Cro Magnon
by Kevin J. Elliott

Living here my whole life I can attest that the Midwest (whatever parameters that suggests) can be a startlingly strange place if you look in the right nooks and crannies. Of all the weirdo movements that have surfaced in this new dawn of abusive fidelities, record-collecting manias and scum stats, it’s the disturbing sturm und drang conjured on Die Stasi’s recent XXperiments compilation that’s got me twisted in the corner, truly unable to decipher what kind of tar-black heart could create this horror. Am I supposed to love it like the grotesque child made with my own blood or simply ingest it all until it festers through my veins? What’s strangest is how all of the artists collected on the record appear connected by a doom and damaged telekinesis. It’s a rare thing for a compilation to seamlessly coagulate into one haunting monolith of noisy funeral dirge, a sound defined by the most primitive of percussive shanks, thorny strings, and siren voices emitting from the crawlspace under the floorboards.

Two of those voices, Laffayette, Indiana’s Katie Leming and Haley Fohr form Cro Magnon, perhaps the only “band” on the record (as most of the women here are solo entities). This convergence couldn’t be more unique, as on XXperiments they both contribute as themselves too—Katie’s Bird and Haley’s Circuits de Yeux—revealing their more intimate personalities. As Cro Magnon, on “Groundline,” and most recently on their debut 7-inch, they spar with each other in craggy downer craters. On “A Hole,” they attack their instruments, which include kitchenware, blunt like cavemen assembling a hardcore Shaggs if conducted by Pol Pot. Then again, they exchange spirit on the B-side, billowing ethereal drone that spooks as much as it soothes. Maybe it’s beginner’s luck, but in talking with them about their future it’s hard not to anticipate their next “phase.”

Lafayette, Indiana is becoming somewhat of a hotbed for out-sounds lately. What can you attribute that to?

Lafayette is pretty much an orphanage. Everyone that lives here has raised themselves with the help of the kids around them. There was a definite lack of parental supervision growing up here so we would all hang out like a gang and try to make music. These music sessions led to a variety of bands that come from very similar mindsets. It’s all just coming to fruition.

Does a lot of it have to do with Die Stasi?

I think that Lane (Die Stasi) has had a ton to do with the music scene in Lafayette getting as healthy as it has. He was one of the first people to encourage us to pursue it when we were “younger.” I don’t know how well Cro Magnon would have prospered without his involvement.

How did you become associated with the XXperiments compilation?

Initially, Kevin from Pink Reason contacted us about possibly putting together a compilation of ladies from the Midwest doing similar forms of music. We didn’t know who would release it or even if it would be released. At first there was talk of doing a cassette release of it and then talk of a CD. Lane showed interest in releasing it, so that was a perfect opportunity. By then, we had already collected the tracks from all of the different artists (Cro Magnon, Luxury Prevention, Circuit des Yeux, Buckets of Bile, Bird, U.S. Girls, Zola Jesus) that would be on it. We sent them to Lane and he took care of the tracklisting and the artwork.

Do you have any insight on how they chose the artists involved, especially the ones outside of your circle?

Katie Leming: Haley and I decided which artists would be on the compilation with helpful suggestions from Kevin from Pink Reason. All of the girls on the compilation are from the Midwest originally.

I’ve heard you’re associated with the Crimson Wave camp. First, do you know who came up with the term? Are you comfortable being part of that group of artists?

The person who coined the term, I believe, was Cher from Clueless, but Kevin suggested that we use that for the name of the compilation. There were some disagreements about the title and that is why it changed.

We are both okay with being associated with the people in this so-called group. All of the women are very talented. However, the term itself seems a bit commonplace and extremely redundant in terms of female groups throughout history. Female groups, no matter what they sound like, always seem to be clumped together in some way just because they’re women.

This is something I always ask. Fill in the blanks: It’s ____ and you’re in 10th grade, listening to ___ and doing ___ in the ___.

It’s winter and we’re in 10th grade, listening to Sonic Youth, doing pixie sticks in the girls room.

Are you any closer now to what you wanted to be at that age?

Haley Fohr: I am the exact opposite now compared to what I was like in the 10th grade. I feel like I have lost a lot of brain cells.

KL: I thought that I would definitely have my own sitcom based around my life by now. It’s a total bummer.

I think the first 7-inch does a nice job showing that there are two sides to Cro Magnon. The A-side’s songs seem to germ from a caustic punk perspective, while the B-side is more amorphous, loose, droned. Where did you get the inspiration for those two separate entities in your music?

The 7-inch as a whole is pretty much a timeline of phases that we had to go through to get to a sound that felt correct. We think that the 7-inch reflects that process accurately.

What’s coming next? Is there an album in the works?

Right now we’re focusing on recording new songs as it comes naturally. Whether or not this is going to lead to a single release as opposed to a full-length release, only time will tell. Something should definitely end up blossoming out of this eventually.

How will it differ from what we’ve heard so far? What do you have planned for a full-length? Any idea when that will be out?

We should have something out within the next season. As to what it will sound like, we will have to wait and see.

Anything you’d like to tell the world about Cro Magnon?

Cro Magnon is a charity organization that takes money and spends it on things they need. Any one is welcome to donate to this fund.