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"What I know is, [Matt Johnson, the head of the label] heard the record (Non-Stop Je Te Plie En Deux) and he contacted us," said Marquis. "The record was released independently with no distro. You could only get it at our gigs. We were looking for a label and we went with them because of the enthusiasm he showed. I know the label is big on the blues. I wouldn't have thought to send a CD to them."
No other Fat Possum band sounds remotely like We Are Wolves, and yet Johnson found something in their no-wave home brew of dirty, analog funk, bare-knuckled garage-rock and synth-fueled, monster-movie menace that tickled him pink. "He said that what he liked about it was that he could feel it, that he could sense how primal and minimal it was," explained Marquis. And Non-Stop, released last fall, has a beat you can slam-dance to. Even danceable tracks like "Little Birds" and the short-of-breath title track pummel you with rhythmic body blows and bruising distortion. "La Nature" sounds more like Clinic, with its asthmatic keyboards adopting a zombie-like march. Cleaner and more urgently paced are "Vosotros, Monstruos" and "T.R.O.U.B.L.E.," while "L.L. Romeo" has a swampy synth groove that sucks you in like quicksand.
We Are Wolves' sound has evolved over time, and it continues to change shape. About six years ago, three visual art students - Marquis on drums and vocals, Vincent Levesque on keyboards and Alex Ortiz on distorted bass, guitar and banshee-like lead vocals - formed the band as a side project. "We were just good friends who enjoyed music," remembers Marquis. "In general, we studied art, like Devo. That's how they started too." Their tastes were similar. "All three of us have kind of the same musical background of rock and punk," said Marquis. "We liked The Cramps and The Stooges, but the electronic thing... no." That came later. "We'd jam and then we just found that we wanted to add something crunchy, something edgy to it." They prayed to Devo for guidance. "We gave it a shot, taking some old analog stuff and a beatbox, mixing it with live drums," said Marquis. "It made it danceable and still rock, and real energetic."
For two years, they jammed aimlessly; then things to started to happen. Out of nowhere came an invite to open for the Texas art-rock tornado ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. "We had the same booking agent. That was beyond anything I could have imagined," said Marquis. "For me, it was positive from the point of view that we got to see how a big rock show is put together and how the machinery works. They had a big entourage of people working for them." For the first time, We Are Wolves was playing American cities and legendary venues like the Fillmore in San Francisco. Other tours included opening slots with The (International) Noise Conspiracy and, most recently, The Gossip last fall.
For those familiar with their album, the concert version of We Are Wolves is a very different animal. Marquis describes their live sound as "more saturated" than Non-Stop Je Te Plie En Deux. Another way of putting is that We Are Wolves have sonically beefed up. "We're trying live to put out a wall of sound," said Marquis. Their stage show is something to see, as well. "On our upcoming tour, we're going to be having these big skulls behind our heads, and they're so big, it's like we're wearing skulls," said Marquis, clearly amused by the imagery.
Marquis admits to a fascination with horror movies. The primitive beats of the instrumental "Namai-Taila-Cambodge (Go-Tabla-Go)" have an eyes-rolled-up-in-their-heads voodoo quality that's hypnotic and a little unnerving. "It reflects how much I like that horror-movie feel," said Marquis. "That jungle sound... I don't know where that came from, but there's definitely a horror-movie influence. One of my favorites is John Carpenter. I love that '80s analog synth, that cheesy 'whoo-hoo' tremelo."
Fond of George Romero movies and other classics, like "Last House On The Left," Marquis says his interest in horror films doesn't necessarily reflect the kind of person he is. He's not all scary and is courteous to a fault, even as he apologizes for having to cut our interview short to meet a bus so he can get to rehearsal. "We're all very polite individuals," he says. "I think a lot of people can relate. I'm against war and I'm for peace, but I like that heavy stuff. I guess that's how we get that violence out of our system. That fascination with horror movies expresses kind of a duality I have."
Dr. Jeckyl, meet Mr. Hyde, which for Marquis is the We Are Wolves way. There are many sides to the band, and they're about to bring out some new ones in the fresh, unfinished songs they're currently writing. "We want to evolve," said Marquis. "We keep looking back to our rock and blues roots." I guess they're Fat Possum material after all. SEE ALSO: www.wearewolves.net
SEE ALSO: www.fatpossum.com
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he'll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.
See other articles by Peter Lindblad.
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