Detroit may have made the news recently for its dwindling auto industry, but the city's future prospects may lie elsewhere. "I think the music scene has more of a future than the cars," says Kevin Boyer, guitarist for Detroit's Tyvek, who headline this year's Obey Convention. The city has a rich musical tradition in genres ranging from jazz to techno, with Motown being a particularly notable export. More recently, it's produced bands like the White Stripes and newer noise bands like Wolf Eyes. Boyer calls the current scene a "weird breeding ground" that's often cut off from American touring itineraries and where the small scene exposes people to music they might not listen to otherwise---making Tyvek an ideal choice for the third annual "festival of free ideas in music and art" in our own off-the-touring-map city.
Wanting to play the sort of music they'd want to go out and see, Tyvek started out with "basic-sounding songs that were fun to play live." The band's music comes from a love of '70s and '80s punk, '60s garage rock and "certain elements of loud volume, repetition, and cranking everything up to the limit," Boyer says. Consequently, their recordings sound anywhere from polished to scratchy and low-fi, and they boastfully post a review online panning them at a live show.
Tyvek was named for the plastic wrap contractors use as a semi-porous vapour barrier on buildings under construction. "Driving and walking around Detroit, you see a lot of houses in disrepair, but then you see these blocks of condos being built; all you see is Tyvek, Tyvek, Tyvek," Boyer says. It's convenient, because "we don't have to spend so much time putting up flyers," he quips. The band had a minor run-in with the Tyvek manufacturers recently, but have so far only been asked to change their MySpace page. If further altercations occur, "we're hoping the company will realize how many people we've educated about Tyvek," Boyer says, adding that corporate legal departments aren't known for being sympathetic.
The band just released a new self-titled album on Siltbreeze Records, their first full-length. They had released a number of singles prior to the album, but "took a more expansive approach" with the LP. "We were trying to capture what it's like to be in Detroit in 2008-2009...the state of decay of Detroit and the 'return to nature' that's going on right now. There are more vacant lots than houses...the city is evolving into a big pasture land," Boyer says. The album was recorded variously on boomboxes, in basements and in professional recording studios.
Tyvek toured Europe over the winter with French punk band Cheveu, a "crazy experience," where "every night was a surprise," says Boyer. The band began life as a three-piece but has mostly toured as a five-piece, a situation that was "kind of stagnating a bit," in part due to busy or out-of-state members, so they've returned to the three-piece lineup; a move that "seemed nautral."
Tyvek's headlining show at Obey is backed by Montreal acts Grand Trine---a new psychedelic noise band from Tobias Rochman of Be Bad (who played their swan song at last year's Obey)---and intense noise-art, rock-psychedelic Black Feelings, as well as locals The Stolen Minks and The Ether.
"The attitude surrounding the festival from the community has been really positive..." says Rochman, who's also helped organize the festival for the past two years. Founded by local record label and distro Divorce Records, the Obey Convention has been steadily gathering steam since its first incarnation in 2007. Initially more of a showcase for Divorce's lineup of noise, experimental and hardcore acts, this year's festival covers a wider spectrum of underground music, with a weekend-long extravaganza of shows at the Khyber and the North Street Church scheduled from Friday to Sunday, as well as art events and workshops.
"I know a large portion of the musicians have been trying to get releases out in time because this is a big thing. We've been scrambling to get our new tape out," says Rochman, who describes Grand Trine as "sort of futuristic and paranoid and we're also into proto-punk. In [Be Bad] we were just trying to be weird...I felt trapped a bit."
Tyvek w/Black Feelings, Grand Trine, Stolen Minks and The Ether, Saturday, May 23 at the Khyber Ballroom, 1588 Barrington, 10:30pm, $9, divorcerecords.ca.