Chloe Lum of AIDS Wolf Is Sick. No, Really

Down With the Sickness
When life gives Chloe Lum lemons, she makes lemon-AIDS Wolf

Chloe Lum has bronchitis, and the medication is making her spacey during a phone interview. She gets it fairly often, thanks to a weak immune system due to a childhood bout with meningitis. Not surprisingly, this complicates the task of regularly screaming her lungs out in the noise-punk band AIDS Wolf.

“It kind of sucks,” she admits, “but INm usually able to run on adrenalin through the set, and then just sleep the rest of the day.”

ItNs tough to imagine AIDS Wolf without LumNs strangled cries and impressionistic wailing. Despite the whiplashing rhythms, flinty dissonance and dynamic seizures evoked by drummer Yannick Desranleau and guitarists Myles Broscoe and AndrN GuNrette, the Montreal quartet have their most immediate gateway in Lum, even if you canNt make out a lick of lyrics. Her voice is just one more weird instrument.

“Initially, I just make approximations of words, and then later transcribe it into a narrative,” she explains. “ItNs more important how it fits rhythmically and how it plays against the guitars than anything else. Once I actually write the lyrics and sing [them], the words often get cut up [or lengthened]. Maybe a three-syllable word will be stretched until it sounds like itNs got 12.”

None of this is by accident. “One thing I find lame about rock music as a format is that the vocals are privileged above everything else,” she says. “It was always a willful thing [for us] to have the lyrics not necessarily front-and-center, to have the singing mixed at the same level as the other instruments. So it has more to do with how INm saying things than what INm saying.”

That pretty much sums up AIDS Wolf, who can sound like anything from a grotesque stretch of Silly Putty to a choir of raging bees. The band formed from the ashes of a few obscure Montreal acts as a sort of hobby while the players pursued their more promising art careers. As with their previous bands, the members released homemade cassettes and CD-Rs with little hope of exposure. But AIDS Wolf took off, getting rabid attention online and soon inking deals with two respected labels, the veteran Skin Graft and the upstart Lovepump United. Surprising fanfare greeted 2006Ns The Lovvers LP and last yearNs Cities of Glass, which stack up nicely against Captain Beefheart, Deerhoof and obscure “no wave” acts.

Some of that attention might have to do with the bandNs name, which actually predated its music. Just as Lum and Yannick were explaining to some friends why their former band was folding, they spotted graffiti reading “AIDS Wolf,” and their friends took it as a sign.

“They kind of dared us into it,” Lum recalls, “and we were like, ‘Why not?N We didnNt expect to do anything beyond Montreal, so we didnNt expect it to really matter.”

To the uninitiated, Cities of Glass may seem like a rushing stab at haphazard chaos, but its two-minute bursts are longer than usual for the group. “We actually breached the three-minute mark, which for AIDS Wolf is quite a feat,” Lum jokes. The album was produced in a proper studio by the Flying LuttenbachersN Weasel Walter, who has worked with the Coachwhips, Arab On Radar and Glenn Branca.

Walter didnNt mince words, pushing the band to be its best, enduring around 80 different mixes of the album before everyone was satisfied. “We finally have a record that sounds exactly like how we sound live,” Lum says. ThatNs important to a band who focus all their discipline on the live show. “WeNre pretty obsessed with rehearsing,” she admits.

Which may surprise anyone who thinks noise bands just haphazardly toss off what they do. “When youNre playing music that relies on abstraction as a compositional element,” Lum says, “itNs especially imperative to rehearse. When you have everyone in the band playing in a different time, if youNre not tight, itNs going to be a complete train wreck. WeNll spend months working on a piece before we play it in front of anybody.”

And that goes for her singing, too. “When INm performing, INm not who I normally am,” she says. “ItNs pretty visceral.”

Visceral enough to bring on her bronchitis?

“No,” Lum answers. “ItNs more the way I live. Constantly being on tour is probably not what I should be doing. But what I should be doing would make me extremely unhappy, so INd rather be sick and doing stuff than well and sitting at home.”

AIDS Wolf perform with the Valley Arena, UV Lights and the Littlest Viking at AlexNs Bar, 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8292; Thurs., March 26. Call for time. $5.

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