(I just got the new Fugazi photo book by Glen E. Friedman and was reminded of this thing I wrote about The Evens last year. The Evens aint Fugazi, but one half of The Evens was one quarter of Fugazi, so this is essentially one eighth about Fugazi, more or less. www.fugazibook.com will get you to the source of this fractional mess better than my mathematically challenged ass can…)
I’ll be honest. It’s real hard to write something about Ian MacKaye and his new band The Evens without reaching for the Fugazi button half a dozen times. So I’m just gonna put it out there and get it over with: Fugazi, Fugazi, Fugazi, Fugazi, Fugazi, Fugazi. Wow, that felt good. Unfortunately, and fortunately, Fugazi is on an indefinite hiatus. They’re not broken up but they’re not making music either. I say that it’s fortunate because Ian MacKaye has taken the time freed up from his previous venture to pursue an alternative to the force that Fugazi had become. (And I say that it’s unfortunate, well, because Fugazi was/is awesome. But seriously, duh, did I need to say that?)
Since 2001, MacKaye, along with Amy Farina (formerly of D.C.’s The Warmers), have attempted to deconstruct the traditional paradigms of independent music through The Evens, a two-piece musical venture consisting of baritone guitar, drums and vocals. The Evens as a musical entity is a new approach stylistically for the duo. The sound is hushed, analytical and provocative without provoking direct aggression or anger. Alternative forces are at play within The Evens. If an emotion is invoked, it’s explored and speculated over, rather then given the traditional “Fu*k you” of most of the present’s traditional music model. The live performance is where much of The Evens’ philosophies become most prominent, and there exists multi-faceted intentions for the hushed and calculated approach of The Evens.
Traditional electric music of any sort, when performed live, needs to be amplified. And proper sound amplification systems are invariably found in but a few locations. Namely, clubs, performance spaces and bars. These spaces almost always sell alcoholic beverages, which additionally limits the age range of spectators. By removing the need for a sound amplification system, The Evens can expand their range of performance spaces and range of guests. It’s a simple premise: remove the sound board, remove the traditional commercialism of a typical performance space, open up the music to anyone that wishes to hear it.
As a result, The Evens have performed in spaces that include museums, churches, restaurants and libraries; and the cavalcade of spectators at an Evens show can range from toddler to student to middle age, and everywhere in between. It is but one of many techniques that The Evens employ to explore the realm outside of traditional punk and rock methodology.
In addition, The Evens have long explored the notion in music that “Volume equals power.” And as MacKaye has always taken, the road less traveled meant deconstructing that belief. In this way, The Evens have created a far more intimate relationship with its audience. As MacKaye has previously stated, “Volume can be powerful, but it’s not always powerful. Sometimes things that are quieter lay it out even more intensely.”
The result of The Evens subtler, quieter performance is a close-knit almost symbiotic relationship between themselves and the audience. In the simplest terms, people do not leave an Evens show fatigued or suffering from tinnitus. In fact, the energy of an Evens shows is more akin to that of catching up with an old friend. Interaction between the band and audience is encouraged; and the absence of a stage removes the heightened stature that is often placed between musician and fan.
The Evens second full length, ‘The Evens Get Evens,’ will be released in November on Dischord Records. Again aiming to deconstruct the makings of traditional indie music, the process of recording the album was brought closer to home, away from the recording studio. It was recorded entirely by the band in the basement of the Dischord house, and mixed by longtime Dischord cohort Don Zientara at Washington D.C.’s Inner Ear Studios. The resulting 10-songs are reflective of the close, candid live performances of the Evens.
Too much of the world is cheery enough to just sit along and go for the ride. The Evens are challenging traditions and thought processes that shouldn’t be structured to begin with. If you can appreciate that, then The Evens might just be your best friend and worst enemy all rolled into one, fortunately and unfortunately.