Panic in Detroit
by Kevin J. Elliott

When the compilation Shiftless Decay is released later this month, featuring songs from the Frustrations, Human Eye, Little Claw and the Terrible Twos, there will officially be an encompassing document for the new sound of Detroit. If that proclamation has a tinge of déjà vu attached, you are not alone. It seems like only yesterday that the amplified-blues of the White Stripes and the soulful garage-rock of the Dirtbombs made Detroit ground zero for the underground. Now, years later, it’s happening again. Who’s to say if this strain is a reaction to the handful of imitators that made a quick buck from the phenomenon, or if this renaissance in the Motor City is simply a mutant evolution of the punk the Stooges birthed decades back?

One thing is for certain, if the scene has a face, an ambassador, then it is Tyvek. Even with only a handful of singles and a single CDR to their credit, songs like “Give it Up” and “Mary Ellen Claims” have become the gold standard among collector scum and dive-bar cretins nationwide. Some might argue that the lack of material is a sure sign of laziness and inactivity, but those who have witnessed any of their recent shows will attest that these well-traveled “traditionals” have taken on a new shape. With the addition of Puffy Areolas’ Damon on third guitar, who’s responsible for Tyvek’s foray into noisier abstract terrain, Tyvek is equipped with a velocity and solidarity that pushes them far beyond just being an ordinary garage-rock band with a weird streak. I recently caught up with the band as they were making their way south for last weekend’s Gonerfest in Memphis. And yes, that official first album is on the way. Don’t fret.

Fast Metabolism has been out for almost two years now. Are you getting bored of playing the same songs? How do you keep it fresh night after night?

Kevin: It stays fresh just playing these songs for new people. Seems like they’ve begun to change gradually the more we play them.

I think what people really want to know is when is the album coming? Is there an album coming soon?

K: We’ve got an album coming out on Siltbreeze early next year.

Heath: It needs a couple overdubs and some vocals mixes, but we think it’s about 95% done.

K: There are songs with three of us, songs with all five of us. This time we liked having all different configurations of the band.

Can you elaborate at all on what the new material sounds like compared to the Fast Metabolism-era?

H: Well, we’ve got about 14 to 16 new songs that we’ve been playing. Two of them are a lot like the “Summer Burns” single, but some are more obtuse. Some are more abstract, some are more demanding, and some are more loving.

What’s the environment like in Detroit these days? Is it still like it was five years ago, when the garage boom started and bands like the Von Bondies got 15 minutes of fame?

K: A lot of things have changed even though there are pretty much the same people around. Most people were sick of the whole garage sound long before it got big. The Piranhas released a single in 1998 called “Redudant” and that summed up how everyone was feeling. There have always been a lot of underground punk bands that kind of emerged from that.

How did you interact with that scene? I think you’re just a bit trashier, much less hokey, and quite tuneful compared to all of that? Are you at all outcasts in Detroit?

K: It took a while for people to start showing up to our shows. For a long time it was kind of depressing, but now when we play people come out.

Larry: I think the bands we go to see these days are a lot more like us. These bands are into a lot of different things besides that. The Terrible Twos don’t play that shit, or the Frustrations.

H: But as far as bands that have been around for a while, the Dirtbombs were one band that was always cool to us and actually gave a shit. They’ve been doing it for a long time, but they actually keep up with what’s new.

So what about the name change? Are you legally forbidden to discuss it?

L: Dupont got to us through MySpace.

H: And basically Dupont told MySpace to delete our profile. MySpace told us we had to change our name or they’d delete our profile, and we didn’t want to part with our profile.

And now it’s TVK?

H: One day it’s TVK, the next day it changes. No matter how you spell it, it will always be pronounced “Tyvek.”

You were involved in that MTV expose about lo-fi during South By Southwest. Have you noticed any aspect of being in Tyvek change from that, for better or worse?

H: Well it was shortly after that when Dupont got a hold of us. It was literally one week after that aired.

K: Now my family thinks what I do is more legitimate. Overall, though, I was impressed. We didn’t know what to expect with John Norris, but as soon as he started asking questions, you could tell that the guy did his homework.

How do you feel about being lumped in with all of those other bands—TNV, Eat Skull and Psychedelic Horseshit? What’s the linkage between you all?

L: They’re all our friends, and we’ve played with them before and we’ll play with them again. It’s kind of cool that all the bands we like did this together.

H: It’s good because we don’t sound like them and they don’t sound like each other.

So your perfect album would sound like____?

Matt: Rumours.

H: Duty Now for the Future.

Damon: 36 Chambers.

L: I would have to say Return of the 36 Chambers.

K: The Free Design.