Hardcore punk, the fastest, craziest music of it’s time, sprung out of the hands of kids barely out or barely in high school. With just attitude, rage, insolence and ever expanding musical knowledge as skills; these bands would turn vinyl sides into yells of punishment to anybody who otherwise would not pay attention to them and into anthems for kids like them who felt the same way. Now, 20+ years after the initial suburban punk invation; most bands won’t tap into the same pit of anger and expression as their forefathers, except a band who wear their youth as a badge of honor: Wires On Fire.
Wires’ music plays with the same intensity as prime HC, but their sounds aren’t limited to just three chords and hyperspeed drumming. The band fuses the creepy grooves of the Stooges, the Birthday Party and Jesus Lizard with the more traditional classic rock sounds of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Neil Young; their songs usually feature sections that snake around the music spectrum, knowing where it’s heading without you foreseeing it; guitars duel in a way that recall the dynamic interplay of bands like Television, Drive Like Jehu and At The Drive-In, all played in a way that’s so furious and edgy you sweared they were going to burst out and blow up in any second.
The band has released an EP thru Buddyhead Records called Homewrecker (available at buddyhead.com, it will be in stores soon) and are preparing for a hectic live schedule that’ll keep them busy until September, they will also release a split cd/dvd with like-minded adolescent band the Mean Reds, in which each will cover a youth anthem (the Wires tackle Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” while the Reds cover Minor Threat’s “Minor Threat”), the dvd will include live footage from both bands.
I talked to Evan Weiss about 6th grade bands, the meaning of punk and hicks.
Marcos Hassan (The Obsolete): So, well, first of all, please introduce yourself. Name, what you do in the band, etc.
Evan Weiss: Ok. Hi, my name is Evan. i sing and play guitar in Wires On Fire.
Can you give us a quick history/Behind The Music on Wires On Fire?
I think we really started in 2001, i had been working on some songs and i showed them to Mike (Shuman), our bass player, and he was like "let’s start a band". i had just tried to start a few bands but nothing clicked, i was playing with strangers so playing with my friends seemed like the right thing to do, we were all like 16 and 15 years old, practicing for hours and hours and hours...
Wait a second, so Wires On Fire is your first band?
Haha, no. i had my first band when i was in the 6th grade actually, we would practice every weekend and play stuff like the school talent show, birthday parties, etc. we started out doing like, i dunno, pop punk covers and shit, we'd do “Stand By Me” and shit like that for our parents, “Twist And Shout”; but towards the end i was discovering more punk music, i remember at the end we did an FYP cover, who were like, a big local SoCal punk band in the mid-late 90s; not BIG, but you know what i’m saying. and then i had Warwagon, when i was 14, which was original music.
Warwagon is a cool name.
Haha, Warwagon was a great band, influenced by mainly 80’s hardcore or bands influenced by 80’s hardcore. But yeah, onto the next question.
Yeah, well it's not really a next question, sort of like continous question or something; what was the first record that got to you and how old were you when you experienced it?
The first two CDs i bought were Nirvana's Nevermind and Green Day's Dookie, i was 10 years old and they both totally changed everything for me, i wanted nothing more than to start playing guitar, it opened up a whole world of rock music to me.
So the Wires just practiced for hours and hours and hours and then...
We practiced for hours and hours and like 2 or 3 months later we played a show, right away we wanted to play out
3 months later...what was practice like? how many hours did you spend praticing? how many days a week?...
Practices would be long, it was really fun, we had never really played the kind of music we were playing before. It started in spring, but then it was summer; we were young, no jobs, no school, practice all day, get drunk at night...
Living the underage rock n' roll lifestyle; so what were the songs like when you started out? what did they sound like? did some of them survived all the way thru to now?
It was a bit different, way more directly influenced by like Drive Like Jehu, early Gravity Records stuff, early 90’s that is...umm, Refused a bit, stuff like that. But not really copycat, just that style and vibe, it wasn’t till a bit later we got into Sabbath or Zeppelin, Young, Birthday Party, etc...Early shows were way more chaotic, always getting unplugged, just young kids going nuts; you know, we were playing angry music, we had a lot of energy. we still play “Daisy”...
You dropped out of high school, right?
Haha, no, we all graduated. Some of us barely...but yeah, Mike and i are the only original members from that era.
Cool, yeah it still counts. so "Daisy" survived from the first batch of songs?
