Earlier this month, Sonic Youth dropped The Eternal, the band's 16th album and their first since fulfilling their contractual obligation to Geffen and moving to indie-label paradigm Matador Records. Recorded mostly in Northampton, Massachusetts, where front-couple Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon reside, The Eternal works as both an invigorating new turn in the band's 29 year journey and an ideal point of entry for newcomers, as the 12 tracks span the spectrum from tightly-coiled incendiary art rock to virtuoso mini noise odysseys.

As usual with the simultaneously brainy/primal Sonic Youth, there's a lot to sink your teeth into here, as evinced by the J. Peterman catalog production notes for songs like Malibu Gas Station ("An ode to the flash moment of the camera as you knowingly step from your SUV sans panties") and Walkin Blue ("[Guitarist] Lee [Ranaldo] with his arm around yr shoulder, getting you through a seemingly impenetrable day of dread to a clear vision towards sweet foreverness.") As ever, the album is the menu and the live show is the meal, and Friday, July 3rd is you next opportunity to feast, when Sonic Youth plays the cavernous United Palace Theater in Washington Heights.

Do anything special for Father's Day? I rehearsed with the band and then I went out to eat with Kim and my two nieces who live in New York. Then we went to see a movie.

What did you see?Away We Go. The Sam Mendes snore-a-thon. I felt like I could see the writers with their pens on the paper writing this dialogue.

Yeah, I had mixed feelings about that, too. I felt like I could see the train coming through the tunnel. I don't know—I think Maya Rudolph is a pretty good actor, and I like the dude [John Krasinksi]. Allison Janney was really great —so bizarre and reckless. There were some good elements to it.

To the topic at hand, how did changing labels impact your recording process with The Eternal? I know we had to have a different strategy as far as getting this record done on time because we were sort of running out of time by the time we got together to play. A lot of it, though, didn't have anything to do with Matador, per se, but I know that we had a new, real excitement in our lives knowing that we were doing a record that was not going to be on a faceless, corporate entity. I think it added some vigor, some fervor to the creation of the songs, for sure. Plus we were excited about how things had changed all over the world, psychologically, with America getting a new administration with a progressive vibe to it. I think everyone had this feeling of newness, so I like to think that has something to do with the energy of the record.

I read somewhere that there was a "no second-thought approach" implemented in working on it. Was there over-analyzing in the past? I think maybe you're referring to Ben Ratliff in the New York Times. He said that the lyrics were "first thought, best thought." That's sort of a way of working in poetry as prescribed by Anne Waldman and Allen Ginsberg at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. I know where he's getting that line from, and it had a lot to do with the Zen of writing. I was a little taken aback by that because I know that's the impression with Sonic Youth, especially lyrically, that things are just sort of tossed off and surrealist for the sake of being surrealist sometimes. That's really not the case—the lyrics are actually very "worked on." As much as the music. They're very considered and sometimes take lots of time to cultivate. It's not so much "first thought, best thought," but I think a lot of times with writing the music, things will happen really quickly and do sort of come out of the subconscious. You really want to notice that and realize that if it's amazing. A lot of the times, it can be. A lot of the time, you can't even get it back again because it can't ever, ever be replicated. It's just really frustrating. But that's what's good about taping your rehearsals, which we do sometimes.

To hear you say that makes me think of that song "Anti-Orgasm" and the line, "Anti-war is anti-orgasm." Did you write that lyric? Yes. I got that line from a German film called Eight Miles High. The German title is The Wild Life, and it's a biopic about this woman Uschi Obermaier. She was a young fashion model in Germany in the '60s, and she sort of ran away to a commune in Berlin that was called Kommune 1, where all these radical hippie commune dwellers walk around nude. It was a big sensation among young people in Germany at that time about this woman coming out of the fashion world and joining forces with this anti-authoritarian, anti-consumerist faction.

And one of the scenes of the movie is her in bed with her hippie lover and one of the other radicals is in bed with another woman—everybody sort of sleeps together—and he's not able to get it up. Her boyfriend says, "You know what his problem is: he's anti-orgasm." And I thought that was amusing, the politicizing of any sort of fear or repression in one's life, even though they think they're so liberated. So yeah, anti-war. Or "Anti-god is anti-orgasm" is the other line in the song. There are people applying that kind of feeling of arousal to conflict. People lust for war as well as lust for religion and the salvation that it promises.

The name of the album, The Eternal, could evoke a mystical quality, or is that meant to be self-referential, given how long Sonic Youth has been around? Yeah, it might as well be. When that title was bandied around, it seemed so applicable in different ways. I came up with the title listening to a lot of sick underground black metal records and the concept of "the eternal" is used in a lot in so much of the titles and lyrics on these records. Mostly through the eternal damnation of eternity through the welcoming of Satan and his legions. [Laughs.] That's kind of where it came from—it certainly became more evocative than that as far as our usage of it.

