"There's an ongoing saying in the band that if someone doesn't lay an idea out, someone else will end up forcing it out of them," says the Mae Shi's Jacob Cooper. This collaborative democracy, whether voluntary or not, is evident on the group's latest record. HLLLYH is a splattered, tribal collection of shrieks, bangs, and bit-synth blurps, whose cohesion is remarkable considering the collective input of the numerous members. "We get more colors that way, and the music is less homogenized," says Jeff Byron. "We're constantly being pulled in separate directions, to the point where we get a little explosion of creativity."
This tug of war has resulted in the Mae Shi's output of albums, mixtapes, and DVDs, all of which maintain a fiercely homespun vibe. Brad Breeck states that they firmly believe "the band can be a tool for doing all the things you've always wanted. You want to make movies? Make a music video. You want to design stuff? Make a T-shirt, make some album art." This includes the live show, which has always been an opportunity for the audience to assist in that creative process. As a result, says Byron, "We'd much prefer to play at a birthday party in someone's parents' basement than in the Wal-Mart Sports Arena."
HLLLYH marks the start of a new period of commitment for the band. While the album contains moments of spazoid freakout, spiritually inflected songs like "Run to Your Grave" and "Lamb and the Lion" bring ideas to satisfying fruition instead of relying on sheer transference of energy. Breeck adds, "I get the sense that some people think that we just figured out how to write songs properly or something. Which is ridiculous. We did use more traditional pop structures and melodies on this record. At some point we realized that we could use more traditional 'song' elements and still make it sound like Mae Shi, so we ran with it."