By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Courtesy Cold Sweat RecordsThe best a band can really hope for, if they don't just want to get famous, is simply to reproduce themselves over and over: to be so great that people copy them. That's why we have a billion little Ramones clones still scuffing up their Converses—should be Keds, but reproductions degrade through iteration—and that's why the best bands have to be the best selves. Character judgment? If we are asked to care about more than music, we have to assess more than just musicianship. And so here are Wives: a band that knows itself exactly, that (per Mahalia Jackson) lives the life they sing about in their songs. Every time I have seen them, they have ruined each band before and after them—drawn a spotlight to all the stage makeup and backstage machinations that make most musicians really more like actors.
Punk is such a cul-de-sac, and to put a name like that to Wives is such a condescending pat on the head. They are a hardcore trio only in silhouette and really a jazz band in spray-painted Big Boys T-shirts. There's a long Los Angeles tradition of real bands that matter, even though they never sell too many records—the Minutemen's DoubleNickelsontheDimewas just under 70,000 copies as of last week, one for every person in San Pedro and none for the rest of the world—and Wives (Randy Randall on guitar; Jeremy Villalobos, who is one of the best drummers in non-trendy LA music; and Dean Spunt on bass) is next up.
Dean:Yeah, I didn't like lose a limb, but the car got fucked up, and I ended up getting a little money.
Dean:I dunno, I get weird and lucky sometimes. I don't know if it's something I project—I almost feel bad, sometimes, like, "Yeah, I get breaks." Maybe it's just my outlook on life.
Dean:Well, there's something to be said about life and trying to make the best of things—we all agreed early on that this is what we were going to do and this is what we wanna do and this is what we need to live. Being ego guy and jaded guy—there's no point. I don't know if we started off positive—most of the bands and people we saw around us then were shitty, were jaded assholes, for lack of a better word: "Yeah, dude, I'm in a band, man, I just stand up here . . ." We were angry: "That sucks, fuck that! That's not how we wanna be in a band."
Randy:I don't know if other bands think about it when they talk about performing, but we ask ourselves at every level: Is that honest? Is that really what we want to say? It has to be who we are; if it doesn't, it doesn't feel right.
Dean:It's like the Minutemen. That was serious life shit—it was hard for them. It wasn't just like, "Hey, man, we play instruments." They dedicated their lives to being this idea, and I respect that so much. I think I take from that a lot.
Randy:The idea that anybody could do this if they want to—if any kid walked away from the show somehow inspired and informed, they could take that energy and create their own thing, and then our bands could play together the next time—that'd be incredible. Enabling people to have their own voice in any sense is a hugely important thing for me. I see part of doing the band as communicating that to people: you have a voice, and you can use it, and you should. If you can teach someone to survive in a world this ugly and to make something beautiful in themselves, that's step one.
Dean:The idea of a band leading anything, though . . . if you're a band, you're trying to play music.
Randy:A band is like a person, and a person has the same choice: you can lead your life in a way that you hope will affect other people. It's inevitable: how you carry yourself and how you act at all times is influential. Every person influences someone else, whether they know it or not—your parents, your classmates, people in your neighborhood—but a band places itself in a position where they see a lot more people. The role is the same, but it's a position for a lot more attention. And you can choose to lead your lives in certain ways.
Dean:We're involved in every corner and every crack of the band. That is the band. It's not just the music—the ideas and feelings and whatever else, that's what the band is. We silkscreen the shirts, the stickers, we put out the records, though the LP was put out by Cold Sweat, but other than that—we book all the shows . . . we have the van! We like doing it ourselves. It gives us a sense of control—the less hands involved in it, the better. It's a big part of how I personally live my life. I run it. All three of us run our lives. I've definitely talked to people who criticize it, like, "Hey, give yourself a break." But I don't know—maybe later.