One of the more credible criticisms of the cut-and-paste aesthetic of much modern music is that there’s something rather human lost in the process, particularly when the songs are meant to evoke deep emotions. WHY?’s latest album, Eskimo Snow, is made up of such songs, but Yoni Wolf is a smart enough man that he knows to record them in a live atmosphere. Despite coming from the same sessions as the band’s critically lauded 2008 album Alopecia, some subtle changes in microphone set-ups and such has meant the band have crafted a work with a considerably affecting atmosphere. Which also makes it a good idea to catch them on the upcoming UK tour. We caught up with the man for a brief chat…
RK: Eskimo Snow seems to have a more traditional sound than your last album…
YW: I dunno, the songs were definitely teased out because they sound like they went together, but I wouldn’t say we wanted these ones to be the more traditional sounding. It was more like it was a little more sullen and live sounding.
To me, the idea of politics is bigger than world leaders. It’s more about the way people think
RK: Was it strange sitting on the album for so long before releasing it?
YW: Yeah, but it needed that. I needed time to think about how it would be finished.
RK: As usual, much of the lyrical content displays a preoccupation with, or at least a contemplation of, mortality. Do you think the posterity of creating art is what helps drive people who make it?
YW: Yeah, I think so, that’s one of the reasons why artists work. It’s this extension of yourself that exists outside of you and will carry on after you’re gone.
RK: Another characteristic of your work is its bare honesty.
YW: I think that’s important for any art. It should be your truest expression. It’s your most direct form of communication in a way, more so than talking to somebody because it’s unfiltered; obviously you’re still going to edit it but the initial ideas should come from a real visceral place.
RK: And yet being personal is a double-edged sword. One too many trivial details and it risks becoming solipsistic.
YW: It’s not necessarily about my life. You place details to sculpt something to make it seem real, but it’s not like diary entries or something; you’re still creating characters and things like that. A lot of my stuff is based on things that happened to me, but I’m still creating a story to get across the ideas and feeling. When I say you should be 100% honest I don’t mean your details should be, but the sentiment should from the heart, from the gut. In terms of the narrative, a lot of times it might be pieced together from a bunch of different sources.
RK: Do you think artists have a political role to play in society?
YW: If they do, it’s not as a preacher. Personally, I don’t listen to art that is directly political. To me, the idea of politics is bigger than world leaders. It’s more about the way people think, and I think that artists by nature affect that, because we speak directly from a place that should be purely honest, and the act of doing that is a political act in a way. I personally find that I can’t listen to art that directly endorses a certain kind of ‘now’ politics because it seems too fleeting.
RK: You prefer your work to be more timeless?
YW: I guess so, and that can be more intimate really, and then more universal.
RK: I suppose an example of one of your more direct songs is Darla.
YW: Right, and I can’t listen to that song. I hate it.
RK: Because it’s too direct?
YW: It’s a metaphor, but yeah, I think it’s too direct, too one-dimensional.
RK: Are you looking forward to the upcoming UK tour?
YW: Yeah, I’m getting better at touring. I’m enjoying it more and more.
RK: Your brother Josiah has just released a solo album, will that figure into the tour?
YW: Yeah, he’ll be playing a set before the WHY? set.
RK: What’s on your stereo just now?
YW: I’ve been listening to a lot of Billy Holiday radio on Pandora.
RK: Are there other musical avenues you’re eager to explore in the future?
YW: I have some abstract ideas about sounds I want to explore but they’re hard to describe. I tried to talk to my brother about them recently and it came out like nonsense so I might as well not talk about it till it makes a little more sense in my head…
You can catch WHY? at Stereo in Glasgow on the 18th of March…see how to book tix below…
UK Tour Dates:
|Brudnell Social Club||Leeds|
|The Deaf Institut||Manchester|
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