You're gonna be either a terrible old man or a really cool old man, so you might as well try and point your way toward cool.
It isn't supposed to happen like this. By the time most rock musicians get older, they run out of steam, or more crucially, ideas, but this year's Castlemania, Thee Oh Sees' seventh record, marks the wiggiest offering yet from 36-year-old John Dwyer's current outfit. "Rocking out is keeping him young," theorizes Larry Hardy, founder of In the Red Records, the band's current label.
After years in the Bay Area trenches with the Coachwhips, Pink and Brown, and Yikes! (among others), singer/guitarist Dwyer found the ideal vehicle for his twisted muse in an outfit that combines what-the-fuck lyrics, wild-man vocals, and woodchopper rhythms. But just when you think you've got Thee Oh Sees sussed out as the bastard children of Syd Barrett and the Seeds, along comes a saw, a theremin, a harmonica, or even a flute. (As Dwyer told Dave Segal: "I love flute. To all those who don't like flute—fuck you.") Then there are the lovely "la-la-las" on Castlemania's "Pleasure Blimps." They can also keep it sweet and simple as the need arises.
By the time they released 2009's Help, the lineup seemed plenty secure, but Dwyer had another trick up his sleeve: a second drummer. He added Seattle's equally energetic Lars Finberg (Wounded Lion, Personal and the Pizzas, and 2011 Genius Award winners the Intelligence). Finberg joins Brigid Dawson (keyboards), Petey Dammit (bass), and Mike Shoun (drums).
If they know their way around a studio, the stage is another beast altogether, as that's where Thee Oh Sees really come alive, playing every gig like it might be their last, which means a cluster bomb of blurred limbs, flying instruments, and rivers of sweat. At the center of the maelstrom, hair falling into his eyes, tattoos covering his arms, wearing his guitar high up on his chest, is a man who provides a link between the proto-punk of the 1960s and the farthest reaches of today's rock and roll—John Dwyer, unstoppable force of cool.