Yes, when we recorded our EP, i think we wanted to record one more song and we had a newer song and the guy who was recording, Frances Miranda, was like "do that song off the demo" and we were like "what?, no way, we have new songs, that shit is wimpy" and he was like "put two guitars on it and make it fucked up". In the earlier days, i would only play guitar for half the set, I’d just run around and sing, so i played on it and we just made it more fucked and took what we had learned and put it into that song. i think it turned out cool.
So then what? After gigging and stuff, how did you end up at Buddyhead and recording the Homewrecker EP?
Ok well, i had known Travis (Keller) and Aaron (North) for a while before i was in Wires, Aaron saw Warwagon once haha, but anyway, we had a band, and i would tell them about it, see them at shows or whatever and then after we played about 3 shows we recorded a demo and i would just bring a bunch to every show i went to and i’d hand ‘em out to bands or friends or, you know, people who book shows, etc...Travis and Aaron came out to a show, and since then have been supportive, they would put us on shows, or tell other people to put us on shows but we were really young, and i don’t think they wanted to deal with us on a "professional" level yet; so a year or so later we were seniors in high school, playing more and they would still help us out or come to our shows...
...and you "blossomed in front of their eyes..."
Haha, sure; and one night Travis was kind of like "do you want to be on our label or what?"
Haha, straight and to the point; did you make a lot of friends by giving them your demo? you know, did you meet cool bands and stuff?
Hmm...friends, aquantances, sure, people who were into it would help us out, it was cool. Actually yeah, thinking about it, i have a lot of good friends now who i met during that time; a lot of people were really impressed, or shocked, or thought it was funny, how young we were.
So, who are your holy bands? your main influences? the bands you look up to?
Wow so many...I, and the rest of the band, we are music freaks, we hang out with music freaks, we spend most of our moeny at the record store, i have lots of favorite bands, like we were talking earlier, Bad Brains are one of my favorites, i love a lot of american punk from the late 70’s 80’s: Hüsker Dü, Black Flag, you know, i could go on forever; i also like british stuff like the Damned, later brit stuff like Joy Division and New Order, Public Image; i love Neil Young, i love Bob Dylan, i love Beatles, Zep, Sabbath, Miles Davis...fuck, i could really go on forever!
I try to be influenced by all my favorites, i dont want to limit the music i make into one specific genre, and i think that is a result of all the different stuff we like as a band; yeah, i kinda don’t like that question, what influences you, it’s like fucking everything man!, my record collection and my life.
You mention a lot of bands you weren't even born to see when they were together, do you think you missed out on the good old days as a music fan and/or as a band? do you feel bad about it?
Yeah it would have been rad to see a lot of those bands...nah, i don’t really get bent out of shape about it, its just a shame that the music world right now is filled with so much bullshit...
...Well yeah, but then again, there's bands like you guys
Yeah, there are LOTS of good bands and i think that kind of makes it more special, when you find a new band you really like because for every one of them there are 10000000000000 other shitty bands.
Ok now, i know you said you don't want to dwell on it but, if it was possible right now, and you could choose anyone in history, who would you like to go on tour with?
Oh wow, so many bands, larger scale stuff like Zeppelin or something but i mean...Jesus Lizard...i don’t know i could really go on forever, so many bands...
Let's focus on now; i want to ask you about the guitar interplay which is, of course, one of the most characteristic things about your sound; how did it came about?
Ok well, that really came about when Jeff (Lynn) came into the band and the new songs we were writing.
Do you sit down and figure stuff out or does it come from instinct and jamming?
Both, some parts, actually, i would sit down with a tape recorder and write a bass line and 2 guitar parts but most of the time it’s like this: i’ll come up with a riff or something and show it to Mike and Jeff and they just come up with parts. i think it’s like we are all confident with each other’s playing and writing and style but, if someone comes up with something that we don’t like, we let it be known, and work around ‘till we are all happy with a song
Is that the same for when you come up with the arrangements? because your arrangements are very odd
Yes, you know, someone might have a whole song arranged but then we examine it and we tear it to pieces, we try so many different arrangements and styles and grooves and beats, we really fucking tear the songs apart, that helps us understand what is going on and then we put it together in the way we feel the ideas and emotions are best expressed. we'll argue and it’ll get ugly sometimes but in the end, it works out.
What about lyrics? how important are they? what's your inspiration?
Lyrics are very important to me, my inspiration come from all over the place: my own life, those around me, current events, history, books, you name it. but lyrics for me sometimes take a long time to write because i cannot force it out and i want to believe in all the words i’m singing.
Do you think Los Angeles and/or California are major influences not only lyrical but in your whole life as a band?
