In an attempt to shine light on local music,The Lantern’s “Columbus’ Own” is a weekly series that will profile a new Columbus band each week.
“Passing through the 4th year” sounds as if someone has just received the much sought-after delicacy of a college degree. Most of us don’t describe ourselves after such an achievement as being a bigger, better version of ourselves, yet essentially static in spirit. It’s typical to go through some growth or change.
Back in the summer of 2010, a young Wolfman and the Airship Captain might have agreed. The band members left for college a year later, spreading out across the country. Yet they all eventually ended up back at Ohio State, where all but one member are now seniors.
But the musicians involved have never lost the memory of a 2011 talent show performance that occurred toward the end of their time at Upper Arlington High School.
“I remember seeing (Wolfman and the Airship Captain) when I was in high school — we went to the same high school but I didn’t play with them in high school. Gus was all over the stage, he was running off the stage … everybody was panicking because they didn’t know what he was gonna do,” guitarist Ted Langhorst said.
“They actually cut my mic in that talent show,” vocalist Gus Dieker said. “(After being cut) I came through the back of the stage and jumped off of somebody’s little practice amp.”
“I love that s—,” he said, smiling.
Even while adding the higher education variable into the mix, there was never any halt in the band’s progression. In — and eventually beyond — Columbus, the Wolfman project has prevailed through a number of personnel shifts and academic obstacles.
“We’ve had people leave and come back like Jamie and Colman. We’ve had a few different bassists — now we have none,” Langhorst said.
At one point, the band’s keyboard players, Colman Hickey and Jamie Watson, went to New York for an internship and Chicago for schooling at DePaul University, respectively, but the band continued on with friends of old.
“Since we all went to Upper Arlington High School, I’d say way above 80 percent of our (mutual) friends are from UA. We don’t have many ‘from-college’ friends,” Dieker said.
Hickey and Watson’s absence gave the opportunity for another member to join.
“I joined while Jamie was gone, Colman left, Jamie came back,” Langhorst said. The current incarnation has been together since summer 2013.
The electro-psych punk collaborative is currently armed with two keyboard players, a guitarist, a drummer and a vocalist. In a world where such a format generally opts out of the human factor for a means of a less-argumentative, computerized source of sound, Wolfman’s catalog delivers the product of pure deliberation.
Everyone in the band has some sort of impact on the sound at whatever time, Dieker said.
While it’s tough to define “eras” for a band that has “been playing the same songs for a long time,” the shifts in musicians have still allowed for a surprisingly permanent style.
“There’s been (songs) that have gone through all four years (of the band) … they’re all different now, though,” Watson said.
As old material prospers and new material flourishes, there still isn’t necessarily a principal song/riff-writer in Wolfman. Every member delivers a personal flavor to the overall sound.
“Jamie comes up with the most intense, dark riffs (that) turn into our most intense songs,” Dieker said, laughing.
All the same, Watson is equally willing to stick on a rhythm to any of Hickey’s leads, which might be the factor that sets this Columbus band apart from the undying worship of interwoven guitars.
All Wolfman had to do was replace the utility of the lead guitar.
In terms of the dueling synthesizers, Dieker noted, “You can listen to the songs and tell who’s who … it’s very clear.”
In the beginning, Wolfman was just as much a visually glamorous endeavor as it was a musical act.
From the first outside-of-high-school performance at The Basement in the winter of 2011 to a Franklin County Veterans Memorial fundraiser show the following summer and beyond, the band originally opted into elegant costumes of leather, gold, makeup or all of the above.
Dieker said the band’s “look” has evolved with the sound and the way the music has morphed into what it is now.
“We just became more aware of where our strengths were,” Dieker said. “Some sort of self-awareness came about ‘cause we’ve been around for a while.”
Regardless, there’s definitely still a subtle fashion statement deployed from the band. At the recent Sept. 19 Donatos Basement show, half the band appeared in abnormally bright clothing: Lynch in a blue shirt/blue pants combination, Hickey in a simple-but-gnarly abstract shirt, and Dieker in a vibrant Hawaiian shirt.
