Yo La Tengo — Hoboken, N.J.’s venerable, prolific maestro of genre-defying jams — celebrates its 25th anniversary with the album “Popular Songs.”
In music years, that’s no easy feat — especially since the trio’s college-rock era contemporaries, except for Pavement and its recent announcement of a reunion next year, have all but went the way of the dodo.
What does surviving a quarter of a century mean to a band as it prepares to perform alongside the Decemberists and Flaming Lips at the Treasure Island Music Festival?
“It means I didn’t have to learn how to do anything else,” guitarist Ira Kaplan says, jokingly.
The question of Yo La Tengo’s longevity is one that Kaplan, along with drummer and wife Georgia Hubley and bassist James McNew, have faced a lot lately.
When the threesome came together in the early 1980s, there was never an intent to amass critical acclaim and make a career out of crafting catchy, wildly versatile tunes. Or was there?
“We didn’t accept when we started this group that we’d be doing it for the rest of our lives. At the same time, we didn’t expect that we wouldn’t be,” Kaplan says. “We’ve never been much for long-range planning.”
“Popular Songs” — the band’s 14th or 16th effort, depending on how you look at it — dispenses distortion-heavy sprawling guitar works and delicate pop melodies.
Bona fide string arrangements, as featured on “If It’s True,” made their way onto the record by diligent Internet research that led to jazz composer Richard Evans.
At first, Kaplan says, the string section was achieved by a “cheesy controller” device that triggered the sound via a keyboard, but that didn’t cut it for the group.
“Instantly, we thought it would be more interesting, different and better to find an arranger to work on the parts rather than rely on our rudimentary arranging abilities,” Kaplan says. “We thought about who would be the best person we’d like to locate. We had no idea where Richard Evans was or anything like that. James just got on the computer and started doing research and then we wrote to him blindly.”
Yo La Tengo recently played with a string section in Boston and New York, but don’t expect the band to hit Treasure Island with one.
“It’s certainly very exciting to have them,” Kaplan says. “But it’s complicated to have such a financial indulgence for just a couple of songs.”
IF YOU GO
When: 8:10 p.m. Sunday
Where: Tunnel Stage, Treasure Island Music Festival, Clipper Cove Way
Tickets: $65 for Saturday or Sunday; $115 for both days