Guest List: Why?
Guest List by Yoni Wolf
Welcome to the latest edition of Pitchfork's Guest List. Each week, we ask one of our favorite artists to fill us in on what they've been up to lately: which tracks they can't stop spinning, what books they can't put down, and what new bands they've caught on tour. This week it's Yoni Wolf of Why?, who secretly aspires to be an Olympic figure skater, protests having to hear techno on the radio in the morning, and finally explains why "Super Mario Bros. 2" is so different from the series' other titles.
>> Favorite New Songs from the Past Year
That's a tough one. I don't know that many new things, so much. Let's see, there's that song, I really like that song on that Dntel record [Dumb Luck]. I really like the Jenny Lewis song on that. That's an awesome song. It's called "Roll On". And there, we put out a record by these guys called Thee More Shallows. There's a song on there I really like, called, "Night at the Knight School". I don't know if you've heard that, but that's the shit. That's a great song. There was a Fog record that came out this year, some friends of mine. There's a song on there I really like. It's called, "I Have Been Wronged". It's a terrific song. And there's a Xiu Xiu song on the record that just came out, it was the single, I think. You guys had it up on your site for a while, "I Do What I Want When I Want". That's a real nice song.
>> Favorite Older Songs at the Moment
I've been listening to this Leonard Cohen song called "Take This Longing", which is the last song on the The Best of Leonard Cohen, which is fucking awesome. I've been listening to that record the past couple of days. Let's say Liz Phair, "Chopsticks". I've been listening to that a lot. I've been listening to "Grounded" a lot, which is a Pavement song off of Wowee Zowee. Yeah, I suppose those are a few that I've been really over-obsessing about lately.
>> Favorite New Band
There's a band that we're bringing on tour with us that I like a lot. It's called Cryptacize. They're some homies of mine. It's Nedelle [Torrisi], she had a solo act on Kill Rock Stars for a while, and Chris Cohen, who used to be in Deerhoof. And this other guy [Michael Carreira -Ed.]. It's a real nice little project. It's cool. It's really quiet. Sort of understated, but real pretty melodies, and cool arrangements.
>> Favorite Song Ever
Favorite song ever? Uh...how about the theme song to "Curb Your Enthusiasm"? [starts humming "Curb" theme song] I'm just kidding. That's got to be the most annoying thing. I watched 10 episodes in a row, and every time that comes on, I'm like, "nooooooooo! What am I doing with my life?" I don't know. Favorite song, that's a tough one...let's go with the theme song from "Curb Your Enthusiasm" [laughs].
>> Best Recent Concert
I was at this Dirty Projectors show, this was a few months ago, but this would have to go down as the best show I've seen in...maybe ever. It was pretty incredible. They played a show in San Francisco at Bottom of the Hill, and it just blew my fucking mind. Honestly, like, they're so tight; that dude [Dave Longstreth], he must be a slave-driver. I don't know what the fuck kind of hypnotism he's into. Like, he's definitely on some shit, I'll say that. I don't know, they sound so fucking great, the harmonies.... There's this one song where the two girls are like, one's on the on beat, one's on the off beat...I don't know, that just made me want to fucking curl up and die somewhere. That show, Jesus, I couldn't believe it!
>> Last Great Film I Saw
I just saw that There Will Be Blood movie. That was the last movie I saw in theaters. It was good, man. Pretty crazy...Daniel Day-Lewis, man. Gotta give it up to DDL. Killin' it! Very believable. It's disturbing, but it's good.
>> Last Great Book I Read
I just read a book by Flannery O'Connor, called Wise Blood. Have you read that one?
Pitchfork: Actually, it's one of my favorite books of all time.
It's terrific. I really liked that. There's this passage, I had to read it for like 20 people. The book is about this guy who shows up in this small town and decides that he wants to become a preacher for the Church of Christ Without Christ or some nihilist kind of shit. He ends up, well, I won't ruin it.
I like her writing, mostly. It's not even the story that interests me so much, it's just the way that she puts her sentences together. There's this passage in the second chapter, I think, that's just about a paragraph long, and it's just the most perfect writing. It captures the sublime and the very discreet all at one. Little subtleties, while capturing the movement of the universe. She's terrific.
>> Favorite Piece of Musical Equipment
I have this AKG-C414. I don't want to sound like a fucking nerd. It's a microphone! I got it for, as an advance for this old band of mine called cLOUDDEAD. The label guy gave me this mic to use for the record. Since then-- that was maybe five or six years ago-- I've just always used this mic and this mic only, pretty much, to record at my house. It's just tried and true, works pretty much on anything. >> Favorite Record Shop
I just like other people's iTunes collections. That's pretty much how I roll these days. There was a time, maybe, where I'd go to the record store, but now I just sort of trust other people's opinions, and go with what they tell me to take off their iTunes. It's really the best way to learn about new music for me. I have some friends that are very savvy. I don't really know shit, or know how to learn shit about music, so I just trust about five people as my trustworthy advisors.
