Published May 23, 2009Detroit garage punks Tyvek are a unique, often mysterious group who have been building a rep on their fantastic live show and run of limited singles on various labels since they formed in 2001. Their fantastic self-titled album finally dropped last month on the much-blogged Siltbreeze imprint, and it's another collection of raw, urgent, and messy punk jams that prove this band mean business. On the phone with their charming front-man Kevin Boyer, we found out that the band's lack of publicity isn't entirely intentional, and that their connection to Detroit's vast musical history runs deep.
What did you do today?
Honor Thy Father, pretty interesting story about a mafia family in the '50s, '60s and '70s. It's a pretty good read. Other than that, I just listened to some records and checked some email. It was a pretty lazy day before the next tour.
So what tour did you just come off of and where are you going?
We just got done touring in Europe, which was a ton of fun. We were touring with our friends Cheveau, they're from France. We did 14 shows with them in Europe, which was a blast. We played shows in Italy, and went up to Slovenia and Croatia, Czech Republic, and more. It was kind of a whirlwind, almost a different country every night. We didn't have much time to see the sites.
Was it what you expected or was it weird?
I had never really travelled in Europe before. I had been to France, but that was that. It was the unexpected every night. We didn't know what the crowd was going to be like at all. It ended up being great, a lot of fun. Every country, it was so amazing. The drives are a lot shorter than in North America, but you drive 100 kilometres and you're in a totally different world than the night before. Different language, different everything.
What was the hold up for you to finally release a full album?
I just wanted to do an album that was different from the singles and didn't sound like a bunch of singles strung together. I wanted it to be an LP that sounded like a real LP. So I think just getting that right, and also just the reality of the situation was that I was working 40 hours a week and my buddy that I was recording with was working more than that, so getting together to work on it was difficult. But we finally got it done, so I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.
There hasn't really been much publicity surrounding the release of this album. Are you intentionally avoiding self-promotion and the whole industry game?
I guess, kind of. But at the same time, we'd like to have people be getting copies of the record. So we're trying to figure out if we need to be working with a publicist. I guess we do. It's not like I want it to just go unnoticed by people who are journalists or music fans, so I do want to get it out there. I guess we do need to think about that. It's just kind of daunting, because it's a totally different world than what we're used to. But I guess we have to consider that.
How did you decide to go with Siltbreeze? Were there other labels who asked you?
We had other options, but we just met with Tom who runs Siltbreeze, and just got a good feeling about working with him. It was clear from the get go that he was just interested in the music. We respected where he came from, which was just totally being interested in the music aspect of it. He was honest from the start, like, "I'm not going to be sending this out to everybody. People who like it will find it." I just really respected that. He just had this great philosophy about music in general which I could relate to. Also, he's a great cook. We had some great meals with him, and that sealed the deal. After working with a few labels on the singles, it became clear that who is running the label actually matters, and the approach they take is either going to be one you agree with or don't. Just looking at what Tom had released in year's prior, it was a no-brainer.
It seems like the band have been through quite a few line-up changes. How did you form and how has it evolved?
We started as a three-piece, Matt playing drums and my friend Larry playing bass. Larry's the bass player on all the recordings up until now, and he's a permanent member of the band, but due to the fact that he has a real job - he's a prosecutor in Detroit - he can't really get the time off he needs to tour. We have a new bass player, her name is Shelly. But at the start it was Larry, Matt and I. It's also worth noting, when we started, Matt and Larry had never played in bands before, and neither of them had ever really played drums or bass before. I had played in bands, but I had never released any recordings. Our approach was like, let's just do really repetitive, simple riffs and make songs that are really easy that we can handle. That was the philosophy of the band, to just do simple things and drive them home. After that, we asked Heath to join the band on lead guitar. We'd seen him around town with his band Little Claw. We really liked him on guitar and just asked him to play. Pretty soon after that we invited our friend Damon to start playing guitar. He's from Toledo, Ohio, and we had seen his band the Puffy Areolas a few times. We asked him to come play with us live a few times, and we really liked it so we invited him to come on tour with us. So at that point it became a five-piece. But along the way we always ask our friends to come play with us. Our songs are so simple that if you have a basic knowledge you can kind of step in and start playing. So we always have several friends rotating in and out and playing with us. Just recently, with the last couple tours, we decided to strip it back down to a three-piece.
Since you've started, the whole lo-fi, post-garage movement has exploded across North America. Have you noticed a difference in the way people see you as a band?
I think it's definitely changed the way people see us, but being in Detroit is kind of a weird bubble of a scene. What's going on in Detroit doesn't really have a lot to do with what's going on in the rest of the country. I kind of feel like we've been in this weird vacuum for a long time, and then when lo-fi started to make the news again, it was kind of funny because lo-fi seems to make the news every three years ago. We record the way we do because we want to get a sound we like within our budget and within the equipment we have. We make choices to get the sound we want, but it's not like we say, "let's try to sound shitty" or "let's try to sound lo-fi." That never comes into play. Even touring, I feel like it hasn't really changed. There are a few cities where we probably get more people than we used to, but in most of North America you're still just a weird band coming to town. There's just a handful of people who know you.
How does being from Detroit influence your band? Would Tyvek sound different if it was from somewhere else in the country?
Yeah, I think so for sure. Detroit's an interesting place to be a music fan, because there's this huge history with The Stooges and MC5 and like Motown and techno, so there's all that going on. But then you have the garage rock boom in Detroit a few years back. It seems like there are all these disparate elements all hanging around, and a good cross-pollination among the different genres in Detroit. People are pretty open-minded because it's a pretty small scene and there's not a lot to do. People who might normally check out a garage punk show will find themselves checking out a noise show or some DJs. I feel like in other cities there might be more of a separation from the different crews or different scenes, whereas in Detroit people are supporting each other just by default, so they have something to do on a Saturday night. There's a certain character about the city; it's definitely a survivor kind of city. People living in Detroit are tough people, and pretty cynical, so you have to try pretty hard, and you have to come from a pretty genuine standpoint for people to appreciate it. So when people started liking us in Detroit it was like, "Wow, this is pretty cool...we must be doing something right." Nine times out of ten in Detroit, people just walk away or turn their backs. They don't give a shit. It's definitely had a huge influence on how Tyvek developed.
What are your influences for Tyvek?
I've always loved '70s and '80s punk, which is a huge influence. Also Krautrock, '60s and '70s German music, and by extension the early '80s techno scene in Detroit. A lot of '60s Michigan garage rock. Just simple, repetitive, beat-driven music that you can actually enjoy at length and not get sick of. Kind of the falling apart nature of early punk bands with the trance-inducing nature of Krautrock and stuff like that.
What do you want to accomplish next with this band? Could you see it ending any time soon?
I want to keep doing records. Now that the album's finally out, I think the next thing on our agenda is to start releasing seven-inches again. I'm excited about that. And I just want to keep touring. I'd love to tour in the UK, and I'd love to get to places that bands don't usually get to like South America. I'd like to keep doing Tyvek for the foreseeable future, especially because there's not many job prospects in Detroit. So, might as well keep doing this, it's clearly the best thing I have going for me.