It is only two hours until their show starts in Ann Arbor, MI and the three of them are still talking inside the tour van. They are not talking to each other, though. Nor is this some sort of pre-show ritual. No, the members of Ahleuchatistas are passing around a cell phone, answering interview questions about any number of topics that do not have a thing to do with tonight's performance.

One might wonder — why not reschedule such an interview for a different day or even an hour following the show? Then again, it was the band that chose this discussion time and dialed the 10-digit number. This is the nature of the North Carolinian trio: laid back and intensely passionate, sometimes fulfilling both characteristics within the same breath.

Ahleuchatistas is made up of Derek Poteat (bass), Sean Dail (drums), and Shane Perlowin (guitar). The group is perpetuated greatly on quirky facts, maybe the biggest of which is that they are a three-piece heavy math rock instrumental group from the city of Asheville, NC. Another essential peculiarity is that they raise more eyebrows with their actions than they do with their words.

With their new release, The Same and the Other, Ahleuchatistas has made their boldest statement to date. The album is completely void of lyrics yet is teeming with critical expression on crucial political and global issues that currently harness the world. The cover of the album displays an artistic representation of two Iraqi women standing amongst mosaic cities that are being bombed by fighter jets. The colorful city lines are shown shattering at the feet of the two cowering women, one holding a bleeding infant. Consider this the first extension of the album's bold message.

"[Being expressive] is difficult with instrumental music. Art is a product of cultural conditions," said Perlowin. "What we're doing is being honest of reflecting the chaotic climate that we live in."

In the term 'art,' the guitar player implies the visual artistic and musical work of The Same and the Other as a complete, unified piece. The album's artwork nudges an obvious mental connection to the war in Iraq and the horrific circumstances that exist there. Other additional elements such as song titles and the music's aural texture imply similar conditions of chaos and injustice. Perlowin even uses the phrase "Dadaist mentality" to describe the desired effect of Ahleuchatistas' new album. "Dadaism" was a post-World War I movement in the arts that played a dual role of being against the rigidity of the art world of that time (a non-art movement) and being a protest against the barbarism of the war.

Most of the songs on the album act as mini-messages protesting the barbaric nature of current overseas warfare - "Cracked Teeth", "Ecstasy Combat Boots", "Falling Bards", "Rpg1", "Rpg2", "Rpg3", "The Day the Earth Stood Still", and "Joyous Disruptions". Some of the songs imply unchecked aggression against power-hungry bodies ("Shots Rang Out at the Press Conference"), some tell tales of fighting out against the higher powers ("Lee Kyang Hae", who was a Korean activist that committed suicide at a WTO meeting in 2003), and others seem intentionally vague in their statement ("Imperceptibility" or "RPG"). However, each track is tied into an overall vision that the band is attempting to disseminate.

"'Rpg' stands for 'rocket propelled grenades,'" said Perlowin in explaining an exemplary song's title. "These are short songs about people in Iraq defending themselves with meager means against advanced technology. But a good way to disrupt and create rebellion is the physical act of defending a life with grenades."

The whole idea seems appalling and morose, yet the goal for Ahleuchatistas is not to feather a topic that carries substantial global political implications. "By being radically honest [in the music] we hope to get our point across," Perlowin said.

The other half of Ahleuchatistas' expression is obviously illustrated in their musical performance. The challenge at hand comes when trying to make an expression clearly through musical form, especially when representing such a specific topic such as injustice in the War in Iraq. Even more challenging is the fact that the songs contain no words. Critics might maintain that while the music is very instrumentally detailed and colorful, the contention for visualizing chaotic war images through only these sounds is merely contrived. It has been done before though. If one might turn back the clock to 1969 at the Woodstock Festival when a young Jimi Hendrix breathed new life and imagery into Francis Scott Key's "Star Spangled Banner", complete with feedback- and whammy bar-induced 'bombs bursting in air.' It is possible.

