and New, Improved Recording are proud to present the third installment of New, Improved, LIVE, our ongoing monthly series of live studio sessions with top indie bands, recorded at the New, Improved Recording studio in Oakland, California. This month’s session features Yoni Wolf of WHY? delivering exclusive solo vocal-and-piano renditions of songs from the band’s upcoming album as well as a terrific Pavement cover.

There’s a certain full circle feeling to inviting Yoni into the studio to perform solo, since WHY? began as a solo project before it evolved into the full band acclaimed for Elephant Eyelash and Alopecia. On September 22nd, WHY? returns with Eskimo Snow, recorded at the same time as Alopecia, but showcasing a darker side to the group’s sound. Earlier this year, as the band prepared for the new album’s release, Yoni performed some solo shows that showcased the vulnerable, moving core that underlies his band’s layered arrangements.

We’re pleased to provide the only studio recording you’re going to hear of these solo interpretations, including two songs from Eskimo Snow, one from Alopecia, and a cover of Pavement’s “Shoot the Singer (1 Sick Verse)” (from 1992’s Watery, Domestic EP).

Videos from the session, courtesy of Pandora, will be published later this month!

New, Improved, LIVE, featuring: Yoni Wolf (of WHY?)

1. Yoni Wolf (of WHY?) – “Shoot the Singer (1 Sick Verse)” (cover; originally by Pavement on 1992’s Watery, Domestic EP)

[audio:|artists=Yoni Wolf (of WHY?)|titles=Shoot the Singer (1 Sick Verse)] Download: 160kbps mp3 / 320kbps mp3

2. Yoni Wolf (of WHY?) – “Brook & Waxing” (originally from Alopecia)[audio:|artists=Yoni Wolf (of WHY?)|titles=Brook & Waxing] Download: 160kbps mp3 / 320kbps mp3

3. Yoni Wolf (of WHY?) – “Against Me” (originally from Eskimo Snow)[audio:|artists=Yoni Wolf (of WHY?)|titles=Against Me] Download: 160kbps mp3 / 320kbps mp3

4. Yoni Wolf (of WHY?) – “Eskimo Snow” (originally from Eskimo Snow)[audio:|artists=Yoni Wolf (of WHY?)|titles=Eskimo Snow] Download: 160kbps mp3 / 320kbps mp3


Yoni Wolf (of WHY?) – “Against Me”

Yoni Wolf (of WHY?) – “Brook & Waxing”

Interview with Yoni Wolf

The Bay Bridged: What’s your history with New, Improved Recording?

Yoni Wolf: Well, I’ve been working here with Eli Crews for a couple years. I guess the first big thing we did here was my band WHY?’s album Alopecia. We mixed it in August ’07 and then we mixed another full length here. We’ve done sort of other things here–this thing called Almost Live, which was like a “live in the studio” kind of thing with our band.

TBB: Could you talk a little bit about the songs you played in the session tonight?

YW: Most of the songs I played are from the forthcoming WHY? album called Eskimo Snow. I also played a Pavement cover called “Shoot the Singer (1 Sick Verse)”. That’s off the Watery, Domestic EP, from like the early-, mid-nineties. And then I played one older WHY? song off Alopecia.

TBB: What inspired you to play the Pavement song?

YW: I heard it recently and I just always have liked that song. I like that EP a lot, but that song specifically, I took to it. So today and yesterday, I just thought, “well, let me try to learn it.” I learned it on the piano and just like everything, I always make everything slow and dark. But their version is, I don’t want to say danceable, but it’s a little more driving.

TBB: Is there a way you could characterize how the new WHY? record sounds compares to Alopecia?

YW: Basically we recorded those two at the same time actually in Minneapolis–well, Alopecia had a few songs that we recorded later out here with Dee Kesler–but the majority of the two albums were recorded together. Then we realized we had two records, so we started to split them up, according to their lyrical content and sound. The Alopecia camp, I would say, was more close mics on the drums, tighter more repetitive drum beats, and drum and bass together. A little more tailored and tampered with, that was the Alopecia sound to me. A little more regimented and anal.

Eskimo Snow is, I would say, a little more unwielding–more room mics and stuff like that. It’s a little more natural sounding. And the content is maybe a little bit darker perhaps. I mean, I think Alopecia was dark too, but this one is a little more…

TBB: Is it different playing solo than playing with a band? Do you approach that differently?

YW: It’s definitely different playing solo. It’s a lot scarier because if you fuck up a note or something, there’s nothing to hide that. But I like that fear factor. You have to be more in the moment. You have to, because if you’re not, you’ll jump out and you’ll mess something up.

Whereas, with a band, especially if I’m not really playing much and just singing…It’s hard to play stuff and sing at the same time. A lot of people are really good at it. I’m not that good at it; I’m just kind of starting to figure it out as I go. With the guys I’m playing with, they’re so good. You can just zone out for a while and the music will still be okay, even if you’re not necessarily in the moment. Playing solo, you definitely have to be there.

Studio Session Photos with Yoni Wolf

Audio: Eli Crews, John Finkbeiner
Photos: Nicole Browner
Video: Nathan Fritz, Varun Kejriwal, Brent Harnisch