Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An Interview With Yowie

Yowie is music to lose your mind to… or dance to… whichever you prefer. Far from your average extreme band, Yowie have put a lot of work into distancing themselves from the more conventional strands of extreme music. Their odd time signatures and complex rhythms push the boundaries of what can even be considered music, and their talent seemingly knows no bounds. When not outwardly defying straightforward categorization, Yowie nevertheless pushes themselves to do things most bands simply aren’t capable of accomplishing. Endlessly restless, they are never satisfied with the product they produce. Their desire to grow as a band shows in the improvements they have made with each album. Most admirably, all this pushing and prodding to create something terrifyingly complex and original is for no one’s benefit but their own. They are not out for recognition or success. They just want to make music that doesn’t bore them.

1. It's not uncommon to see bands last just a few years, but Yowie has managed to last almost two decades. What do you think is the glue that has kept the band together? Stubbornness. What we are doing takes more commitment than a lot of bands have- we constantly push ourselves to play things that are really counterintuitive, and that means we are always challenged, and so that stays rewarding. We are never bored. 2. What sparked your interest in extreme music? Why did you decide to push the limits of "extreme music" even further? I've always liked art that had some form of extremity. I liked punk and metal for a long time, and still do, when it's done well. I remember one time I went to this thing called Milwaukee Metalfest. It was some crazy number of bands, mostly death metal with some grindcore and thrash thrown in- started at like 9 a.m. and went until 2 a.m., I think. 2 stages- so someone was always playing. And at about hour 14 of that, I really came to realize that these cats were fast as hell, and brutal, but it can really turn into a type of folk music with very strict songwriting conventions. Even extreme music can get pretty predictable, and therefore, not all that extreme. So I started messing around with other compositional approaches that forced other boundaries to be crossed. A lot of the time, the listener doesn't even know what those boundaries are. It's just different in an indescribable way. If you're intrigued by that, you're our kind of person. If you wince and just notice how different, and therefore bad, it sounds, then move on. Nothing for you here. 3. Yowie has an almost written rule to throw all conventional music standards out the window. What is your definition of music? Hmmmm. Well if you mean what is our definition of our music, then we really basically started out as being a type of protest music, I think. Most rock based music, in particular, is pretty formulaic. There may be differences between genres, but within them, you can pretty quickly start to decipher what the norms are, and to me, I always found that conformity boring. I tend toward art that challenges, surprises, and evokes strong reactions. So at first, we basically tried to hermeneutically decipher the various rock rules that appeared to be in effect, and then adamantly refused to follow them. As time went on, our particular way of doing that turned into a sound and style that is, I think, and hope, distinctive.

