Wolf Eyes find bizarre fame on Instagram and it feels weirdly right

A post shared by INZANE_JOHNNY (@inzane_johnny) on Feb 19, 2019 at 10:43pm PST WOLF EYES &.

A post shared by INZANE_JOHNNY (@inzane_johnny) on

WOLF EYES & MARK MORGAN with RETIRED and PROCESSOR at the Garrison (1197 Dundas West), Saturday (February 23), 9 pm. $15. rotate.com, ticketscene.ca, soundscapesmusic.com.

Being a band today is about more than just playing music. People demand constant content to keep a band in their minds eye.

Michigan band Wolf Eyes have met that challenge to an absurd extreme. Nate Young and John Olson have created a mini-universe of experimental music, releasing acts on their own Lower Floor Music and collaborative cassettes on numerous homebrew labels. According to Olson (who spoke to me in clipped remarks over email while driving to the next gig), 2018 had over 50 collaborations alone.

He calls the band a “morphed organism that expands and condenses as needed or not.” Olson says the self-created genre they’re associated with, trip metal, is over, as is its successor psycho jazz. Now they’re “Michigan Progressive Knightmare.”

And then theres Instagram. Between all the music, Olson has become some sort of bizarro influencer. His Instagram account @Inzane_Johnny is a repository of inside-out memes interspersed with psychedelia, selfies with fans and friends and Wolf Eyes content. The account has amassed more than 90,000 followers, which is mostly unheard of for an experimental noise musician. According to a recent meme, its even led to fans coming to shows to pose for photos with Olson without watching the bands.

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Olson offered no response to my Inzane_Johnny questions, but in 2017 he told Exclaim! that he views it as Edgy fun.

Should be a 10 second experience and forgotten, he said. Should have a sting of some sort. Just anything to have a language to spread or commentary on the pop culture ending in a chuckle. FUN. It’s the lunchroom of the mid-quarter of the 21st century. Juvenile AF really.

Wolf Eyes show at the Garrison will be a collaboration with guitarist Mark Morgan, formerly of New York trio Sightings. It will be a mostly improvised live experience, a change from his more rigid work with his old band. Morgan is a fan of the Inzane_Johnny account, but views it as just an extension of Olsons sense of humour and says it feels somewhat separate from Wolf Eyes music.

But to me, the account doesnt feel separate from the group. Its spirit and intent feels like an anarchic reproach to castigated-for-thievery accounts like Fuckjerry, whose branding company Jerry Media was associated with the Fyre Festival debacle. The account is full of nods to subcultural flagpoles: Dave Grohl appearing in every rockumentary on Earth, signs of gentrification in neighbourhoods, the meaninglessness of house show set times and the politics of sharing drum kits with opening bands. Though the medium is new, and its clear Olson doesnt take it too seriously, his Instagram presence feels organic, like its in service to preserving some level of DIY culture, linking the collage-like homemade visual jokes with independently released music.

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Two Civilized Centers is a split cassette release with Universal Eyes, brainchild of Wolf Eyes founder (and departed member) Aaron Dilloway. It’s a great example of the groups sound creeping, atmospheric and evoking the mystical, the electronic and the depths of the ocean. Its all done without pedals or overly modern gear. Minimal tools for maximum damage, writes Olson. The intent is to create an eerie new world that you can populate with your own internal conflicts at whatever speed you see fit. The dust mites of the corners of your soul.

My takeaway is the vibrancy of the sound it feels very alive. Olson describes the emotions behind their newest sounds as joy, romance and abandon. And, in a weird way, I get that from his memes, too.

In the end, the bands presence and spirit reflects a true tenet of underground cultures perseverance: the human effort to make stuff, whether it’s on Instagram or a Maxell cassette.

@nowtoronto | @theflans

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