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Not thinking of drying off

BY BRIAN DAU AND MELEA ANDRYS | APRIL 03, 2009 7:30 AM

Wet Hair use cassette tapes and various other electronics for a bizarre live show at the Cave of Spirits.

Shawn Reed and Ryan Garbes, otherwise known as Wet Hair, first and foremost consider their act a live band. It’s somewhat unexpected, then, to see Reed’s instrumental duties listed as “analog synth, drum machine, tapes, electronics, and vocals” and “organ, tapes, and drums” for Garbes.

It’s a good thing the members of Wet Hair don’t take their name too literally, because between the two of them they have enough electronics to fry an elephant should a short ever occur.

Wet Hair will perform at 6:30 p.m. April 5 at the Cave of Spirits as part of the Night People Records Showcase. Admission is $5; other acts include Daniel Higgs, Bill Nace, Peaking Lights, Animental, and Zola Jesus. The show is part of this year’s Mission Creek Festival.

“We’re totally a live band,” Reed said. “Most of our contemporaries are different — often recording projects [that become] live bands. But we record everything live.”

The average Wet Hair song comes together like this: Reed, hunched over a complex series of cords, tape players, and electronics, presses buttons and fiddles with dials as a loop of sound oscillates out of the amplifier. The sound is complicated by more fiddling and an occasional sound effect. A rhythm slowly emerges as Reed sways back and forth. He picks up a microphone and utters a few low vocals over the track as Garbes sits down at his drum kit, tapping out a steady beat on the cymbals. This continues for another three or four hypnotic minutes.

It’s an intense performance, to say the least.

“In a scene that can be very confrontational and abrasive, Wet Hair is melodic and awkward,” said John Schlotfelt, former *DI* Arts writer and host of “Corn-fed music” on KRUI 89.7 FM. “Shawn doesn’t really sing, but other than that, the band plays pretty sweet, poppy dub-infused tunes that most people can groove to.”

However, Reed said, Wet Hair’s music is far more intimate and simple compared with the band he and Garbes started out in, the impossible-to-pronounce Raccoo-oo-oon. The four-piece project was more about aurally overwhelming the listener, including two drummers and the traditional sounds of guitar and vocals.

“I just got tired of playing guitar in a band,” Reed said. “Analog electronics are limiting in a way I’m into. I like exploring the parameters of an antiquated machine, and concentrating on individual sounds.”

This particular show also marks the release of Wet Hair’s latest recording, *Dream*. Appropriately, the album will be released in cassette tape form along with the standard CD version. In fact, Reed’s own record label, Night People, releases music exclusively on tape and vinyl, put together entirely by Reed at his house (which may or may not be the Cave of Spirits). He said he makes hundreds of cassettes each month, all hand-assembled at home from a tower of stereo cassette decks at his “dubbing station.” It’s all part of an “underground cassette culture” focused on quick, cheap releases that can be exchanged among friends and remain playable despite getting kicked around and generally abused.

It’s a culture that seems to be thriving off of groups such as Wet Hair, and Reed and Garbes have played together for about seven years and toured extensively on both coasts, even making it over to Europe during the days of Raccoo-oo-oon.

“We just start playing, without talking that much,” Reed said. “We’ve been playing together so long — we’re totally dialed in to make music together. With two people, you’re really limited as to what you can do — it makes things either frustrating or really easy.”


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