WHY? For what? Which reason, cause or purpose? What unnamed goal?
In abstract, WHY? is the process of adapting to the business of existing. It’s the searching for something clearly unreachable, with hopes of finding small significance along the way. It’s the attempt to understand what’s really going on by observing, neither by telescope nor microscope, but by naked eye, the intimate details in the most mundane of life’s happenings. It’s the need to describe the gist of the feeling of the tiniest modicum of The Great Universal Unutterable Joke we are all always not laughing at – except when we are.
WHY? is living out the set-up of that old gag over and over, until we finally reach a punch-line. Or we die and we don't.
WHY? is also a trio of handsome Cincinnati-born men who fiddle with skins, strings, bells and microphones and present their findings to the listening public. Singer Yoni Wolf grew up the second son to an art book editor and a rabbi. He got his start recording bad poems and sloppy beats on the family synagogue’s 4-track. In junior high he discovered hip-hop. At art school, he learned how to drop out. Yoni’s brother Josiah played drums at Rabbi Wolf’s worship service as a kid, became a band geek as a teen, and fell in love with Thelonious Monk on his way to study music at University of Cincinnati. Doug McDiarmid would eventually get expelled from that same school for carrying a stun gun, but first he was raised by two French teachers and taught piano while in kindergarten. He also went to high school with the Wolfs, where he played in Steve Miller cover bands. In various permutations together and with other now-notables (i.e. Doseone, Odd Nosdam, Mr. Dibbs, Atmosphere’s Slug), these three created and/or contributed to several freewheeling rap and lo-fi rock-related projects including Greenthink, Miss Ohio’s Nameless, Reaching Quiet, and the seminal cLOUDDEAD outfit. Their wildest dreams were achieved when they relocated to Oakland to make pop-inflected psychedelic folk-hop.
For four years, two EPs and 2003’s cult classic LP, Oaklandazulasylum, WHY? comprised Yoni Wolf alone. He honed his trademark delivery – a sickly sweet, half-rapped, singsong style – shined up his wry, picturesque poetry, and developed a clip-and-collage aesthetic using keyboards, toys, guitars, samplers and anything worth banging on. When Doug and Josiah moved west to join Yoni, they brought with them a hoard of instruments and the ability to wail on every last one. By chops and imagination, WHY? grew into a thing of flesh, bones and fully fledged songs, resulting in 2005’s Elephant Eyelash album. Critics swooned; ladies lauded; WHY? neither resisted nor rested. They toured – with Silver Jews, Yo La Tengo, and Islands. They collaborated – with Danielson Family, Department Of Eagles, and Subtle (Yoni also recorded with Fog’s Andrew Broder as “Hymie’s Basement”). They put out yet more music.
The album Eskimo Snow is something of a companion piece to the celebrated Alopecia LP. In February of 2007, the WHY? trio temporarily relocated to Minneapolis and officially inducted Fog players Andrew Broder and Mark Erickson. Recording live as a five-piece, WHY? created two distinct albums from those sessions: Alopecia, with its taut rhythms and biting wit, and Eskimo Snow, a shadowy and sprawling set that finds Yoni resigned to and ever-awed by those infinite erring bits of existence that make WHY? what it is.