youwho: chinatown’s most experimental new band
Artist and downtown muse India Menuez has joined forces with Brian Close to make hypnotic and mystical jams.
For YOUWHO, nothing is defined. The band's name hints at mystery,obscuring the full picture from its fans. A collaborative project between artists India Salvor Menuez and Brian Close, YOUWHO began after a fateful Career Day talk at Menuez's high school about Georgia, Close's collective in graphic design, video, and music. Years later, as neighbors in Chinatown, they began playing music together. YOUWHO's kaleidoscopic approach to creating scores is indicated by their instrument choice, which ranges from a bucket to an OP1 synth.
Score, YOUWHO's debut release, similarly works towards abstraction - personal narratives become material for sprawling, undefinable compositions. We spoke with YOUWHO recently about their radio show on Know-Wave, recording their album in LA, and singing Taylor Swift in car washes.
How did you guys meet?
Brian Close: At Career Day at School of the Future [in New York]. I was asked by faculty to talk about careers in art and design. India was a student in the class. I was making a lot of commercials, TV graphics, and advertisements as well as making music.
India Menuez: I was born in Brooklyn and Brian in New Jersey. Somehow, we both ended up living a block away from each other in Chinatown, Manhattan. There were many other intersecting social loops post-Career Day.
At what point did you decide to make music together?
IM: It wasn't so much a decision, it just kind of happened hanging out at Georgia touching instruments.
BC: Georgia's a pretty oscillating ship; we started it tons of years ago and it's really moving now. It's a mix of music, science, dancing, talking, working, emailing, stretching, etc.
What was your process like making Score?
IM: Chilling in the LA sunshine taking turns making sounds.
BC: We found a shaker at a Chinese instrument shop, got our friend a wind chime from a pawn shop, and hit a metal bucket used for watering plants. We also had our favorite OP1 synth and our voices. We just jumped around all day and recorded track-by-track.
What were you guys doing in LA?
IM: Looking for work and sunshine.
BC: Walking dogs, swimming in [Richard] Neutra houses.
How does YOUWHO relate to your individual practices?
BC: It's an extension of them - it's very much a combination of our outputs. We always hung out together and made stuff, so it's an essential part of our relationship. YOUWHO is neither of us but both of us.
Did you listen to music around recording the album?
BC: Not really, although there's a video of us in a carwash singing a Taylor Swift song...
How has recording on radio station Know-Wave influenced the way you approach music?
BC: The radio format is super fun these days - anything goes. There's so much noise going on, so its our chance to make intentional noise, something that hopefully gives people the gift of inspiration. Radio is so fun, sound is a free space!
IM: You can make objects to hold sound (like the record) and sell those objects, but the sound itself can never be commodified. Sound creates and reshapes space with hands you can't hold down.
I know that you were very involved in designing the record physically; could you speak about the design?
IM: There were too many options for visual accompaniment so we left the sleeves blank and made stamps to keep each visually unique. We let them be art objects, artifacts to really care for.
Why print an edition of 333 copies?
IM: It was Tom of England's idea. He doesn't know how it pleases my OCD for numbers... Tom is a friend we both met through music and is the man behind Save The Day (STD Records). He's a cool cat, sipping mezcal while skip-hopping across the globe to his own tune.
Your first video, Career Day at the School of the Future, is beautiful and funny at times. Is humor an element you hope to get across with YOUWHO?
BC: Oh totally, our recordings always remind us of futuristic or retro cartoons. The video was super goofy to make, we had a whole bunch of ideas and just let them all ride together. To us, that video is ideal TV - in between a VHS soap opera, laserdisc romantic comedy outtakes, laced with psychedelic detectives, mezcal worms, great paintings, and fashionable Eco-Sufism.
IM: Laughing is important. We must honor the sacred clowns.
What can we expect from your upcoming video, Aqua Akwaa?
BC: Kind of more of the same, but additionally including beautiful women.
IM: Dancing and wearing clothes the wrong way in bright colors.
What do you hope people take away from Score?
BC: The gift of new thoughts, when they are needed, to flow into sweet patterns.
What are your hopes for YOUWHO this year?
BC: Festivals, film scoring, longer-form performances mixed with projections, embroidered t-shirts, and a Juice Press sponsorship.
IM: To make more music we like.
Text Benjamin Barron