As a pairing to the flash of the original Wolfman wardrobe, Gus Dieker used to be listed under the stage name Constantine Xilver.
“I still think that’s kinda funny, and if people wanna say that, it’s cool,” he said. “But I wanted to just stop doing that because I felt like our music was trying to be (more) honest … having a stage name is just some sort of falseness.”
But with that original stage name complex also came a “fantasy world” ideal toward the Wolfman style.
“Some of (the songs) are more story-based or character-based,” Dieker said.
For example, one of the band’s ballads titled “Cannibal” is about a protagonist who is “tortured” by the fact that he is a cannibal and can’t help but continue on through life as he always has.
Yet, even with the song’s concept being one of several in a fictional WMATAC universe, the reality-rooted listener should take at least one idea: “you always have a choice,” Dieker said.
While Dieker writes and performs most of the lyrics, the rest of the Wolves have interpreted the songs’ meanings individually and rarely talk about it, Langhorst said.
One Wolfman track, “Crystal Earth” features a lyrical progression in the hook of the song: “I want to be free like a movie star tryin’ to change the world / If he could.”
Upon the request for personal meanings, the non-Dieker members of the group grew silent in thought over the lyrics.
Eventually: “It feels a little dark, a little bit like these movie stars — or whatever artists — are trying to change the world, but they’re not,” Watson said. “Maybe you’re pretending you’re trying, but you’re not gonna do anything.”
During fall 2012, Wolfman and the Airship Captain released a three-track EP titled, “Wolf Baby.” Granted, the record does not completely feature the current cast, but the short run still represents the band’s fresh take on new-wave music styles, borrowing from modern Britpop and dance themes.
It’s been two years since that release and the Wolves have been taking their time on a debut full-length album.
“I think we’ve been working on (the record) over a year and a half… it’s certainly not rushed,” Langhorst said.
“Deadlines are a strange concept,” Dieker said.
Langhorst has a connection with a small recording studio called Guitar House Workshop on Chambers Road, which is where Wolfman’s upcoming album is being constructed.
The release is to be released “when it’s done.”
“We just want the songs to sound good in the end … we don’t wanna rush anything out,” Lynch said.
Beyond Wolfman and the Airship Captain, the band’s singer and a fourth-year in art and technology Gus Dieker has already made a feature-length film and plenty of experimental art.
“I’ve been going to very dark places with my art, but I’ve come to some sort of epiphany,” Dieker said. “And I think I’m gonna explain that with my new art.”
To explain a “dark place,” Dieker described a project of his where an ugly, abrasive Styrofoam head would basically spit up hair conditioner and suck it back up through a tube leading back to the mouth of its face, from which it would be spit up again and again continuously.
“It smelled really nice,” Dieker commented.
Dieker said his influence comes from the world we live in today. The influence is providing a template for a new film idea of which is “about being meta.”
“We’re just living in such a weird age, and such a weird time,” he said. “It’s this new world that we’re being born into that no one has been born into (before), where you are so exposed and your privacy is so obsolete.
“Everyone has so much information on you. It’s such a paranoid age to grow up in,” Dieker continued. “I think I’m coming up with something that’s really cool … So, just you wait for this thing that’s gonna happen next.”
Dieker confirmed that the aforementioned ideals seep into the music made by Wolfman, among which is one of the earliest songs created, “We Rob Banks.”
In terms of the Wolfman endeavor, Dieker said “Pay attention, ‘cause there’s a lot more to come … we got a lot of stuff you haven’t seen from us.”
“We’re becoming more ‘gecko,’” Dieker said, confusing his bandmates.
Becoming “gecko” — along with the oncoming feats of Wolfman and the Airship Captain — is Dieker’s secret plan for a new culture, for which he will only tease: “Just you wait.”