What are the secrets to Sonic Youth's remarkable resilience and longevity? I feel like we never really hit the wall with what we wanted to do as a band that writes songs using guitars set up in sort of an experimental mode. I think that's about it. I mean, we go through these long phases of cultivating certain approaches and ideas and they sort of lead us into other places. We never really had a hit record or sold that many records, so success has never really gotten in the way of us, for better or for worse. The band never really struck it rich, to put it that way.

New Yorkers have had a lot of opportunities to see you lately, at least once a year. Do any favorite New York gigs that come to mind? I really liked playing last July 4th down in Battery Park. It was fun. I liked playing the McCarren Pool shows that we did when that was around.

I went to two out of three of those, and I was the guy at the last one shouting for "Expressway."
[Laughs.] That was you? Other than those, we've done some weird shows here. Like I remember doing an all-instrumental show many, many years ago up at Alice Tully Hall. People actually came and we played all this music that we were just starting to write and we just played instrumental with no lyrics. We had Tom Delonge and Jimmy Ripp open up for us. It was an interesting evening, but people came out for it. I like playing in specialized situations like that. I liked playing at Jones Beach when the Stooges started playing again and they asked us to open for them. I really liked that.

How many guitars does the band use during an average performance? I only use maybe three or four, max. I think Steve blows through more than I do. I try to contain my songwriting in a way. I don't want to have to have a different guitar for each song.

A lot of your gear was robbed about a decade ago and some of it resurfaced recently. Can you tell us about that? Some of it has, yeah. We got the idea that it was stolen by some criminal types on the West Coast and after about a decade, stuff started showing up on eBay and stuff. I think one connection was made with some young kids who were like, "My uncle, who's in jail, told me about where this stuff was." There was this little history going on with the family.

You know, I never really wanted that stuff back. I was all about being liberated from it and having to figure something new out. That was cool. I didn't really like all the attention that was given to it. People get their stuff stolen all the time. I know our stuff was unorthodox and idiosyncratic and defines who we are to some degree, so maybe it makes more of a story, but I didn't really care that much. It was more a pain in the ass than anything at the time. The stuff that was stolen that was really a bummer were the personal effects, like notebooks and that kind of thing. The fact that people who work with us, like our front house mixer and our monitor guy—all of their outboard gear was stolen and that stuff cost a lot of money. It was their stuff.

But as far as our guitars, at this point in time, I hardly remember what they were. So when these things do start showing up, I was sort of like, "Eh, I don't want it. It probably has bad vibrations right now." I was kind of into it being stolen because I thought, like, maybe these people would have to use them and the guitars were so hot-rodded that they weren't really playable as traditional instruments, so these people who stole them were going to have to start bands that were going to be completely weirdo, noise-rock bands. I thought that was kind of hip.

You and Kim recently talked about watching Gossip Girl. Are there are any other TV programs that people might be surprised to know you enjoy. I'm sort of drawn to a show like that through my 15-year-old daughter and then it becomes a guilty pleasure. I mean, watching a TV show about beautiful 19-year-old girls on the Upper East Side is not that hard to do. But I really like this show called Southland. That's actually on network TV. It's an L.A. cop show, and I thought that was really well-written, actually. And I just started walking that Nurse Jackie—Edie Falco's new show on Showtime. I think that's really well-written and she's fantastic in it. I like that show. I'm a huge fan of The Wire and some other HBO shows. I don't really watch that much more TV than that. I've been watching that show called Dollhouse, that the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer did. I don't know if that's going to be picked up again—it's a very oddball, Stepford Wives-kind-of situation show. But again, I was really brought to that by my daughter, who's a huge fan of Buffy. I spent many hours with her slowly going through the old Buffy seasons with her, which I enjoy.

Is she a fan of Sonic Youth and other bands that started before her time? She really likes some Pavement stuff and some Dinosaur Jr. stuff that are intimates of ours and that she's heard. She really responds to the goodness of their songs, yeah. She and her friends have their own stuff they like, but she really responds to that good, classic '60s stuff like the Kinks and the Who and the Beatles without us having to force the issue at all. She certainly has access to it because we have that stuff around. She plays songs by The Kinks and The Who from their catalog that I don't even know and I'm like, "What's this Kinks song?" It's kind of great having a teenage daughter who's showing you something you don't know about something you should know about. They like songs by The Kooks or The Cribs.

They'll find these things or a Cat Power song. I'll tell her, "Cat Power would stay at our house several times when you were younger," and she's like, "Oh, really? That's cool." She was like, "Whatever." It's like children's books—children don't care about the authors, they care about the books. I love that sensibility, where it doesn't become anything about the personality, it becomes something about the actual content. Later you start attaching value to the celebrity behind the work, which is, you know, brought on by media.