By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
Efrim Menuck of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra has a simple request of music fans and writers alike: Become engaged and find your own voice.
The Canadian native, who's also in the process of reigniting his seminal band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, cuts a definitive path to what society needs, whether it be in the political realm, or in what he calls the "critical culture" that currently seems to favor safety and uniformity over distinction and thoughtful arguments. Of course, being in bands that are sonically tough to define and have fallen under the dreaded label of post-rock, Menuck has a great deal of practice when it comes to forming ideas as to what his music is and isn't.
While even the biggest fans will perhaps casually refer to Thee Silver or Godspeed as post-rock, he understands why people feel the need to give their favored styles of music an easy tag.
"Everything now is so itemized and specialized. Everything is a lifestyle choice made by someone sitting in their own little capsule," Menuck says by phone as the band tours down the West Coast behind 2010's Kollaps Tradixionales. "Lazy genre terms will always stick because it's easier to go that way instead of talking things through and having a real discussion about what things really are. That goes for politics, music, whatever."
While Menuck continues to be confounded by the fact that post-rock is a useful term, it's not for the standard reasons many so-called post-rockers deny the label. To hear Menuck tell it, calling his groups post-anything is giving them too much credit for building upon something that doesn't require recreating.
"We're all really traditional in our band," he says. "Our record collections are made of old records, and both bands I'm in are still mining those traditional veins. We're not really interested in anything avant-garde. I've always thought it takes a unique personality to convince themselves they're doing something new. Both bands are steeped in rock music. I don't feel any of the negative baggage that might come with just saying we're a rock band."
Instead of pointing fingers at fans who may clutch the post-rock banner a tad too tightly, Menuck is convinced music journalists deserve the blame for keeping the title alive.
"There are writers that go to shows, pay the $5 cover and know what's going on. There are the writers that don't do that. The writers that go to shows know what's going on because they're engaged. So many writers are waiting around to see what other writers are going to say, so they can agree with them and reach a critical consensus. Those writers are afraid to say what they really think. That doesn't make for compelling arguments or discussion, does it?"
Writers, politicians and simpletons aren't the ones Menuck ultimately has faith in. The ones who support his band's art grasp things as they truly are.
"The great thing is, the people who come to our shows and download the records get it. People are good. People are smart. Everything else is just noise."