Indie-rock band WHY? will perform in Atlanta’s Terminal West music venue on April 8.
WHY? is the genre-bending brainchild of alternative rap artist Yoni Wolf, a long-time player in the American underground hip hop scene. WHY? serves as an expansion of Wolf’s early work in spoken word poetry and lyrically complex rap.
In 2005, Wolf enlisted his brother Josiah Wolf, as well as a revolving cast of multi-instrumentalists, to round out the sound of his solo work. Steering away from traditional drum machines and digitally-produced hip hop beats, Wolf’s introduction of guitars and an expanded percussion section quickly developed an indie-rock sound.
From these early collaborations, WHY? evolved into a permanent band. It became one of the few indie-rock bands signed under the California-based Anticon label, of which Wolf is a co-founder.
Steeped in complex wordplay and anecdotal references, Wolf’s lyrics typically fall into cynical critiques of the human condition and straight-faced self-deprecation. Wolf is unafraid to dig into his own psyche for content, addressing his own internal conflicts, social awkwardness and his struggles with Crohn’s disease.
The beauty of WHY?’s performance of what often boils down to bleak, dystopian lyrics is the tongue-in-cheek indie-pop instrumentation. Joyful piano chords and upbeat guitar rhythms paint a sarcastically hopeful tone in the background of tracks like “The Vowels Pt. 2.” Other songs maintain a laid-back, driving base for more lyrically argumentative songs such as “White English.”
The resulting impression of the apparent disagreement between the message and style of WHY?’s songs has challenged critics and fans alike to appreciate a style which some reviewers have called an “acquired taste.” Indeed, the relentless style changes and complex lyrical delivery can sometimes take a few listens to warm up to, but the payoff is generally worth it if you’re willing to put in the work.
WHY?’s 2017 album “Moh Lhean” is the band’s first LP in five years. Met with generally favorable reviews, the album sticks with Wolf’s typical composition style but employs bluesy acoustic tones to frame more hopeful lyrics than 2012’s melancholic “Mumps, etc.”
WHY? is currently touring in support of “Moh Lhean” and will be performing at Terminal West Saturday, April 8. Tickets cost $15 and are available for purchase at ticketfly.com.