Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Shawn Biggs
We met Yoni Wolf last February in San Francisco on the very last day we were in town for the Noise Pop festival and he was immediately friendly and talkative - like an old chum that you'd never met before, or forgotten meeting. He'd just done an appearance and performance at the Apple store a block and a half away from the Paradiso Hotel, where we were staying and recording out of, in a basement studio originally set up by an eccentric real estate tycoon who liked to dabble in writing odd, dirty songs. Wolf walked from the store with his guitar and sat down at the grand piano, from which he didn't move over the course of this four-song solo session. At the time, his band WHY? was nearing completion of its latest masterpiece, "Eskimo Snow," and these songs that follow are examples of how they sounded in their shivering, naked skins just standing on their own - impressive and sadder, more vulnerable and dramatic. They show the seams and maybe the pieces of string that are still hanging from their bodies, the umbilical cord that's yet to be cut close to the belly, still squirming and a little unsure of what all the bright lights are there for - why things are so cold and what everyone wants from them. Wolf allows us to see these songs as the little bits of candlelight that they started as before he and his talented bandmates tackled them, added different interpretations and inflections, coatings of context and sound to make the final collage that appears on the album. Wolf uses the phrase "fever dream" on the song "January Twenty Something," a song that sounds as if someone wants to forget something, to escape the preponderance of judgment and past actions, and it's a phrase that tends to apply to most of the things that he likes to write about - incorporating ideas of slippery consciousness, realities that have caused some unfortunate tidings and effects and imagined dementia. It's an uncomfortably riddled state to be in - realizing that most of this fever, most of this illusion is self-inflicted and hard to remedy. The fever that overcomes Wolf is one that's more of a weight, an overpowering grievance that feels like pressure that never allows his characters to rest - to feel as if they've reached where they're supposed to be, to feel as if they've accomplished what they were put here to accomplish. There is a difficult association that seems to be happening with those speaking in his songs and the world that they have no choice but to inhabit - as if there's an unstoppable push against what's out there, a repulsion of convention, of the people who want to be around them. There's a tough time of trying to get along with all of the conflicting feelings and people who are lined up just waiting to see what you're about to do. There's no clear end result that is meant to be reached, just a bunch of fuzzy fogginess that has to be worked through by a weary traveler who only vaguely knows the route and the destination. It's like this fight will not stop - between Wolf/his character(s) and everything at-large, the expectations and the wants, the streams of consciousness that obscure the sight and the clarity - and it will only get more profound, as if he's bound to always be confused. He sings, "Whatever the will of the people shall be will be..Am I too concerned about the burn of scrutiny?" and this cannot feel good - to have no choice and nothing to control.
Yoni Wolf MySpace Page