Yes, i hate to sound cliché because every band from LA is influenced by LA but its true for us, born and raised here, i really identify with this city, we’ve toured the whole country, i’ve been out of the country too and i feel like this is the most beautiful place on the planet.
To you, what does punk mean?
To me punk isn’t a style of dress or not even really a style of music, it’s a way of living and making art and not compromising your values and creativity for anyone. To me, punk is about freedom.
You have a very old school way of thinking about punk.
Yeah well, when i got into punk, it was those bands that really spoke to me and i don’t know, it kind of echoed how i was raised, my parents always taught me to think for myself and my dad always said and says "you reap what you sew" and "there’s no free lunch". Growing up, i knew so many kids whose mommys and daddies worked in the industry and they almost got handed record deals, i always thought that was boring and just not in the true rock and roll spirit, i think it’s important to eat shit for your art, it’s not supposed to always be comfortable. Not saying i live on the streets or anything but when we tour, we tour in a van we spent our own money on, we sleep on peoples floors...what punk bands do and have done for decades.
You had some line-up changes lately.
Yeah, my bro (Darren Weiss) is in the band since January or February, new drummer. (Dash Hutton, the Wires’ former) drummer left cos of life, he had a lot he needed to deal with, he’s still one of my best friends and all but it was apparent that he needed to take care of other things. My bro knew all the songs, and is a great drummer so he joined the next day.
So what have you been listening to lately?
Right now, Neil Young – Zuma. Lately, Dinosaur Jr - You’re Living All Over Me, Thin Lizzy, Circus Lupus.
Are you looking forward to any album coming out this year? any new good albums you've bought recently?
Hmmm...Black Mountain album is rad. I tend to reach for older stuff...you mentioned Mean Reds earlier, they just recorded a full length, i’m looking foward to hearing that.
I just read in your site that you're putting a split with the Mean Reds. what's up with that? why did you choose to cover "I'm Eighteen"?
Well, we are friends with them, we are both young and there seems to be a mutual respect for each other’s band, it just kinda made sense; we started playing shows together about a year ago and most of the times we play together ends up insane, felt like something that should be documented.
We were debating other tunes, a Wasted Youth cover, i really wanted to do "Degenerated" by Reagan Youth, untill we realized the song the band in the movie Airheads is a shitty hair metal version of the song! Alice Cooper’s Love It To Death is a great album, i love that whole album but “Eighteen” is a great youth anthem, it sort of fit our style; we change it up a bit, threw a saxophone on it.
So what can people expect from you live?
110 percent, we love playing music, we love playing music live, it’s what we live for so we give it all we’ve got. A raw real human experience.
Has the road treated you well?
Yes, very well. Of course, it’s no easy ride but we have played lots of great shows with awesome bands and met great people all over the country.
Which have been like the best bands you've played with?
Hmmm, well, recently we played a bunch of shows with a band called Two Gallants, they are really rad, great guys. Playing with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was cool, i really like that band; I wanted to hate them when i first started seeing press for them a few years back but then i heard their record, then saw them live, they are one of my favorite current bands. Battles are really good, we played with The Fall which was really weird, but really cool.
Those guys are legends. You played with Dillinger Escape Plan, right?
Yes, those shows were really fun; i didn’t think we would go over well with their crowd but we were received better than we expected; those guys are insane, such a machine.
Yeah, you expect them to be a little sloppy live, but they're jumping off the monitors and contorting themselves and they don't miss a note. Have you had anything weird happen while on the road?
Everyday is weird when you are living out of a van and on strangers floors! Hahahaha. I had some creepy dude ask me about our band at a gas station coming home from Texas in March, he was some hick, crazy red bloodshot eyes, the most crazy blistered hands and he was like telling me about some band that came through and he was like "they gave me a cd, they were good. It’s like nigger music with horns, but it’s good." i just walked out, hahaha, and thought "holy shit, i can’t believe this dude actually said that"
The road is an eye opener, isn't it?
Totally, playing music for me is. I’m a white boy from the suburbs, music has taken me to really bad parts of town growing up, going to punk shows, lots of shows are in sketchy areas so it really opened my eyes to what is REALLY happening in some parts of LA, and later when i started touring the country.
So, when are you recording your full lenght?
We’re thinking maybe winter time. We’ve been writing a bunch of new songs and we want to fine tune them before we record. Touring this summer will help.
You told me before that this new batch of songs are more "song oriented".
Some are, yes. Less fat, some shorter songs.
But are you still pulling labyrinth arrangements on other songs? or that now belongs to vintage Wires On Fire?