When one listens to The Same and the Other it becomes apparent that the effect works to some degree. For songs such as the previously mentioned "Rpg" trilogy, Ahleuchatistas successfully viscerally expresses a sense of disorder with gritty, ever-moving guitar and bass batterings; frantic drum work dances through an ability to hold metric rhythms to a precise pulse, just as insurgents might dance through a field of landmines. In these compositions and others on the album, the listener can visualize intended scenes through the unified artwork of song title and the instrumental texture. "Rpg1" is a mere 35 seconds long, but radiates the feel of an increasing frenzied state of Iraqi citizens as they are chased from their homes by the imminence of foreign guns and bombs. "There are commonalities between sounds and cultural visualizations," Poteat said.

Are there commonalities between Ahleuchatistas and Iraqi citizens? Perlowin expressed that the message of the music is to honestly reflect "the chaotic climate that we live in." How can American citizens even begin to imply that they are struggling in a similar chaotic climate as the shell-battered Middle Easterners? The whole concept rings hollow, like a kid living in a gated community rapping about the strife of a 'hard knock life.'

The question is raised to Perlowin and he interjects to clarify the band's true intension, "Although we are not coming out of oppression, we are interrelated as human beings."

The entire idea behind The Same and the Other - as well as Ahleuchatistas' equally critical debut album On the Culture Industry - is for the sympathizing between universally struggling souls. Members of the band are knowledgeable of worldwide struggles and have been active for years (for example, Perlowin has volunteered with the local independent Asheville Global Report) in raising awareness of the conditions in areas that aren't the US, and recently have placed their efforts into another great passion of theirs, music.

About 30 minutes after the interview began, the three members still sit patiently in the van, tossing the phone around, and doing a poor job at preparing for their fast-approaching performance. The album talk has put everyone in a serious mood, each of the individuals speak slowly as to select the right words to describe the passion behind their creation. As the topic transitions to the band's history, the discussion surges and new quirky facts are made known.

While the ages of the group members are widely distributed, their ideologies and backgrounds are fairly similar and hold them together as a group. Dail is the youngest member at 21 years old, Perlowin is 26, and Poteat is the granddaddy of them all at 36. The generational variance is enough to make for disagreements, but the three are fused through a common love of heavy off-mainstream music. All three members have been involved in bands prior to Ahleuchatistas - from punk to metal to everything else loud rock (as Dail puts it, progressively "more and more weird music"). Perlowin even has an educational history in music, as he studied jazz at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.

The ideas behind jazz/bebop are partly where Ahleuchatistas begins. The band name is actually a combination of two words, the first being "Ah-Leu-Cha," the title of a Charlie Parker jazz composition; and the second part coming from the word "Zapatistas," or the name for the social revolutionaries in Mexico during the 1990s.

To use the word "jazz" in describing the band is a bit misleading. At times they perform with jazz-like conventions, such as non-meter rhythms and free form instrumentation, but the group would never be mistakenly placed in the jazz bin at the record store. Still, they have consistently been tagged with the adjective 'jazzy', in the same way that other experimental/math rock groups always have.

"We don't approach our music as jazzy," Poteat said. "We don't improvise at all. Maybe it's the clean guitar tones [that leads to such a classification], or the perception of people not knowing how to classify."

Just as the jazz implication is felt in the band's identity so is rock's liberating revolutionary edge. Not only is this portrayed through the post punk rock influence of avant garde-ness, but also within the brash soul-cleansing effect of putting your thoughts and emotions into a creation. For Ahleuchatistas it is most clear when the members describe the vision of The Same and the Other. Perlowin expresses his passion for making the title intentionally vague to represent the Western tendency to "otherize" the rest of the world, then chuckles at the desperation of the situation and mumbles, "Ya know." Again, laid back and intensely passionate, sometimes in the same breath.

Another 30 minutes have gone by and Perlowin holds strong on the phone. He continues to talk about issues that are on his mind, such as the United States election that was a hot topic at the time and unjust global consumer policies. When finally asked if either of the other members would like to get in a couple last words, the conversant Perlowin admits that they left the van a while ago. "Yeah I guess I better get going," he realizes.

After critical discussion, for Perlowin and everyone else alike it is time for catharsis.

Welcome Asheville's very own: Ahleuchatistas…

This has been a lesson for Josh Zanger, who says more with words than without. If he goes the way of the cloistered monk, we will not hesitate to say we told you so.

SEE ALSO > Ahleuchatistas Homepage 
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