • Bird-Droppings (November 3, 2009, 4AD, EAD2938) US-only download EP
  • ...creep... Remixes (October 31, 2018, 4AD, 4AD0127DS) Download-only EP


  • "Sunlight" (August 2009, 4AD) promo-only CD-R
  • "Hatari" (November 2, 2009, 4AD, AD2934) 7" vinyl and download
  • "Real Live Flesh" (February 8, 2010, 4AD, AD3X11) 7" vinyl and download
  • "Bizness" (February 11, 2011, 4AD)
  • "My Country" 2011, 4AD)
  • "Water Fountain" (March 18, 2014, 4AD)
  • "Hey Life" (2014, 4AD)
  • "Wait for a Minute" (2014, 4AD)
  • "Look at Your Hands" (October 24, 2017, 4AD)
  • "ABC 123" (December 6, 2017, 4AD)
  • "Heart Attack" (January 11, 2018, 4AD)


Guest appearancesEdit


Compilation appearancesEdit

  • "Powa" from 4AD Sessions 2008–2011 (September 20, 2011, 4AD)
  • "Bizness" from Modern Songbirds: The Most Incredible Female Singers (April 20, 2012, EMI)
  • "Bizness" from Studio Brussel Selected Live Sessions (April 21, 2012, Studio Brussel)
  • "Lady" from Red Hot + Fela (June 1, 2012, Knitting Factory Records)
  • "Riotriot" from Rough Trade Shops: Green Man '12 (July 30, 2012, Rough Trade Records)


  1. ^ "World of Wonder: How Merrill Garbus left the theatre and took the stage". The New Yorker. May 2, 2011.
  2. ^ Caramanica, Jon (October 8, 2009). "New York Times Music Review: Putting it Together". nytimes.com. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
  3. ^ "Pazz and Jop Poll: Top Albums of 2011". The Village Voice. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
  4. ^ Hazel Sheffield, "Interview: tUnE-yArDs. The decidedly non-bird-brained tUnE-yArDs is searching for freedom in her own back garden." The Stool Pigeon, May 9, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Mark Richardson, "Interviews: tUnE-yArDs", Pitchfork, April 25, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Byard Duncan, "Merrill Garbus' Road to Fame" Archived January 7, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, The Bay Citizen, April 20, 2012.
  7. ^ Chris Dahlen, "Sister Suvi: Now I Am Champion" (review), Pitchfork, July 7, 2009.
  8. ^ Charlotte Richardson Andrews, "Tune-Yards' Merrill Garbus on life after lo-fi", The Guardian, April 7, 2011.
  9. ^ Bevan, David (March 17, 2010). "Happy Birthday: Happy Birthday". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  10. ^ "Ink19 Tune-Yards: Master of Puppets". ink19.com. Retrieved May 1, 2009.
  11. ^ "Tune-Yards – Bird-Brains (LP) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved February 2, 2010.
  12. ^ "Tune-Yards – Bird-Brains (CD, Album, Lim) at Discogs". Discogs.com. August 9, 2009. Retrieved February 2, 2010.
  13. ^ "tUnE-yArDs official website". Tune-yards.com. Retrieved April 17, 2011.
  14. ^ "What's A Girl To Do?: A Review of tUnE-yArDs' w h o k i l l". Frontier Psychiatrist. April 11, 2011. Retrieved April 11, 2011.
  15. ^ "On tUnE-YarDs, Chuck Klosterman and the End of the High Fidelity Era of Music Criticism". The L Magazine. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  16. ^ "Time Magazine Top 10 albums of 2011 (#6)". Time.com. December 7, 2011.
  17. ^ "Time Magazine Top 10 Songs of 2011 (#6)". Time.com. December 7, 2011.
  18. ^ "Rolling Stone 50 Best Albums of 2011 (#13)". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  19. ^ "Rolling Stone 50 Best Singles of 2011 (#32)". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  20. ^ "Spin Magazine Top 50 Albums of 2011 (#30)". Spin.com. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  21. ^ Pareles, Jon (December 15, 2011). "The New York Times Top 10 Pop Albums of 2011 (#7)". The New York Times.
  22. ^ "Village Voice Pazz + Jop 2011 Albums". Villagevoice.com. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  23. ^ "tUnE-yArDs' Merrill Garbus writing 'chaotic' new album 'Sink-o'". NME. June 6, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  24. ^ Hogan, Marc. "tUnE-yArDs Teases 'Nikki Nack' LP With Deliriously Anarchic Megamix". SPIN. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  25. ^ "Listen to the FIFA 15 Soundtrack". EA Sports. September 16, 2014. Archived from the original on July 21, 2018. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  26. ^ "Google Pixel: Memories by you, phone by Google". tvadvertsongs.com. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
  27. ^ "The official website for independent record label 4AD". 4AD. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  28. ^ Petridis, Alexis (January 18, 2018). "Tune-Yards: I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life review – wonky diva wakes up to wokeness". the Guardian. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
  29. ^ a b "Tune-Yards Score Boots Riley-Directed Film Sorry to Bother You". Pitchfork. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
  30. ^ "'Sorry to Bother You' Director Boots Riley on Working With Tune-Yards and Breaking the Rules of Soundtracks". Billboard. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
  31. ^ "Chart Stats – TUnE-yArDs". ultratop.be. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
  32. ^ "Chart Stats – TUnE-yArDs". zobbel.de. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
  33. ^ a b "Chart Places tUnE-yArDs". Billboard. Retrieved October 4, 2011.

External linksEdit