DETROIT'S urban, blue-collar mentality has famously helped the city become a breeding ground for hard-working talent like Smokey Robinson, Jack White, Iggy Pop, and Bob Seger. As of late, however, some of Detroit's most intriguing musical talent has come from the world of noise and experimental sounds—and one of the most acclaimed acts to emerge from the Motor City in recent years is the trio known as Wolf Eyes.
"No matter what music comes from here, it's still really a roots-based soul thing," says John Olson, one of the founding members of the group. "We were just in the Hague playing through this ridiculous sound system and it still felt like soul music. It doesn't matter how much you amplify it."
You'd be hard pressed to find the dots connecting "The Tracks of My Tears" to "Stabbed in the Face," a squealing, overdriven burst of rage from Wolf Eyes' 2004 album Burned Mind, but there's something to what Olson says. There's a human element at work in Wolf Eyes' music, something that their fellow experimentalists often try and dismiss from their sound.
On the band's most recent album No Answer: Lower Floors, this comes out either through something simple, like a vocal turn, or the warm overtones that Olson lends through the drones of his homemade wind instruments. Even at its most aggrieved—as with the fearsome, agonized guitar tones that run alarm-like through album closer "Warning Sign"—that soulful element hums underneath.
The other key ingredient of the Wolf Eyes sound, according to Olson, is a distinct anti-authoritarian streak—a kicking against the pricks through sonic terror, if you will. He attributes it to the lifelong love of skateboarding he and bandmates Nate Young and Jim Baljo share.
"It's a rule-breaking kind of thing," says Olson. "I wouldn't say juvenile, because when you meet an old skater, you click into their mindset immediately. All your abilities, your individual style, it's all in front of you. That translates really well to music."