Wildildlife by numbers

Pub date October 22, 2008
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

Whether we’re talking about the volatile US economy or the amount of CD-R releases Wildildlife has produced to date, the base-10 numeral system is a useless reference point.

"Three or four, five or six — let’s call it ‘medium-four.’ Or ‘five-esque.’" This is the disc count consensus from the Seattle group, whose membership is definitely three: Andy Crane on bass guitar, Matthew J. Rogers on guitar, and Willy Nilz on the drums. All provide vocals, and their collective tune was chortle-laden as they chatted via speakerphone from their tour van, parked on Bainbridge Island, Wash., a short ferry ride from Seattle, before the opening show of their present West Coast tour with Mammatus.

It would be frivolous to assign integers to Wildildlife’s whacked variety of superjams: their psychedelic weird-metal gets mad heavy, but they kick terrific pop hooks when, you know, they feel like it. "We’re super poppy — it’s almost lame," one exclaims before another threatens that they’re "gonna drop it like Kid Rock!" Eh. That frighteningly high-pitched live vocal effect they often use isn’t that pop. Pop or not, the heaviness has gelled into something that has allowed Wildildlife to survive two radical geographic relocations: from Boston to San Francisco, and, earlier this year, to Seattle. Originally named Wildlife before a group called the Wildlife sent them a threatening letter about it, the band started after the three had been jamming together as college students in Boston. Although more restrained at that time, they now dish out a spaced acid-sludge that only medium-four years of epic practice sessions could have wrought.

What brought them to SF in September 2006? "It was a three-way commitment — ‘you guys all want to move?’ We pointed it out on a map and headed there. Sorta like Coming to America,” is the answer.

Crane describes their one-time dream of starting a pancake van in Dolores Park with Nilz’s family recipe. What kind of cakes?

"Cornmeal pancakes."

"Weed pancakes."

This truck never came to fruition, but the combo quickly came to feel at home alongside such newfound, freaky rock brethren as the New Thrill Parade, Tulsa, and Shellshag. They recorded their 2007 debut, Six (Crucial Blast), shortly after their arrival, laying down tracks as long as 18 minutes in the process. One number, "Kross," has a slowly strummed guitar and vocal passage that gives way to delicate Steve Hackett-reminiscent trilling (circa Lamb Lies Down on Broadway [Atco, 1974]) before the metal hammer smacks down again, while "Tungsten Steel/Epilogue," with that scary effect-ed vocal leading the way, is hot as that doorknob that Joe Pesci grabs in Home Alone.

The closest you’ll get to a precedent for the Wildildlife sound is Atlanta, Ga. band Harvey Milk, which the group opened for on HM’s first West Coast dates earlier this year — an experience Wildildlife were especially excited about in a year that, despite the move, has been pretty damned productive. They’ve produced a CD-R out of a WFMU live set recorded earlier this year, and a new EP, Peas Feast, will soon be released by Crucial Blast on 12-inch, along with a dropcard for a new EP, The Drongalet Demos. Their songs have been shorter lately, but to no detriment: tracks like Peas Feast‘s "Shining Son" beckon circle pits unlike any before it. Plans are also afoot for an old EP re-ish and a remix 12-inch.

Why is their album called Six if whole numbers don’t suit them? "It’s spelled in letters," they point out. There are also seven songs on there, alas — if inexactitude reaps such brutal greatness as that of Wildildlife, may we never file taxes again.


With Mammatus and Three Leafs

Sat/25, 9:30 p.m., $8

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923