Yoni Wolf vividly remembers where he was at in the late ‘00s when Why?’s much-loved Alopecia record came together.
“I was living in Oakland, California,” he says. “I wasn’t the happiest person I would say. I wasn’t in the greatest mental state. But I think I was artistically on-the-ball and prolific at that time.”
In celebration of Alopecia’s 10-year anniversary, Indianapolis’ Joyful Noise Recordings released a deluxe reissue of the album in August. Now, Why? will kick off their U.S. Alopecia tour at HI-FI in Indianapolis on Thursday, Nov. 1, playing the album in its entirety. Beforehand, we caught up with Wolf by phone.
NUVO: Tell me how you first got linked up with Joyful Noise Recordings, and what it was that drew you to the label.
YONI WOLF: I can’t exactly remember to be honest. I know we did an EP with them called the Golden Tickets EP that was a Why? side project EP sort of thing. They did a great job with it. When it came time to do the next proper Why? album, we decided that was a good home for it. We had become friendly with the label. So yeah, that’s sort of how it went. We’ve been working with them since then.
NUVO: What do you like about being on the label and working with Karl Hofstetter?
WOLF: They’re just good people. They’re organized, and they care. They’re real music heads and not really business-y. But they are tight with their business too. It’s just a good combo for a label.
NUVO: You collaborated with Chicago rapper and fellow Joyful Noise artist Serengeti on a 2016 release titled Testarossa. How far back do you and Serengeti go?
WOLF: I met Serengeti in like 2009. We signed him to Anticon [a label Wolf co-founded] in 2008 or 2009, and then he came out and opened on a tour for us. We made an album together called Family and Friends, which was under the name Serengeti. I produced half of it and Owen Ashworth produced half of it. And then, we made another album as Yoni and Geti a few years later.
NUVO: Now, we’ll move into the Alopecia portion of the interview. The album came out in 2008, which was obviously a different time than we’re in now. Do you feel that Alopecia is still representative of who you were 10 years ago?
WOLF: Oh yeah, certainly. For me, albums that I’ve made are kind of snapshots into me and my friends’ lives. This is definitely no exception to that. I hear that time in it without a doubt. It was the heyday of the hipster thing, with the tight pants and the fixed-gear bikes. I hear all of that in it—me ribbing all that stuff but also being part of it.
NUVO: Are there any Alopecia songs in particular that paint mental images of that time in your head?
WOLF: What I thought of when you asked that [last question] is the song “Simeon’s Dilemma.” I say, “On my fixie with the chopped horns turned in / Trailing behind your biodiesel Benz.” I’m just sort of name-dropping all these little hipster things that are very specific to that particular year or two, when everyone was getting an old Benz from the ‘70s and turning it into a biodiesel. And everybody had a fixed-gear bike. Those are just two examples I’m thinking of, but there’s other stuff in there for sure.
NUVO: What do you still like about the record?
WOLF: There’s kind of an urgency to it, and I think that’s what other people respond to as well. It needed to be written. I really needed to write it. It has an anger to it, but in a humorous way. I like that about it. It’s frustrated but aware of itself.
NUVO: How would you say you’re a different songwriter now than you were back then?
WOLF: I don’t know man. I don’t really have a handle on it at the moment. [laughs] I would’ve said the same thing back then though. It all becomes clear in retrospect. But at the time, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.
NUVO: What can fans expect to hear on these Alopecia tour dates?
WOLF: The set is the album all the way through, top-to-bottom. We’re not skipping any songs or parts of songs. Then if we do an encore, we will play a few other tunes from the catalog.