This post was imported from the old website and may contain broken links.
Review by Simon Vansintjan.
Two weeks ago I got a hasty e-mail from our lovely head of music saying that she had signed me up to go interview this band called WHY? So two weeks ago I started digging into these guys their discography. Why? (hurr) cause, whilst I had heard of them and told on many occasions that I should listen to them (don’t doubt my indie cred), I never had quite gotten around to it. So I jammed my head with Elephant Eyelash and Eskimo Snow, and slowly started to really dig on this band. The music is catchy and, while not necessarily simple, easy to get into. Eskimo Snow is one of the more accessible albums I have heard in a while.
Come the day of the interview. Obviously I feel like a bit of a hack, cause I didn’t really know any of their songs two weeks ago, and here I am interviewing Yoni Wolf - the song-writer and kind of mastermind behind WHY? (at the moment at least) - in his hotel room. Now there’s a couple of things I left out: the band had arrived late at Stereo, which as a result meant that their sound check was really late, which means our interview got pushed back - which is why the interview took place in the hotel room.
We talked for fifteen minutes about the fact that Yoni never owned a pogo stick but his sister did (maybe?), and grew up to fairly religious parents, “a curse word hadn’t left my mouth until I was at least 17 or 18”, and his parents reactions to the content of his songs. “My parents do support my music, and they like it, but once in a while my dad will comment on a curse or a lyric and suggest removing them just for commercial reasons - claiming that I might be able to reach a wider audience.”
When asked how he would fake his own death the almost immediate response is “an egg slicer, a giant egg slicer”, followed quickly by an admittance that he had already sung about the concept, and does so quite often.
When I asked him whether he ever thought that his albums should be considered as a whole or that it was the songs on them individually that mattered, he talked about how recently (the 1960s) the concept of an album as an entity has come forward. “Before that it was singles, and now it’s turning into singles again. It just so happens that I like to write three minute songs and that those three minute songs happen to be on 45 minute long albums. I don’t really don’t know why, that’s just what I like.”
“When we write an album it’s not one process, I usually have a pre-conceived set of songs that I come up with casually, not casually, but you know what I mean. It used to be that the song writing was mainly me, but on Eskimo Snow there have definitely been some songs that were collaborations. For the last two albums at least, I’ve walked into the studio with the rest of the guys with these demos, and then at the end of the day we come out with a song we can record.”
On the topic of their future plans, it sounds like there are already some new tunes being thought of, but it looks like the band will be on the road for the majority of the summer. “We’re in Europe until the beginning of May, and then on the west coast and doing things around Sasquatch, and then maybe back in Europe for August and festivals here.”
Josiah Wolf, Yoni Wolf’s younger brother who’s also WHY?’s drummer, was the first opening act. He performed a series of singer-songwriting songs on his own while playing the guitar, drums and vocals at the same time, there was a very casual atmosphere about it, and the music was met by approval from the audience (and this writer).
The next band, I Might Be Wrong, from Berlin and opening for WHY? on this leg of the tour, produced a poppy rock sound that reminded me oddly of Tattoo - this can probably be attributed to the female vocalist’s range mixed with echoing vocals - but better and with a very healthy mix of post-rock tendencies. The set went by quickly, but was littered with head bopping tunes that made me want to go and check these guys out when I get home.
As I mentioned earlier the sound check for WHY? got pushed back. This meant that the band only got onto the stage at about 10.30. Now if you live in Edinburgh, and you’ve ever been to a show in Glasgow, you know that it being 10.25 and the main act still not being on, is really frustrating. You also know that you’re going to have to leave halfway through the set of a band you travelled to Glasgow for to see.
Once they got on stage there was a very large amount of energy emitting from not just Yoni (his first words on stage were “how do my teeth look”, followed by him giving us all a wide grin”, who had seemed a bit stressed during the interview, but the entire band. Throughout the set they made quips at each other, making sure to include the audience. The music itself was also full of energy, and this may have been the most sing-along-able performance I have been to in a long time (the last one was the Mountain Goats). And see, this is probably the reason I like this band, I’ve only known them for about two weeks, and already I have gotten so into their music that I could sing along to every song performed I saw. Cause here’s the sad part: I had to leave early because of the whole ‘last train home’ thing.
It is so easy to chant the lyrics along with Yoni, and I wasn’t the only one doing it. There was a lot of presence on stage - snake like dancing, mariachi shaking, and poking fun at Scotland’s green pastures. The songs were there, but the band wasn’t afraid to add a little extra distortion to the sound, sometimes supplying the audience with a minute of noise.
If you haven’t heard of these guys, I suggest that you give them two weeks of listening before you go and see them when they’re near you. It’s not an evening you’re going to regret.
I just realised I wrote 1000 words I should have probably put into my dissertation.