AIDS Wolf and the Art of Noise
Published Jan 01, 2006Some bands are made overnight. Most aren't. Given the enviable reception AIDS Wolf is currently garnering for their 25-minute debut, The Lovvers LP, sceptics might accuse the deadlier-than-thou quartet of selling their souls to the devil. Not so. Even though it looks like AIDS Wolf hit the ground running faster than most, the Montreal sludge-rawkers are veterans of near misses and fumbled opportunities, experts at not quite happening the cornerstones for most musicians trying to break through.
It's not hard to see what's feeding the misconception. AIDS Wolf formed 18 months ago, and they've already been the subject of polarised debate between two Pitchfork critics. Last year, a photo of their spastic live show headed a New York Times article on the Montreal music scene. They've been namedropped in Spin. And all this happened without an album to their name.
You couldn't sign up for this kind of advance hype if you wanted to. Nor could you accuse AIDS Wolf of not paying their dues. The camp have been bombarded by a blizzard of resourcefulness and multi-tasking since its inception in 2003. Guitarist "Him, the Maji" has been cutting his teeth as a promoter, packing Montreal clubs with some of the most out-there bands to pass through Montreal. Founding members Special Deluxe and Hiroshima Eye also moonlight as the brains behind Sérigraphie Populaire (aka Seripop), the popular screen-printing company that keeps them busy around the clock. The duo have made tour posters and album artwork for everyone from Broken Social Scene to Death From Above 1979 to Pretty Girls Make Graves.
The pair also designed the elaborate artwork for The Lovvers LP. The album's eight tracks portray a band that are more deeply connected to the burgeoning Providence noise-rock community than anything north of the border. Though the guitars shear eardrums like Arab On Radar or Lightning Bolt, the tormented prodding of pacing and mentality of these songs point equally to the post-hardcore torture rock of bands like the Melvins and labels like Amphetamine Reptile.
This is the no-holds-barred territory Special Deluxe and Hiroshima Eye have been mining for the better part of the last decade. Speaking from her Montreal apartment, Special Deluxe takes me through her long musical history with her sonic partner.
"When we first met in 1999, he was playing bass in this Franco garage rock band called Les Morts," she says. "He'd also been doing the same kind of thing I'd been doing, these four-track noise tapes and other electro-acoustic stuff. After hanging out together for a while, we were both into noise and punk rock, so we thought Why not start a band?' We recruited some people, and that band lasted for two years."
That band was Da Bloody Gashes, and in hindsight, the sleaze-core quartet were too young and harboured too much creative talent. The Gashes managed to release a promising but flawed debut album, 2001's Pedal To The Metal, before falling apart; their drummer, Bobo Boutin, went on to become a founding member of electro no-wavers Les Georges Leningrad.
Disillusioned, yet still intent on pursuing their mutual goal of sludgy noise, brash artiness, and blue-collar rock, Deluxe and Eye invested their energy into a band called the Electric End, a two-year project that Deluxe qualifies as "going through varying phases of this isn't exactly it.'" Even though the Electric End never released a record, the project provided the pair with the means for some very lucrative left turns that would ultimately set them on the right track.
"During that time, we really focused on doing design work. We had started [design company] Seripop to screenprint merch for our own band, and then decided we could do stuff for other bands as well, and the two projects would feed each other. We never thought it would end up being what it has become."
What Seripop has become is an international screen-printing sensation the likes of which the indie rock community hasn't seen since Frank Kozik's acid-laced pop-art posters of the mid-'90s. Original posters routinely command hundreds of dollars at auction. Bands, labels, and music festivals have flooded the pair with requests for their artwork, which over the past few years has become a scenester status symbol.
So by the time Deluxe and Eye formed AIDS Wolf in mid-2003, they already had the credibility and cult credentials that would make most other bands jealous. Consistent cult followings for Da Bloody Gashes and the Electric End have kept the bands and their music alive online, while Seripop has earned them notoriety at all levels of the music industry. They've had to turn down a flurry of label offers to find the right home for their debut album, The Lovvers LP, released by Lovepump United/Skin Graft. All this, you could argue, makes for worthwhile hype.