One Tulsa band we haven't heard from in a while is finally re-emerging with a CD release party this Saturday. Wighead has been in hiding for the past year, recording a new album and adjusting to a change in lineup, but the weirdos behind this genre-bending indie rock act will be back in full-force on July 11 when they release their self-titled full-length debut via a performance on the sidestage of Cain's Ballroom, 423 N. Main.
"Our show is going to be a summary of all the craziness we've done in the past," lead singer Chris Rusk said. "It's a costume party. It's $7 at the door, but if you're wearing a costume you get in for $5."
Anyone who's experienced a Wighead performance should know that "summary of all the craziness" means wackiness on an epic scale. The band is known for their nutty live performances, which frequently involve everything from bubbles to capes to fake blood, and in some cases, spaghetti (which is thrown at the audience).
"We're not going to do any spaghetti this time," Rusk assured. "It turns out that it's a bad idea. It pisses off the owner of any club that's not Soundpony. We've replaced spaghetti with confetti."
Wighead is currently nominated for an ABoT Music Award for Best Live Performance, and Rusk plans to show just why they deserve the nomination.
"We're pulling out everything. We've got tons of stuff we're going to do to make it a very extravagant performance."
Coming from someone who once performed live "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" in its entirety, the promise of extravagance should mean big things.
Here Comes the Head
The concept of Wighead grew out of a friendship between Rusk and Evan Inman-Butts.
"We started in 2001," Rusk said. "Evan and I, two weird kids, were both like 15 and just listened to a lot of weird music."
Armed with a four-track and a drum machine, Rusk and Inman-Butts recorded songs and passed out CDs to anyone who would take them. In 2006, they acquired a bass player (Jeff DiPesa) and began to play live shows around town.
"We'd play live with the drum machine and just put on a really weird show with costumes and stage props and whatever," Rusk said. "We'd basically harass the audience 'til we were asked to leave."
Rusk said that they eventually added a live drummer (Congratulations!'s Tony Delesdernier) and began to develop a following.
"Our songs were getting a little bit better, and we somehow became like a real band."
The band began to play more prolifically around town, notably at venues like Soundpony and The Collective. In an unorthodox move (at least for a young "hip" indie band), they began performing for children at various events.
"There's really no better crowd than children, because they haven't developed taste in music yet," Rusk laughed. "So they're pretty much happy with anything. We played two Girl Scout shows, a library show, a few elementary school shows. We've never gotten more applause or encores than at those."
It makes sense. The whimsical props and light-hearted theatricality complement music that is overtly child-like, at least in tone. It's catchy, upbeat, playful and silly. Rusk attributes Wighead's sound to the influence of bands like Frank Zappa, They Might Be Giants, The Beach Boys and early Of Montreal.
"We want it to be just fun, easy music to listen to, with catchy melodies," he said. "It's not pretentious, and it's not for everybody. We're not trying to make ourselves look better than we are. We're just weird people making weird music."
Lyrically, the songs cover a wider spectrum, and some of it's not quite as playful or kid-friendly. The album opens with the goofy Kimya Dawson-ish "The Creature" (don't judge me so soon/just cuz i'm from the black lagoon/I'm every lady's wish/half monster and half fish), but closes with the darker "One Last Cigarette," wherein Rusk wishes death on a parting ex-lover (albeit, for stealing his banana).
While this new LP isn't always completely kid-friendly (there's a track entitled "Shit Rocket"), Rusk said that they do plan on recording a children's album sometime in the future ("All the music's written for it, it's just getting everyone to do it").
Regarding the current album, Rusk said that they started recording last November but didn't finish up until a few months ago due to an abrupt lineup change.
"Our bass player and drummer both decided that they were going to go on to do other things," Rusk said. "Evan and I finished up the album ourselves, and as we were doing that, we were also training our new drummer (Airon Wessinger of Elliot the Letter Ostrich) and bass player (Tyler Hall)."
They recorded at Pizza Party Productions, a house studio run by John Atkins, who produced, mixed and mastered the album.
Now that the album is finished, Rusk said the band plans to self-distribute while they plan a large tour for the end of the year that will hopefully yield a more expansive following. "At the end of the year, we're gonna go regional: Kansas, Arkansas, Texas."
Rusk said that sometime the band will go on a large two month tour across both the east and west coasts.
"We're gonna go all the way up to New York and down, back home and then to California and back," he said.
"We want to dirty the countryside with Wighead."
Opening for Wighead is retro-electro act Guardant, and Sweet Baby Jaysus will be on hand to host a post-show dance party. Additionally, Rusk said that the show will feature giveaways from several sponsors, including Louis & Cluck (the guys behind the "I Heart Tulsa" and "Okie Grown" apparel) and Under the Mooch.
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