March 29th, 2007 | Interviews

Wires On Fire started in the valley when they were mostly in the younger part of high school and graduated to Buddyhead Records and a recent full-length that the English freaked out over. Drummer Darren Weiss, bassist Michael Shuman and guitarists Jeff Lynn and Evan Weiss got cake all over them before this interview.

Jeff, why have I never found an interview where someone asked you about ELO?
Jeff Lynn (guitar): You know what’s funny? I actually like ELO and I was named after Jeff Lynne. My dad is just kind of a cool guy—he was a college radio DJ at the time and was like, ‘My last name is Lynn—I’m gonna name my son Jeff!’ I was partying with this girl once and I introduced myself as Jeff Lynn and she was like, ‘That’s my dad’s name.’ And I said, ‘Oh, like ELO?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, that’s my dad.’
What’s the prettiest music you’re into right now?
Evan Weiss (guitar/vocals): Maybe this is a result of playing in a loud and often noisy band—though I will say on the new album we’ve got a lot of different textures and softer material—but I’ve been into a lot of acoustic blues from the ‘20s and ‘30s. Mississippi John Hurt—I’ve been trying to play along.
JL: When I’m feeling pretty? Nick Cave—No More Shall We Part. Some of those lyrics are fucking pretty. In fact, any mood is good for Nick Cave.
You must lead a consistent life.
JL: It’s cheaper. I just have his discography and no other music.
How long before the band turns into full-on Crazy Horse country rock?
JL: That’s the way it’s moving! The new demos have some serious Neil stuff going on. It’s Americana! Some of my favorite bands are CCR and Neil Young—Neil Young is probably the one artist we all agree on.
EW: Probably one of the most listened-to artists on tour for us. Not only does he have one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll catalogs, it’s also great great traveling music. Jeff and I guitar-wise were really influenced by Neil. Though I don’t know if we’d ever go full-on Crazy Horse, it’s definitely slowly transforming the band’s sound.
JL: But we’re not gonna just start busting out acoustic guitars—I wish we were that good!
What band first pulled you away from punk?
EW: I was really into hardcore, like ‘80s American hardcore—you get into punk and you try and figure out what you like, and when I was 13 and 14 I was really into Minor Threat, the Circle Jerks, Black Flag and all that, and if it wasn’t hardcore, I wouldn’t listen to it! I was a total blockhead young punk—it’s important to go through that phase, but when you’re 14 years old, you think you’re the smartest person in the world and nothing out of punk rock matters. Then Fugazi’s Repeater—still indie and still punk but it kind of stretched it out for me. It showed me that punk wasn’t limited to power chords and a fast drumbeat. Guitar playing is something I love and I take it seriously, but I was kind of embarrassed to like Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath—but I’d still play it and never let it shine through. And then when I started digging into that stuff, I was like, ‘This is great—I love Led Zeppelin, I love the Beatles, I love all this shit!’ About 15 or 16—right when the band started. Punk rock isn’t about painting yourself into a corner—we love the spirit and influence, but we’re musicians and we’re turned on by so many different musicians. Mississippi John Hurt, Coltrane, Neil Young…
Are you into the Grateful Dead?
JL: No, man, the jam band thing is still lost on us. I was into them when I was a kid—I smoked lots of pot. And when I got tired of the Grateful Dead I’d listen to Dirty Three all the time. It made my life feel really important. I’d drive home from school, listen to Dirty Three and like… cry. And then think man, my life is so boring without listening to Dirty Three and getting high!
What if Dirty Three reads this?
JL: They should come hang out at my house.
The British really seem to like your band—is that the reverse of L.A.’s Anglophilia?
JL: There’s a long history of bands doing really poorly in their hometown and really well in the UK. Sonic Youth used to play in New York to nobody, and then they went to Europe. We didn’t even know our record had been released in the UK—we knew people were talking about it, and then all these cool reviews came out. We need to get over there.
You haven’t gone yet?
JL: Shuman went but he was just drinking in bars and talking up girls.
That’s a tour.
JL: He took care of it all himself. But we really need to go.
What’s the longest it ever took for Wires On Fire to write a song?
JL: Probably seven or eight months. ‘Death To Jeff Lynn’—those riffs were around forever! Finally one day Shuman was like, ‘Let’s change it—strip it down!’ Sometimes you got to strip it down to what’s good. There’s a song we’re gonna be playing from the next record that’s based on a riff we wrote five years ago—a lot of riffs we put away and forgot and then they make new appearances. You don’t forget a riff! If something’s good, you approach it in a new way. All the shit for the next record is much more natural.
Was there any kind of practical effect you’ve felt from starting the band so young?
EW: I started playing guitar to start a band—my dad taught me some chords and right away, I just wanted to be in a band. In sixth grade, me and my best friend started a band before we could play. We played our bassist’s sister’s eleventh birthday party and a school dance and a talent show. We’d do punk covers and “Twist And Shout” for the principal. We covered F.Y.P’s “Boo Hoo”—twelve-year-old kids, swear to God! It was amazing how dedicated we were—we practiced every weekend. And then that broke up, and two years later that next band broke up, and then we started Wires. It’s just what I had always been doing. And Mike is the same story and Jeff, too. It seemed natural—we always had bands.
Why this and not something else?
EW: I never did homework—why would you when you had a skateboard and a guitar, for better or for worse? It would have made my life a lot easier if I wouldn’t have had this obsession—but there was nothing else to do. Everyone in the band—music had this effect on us—nothing else!