4. What place do you think extreme music has in our society? Trends shift and change with the years, so do you think extreme music will ever hold a more "mainstream" position in society? Well if it becomes mainstream, then it needs to change. I think extreme art- in any modality- is an absolute necessity for any society. We need to question our assumptions, find the areas of our lives where we have become complacent or too comfortable, and then at the very least, have those challenged by art. If we don't, we stagnate. If one day, constantly shifting odd meter polymetric dissonant rock is the norm, well that will surprise me. If my music is being played in Taco Bells in 2030, then I have failed. 5. You discussed in a previous interview that your songs are a product of intense deliberation and time. How long does it typically take to finish a song and how do you decide when it is complete? It's tough to nail down specific time frames. Like in the 5 years or so working on this album (with 5 songs on it), we had a lot happen- some medical issues, financial issues, a guitarist lost a finger- there were multiple hospitalizations and all kinds of crap happening. And the songs don't usually happen in one burst. We oftentimes will work on something for a few months straight, get frustrated with it, and then set it aside work on a different one for a while. We had about a year of recording prep for this album. So once the compositions were complete, it took quite a while to get them flowing well enough that we could say we can sit and play them relatively flawlessly as a group in the studio. We usually decide it is complete when no one is complaining about any of the transitions or the flow anymore. There are different thresholds for each of us on that. I am confident the band would agree I have the highest, and Jeremiah has the lowest. 6. What fuels this, almost obsessive, passion for perfection? It's not that we are obsessive people; it's not our character. The music itself demands it, which is a hard thing to understand, I think. We are playing music that, for large chunks anyway, is either played flawlessly or it is garbage. That is not a product of a perfectionistic personality; it is a necessary ingredient in this style. So if you're in a blues band, or a punk band, and you come in a beat early on a measure, or you play the chorus a little too fast, you just catch back up and course correct. It's not a huge problem. The concept of the song remains intact. Someone dropped an E and no one notices or cares. It's still like 95% correct and still sounds like a punk song and everyone recognizes it for continuing to be that same punk song, because honestly, you sort of know how it is supposed to go even if you've never heard it before. But if you are playing a piece of music whose very essence is defined by the interplay of 5 different rhythms happening simultaneously, which creates this massive whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts, you are doing something different. If one of them is just slightly off, you are not at 95% correct and the part still holds together; you instead have an incoherent pile of garbage. There is very little tolerance for error in this music if the idea is going to get effectively conveyed. We have a lot of sections like that, where a slight fumble creates a wholesale structural collapse, and there is no redeeming it. It's horrifying when it happens. You know when that note gets dropped, there is no way it's getting picked back up- you just have to be ashamed. So it's different in some ways than traditional rock music. You don't look at a skyscraper and say "well one of those girders is 2% off plumb, but who cares- it's still a building." And you don't tell the engineer who insists it is corrected (s)he should chill and quit being a perfectionist. You thank that person because 2% off is a complete failure in this instance. It's not "close enough," and 98% building. It's a pile of rubble that has made a lot of money and energy lost.

7. With multiple years in between releases, do you ever struggle with changing tastes or interests?

Not really; Yowie is its own thing, and so no matter what else we may be into, it occupies its own space in our minds. We did change our approach a bit on this album, but even with a new guitarist, it is still unmistakably Yowie. 8. To say Yowie is unique is an understatement. Where do you find inspiration? I think each of us finds it in pushing boundaries. Just about everything we write, we can't play at first. We have to force ourselves to expand our abilities, to be more and more ambitious. For me, I seethe with a lot of rage about a lot of horrifying things I see happening in our society, and being able to separate from that and play very intellectually and technically challenging stuff seems to help balance things out. 9. For all the gear nerds out there, myself included, what are your setups and how has it evolved over the years? Do you feel that your rigs are crucial to your sound? We may be the least gear oriented band you have ever talked to; no, I really don't think the rigs are crucial. Chris plays through a nondescript amp. Jeremiah has an ampeg, although his guitar is sort of weird- it is a custom guitar someone just made for him because they liked our music. And it is strung/tuned rather uniquely. For me, I did get an acrylic set to record this album, because on past albums the clarity on my toms was sort of lacking, and when you can't hear a good chunk of what these interlocking rhythms are doing, well then you aren't really hearing the song at all. So I guess that sort of counts. I want all the drums I am playing to be audible, which seems like a no brainer but it is actually a bigger pain in the ass than you might think with music as dense as this. 10. Was the decision to be an instrumental band conscious? 

Well our music is typically pretty thick, and so I can't really imagine another player of any sort doing yet another layer on top of this without it turning into a mess. And honestly, if somehow there were vocals, comprised of words, I would feel like it would take away from the music. The band doesn't need vocals, in my opinion. It's got plenty going on. I can't imagine someone singing along to one of our songs. What words would they pick? There was some guy who kept writing us, insisting he was going to win us over and be the ultimate vocalist for us. Eventually we told him to knock himself out and send us a recording. Never happened. I assume he tried and gave up.

Bandcamp: Thank you to Haley for editing this and to Mark for rewriting the into paragraphs. Y'all save my illiterate ass.

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