To call Yowie an acquired taste would be a flagrant misrepresentation. Yowie is not something you can acquire. Try to understand its sonic mindfuckery, try to follow the preposterous complexity of Yowies' sound, and your dendrites will start to short-circuit. Music like this can't be made by mere people and yet, you couldn't write a computer program capable of producing this kind of brain damage. It's so grand in composition but honed and microperfected until words like "tempo," "rhythm" and "melody" become meaningless abstractions.
Yowie is back, playing its third show since 2009 at Cranky Yellow tomorrow night. It's a benefit for their upcoming second album, the one they've been working on essentially since 2004. They handpicked the line-up: Spelling Bee, Egg Chef and Britches. We talked to the whole band briefly and drummer Shawn (a.k.a. the Defenstrator) at length about the band's process and what to expect at the comeback show.
It's been seven years since its debut album, Cryptooology, was released on Skin Graft Records, and in that time, the band has weathered a break-up, line-up changes that never took and spent three years working on one song.
After a few failed attempts at replacing guitarist Jeremiah, he rejoined the band, and since then, the dual guitar and drum trio have been laboring three or four nights a week for hours at a stretch to perfect enough material for the second album, which they'll record in Michigan at the end of July. Jeremiah asserts that the amount of labor that goes into one Yowie song involves more notes and work than most bands put into entire albums. When they practice, they don't stop until someone's hands stop working. These men are masochists of the highest order, and their music is a no wave attack on the senses. In an age where music is disposable, to be used once and chucked like Kleenex, Yowie toils to create music that's pathologically difficult.
In the past few years, there have been many arguments between the precisionist players. When asked who the pickiest member of the band is, everyone's loathe to give an answer. Moppy, (or Lil Pumpkin, depending on his mood) said that they're all equally picky, to which Shawn, the Defenestrator, replies jovially, "You're fuckin' lying, dude." Jeremiah adds that the pickiest member of the band is the invisible fourth member--"the ethereal ear" -- and Shawn says, "the damned ear." They can't even agree on that. They can agree, mostly, that the reason behind the break-up is "classified."
"I had to get a sex change operation reversed," jokes Jeremiah. "I just ended up becoming my mother."
The members are so dedicated to what they do that the Defenestrator actually turned down a a post-doctoral position at Yale University in order to continue with the band. They figured out if someone were paying them minimum wage to make the second album a reality, they'd have roughly $65,000 each. "We are all able-bodied people who have gainful employment, but I think people owe us," Moppy said, remarking on the
$10 $5 bargain price of entrance to Saturday's show.
Diana Benanti: I guess the most obvious question is what the hell took so long?
Shawn O'Connor: We broke up for a period of like a year and a half, and we tried to find many, many, many other guitarists and were absolutely unable to do so. After a period of time, Jeremiah was able to come back and play with us again. There were a few rough patches when we started, in part because I think we were trying to figure out if we were going to do things differently on our second album. It involved a hell of a lot of whittling. We've been working on one song for about three years now, changing it, modifying it, adding, subtracting. I guess a one word answer would be dithering. Or maybe being obsessive. There's one song we've been working on for three years. We didn't spend the entire three years on it, but we've been working on it for three years. It's done now I think [laughs].
So, was it worth it?
I think so, but I'm going to be interested to see what the final product sounds like after we record it in a real studio, rather than the janky place where we recorded the first one.
What have you guys been doing since you stopped playing out?
We have been arguing over how we wanted these songs to finally settle themselves in, and we have been preparing to record, and for us that involves practicing 3-4 times a week and going over ten second little parts over and over and over again until they're played perfectly.
I can see how that could cause some tension.
There have been no fist fights. Just fantasies.
Is it because the music is so complex?
I think so, there are times when I've been playing the same part of six seconds for an hour and a half that I think to myself, man, maybe a punk rock band would be a great thing. But that' s really not what this band is about. We're about girth in our songs. I think that's a big part of why we've been stuck where we are in terms of very very slow progress. I will say we're joking a lot about it being tense, but it is truly a labor of love.
In the midst of all this, were you able finish you Ph.D.
Yes. I'm a psychologist with the V.A.
Does any of your work there inform the music?
Wouldn't that be an awesome story, that insights that I have into the human psyche are my inspiration for Yowie songs? I don't really think that it is; they're two completely separate parts of my life. I have a day time thing that I do, and a night time thing that I do. They don't really fit very well with one another I've found. I remember when we went on our tour, everyone else is drinking and partying and I'm writing the methodology section of my dissertation.
Have any of our coworkers been out to see your band?
It's not that I'm ashamed of it, but there's kind of a thing that your co-workers do, to be polite they would like to say, "Oh I'd like to come hear you sometime." But I think our music would be disturbing or possibly nearly traumatic for people.
Read the rest of the interview and listen to "Towanda" off Cryptooology on the next page
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