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Typing out tUnE-yArDs may give your shift-bar a workout, but the real workout is in the music. The woman behind it all is Merrill Garbus, who embodies the essence of DIY. Garbus treats every instrument, including her voice, like a treasure she eagerly excavated from a junkyard -- one man's drums, sax and ukulele are another woman's means to experiment. Before entering the world of music, Garbus was a puppeteer. After moving back with her parents at age 26 (puppeteering isn't the most lucrative career), Garbus received a ukulele from her mother and the seeds of tUnE-yArDs were sown. She eventually moved to Oakland and recorded her first album, 2009's BiRd-BrAiNs, using a handheld voice recorder, and released it on recycled cassette tape. The album slowly gained momentum and later that year she signed with indie label 4AD. Her big breakthrough came with 2011's whokill, a more robust set of songs -- featuring boyfriend/co-writer Nate Brenner on bass and swarms of percussion and horns -- that touch on influences from hip-hop to funk to R&B to free jazz to Nina Simone.
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