Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Yoni Wolf, the front man and songwriter for the Bay Area group WHY?, stood over the back side of the upright piano, at the completion of this session, methodically laying out his materials. He placed numerous pieces of bread out flat, ready for the trimmings. He'd brought in his supplies and was making sandwiches for anyone who wanted one before they got back into the van for the short drive over to Grinnell, Iowa, where they were playing a college gig that night. It seemed appropriate that Wolf was using the instrument as a kitchen counter, something upon which anyone could be caught preparing their meals, as this man -- with his smart and distinct, nasally voice - but it was a first for us. We cannot recollect anyone else using our piano as a food station and it makes sense that Wolf was the first, as he seems to have no separation of church and plate in his life, stirring everything together into one long lifeline of an experience.
The insights and observations that he makes and conveys in WHY?'s music are big-brained and incredibly forthcoming. They are the kind of raw thoughts that put you one step closer to a version of transcendence that, don't let anyone kid you, is the most sought after state out there. They sound like the ideas of someone who knows nothing more important than pounding out of himself all that it means to stretch the boundaries of his depths, to get to the crux of what he actually believes and what he might someday leave behind. It's not about an estate, but more so the idea that he'd rather be a twisted and squeezed bone dry lemon wedge on the tablecloth of a restaurant table when he expires - completely strained of everything within him that was worthwhile.
The song "One Rose," from the group's latest album "Eskimo Snow," is a manifesto of the band's many manifestos, offering the lines, "A man should die gaunt/And not bloated and overdone/There should be new words hidden on the shadows on his face." It's a loaded line that suggests that one can never fully get to the center of meaning, but he should wear himself down to the quick in an attempt. His writing makes is apparent that he's incapable of escaping the impulse to just keep working on that hardest puzzle of all - finding meaning in what others find impossible or meaningless. This means that he takes his meals where he works, eats where he sleeps and sleeps where he writes, where he loves, where he strums, where he sighs and where he yips and yelps, turning everything into a full circle of karmic investigation - all of it a body of work that will remain as a lasting impression. He questions himself and those around him. He seeks true love and he seeks warm hands. He wonders about the ruses we all fall for when he asks, "What should these earnest hands be holding?" leaving himself with few answers, just a hanging pause.
WHY? Official Site