WHY? had to be one of the bigger buzz bands of Pitchfork this year. Brothers Yoni and Josiah Wolf and Doug McDiarmid have been pioneering their weird but intriguing mix of hip hop and indie rock since the early 2000s. They are a band that’s not afraid to experiment and explore, whether it’s within their own group or through others. We spoke to Josiah Wolf at Pitchfork about how WHY? has changed through the years.
HEAVE: You’re signed to Anticon now and I wanted to know what it’s like being a part of that collective. I think it’s a great group of musicians doing great things.
Josiah Wolf: At this point I’m a little removed from the scene since I don’t live there and I don’t really handle any of the Anticon guys. But in the past those guys have been a big influence on me and getting to know Adam Drucker and David Madison I knew from childhood and some of the other guys who I met from Ohio, yeah I thought it was awesome what they were doing. I was very and am still very proud to be a part of the whole collective. It’s a cool label.
HEAVE: Do you think it’s run better than some other labels, where the relationships are stronger?
JW: I don’t know about that. I mean, I think people perceive their relationships to be stronger than they are. There are some strong relationships within Anticon but nowadays it’s a label. The label manager Shaun, he works hard and he does what he can. I don’t think it’s the best run label because he doesn’t that many resources, the money obviously is not flowing in but he does a good job. Some of the people on the label are tight like I said but I don’t think it’s that much like a family necessarily.
HEAVE: It’s a business.
JW: Yeah it is a business.
HEAVE: I know your band is very open to collaboration. I know you have some members of Fog now in WHY? and you’ve done some other projects too. How do you decide to jump on to something else or to bring someone else into WHY?
JW: Well it just kind of happens most of the time. With the guys from Fog, we’ve wanted them to work with us for a long time but they’ve been busy with their own stuff. Finally it worked out timing wise so we decided. We had to really twist their arms to get them go out on the road with us but they did it and I think they’re happy they did and we’re happy they did. They were on our last record. Other collaborations are mostly happenstance. Yoni and Andrew did Hymie’s Basement together. They were visiting in Minneapolis and they just decided to start recording some stuff.
HEAVE: From Greenthink to WHY? you guys have put out a lot of music. Is there something to be said about constantly producing new music for the public?
JW: Yeah I think if you want to be in the public eye, if you want to be recognized and continue to grow in the music world then you have to keep putting stuff out. I don’t think you should put stuff out unless it’s good, I mean some people put out too much stuff. We may have a big catalog but we’re pretty slow at doing stuff.
HEAVE: And it’s all from different projects.
JW: Yeah. My brother’s very meticulous and he won’t release something unless he feels that it really needs to be released. Some people release stuff all the time. It’s a good balance but you have to plan to keep doing stuff if you want to stay alive.
HEAVE: In your life performance at Pitchfork Yoni was singing and rapping and everything in between. When you’re performing does that change create a different flow or change your personal dynamic?
JW: Well my brother’s the lyricist, the singer or the rapper, and for him he’d have to tell you. But I suspect, and I’ve heard him say things, like it’s not that much different but it’s the difference between choosing this or that food. It obviously has a different feeling but it all comes from the same place. It’s a different attitude. We have different emotions and we express them differently. For me, when I play the drums behind those different songs it’s definitely the rap stuff is more rhythmic and I can kind of be a little more beat oriented where the singing stuff is a little more straight forward. But it really depends on the song.
HEAVE: I know you guys just came back from Europe and in my past interviews with other bands I’ve heard that Europe is a great place for bands because the culture embraces the music and the arts more? Do you feel that way as well?
JW: Yeah in some ways. We do better here in general but Europe is great in other ways. They take better care of the artists there, the food is better, the venues, it goes from country to country though. Of course every country’s different. England’s is probably even worse than here as far as taking care of artists.
JW: Oh yeah, the venues there are even more disgusting in England than they are here in general. France, the venues are immaculate and they feed you great food but the audiences are sometimes not so excited and sometimes they are. It also depends on the city within the country. Paris is really good. Germany it varies depending on the city. But in general our audiences are better in the states I would say.
HEAVE: Why do you think you do better here than in Europe?
JW: A lot of it I would say is a language thing. For us the music is so lyrical. England too, we have a great England crowd and a great US crowd. But the rest is good and it depends on the city but it’s not so consistent as it is here or England.