>> Best Purchase of the Past Year
I went in on this little four-room bed and breakfast place. It's outside of Port Au Prince in Haiti. This realtor friend of mine advised me on this thing, so I went in on it with five other recording artist people. It's this little four-room bed and breakfast, real cute. I've seen pictures, I've never been there, but I'm proud of the little place. It's called Le Chateau de l'Homme Triomphe, which I think is the Chateau of the Triumphant Man. Nice little place, and one day maybe I'll retire down there and run the place or some shit. I don't know. It's not really about the money, it's just cool to have a place like that to be able to go if I want to spend some time or whatever.
>> Best Thing I Did This Year
That's easy, that's very easy for me. This is a little weird for me to say; I don't think I've ever said this to the press. I've been figure skating since I was a little kid. My parents put me in lessons when I was six years old, and I've been doing it every since. It's not like I'm that good at this point, but when I was 16, I actually tried out for the Olympics. I placed 332nd. I can't say that things went so well for me, but that's something... 332nd, that's something [laughs].
Well, I was in Calgary in October 2007 and I met some really important people in a café, actually. Just struck up a conversation, and we were talking about figure skating and shit, and somehow it came up that they knew about Why? They asked me if I wanted to go skate the Stampede Corral. I don't know if you know about figure skating much or not, but that's where the 88 Olympics took place. I fucking skated on the same ice as Brian Boitano, Viktor Petrenko, Debi Thomas. It was a fucking thrill. It was amazing. l just did a fucking salchow of glory there. I think I skated better than I have in 10 years there. The vibe was right, I could just feel the fucking energy, it was just pulsating.
>> Favorite Venue
You know what? I really like the Great American Music Hall right here in San Francisco. We're playing there. We're headlining for the first time on March 6. That's our record-release show for Alopecia. I'm really looking forward to that. We've played there a handful of other times, opening for people and stuff like that. This will be our first headlining show. We're psyched. It's a big place, a beautiful room, chandeliers... Actually, I don't know if they have chandeliers [laughs], but it's a nice room anyway.
>> Favorite TV Show at the Moment
I love ["Curb Your Enthusiasm"], I do love that! That's definitely one of them, and that Season Six is disgustingly funny. But there's another show I've been watching. A show called "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia". It's some funny shit. It's kind of like a cross between "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and...what else is it like? It's got that same uncomfortable feeling as that show does. It's goofier or something like that. It's zanier, a little bit. It's a funny show.
>> Favorite Video Game at the Moment
I don't play video games. I did play video games not so long ago. One night, at my friend Adam's house-- you know the band Subtle?-- he's the guy from that band, and every two weeks he'll start pestering me, like, "let's get together, bring your boys over, we'll drink some beers and play some video games." He wants to have boys' night or whatever. I'm always like, "yeah, yeah, yeah, sure" but it never happens. Well, finally we made it happen. We went over there, and he has all the systems. But if I'm going to play...I don't even understand the 3-D games. I couldn't really do the Magic Eye thing so well, so Xboxes and shit don't make so much sense to me [laughs]. I always make him put on the regular Nintendo, you know, the first Nintendo. That's what I grew up with. So, we played some Nintendo games: "Mike Tyson's Punch Out!!", "Marble Madness", and "Super Mario Bros. 2".
I don't know if you knew this, but that night, Shawn, the guy who runs anticon., our record label, told us that "Super Mario Bros. 2" was not originally designed as a "Mario Bros." game. It was supposed to be designed as a whole separate kind of game, but to market it better, they decided they would make it Mario. You can tell...he said that, and then like, we were playing that and it's so different! It stands out! "Super Mario Bros. 3" and "Super Mario Bros." are pretty similar. I got as far as the Super NES, so "Super Mario World" or whatever-- that's the same, too. But "Super Mario Bros. 2" is completely different, just the way it's set up. Totally different schtick. I'm glad they did make it Mario, because it was a familiar character that I could latch onto, really stand behind, and purchase. It's a beautiful game, a wonderful game. I love it.
>> Favorite Radio Show
I don't know shows so much, but I always listen to KALX, which is the college radio station at Berkeley. That's pretty much the only station I listen to. I'll flip around to other stations if something really sucks on KALX. It's college radio. Anyone can get a show. It'll be like fucking the super-dancey trance show at 7 in the morning, or something like that. This morning, actually, I was driving my female friend around at 7. She had to go to work. We were listening to KALX. You know, if you have the 7 in the morning show, you have a certain responsibility to play chilled-out shit. Don't accept the 7 in the morning spot if you're going to play fucking house music. No one wants to hear it. You're only alienating people [laughs]. It's a good station, though.
>> My Ringtone
Vibrate, baby. Gotta be vibrate. Always vibrate. I don't need to fucking advertise my shit to everybody if I get a call. That's my own business. You know what I'm saying.
Why? is still on tour:
04/03 Chicago, IL @ The Abbey Pub
04/04 Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
04/05 Madison, WI @ Cafe Montmartre
04/06 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
04/07 Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium
04/08 Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room
04/09 Columbia, MO @ Mojo's
04/10 Lawrence, KS @ Jackpot
04/11 Denver, CO @ Hi-Dive
04/12 Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
04/14 Missoula, MT @ Badlander
04/15 Spokane, WA @ Big Easy
04/16 Vancouver, BC @ Media Club
04/17 Seattle, WA @ Vera Project
04/18 Portland, OR @ Holocene
04/19 Eugene, OR @ Indigo District