Interview The Mae Shi

‘When we came up with that title we thought we were on the cutting edge of whole no vowels thing, but now, no vowels is the status quo.’

LA-based noisy boys The Mae Shi are about to release their debut UK album, the consonant-friendly ‘Hlllyh’, on 11th February. Ahead of the album’s release - and ahead of a couple of London dates (30th January at Gramaphone, 2nd February at Mean Fiddler/Astoria 2), we spoke to the band for an informal re-introduction, if you will…

Why so long before attempting to ‘break’ the UK?
Not sure really. I don’t think we’ve ever really had a strategy for ‘breaking’ territories, or, to be honest, advancing our band even. We’ve kind of just done our music and taken what has come to us. We did one European tour several years a go that included several UK dates, and it was quite awesome, but we never really followed up. I guess, thanks to Moshi Moshi, we’re finally getting an opportunity to take dead aim at the UK!

..and we’ve ‘missed out’ on a lot, how do you best suggest we catch up with your American fans?
Hmmm, well yes, if you’re just tuning in you’ve missed four records, about three hundred shows including four or five tours, and a DVD with thirty-three music videos and a tour documentary. So, there’s a lot to digest. We’re not a band that is very good at repeating ourselves - each release pretty much ignores the previous release. So it’s hard to suggest a primer for The Mae Shi. But I think a good way to get a sense of what we’re about might be to do a YouTube search for The Mae Shi and watch all the fun stuff that’s on there. There are some seminal Mae Shi shows documented on there, music videos, fan created content, etc, etc. Apart from buying all of our records and the DVD of course!

Your new album is called HLLLYH - tell us about it.
It’s kind of a vast concept record about divinity and faith and mortality. It definitely marks a new direction for us. There are many aspects of the old Mae Shi that remain, but there’s also a lot of new stuff. We spent a lot of the record kind of playing with classic rock tropes. For some reason there seems to be new emphasis on more immediately graspable melodic content. There are lots of thematic and melodic interconnections within the record, lots of little details for nerds to have fun sussing out.

This was the first record we made without founding Mae Shi member, Ezra Buchla, and it was a challenge writing as The Mae Shi without him. We worked on it for a very long time, like a year and a half or something. Anyways, we’re all very proud of it, and I think we all grew a lot in the making of this record. We hope the world likes it.

Regarding the title, do you have a Primal Scream-like aversion to vowels?
When we came up with that title we thought we were on the cutting edge of whole no vowels thing, but now, no vowels is the status quo. I think we kinda missed the boat on the whole no vowels scene. Another no vowel title we considered was PWND.

You’ve now got a different recording line-up and touring line-up. How is that going to work?
Eventually we will become one seamless unit. This metamorphosis has already begun. We are working on an EP that involves both recording-Shi and tour-Shi. But yeah, eventually there will be no separation; the singularity is near.

You played a set from a Los Angeles middle school - was it surreal? Did you still call the teachers ‘miss’ even though you didn’t have to?
It was very surreal and disorienting and incredible. It was also probably the funnest show we’ve ever played. I did call the teachers ‘miss’, but only because I thought it was sexy. The most surreal aspect of that show was that actor Michael Rapaport [True Romance, CopLand, Metro, etc] introduced us! That made absolutely no sense.

You suffered perhaps the worst fate which can be bestowed upon a band; your MySpace page was deleted. Do you know why?
No we don’t know why for sure. However, our page did ominously reemerge soon after it’s deletion; It had been co-opted by the New York Pizza Mafia. Seriously! And they tried to extort when we asked for our page back! It was quite traumatic. But we’ve pretty much restored our Myspace empire to it’s former greatness, so it’s ok.

You’re from Los Angeles: who’s the most famous person you’ve seen walking down the street?
I just barely missed Lindsay Lohan at a clothing store the other day. I was bummed. I saw Eddie Murphy in a record store. Oh, I saw Travis Parker [sic] walking down the street last week; I wanted to throw a rock at his face, he bugs me. Bill Gray [new Mae Shi bassist] sees famous people at his job everyday, Janine Garafalo even asked him on a date!

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