"We've gotten into this way of writing that we've always enjoyed," he says. "Writing isn't exactly what we're doing. A lot of times we're just playing and letting things take shape. Writing on the road, were that to happen, seems more like a solitary pursuit: one person in a hotel room with a guitar working on a song, which just isn't the way we work. We have played things at sound check, just kind of jamming, that we wish we'd remember. But we don't -- the tape's not rolling. In a sense, we're writing in disappearing ink."
Though the band has established that its own songs can hold their own as well as The Kinks and Bob Dylan songs that popped up on earlier albums such as 1986's Ride the Tiger and 1989's President Yo La Tengo, for Kaplan, the three members of Yo La Tengo are still the people he writes for. He doesn't have to prove anything to anyone but them. Kaplan says he's happy as long as he can continue to surprise McNew and Hubley, and especially himself. As he learned on And Then Nothing..., even after more than 15 years, it can still happen.
"Two of the songs that are on the record -- 'You Can Have It All' and 'Tired Hippo' -- we had recorded for a John Peel session a while ago," Kaplan explains. "And it was really Georgia who was most interested in us rerecording those songs for the record. I think I probably felt like, 'Well, you know, we already did those songs. Let's do things we haven't done yet.' But they came out so differently than the versions on the Peel session that it became sort of doubly exciting to hear the way the songs just kept growing and developing. Those two [stand out] because we had cut kind of a clear benchmark with the earlier recordings, but all of them are like that."