COMPOSED: Wolf Eyes complete their “songwriting” at cacophonous, beer-soaked live shows.
For the better part of the past decade, Michigan’s Wolf Eyes have made some of the most feral, ear-stinging, metal-machine-gone-mad music this side of anywhere (or at least west of Japan). Alongside Rhode Island’s Lightning Bolt and New York’s Prurient, the trio of Nate Young, John Olson, and Mike Connelly have been at the epicenter of an explosive North American noise scene.
As the band prepared for a US tour that will bring them to the Middle East upstairs next Thursday, I exchanged a brief flurry of e-mails with guitarist and tape manipulator Connelly, whose recent tour with his other full-time band, Hair Police, had been cut short by a traffic accident. (No one was hurt.) Connelly is the band’s newest member, filling the shoes of reel-to-reel and electronics whiz Aaron Dilloway, who left Wolf Eyes to live in Nepal.
As he tells it, the transition was an easy one. “After Dilloway left the band, Nate and John were deciding on who to fill his place. While it was a few months before they ultimately decided on me (and no, I didn’t ‘audition’ or anything like that), it ended up feeling very natural. I had been a huge fan, of course, for years. Some of the earliest Hair Police gigs were with Wolf Eyes. So, first practice, we just ran through the songs, and I more or less hit every part. I mean, I think I’d seen them play ‘Village Oblivia’ over 50 times at that point!!”
The band are now working on the follow-up to 2006’s Human Animal (Sub Pop). There have been limited-edition cassette and CD-R releases in the meantime — too many to count, really, and Connelly will only venture a guess. But these small-run releases are not simply tour souvenir throw-aways for the merch table — representing some of the group’s abstract, experimental work, they provide material for subsequent full-length albums. “One approach cannot exist without the other,” says Connelly. “Our proper albums are culminations of jams, rehearsals, and shows that are documented on the CD-Rs or tapes.”
And though Wolf Eyes are prolific, their songs evolve over periods of experimentation and rumination. “Usually,” Connelly points out, “we’ll set aside days for songwriting. We’ll all bring in ideas, sounds, and what-not to help craft a song. Once we have some sort of basis, we’ll just start jamming over it, changing it, fine-tuning it until it sounds nothing like it did the first day but so much better. It’s rare that a song will be instantly good and no changes are made to it, even over the course of a year or more.”
It’s really during the band’s cacophonous, beer-soaked live shows that songs are fleshed out. As Connelly admits, a song can sound completely different from show to show. And how do audiences around the country react to their raw, fist-pumping performances? “Some just want to stand idly and watch a performance while others want to tear themselves to pieces. Either way is fine with us, really. Though I’ll say Boston usually leans toward the latter style.”
WOLF EYES + HOWARD STELZER + QUITS | Middle East upstairs, 472 Mass Ave, Cambridge | April 3 | 617.864.EAST