VICE: Is there any overarching aesthetic, moral principle, etc with regard to Muuy Biien?
Josh Evans: Yes. The answer is simple. Knowledge. Cross out the wicked. Degrade the swine.
With that statement Josh Evans joins a disgusted lineage that includes hellhounds ranging from Hunter S. Thompson to Nazi playwright Hanns Johst. Evans, 19, is the founder, main songwriter, producer and focal point of Muuy Biien. The name is meaningless outside of its goofball spelling but that device serves well as a visual aid and branding iron for this solo ambient/noise project turned actual band. That it didn't fail miserably like most other multi-cook events probably has less to do with luck than the fact that Evans is no moron simply taking on weight. The group he's assembled—guitarists Robbie Rapp and Tobiah Black, bassist Xander Witt and drummer Jacob Deel—are a crack ensemble and Evans is anxious for them to be much more than the beat behind his march. “I want this to be a band,” he says. “I don't want this to be identified as simply my thing anymore.”
And that's fine as far as that goes. But the fact remains that there's a whole catalog of stuff under the Muuy Biien banner, including the newest album This Is What Your Mind Imagines, and it's safe to say the overwhelming majority comes straight outta Evans' heart of darkness. His musical touchstones run the gamut from Black Flag to Rudimentary Peni to The Fall. In very real terms, Muuy Biien isn't a “punk band” but a band of punks. If there were ever a case of the ends justifying the musical means, this is it.
Is the punk medium an essential part of the message, or just a delivery system?
Good question. Honestly, I would say both. People understand your message a lot better when you are shouting it in their fucking faces. We chose punk rock as a style because of the way the “scene” was in our hometown [Athens, GA]. Nothing but greeners (i.e., hippie liberal types) and college students.
For the jaded and cynical the mere mention of a “message” is enough to trigger hand-waving dismissal. Evans doesn't preach anything other than hyper self-awareness, really, and even then it's mainly his own. He's an unabashed perfectionist freely admitting that the punk moral of “anyone can do it” is too often a mask for lazy, ill-conceived bullshit. The way he speaks of it, though, has an almost religious/spiritual component. When I mentioned this to him he laughed it off. I didn't blame him but still thought about how the pursuit of perfection meshes with the soul's desire and how, like Omar Khayyám wrote, “Heaven is the vision of fulfilled desire, and hell the shadow of a soul on fire.”
Why does the pursuit of perfection matter?
I'm naturally a perfectionist. My dad is the same way. I guess it's sort of like an argument between a believer and a non-believer. It's the battle you can never win. But, at the same time, you get closer to your ideology that way. I think that trying to perfect our songs is us getting closer to them. It's also avoiding the punk ethos that “perfection doesn't matter.” In the place we're in at this point, it's really important that we play well. We're punks that can play! Ha ha!
It's such a fool's errand to attribute so much significance to a relatively new band. They will almost invariably disappoint somewhere along the way and then there's this weird justification limbo of “yeah, well, their old stuff is great!” and that always rings false even as the words are coming out. I found myself even guarding against this once when I told Evans straight up that just because I've been all over Muuy Biien for several months that doesn't mean he gets a lifetime free pass. But, for now, this is the most real thing in current rotation. And, besides, why fret over some imagined inevitable? Because that's what human beings do.
What elements are necessary in Rock-N-Roll?
Is it relevant and honest? That's all I look for.
Is authenticity possible? Does relevance matter?
Of course! That's what's so great about those old hardcore bands (Black Flag, Bad Brains, Minor Threat)...they were reacting to the bullshit they were presented with. Just look at where we come from, the music we're surrounded by—as well as the people. Then [when you] hear our record(s) it all makes sense.
Generally speaking, teenagers don't know anything. I didn't and neither did you. On the other hand, they know a whole lot. Every experience is visceral and pain is closer to the surface. There's an honesty present that is nearly impossible to revisit in full adulthood. After years of sloughing off slings and arrows the callouses build up. But there was a time when we all bled red and that scab is ripped, and the wound pricked, every time Muuy Biien is in my ear.
What led to your dropping out of high school?
I dropped out of high school for a number or reasons. Before I can really explain why, I should point out that from the time I was 5 to about 15 years old I was verbally and physically abused by my step dad. He was a Desert Storm veteran and eventually went on to be a police officer. I hated him. He was such a tyrant. “Fallin' Out” is about him and my moms divorce. I moved in with my grandparents [my] freshman year of high school to get away from that. [Because] my grandparents felt bad about the way things were going, they just couldn't tell me "NO". So right away I was out doing as I pleased. Around my second semester of junior year I just gave up on school. At that time I was just starting to experiment with drugs and shit like that. I realized that school wasn't my thing. It never really was and I just knew that I was incapable of learning in that environment. When my senior year rolled around I was barely going to school. During that year I might have gone to school two days a week, if that. Long story short, I had a dependency on pain killers and no drive in [school's] direction whatsoever. So I went to the school and withdrew on my own. After that I got a job and started learning how to record.
There are obvious work-arounds to all this. It's pretty easy to ignore lyrics, not to mention the ambient interludes on This Is What Your Mind Imagines. It's pretty easy to just throw back drinks and rock out and wear black and look good. But all art is of a piece and it's evasive to only engage a cherry picked set of factors. I mean, who looks at only a corner of a painting?
What is Art and why does it matter?
I'm not really sure. That’s such a vague term. To me, art is a reaction [toward] the times. So I guess for Muuy Biien it's me reacting against the moral and religious values of my time.
The most compelling thing about Muuy Biien is the project's clarity. For all the murky, stumbling, half-mute human glop explored there's a thoughtful mind behind each line. When Evans speaks this truth it's in such a way that each line is internalized and imbued by its receiver. And what is that exactly? That's art. That's the listener's reaction. It's that gut twisting paradox between public commodity and private fetish.
What do you hate? What do you care about?
I hate going to work everyday. Working in the service industry in this town has made me see things for what they really are. People are not connected to themselves at all. Don't get me wrong, I love my job and have been doing it for almost two years. I just know what its like to go without food and shit. When I moved here I lived in a house with about seven other people. We were all super fucking broke all the time and for the most part we still are. That's what I hate, not being promised even the smallest of necessities. I care about my sister a lot. I care about my friends and my band, of course. Other than that, nothing. I think people will destroy one another regardless. It's the animalistic drive we have. The human condition to kill or be killed.
It's unfair to saddle any band, record, artist, whatever with the weight of history, both the world's and one's own and it's impossible to ask any of these things to be any more than they are. So, what I'm saying is it matters not one bit if Evans gives up tomorrow and Muuy Biien is left as a pile of ashes. Rimbaud quit before he was twenty, too. He won't, of course. There's too much steam building up and a storehouse full to let loose. But This Is What Your Mind Imagines is such a teeth-grinding, knife throwing, mirror smashing experience he should be thankful he's got the youthful energy to sustain.
But, as was already said, it really couldn't have happened any other way.