Let's get some things out of the way. WHY? is a band—three Cincinnati-bred gentlemen who've shared a whole lotta past together. Two of them are brothers. Yoni Wolf, who founded the project by his lonesome in 1998 is one of those (see also: cLOUDDEAD, Greenthink, Reaching Quiet). The other is Josiah Wolf, who first started hitting the skins at their father's synagogue during worship service. They like being in a band together so don't ask about it. WHY?'s third fella is Doug McDiarmid, a high school friend born to French teachers, discovered by the Wolfs whilst playing guitar in a Steve Miller cover band. These men are handsome and meticulous, especially when they do ugly and unwieldy things with words and music.
Like we said, the project started awhile ago. Really, with Yoni in the synagogue basement on a forgotten four-track, recording bad poems and sloppy beats that none of us will ever hear (again, don't ask). Flash forward through his monumental discovery of A Tribe Called Quest and his later untimely egress from art school and you'll arrive at the next most pivotal moment, when the punctuated letters W-H-Y-? graduated from an enigmatic tag loopily scrawled across various Ohio surfaces to something printed on tapes, fliers, records and CDs. As a founding member of Anticon, Yoni had one of the first releases on the label: the Split EP! with Odd Nosdam, WHY?'s half a kaleidoscopic seven-song suite of sweetly sour song-rap.
And then the albums began, with the cult-revered Oaklandazulasylum in 2003, documenting WHY?'s quickening march from an enticingly idiosyncratic outside-of-art, inside-the-bedroom experiment to the fiercely chopsy and wildly creative band of badasses they are today. (If you haven't heard their stuff, you should check it out. It's like pop-inflected psychedelic folk-hop, or chamber music imagined by the most lovelorn and death-anxious Beat Poet that never lived.) 2005's lauded Elephant Eyelash paved the way for tours (Silver Jews, Yo La Tengo, Islands), collabs (Danielson, Department of Eagles, Hymie’s Basement, Subtle) and more albums. Oh, and they lived in Oakland for awhile. (You remember that, don't you?)
Everyone comes into their own at different times. For WHY?, most agree that this happened across 2008 and 2009 with a pair of oddly engrossing stunners—the tightly rhythmic Alopecia and its quieter, kinda country cousin Eskimo Snow—which turned the oft-boxed music world on its hella gross cauliflower ear. High marks were awarded by the coolest of customers as the band momentarily swelled to five with the induction of Fog guys Andrew Broder (shred) and Mark Erickson (boom). When they finally came off of the road, WHY? set themselves to humbler tasks: turning out intimate tunes for lucky fans (via a Golden Ticket mail-order merch contest) and intricate beats for rapper Serengeti's praised Family & Friends LP.
Now, it happens to be 2012, so there's a new EP called Sod in the Seed and a new LP, their fifth.