1. There are four people in the Mae Shi: Ezra Buchla, Brad Breeck, Tim Byron and Jeff Byron.
2. We are from Los Angeles, birthplace of Black Flag, the Minutemen, Sparks, the Mommas and the Papas, N.W.A., Aimee Semple McPherson, Eric Dolphy, Mike Davis, American Apparel, the Doors, affordable track housing and fast food. We love Los Angeles, and we love all the bands that make Los Angeles feel like home. The Smell is the best club in the world.
3. You can call us Mae-Shi or The Mae Shi or Mae Shi or Team Mae Shi, but not The Mae-Shi. You can pronounce it “may she” or “my she” or even “mee she” and if you live in Seattle you can pronounce it “my shy.” We pronounce it “may she.”
4. The Mae Shi are influenced by all kinds of music, from Deerhoof to the Monorchid to Erik Satie to Naked City to Jay-Z to Fat Day to Jeff Mills to Yes to Sparks to Dr. Dre to Angel Alanis to Andrew WK to R. Kelly to The Ex to Derek Bailey to Pere Ubu to John Zorn to the shape of interesting-looking waveforms.
5. We’ve known each other for an average of 8 years. Ezra and Jeff went to high school together and even lived together during high school for a while. Ezra had never sung in a band before but the rest of us thought he would be a killer singer and convinced him to sing. As it turns out, he is a killer singer. We are all friends and feel like brothers. Only half of the Mae Shi went to art school.
6. We played our first show in January 2003 and since then have played over 60 shows. The Mae Shi live set usually consists of about 11 songs in 18 minutes with lots of hooting and hollering and hugging and things breaking and people other than us playing our instruments and kick drums sliding across the room and guitars being unplugged and Ezra on Jeff’s shoulders and people falling down and three people talking at the same time but saying different things. We’re going to tour like crazy in 2004 and 2005.
7. What’s this about synthesizers?
8. Terrorbird was recorded, mixed and “produced” by the Mae Shi during the fall of 2003 and the winter and early spring of 2004. We borrowed mics and cables from our friends and our places of work and recorded drums in Ezra’s living room in Newhall. Newhall is a suburb about 25 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, near the California Institute for the Arts, where Ezra was going to school. Everything in the town was built in the past 20 years. There is no “old town” area, no old buildings, every store is in a mini-mall and every home is in a multi-home development. Ezra and a bunch of other students live in a two-story mini-mansion made out of plywood and plaster at the end of a speed-bump-lined faux-street, separated from a strip mall on the main road by an 8-foot-tall sound wall. The downstairs is just one big combo living room/kitchen/dining room with a gas fireplace with a fake log in it. The rest of the people that live on Ezra’s “street” are families with pickup trucks in the driveway. Most of the people have goatees and black baseball caps and look like they say the word “faggot” a lot. We drank lots of caffeine and ate lots of candy while we recorded there. Weeks later we recorded bass and vocals and guitars in Tim’s apartment in Koreatown. Tim lives in a long, narrow apartment with a small “office” at the end of a long hallway. We put amps and singers in the closet and recorded them there. Our neighbors and roommates were very understanding, considering all the screaming involved. Meanwhile, Brad was on his girlfriend’s laptop in his closet/office working on songs through headphones. Then we got together every weekend in March 2004 to mix the record in Jeff’s bedroom in a house a few blocks from Tim’s on the other side of Koreatown. The record was recorded and mixed on four different computers, each belonging to a different member of the Mae Shi. Each song passed through at least two of the four computers. All in all, it cost about $130 to record “Terrorbird,” but took about 800 hours. We used lots of cool tricks in recording the album, like replacing all the bass drum hits in a song with a Roland TR-808 drum machine sample, or replacing the bass parts with the bass sound from a Roland Juno 60. Why did we do this? See (9) and (10).
9. The Mae Shi wanted “Terrorbird” to sound like a mix tape. In August 2003 when our first EP came out, we held our First Annual Mae-Shi Mix Tape Swap. We encouraged our fans to bring a mix CD or tape for us to listen to while on tour, and in return we offered a copy of our EP. We discovered A LOT of great music this way — the Slits, the Cyrcle, Lucky Dragons, Sparks, Klark Kent, Jilted John —and we also made a lot of friends. And we realized that mix tapes were the future, that no one listens to CDs any more, everyone listens to mix tapes and iTunes playlists. So we did our best to take the rules of mix tape and apply them to the CD. You probably already know the rules of mix tape preparation.
10. The Mae Shi wanted “Terrorbird” to fit the mold of a hip hop record, not a rock record. Rock records are usually collections of songs recorded at the same time and produced by the same producer. At its very best, this format produces albums like Led Zeppelin’s II and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. At its very worst, rock records are very boring, and most rock records put out in the last ten years have been very boring. Hip hop records, on the other hand, usually feature tracks produced by several different producers, each with his or her own style and method. Hip hop records are ambitious, and often feature lots of special guests and interspersed skits. Hip hop and R&B records break rules — only R. Kelly could sequence a track and a remix of that track back-to-back and make it flow perfectly. An average hip hop record contains a ton of different bass drum sounds. A hip hop record will often contain several narrative threads and mini-concepts. Your average hip hop record contains a number of dissonant and non-musical sounds – listen to Biggie Smalls’ Ready to Die, with its pager beeps brutally high in the mix and digital pops and crackles and phlegm-packed coughs and birth-to-death bookends. We kept this all in mind as we worked on “Terrorbird.”
11. “Terrorbird” consists of eleven songs about the Old and New Testament (two of the most macabre books you can get your hands on), ten songs about a prehistoric bird called the “terror bird,” three songs about vampires, two songs about werewolves, two songs about ergot poisoning in the Middle Ages, one song about the evolution of sharks, one song about California, and one song about dolphins in the military. There is also one dis song. All of our songs are love songs. We team up to write the lyrics of many of our records.
12. Titanis walleri, more commonly known as the “Terror Bird,” is the largest predatory bird known to have existed. It was also flightless. it had a beak that could rip through bone. From 2-million-year-old fossils, 25 species of terror bird have been recognized, ranging in height from 3–9.8 ft. Their closest living relative is the seriema, a flesh-eating bird found in the grasslands of northern Argentina, eastern Bolivia, Paraguay, and parts of Brazil.
13. Neil Young said that at the end of the day “you’re either the Stones or the Beatles.” We think that’s a clean and nifty duality, a nice way to set your coordinate system, but it means that your spectrum ends with prep school or factory jobs, trend-setters or hustlers, sneers or smiles. It implies that you write your own songs, which you then perform live, while a small army of professionals handles music production, management, booking, public appearances, legal matters, makeup and lighting. And it means you all have the same haircut. And look where it’s fucking gotten us, thirty years later. Bands that share haircuts are dumb. We’re going to opt out and instead take the Beach Boys, with Brian conducting a paid orchestra in the front room while Van Dyke Parks makes the minimum wage writing tunes in the basement while Mike hangs out with Paul McCartney and the rest of the Wilson boys practice their harmonies and primp their hair and shop for the latest soul records while Mr. Wilson is upstairs getting his pink slip. Now that’s what we call family, and THAT’s what we call a band. People couldn’t get their brains around it back then, but we think they’re ready for it. We’re the Mae Shi, and we do all that shit. And we cut our OWN hair.
released 27 July 2004
Made by The Mae Shi
September 2003 to March 2004
Drawings by Erin Allen and James Bradley