WOUB Soundwaves: Big Fat Head at The Union

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – WOUB captured a dynamic performance by gregarious Columbus-based art rockers, Big Fat Head, at the Union, shortly before the band embarked on an ambitious summertime tour across the Midwest.

The group initially coalesced on Halloween in 2021, solidifying as its current five member line up by April 2022. The band says their songs are “written quickly, practiced briefly, and performed often,” lending them the kind of engaging, raw power you only get when a song has been forged through the fiery scrutiny of live audiences.

Last fall the band embarked on a tour reaching deeper into the northeastern United States than many emerging acts dare to venture, making stops in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and even the esteemed Mercury Lounge in NYC. They pulled a similar stunt this past summer, covering ground in Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and concluding in Cleveland by the end of July.

Those kinds of logistics are obviously intense, involving enough phone calls and emails and general planning to make one’s head spin. This highly organized and diligent approach is the kind of thing one might not immediately associate (but certainly should) with a band whose vocalist/guitarist claims a strong presence in the “underground,” and not the cultural underground (though that’s also true), but the literal space beneath the Earth’s crust.

“We first got the idea for the Midwest tour when we were digging our tunnels,” lead vocalist/guitarist Nate Wilder said. “I don’t know, sometimes we can take the underground thing a little too seriously, so we’re gonna go play in a bunch of cities above ground – that’s the plan this time.”

Wilder might be the ace up the group’s proverbial sleeve – his charismatic stage presence conjures up a kind of flamboyant allure hovering freely between Bryan Ferry’s eerie croon and the angular, intellectual intensity of Mark E. Smith.

So far as the talk of “the tunnels”?

Well, that’s a part of the time-honored tradition of musicians creating a captivating self-mythos (c’mon, do you really think Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil?) – this is something Big Fat Head excels in.

Self-mythologizing or not, we can be certain Wilder isn’t joking when he talks about the band’s creative output.

“We have a lot of songs and it’s really hard to know when they’re ready for other people to listen to,” he explains. “I don’t think we’ve even really hit that point yet. We just release songs when we are sick of listening to them ourselves.”

Wilder pivots from momentary self-deprecation when asked about upcoming releases.

“What we’re working on right now sounds a bit better, if I’m being honest,” he admits. “So it could be coming out very soon. When it does, it’ll probably be everywhere. You won’t be able to walk down the street without hearing someone’s car playing it – so I won’t even really need to say when it comes out, because everyone will probably be already hearing it.”

Big Fat Head’s Soundwaves session

Nate Wilder of Big Fat Head performs during the band's WOUB Soundwaves session. He is wearing a hat.
The group opened their set with the yet-to-be released Keep it Up. Here, an anthemic groove provides the backing to a song that the group says is very literally about the virtues of “keeping it up,” regarding the particularly human ability to inevitably cultivate skills over time (as embarrassing as that can be).

Up next is something very different: the angular, foreboding Can’t Help It, off last year’s Villain Pop. Wilder drapes exaggerated, silly self-deprecation about Big Fat Head right next to equally over-the-top cruelties about “every band in town/in the state/in the world” over a jagged, Wire-esque experimental pop rhythm.

The group’s session culminates with Can’t Help It, another track off Villain Pop. It opens uneasy and lurching; anchored (as always) by bassist Olivia Stefanoff and drummer Stanic Russ. Wilder’s growls about the evils of social media intensify, soon complimented by Stefanoff’s eerie vocal accompaniment, growing until the track spins out into blistering distortion before wrapping disquietly to the tik-tik-tik of Stanic’s drum.

Keep tabs on Big Fat Head on Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp, and Spotify