Stop staring at the cracks in the wall

Stop staring at the cracks in the wall

WHY? kicks off 2013 with a hometown show at Taft Theatre

By Leo DeLuca
Photo:  [clockwise from left] Josiah Wolf, Doug McDiarmid, Yoni Wolf and Liz Wolf; photo credit: Aaron Conway

Ohio-based indie rock/hip-hop band WHY? has been garnering international acclaim the past few years. Evolving from experimental hip-hop groups such as cLOUDDEAD and Reaching Quiet, WHY? was the former stage name of front man Yoni Wolf. Once collaboration with brother Josiah Wolf (drums) and Doug McDiarmid (multi-instrumentalist) began in 2004, Yoni ceased personal use of the moniker and transferred it to the full band format.

Late last year, WHY? released the Sod in the Seed EP and the Mumps, etc. album within two months of one another. Shortly after, they embarked on a full-scale international tour that lasted nearly four months. After resting over the holidays, the band kicks off an exhaustive stateside stretch with a show on Friday, Feb. 8 at the Taft Theatre in their hometown of Cincinnati. I had the opportunity to speak with Doug McDiarmid about WHY?’s formation, Midwestern background, new releases and more.

You are a founding member of WHY? How did the band form? When was your first show as WHY?

Yoni and I were set up on a play date by a mutual friend in Cincinnati. I lugged my MPC over to his parents’ house and shared with him a smattering of my bedroom tinkering. We put a ragtag group together that included my friends John Meinken and Chris Messick and we played a few weird shows at York Street Café and upstairs at Southgate House … this group was a proto-WHY? group called Miss Ohio’s Nameless. We recorded an EP and took off for the Bay Area soon after.  – Doug McDiarmid

You grew up with Yoni and Josiah Wolf – the other founding members of WHY? Did you play music together when you were younger? When did you first start playing music together?

Nah, I never played with those guys in high school. I only knew who they were tangentially. I was playing guitar and trying to ride the waves of the southern Ohio ‘90s alternative movement while those guys were busy exploring the world of free-form funk-hop. -DM

Your stage show is very elaborate. You employ many musicians and instruments and your set up is very intricate. Have you felt the desire to strip down the sound and make the operation low-maintenance? 

Hell yeah, we always say we’d like to do that but we just keep growing! I think the songs are suited to a larger group with intricate arrangements. There is something nice about the idea of stripping things way down, if only because lugging and setting up stuff kind of gets old. But soon enough we’ll all be getting into real estate while Yoni is left alone trolling the spoken-word circuit. -DM

You went to Walnut Hills High School in nearby Cincinnati. Do you feel the culture of the Midwest has affected the ethos of WHY?’s sound in any way? 

Certainly, though it’s hard to pinpoint how exactly. I think it’s the kind of thing that inevitably seeps into the music in unconscious ways. There are several Cincinnati references in the songs and it has become home base for us again after being stationed on the west coast for several years. -DM

Last year was very busy for WHY? You released the Sod in the Seed EP in August and the Mumps, etc.  album in October – two records within two months of one another. Has the increased activity spurred momentum or given you the desire to rest once this album cycle is complete?

It seems as if after a long period of down time we’re eager to get back on the road and tour. Conversely, after long periods of touring, the opposite holds true and we can’t wait to sit around and stare at cracks in the wall. So essentially our lives are out of balance and we’re never content. Seriously though, the initial touring for the EP and album was pretty intense – almost four months with one small two-week break. But after resting for the holidays and New Year, it will be nice to continue again in February. -DM

What are WHY?’s plans for 2013? Are you recording or planning to record new material? Do you have new material? What are WHY?’s plans for the future?

I’m moving back to Cincinnati, where the rest of the WHY? gang has resettled. The idea is to get some type of designated studio space for the band where we can work on stuff at a more leisurely pace. In the past, we’ve allotted specific chunks of time for recording/rehearsing, pretty intensive and high pressure. Ideally, we’ll just let things happen naturally, at their own pace. (WHY? will be a jam-band within 12 months). -DM

WHY? will perform on Friday, Feb. 8 at The Taft Theatre Ballroom, 317 E. Fifth St. in Cincinnati. Also on the bill are Astronautilis and Dream Tiger. Tickets are $12 in advance $15 DOS. Doors at 9:30 p.m. For more information, visit whywithaquestionmark.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Leo DeLuca at LeoDeLuca@daytoncitypaper.com


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