When listeners aren’t writing to NPR to comment on a story, they mostly just want to know what music was played between segments. We call those buttons or breaks or deadrolls, and they give a breath after reporting a tragedy, lighten the mood after you most definitely cried during StoryCorps, or seize a moment to be ridiculously cheeky. How could you not play Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold” following a story about why women shiver in the office?
Lindsay Totty, who directs Morning Edition, listens to the stories on the show and chooses the music.
“I look for what the emotional tone of each story is, but I’m also looking for a certain kind of cultural context,” he says.
Totty says that in the course of a 30-year career, Yo La Tengo‘s music has covered a lot of cultural contexts, making the band a go-to for music buttons between stories. It also doesn’t hurt that “they sound like six bands at once,” he adds, using everything from the country twang of “Pablo and Andrea” to the heavy hard rock of “Big Day Coming.”
That’s why the long-running group took a train from Hoboken, N.J., to NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., to be the in-house band for Morning Edition on Tuesday, Aug. 25, playing all those music buttons live between stories.
When NPR’s David Greene asked guitarist/vocalist Ira Kaplan if Morning Edition has ever used a Yo La Tengo song the wrong way, he replied, “I’m mostly angry that you’re on so early. This morning thing’s not really working for me.”