Early Yorn to Surface

Singer hopes to release pre-Columbia material

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With his debut album, Musicforthemorningafter, having sold a quarter-million copies, singer-songwriter Pete Yorn hopes to release an album he recorded prior to signing with Columbia Records.

"I'm really proud of it," he says of the album, which was produced by indie rock veteran Don Fleming. "I don't know where it fits in with the mass marketing of this record schedule yet, but I want to release it."

Yorn recorded the album from the fall of 1997 to the winter of 1998, after landing Fleming through some demo tapes he sent him. "I'd loved the work he'd done with Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.," Yorn says. "He agreed to do it for very little money and just take points on the record if it ever came out. It's much more of a straight-ahead rock record, but it's a lot darker as well. It's really blown out and reverb-y and the guitars are really heavy. I think it's really cool."

Yorn sent the finished product out to select radio stations, and Santa Monica, California's KCRW began spinning three tracks -- "Model American," "Simonize" (which was re-recorded for Musicforthemorningafter) and "Hunter Green" (a song Yorn still plays live). Labels started showing interest, particularly Virgin, which met with the singer-songwriter.

"I remember the head guy wanted me to change the second half of it, and that was my favorite part of the record," Yorn says. "And I remember I drank a whole bottle of wine before I went to the meeting, and I was like, 'If you don't get the second half of the record, then there's no point in talking anymore because you're not going to get me as an artist in the future.' Afterwards, I was like, 'What did I just say?' But it was the right thing of course."

Musicforthemorningafter also features another relic from before Yorn's move to the major label. The track "For Nancy" was written for Million, Yorn's late-Nineties band. "Million sounded a lot more like post-punk, more straight-up punk, more like the Strokes than what I'm doing [now]," says Yorn. "I just went though a phase where I just wanted to do that, and then I just got sidetracked. I was never shopping Million officially. I think that was more an escape just to go out and bash some heavy rock out and not have it be my name. I was pretty much wearing the same clothes I wear now, but I think the songs had a different kind of attitude, like Buzzcocks. If I could sing it in a British accent, I would have. But I couldn't."

Despite his current deal with Columbia, Yorn says he will be able to release the Fleming album independently because he owns the master. "I maintained all the rights to that record, so I can do whatever I want with it."