The who, what, and why of Why Omen

By Sean Taylor

Dig the names; Elijah, Thane, Griffin, and Geno. The biblical, the noble, the mythic, and the streetwise. Kickass rock and roll names each, a match for your Micks, Axls, Sids, and Fleas. The members of Columbus’s Why Omen are refreshingly modest about how very cool their band is, so please allow me to be the one to shout it out loud: Why Omen is quite possibly the most exciting, forward thinking guitar act in town, whose songs reflect and remind one of indie rock’s heroes, whilst still setting their own wild, often unpredictable course.

The group’s 2018 E.P. Gaia Hypothesis toes this line well and fully. Standout track and first single “132” highlights everything Why Omen does well. A nervy, post punky guitar lead starts the occasion, before the band rolls in heavy behind with the second guitar and potent rhythm section, making what was sharp and angular fully three dimensional. The group’s tightness cannot be over emphasized, particularly in the live context. They never display anything less than perfect control over the loud-soft-loud dynamic.

Why Omen at Gnarbeque 2019 (photos by Kris Misevski)

Why Omen at Gnarbeque 2019 (photos by Kris Misevski)

Most of the band’s songs find their bedrock in that classic alt tradition refined by the Pixies, made ubiquitous by Cobain—the lifeblood and guiding light of some of the best and worst bands to ever do it. The fact that Why Omen can flesh out the basic structures of the form and make it sound so very brand new again is great big gold star in their favor, as they continually abide by one rule I personally hold most sacred: Don’t be boring. They never are.

The band’s not so secret weapon is lead singer Thane’s unbelievable voice. Classically trained, the man has a banshee’s wale that he can turn on a dime, alternatingly cooing, cawing, roaring, sighing, whatever, satisfying any need that is called for by the moment and song at hand. His ability to vary his tone and inflection, accompanied by one of the most unique lyrical outlooks in Columbus music (“YOU sickly son, no eyes, no nose, just gums” is just one couplet that jumps out), are the juicy cherry on top of the Why Omen milkshake.

Worth mentioning as well, Why Omen has a distinct, well defined visual aesthetic that serves to further separate them from the pack. Their iconic rabbit logo, which brings to mind nature, Lovecraftian terror, and Donny Darko in a single glimpse, is a great indicator of the bands ability to alchematize disparate ideas into a one of kind Why Omenenian piece.

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I first experienced the Why Omen rush last summer, in the basement of house show venue Misfit Manor (hosted by the inimitable Poy Raz), and was immediately transfixed. They struck me at the time as being a direct descendent of the bands that formed my taste in music, the Pixies, the Meat Puppets, the Dino Jr’s of the World. Their precision power coupled with those vocals just sent my heart a tizzy, for I had long since reconciled that this music was all but dead and buried, to be caught in overblown late period reunion tours that capture nothing of the original spirit of the music, that excitement and fear and stupid dumb adrenaline high of being compelled by noise to feel something, if just for two minutes and thirty seconds. Why Omen gave me that, and they’ve earned a lifelong shill for their efforts. I love this band.

The timing of this piece should hopefully coincide with bands newest single, a little ditty called Lizard McGuire (Dig that fucking name). Running a little over 2 minutes long in glorious ⅞ time, the track blows the doors open for what this group is capable of. Reminiscent in its way of one of Brian Wilson classic pocket symphonies, the band shows off almost every aspect of itself in one short, triumphant uphill climb, demonstrating a killer penchant for unstoppable hooks, flashing tendencies toward metal, glam, punk, pop, and hell, chamber choral music. They do it all, in two minutes, and they make it look easy.

Give it a listen, find out where their playing next, cancel whatever plans you had and go see them. Stuff this potent doesn’t just come along, it takes years to brew and reach that level of refinement and booziness that has the uniquely facial haired amongst us nodding knowingly to each other whilst intoning, “That was a good year.” Well, Why Omen has been flash fermented, and you’ve got a hot, young rock group primed to spin your head, living right here in your very own town. Indulge a little.

Michael Thomas