Busy touring the country in support of its new album, Eskimo Snow, WHY? frontman Jonathan ‘Yoni’ Wolf managed to make some time to chat with The MUSE about music, touring and germophobia.
The Muse: So you’ve got a new record, Eskimo Snow, coming out this month, and you’ve said it’s the least hip-hop record you’ve ever been involved with. Do you see this as a new direction for the band?
Yoni Wolf: I don’t think of it in terms of a direction that we’re heading in. I think that every album tends to sound different and have a different sort of feeling behind it. As a person, you’re always sort of growing and changing. Music should always reflect where you’re at in life. I think that’ll continue to happen.
TM: How would you describe this record in comparison with your last, Alopecia?
YW: I recently did an interview with a guy from Germany and he said it had sort of a country sound, sort of Johnny Cash. I initially went and mixed the record down in Nashville with Mark Nevers and we didn’t keep those mixes as is. I came back and worked with Eli Crews. If I called it country in front of him, he’d be like, ‘What are you talking about?’
TM: You’ve said that Alopecia and Eskimo Snow came from the same sessions. Are they influenced by the same mindset lyrically? Do you explore any new themes in particular on the new one?
YW: The songs are all written around the same general timeframe. Songs that had certain lyrical feelings or certain moods in the music production or arrangements separated themselves because of their differences.
TM: Some of your lyrical themes include death, germophobia, and stalkers. Are your lyrics mostly personal and written from your own experiences, or are some fictional or based on someone else?
YW: All of the above. As a writer I think every writer takes from their own experiences and changes it or takes what they see around them and makes something out of it, like a one side diary entry or science fiction. I think even science fiction writers infuse their own experience.
TM: Your roots lie in more hip-hop based acts such as Greenthink and cLOUDDEAD. How did you start moving away from that style to the sort of indie rock/hip-hop hybrid WHY? makes now?
YW: Starting to work with more musicians changes the sound. With different skilled musicians around me, I can develop the music in a way I wasn’t able to by myself. Life changes and your art reflects that, and the dynamics of the group setting change the sound too. I hear a distinct sea change from Oaklandazulasylum to Elephant Eyelash to Alopecia.
TM: Is the touring band going to be any different this time around?
YW: It’s the band from the last two records. It’ll probably sound more similar to the records, with a good fat sound from five players instead of four. I’m not playing that much on this tour, which I look forward to.
WHY? are playing at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge tonight.