Tyvek Go Tip to Tail on Latest Album ‘Origin of What’
Few modern punk bands have had the longevity or underground success that Tyvek have enjoyed since forming over a decade ago. The band has released albums and singles with some of the biggest indie labels going, but their limited releases — in the form of tour cassettes and limited CD-Rs — have allowed their fans to see the inner workings of Tyvek through the window of rough / live recordings.
While singer Kevin Boyer recently moved to Philadelphia, he insists that Tyvek are still going strong, and Origin of What (the band’s new album, which drops November 4 via In the Red) proves that their garage punk ethos is still very much intact. We caught up with Boyer to talk more about Origin of What, the appeal of limited releases and what’s going on with his new band, the Intended.
What have you been up to since On Triple Beams was released in 2012?
From 2012-2013, I was working on the Intended, my new band that has an album coming out on In the Red on the same day as the Tyvek record. Most recently, I’m playing in a band called Taiwan Housing Project, putting out tapes, and doing some Tyvek stuff, too. We did some touring for a while, but we stopped for a couple years. I think the last major tour we did was in 2013, in support of On Triple Beams.
Your discography is littered with limited CD-Rs, cassettes and other small-run releases, but at the same time, you’ve worked with “big” labels like Sub Pop, What’s Your Rupture? and In the Red. How do you decide what songs get what treatment?
I guess it just always depends. Every release has been a little different. For the last few years, we’ve been making albums with In the Red, and working with them is great when we want to make a record that gets out to a lot of people. A lot of the stuff that’s on smaller releases gets released that way for different reasons. Sometimes its demo stuff, or liking a different version [of a song] that’s not going to be recaptured. It’s cool to get that out there, plus it's fun to do art for cassettes and stuff like that. Basically, it’s a fun way to get more music out there, and I think at this point, there’s more to be heard from Tyvek than what a lot of bands present. Even if it is on a very small level, sometimes those tapes or CD-Rs are a window into the writing process.
Are these random compilations made before you hit the road as a way to generate merch income, or is there more to it than that?
Yeah, that’s a big part of it, too. It's fun to work on that stuff while you’re on tour — cutting out tape inserts and making art in the van. We’ve even dubbed stuff in the van before, just to have something to sell for the next show.
In the Red has been a constant for the past few years for you guys, but how important are labels to a band like Tyvek? What’s made you want to keep working with them?
You know, 2016 is a much different place than even 2012. I get the argument for not wanting to work with a record label. But for me, I just like working with In the Red. They’re really great to work with. Larry [Hardy] has been great to work with, so it’s a no-brainer for us. Bands can certainly avoid a label nowadays, but for us, releasing LPs with them makes the most sense.
You recently premiered the title track for Origin of What. What’s the inspiration behind that track and the title of the album?
Man, that’s a good question. The start of it all was just going back to practice tapes and listening to old jams and finding this weird section where I was singing something, but I couldn’t tell what I was saying. It’s actually from the tape Domestic Five. I was just kind of listening back to the lyrics, so it came from there. It kind of seems like something that should be a question, but it's not. You could say the album is a question, but it’s not.
Tyvek were recently called the “Michigan Talking Heads” by Andrew Savage (Parquet Courts) and Joe Casey (Protomartyr) on a Talkhouse podcast. That’s a pretty interesting compliment.
I guess I never thought of it that way, but I’m more of a Tom Tom Club than a Talking Heads fan.
This isn’t your first time working with Fred Thomas. What else have you recorded with him?
Fred and I go way back — we’ve been friends for ages. One of the first shows my high school band played was with Fred. We first worked together in the early 2000s — he recorded a solo CD-R that I put out in 2002. I’ve been a fan of his music for a long time, too, all of his many projects. I don’t think we worked on anything between 2002 and 2012. We did the On Triple Beams record, and that was the first time we recorded together in a while. I like his approach to recording and getting sounds on tape. He’s what we need. I’ve recorded us quite a few times, but I find the results are better when we’re working with other people. With someone like Fred, you know it’s going to go well. Whatever the process calls for, he’s got the right energy.
Now’s probably a good time to talk about the Intended, your other band that shares a release date with Origin of What.
Time Will Tell will be our first album. We’ve got a 45 and a tape out [released through All Gone Records]. We worked with Fred on this one, too, and our friend Chris Durham, who does All Gone Records and the band Roachclip. We did a good amount of the record with him, and a good amount of it with Fred.
With this being the band’s debut album, what can fans of Tyvek expect to find?
The Intended is, like, [a band of] good friends. Two of the guys, Larry [Williams] and Heath [Moerland], have played in Tyvek. They play together in High Clouds and we’re all just buddies. Glen [Morren] and I are kind of both contributing to the lyrics and the songwriting, so it’s been more interesting. We’re both contributing to the songs, so everything gets cooked up in a different way. It’s a different moment in time for us.
Staying with the Intended for a second, how easy is it for you to balance time between both bands?
Sometimes I get the feeling that one song should go to a specific band, but sometimes I don’t. There’s definitely something with the Intended where we got together very casually when we were all just hanging out. We had a cheap practice space that we’d just go up to and do whatever, and it just morphed into the Intended. Tyvek started as Tyvek — we kind of had an idea of what was going to happen, and it was a defined situation. The Intended is loose — it just came together from hanging out. We started learning covers first and stuff like that, but later we had a feeling with the Intended that was like, “Oh, I guess this is kind of becoming a band.” There are elements in the Intended where everyone is kind of like, “Whoa, what’s going on there,” and that is reflected in the lyrics, too. It’s always going to have that basement kind of vibe, just having fun.
I feel like your lyrics have always been discussed more than any other part of Tyvek. What is the lyrical process like for you? Now that the “Tyvek sound” has been established, is it easier to write lyrics?
I think that it doesn’t necessarily get easier for me. It’s a combination of a lot of things, but sometimes it is really simple. Like, I’ll be talking to someone at work and some phrase will jump out. I repeat things and I get into going over and over repeating phrases until it clicks, but in other cases a line will pop into my head and a rhyme is a super-primitive stepping stone. It’s a rhyme, it's not a crime, and then you’re off. The first line just springs up an idea and you follow that, or it can come out of a more structured thing. Hearing what someone says on the bus or something, or overhearing a conversation, reading the fine print.
I like reggae compilations where it's like 12 different people singing over the same beat, and there’s so many great versions. You see how many different approaches there can be. Sometimes it's fun to do as many different versions of the same song as you can. There’s no real set recipe — circumstances are always different as to what the approach might be.
What do you have planned following the release of Origin of What?
We’re definitely going to be touring the whole U.S., and hopefully as many other places as we can. I’ve recently picked up and moved to Philly, so that interrupted normal band activity. The band has kind of been on ice since then, but there was never any intention to stop.