The Buddy System

L.A. ex-pats and current Seattle citizens Your Enemies Friends might be just passing through town, but the band's music has real staying power.



Graceland, 206-381-3094, $12 adv.

9 p.m. Sat., Oct. 26

I lounge outside of the Bauhaus coffeehouse with Aska Matsumyia for two full minutes before she finally acknowledges the giant globe sitting on our table. It's plastic, blinding blue, and delightfully ungainly, maybe a Fisher-Price model. It's equipped with a tiny microscope so you can read the capitals of each country. It's also . . . a lamp.

Not exactly the "soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window," but bodacious nonetheless.

"I just traded in all my clothes for this," she beams. "This is what I need in my life right now."

After marrying Pretty Girls Make Graves guitarist Nathen Johnson in an empty courthouse just after a bomb scare—a union that more or less compelled her band, Your Enemies Friends, to relocate from Los Angeles to Seattle—yeah, this is exactly what the 19-year-old keyboardist needs: the weight of the world on her nightstand.

Luckily, Your Enemies Friends are the Emerald City's most anonymously kick-ass free-agent acquisition since John Olerud. A double-barreled freak-out of rifling guitars and ominous electro-ivories, the quintet's debut EP, The Wiretap (Buddyhead), cuts a mean, impressive swath in a scene with no shortage of synth-punk renovators.

While clearly, um, difficult, Matsumyia turned out to be the secret sauce on the Big Mac. She met the future Your Enemies Friends (guitarist/vocalist Ronnie Washburn, bassist/vocalist Dana James, guitarist Allen Watke, and drummer Luis-Carlos Contreas) in—sweet Aunt Jemima, mother of coincidence!--a coffeehouse. Extenuating circumstances are murky. Says Watke: "We made her play a Chopin piece on an out-of-tune piano as a test." "I believe Allen was hitting on me," chides Matsumyia, "but he still denies it."

"I've been against keyboards in our band the entire time," Watke deadpans, shortly after arriving at the coffeehouse, present tense, with Contreas. "I'm still kind of bummed that Aska's in our band. I just deal with it."

"You love it." Matsumyia counters.

UPSTARTS LIKE YOUR Enemies Friends are all about compromise, of course . . . often uncomfortable compromise. The band members who aren't newlyweds share a two-bedroom apartment "separated by furniture" in the Central District. Matsumyia and Pretty Girl Johnson aren't exactly living in the Ritz, shacking up above Capitol Hill's lovely City Market without that ever-invaluable amenity: a shower.

"I have to lay down on the floor to wash my hair," she laughs. "We're going old-fashioned marriage."

"When we were on tour with Pretty Girls," Watke says, dropping a tiny bombshell, "we all decided we wanted to move to Brooklyn because Aska and Nathen were married, so . . . "

"Our bands got married." Matsumyia chirps.

"We thought," continues Watke, "on the in-between time before we all moved to Brooklyn, we'll move to Seattle."

Thanks, dicks. There isn't a mass exodus of talent afflicting this city lately or anything.

Don't think they'll be insulted by that. If you've already seen YEF, you've probably been belittled by Washburn—a tall, smirking gent prone to flinging bottled water at unmoved audiences. For such a pinprick, his cooed, brooding sentimentality in The Wiretap's closer, "Your Enemies Are Your Enemies" ("That's the way I am . . . everything is silent . . . a sudden convulsion"), is a welcome, moving surprise.

"I think The Wiretap is about almost being able to grasp something and use it and it completely falling apart," Watke suggests. "And then looking at that and being like, 'Awesome. That sucked.' It fell apart because of this thing, and you're pretty pissed at that thing. . . . "

"You're kinda dancing around the . . . " Contreas says.

"I don't even know the lyrics," blurts Matsumyia. "I have no idea what Ronnie's saying."

"People think it's bleak and dark," Contreas continues. "I mean, you read the lyrics, and it's like, 'You led the gestapo to me.' I've asked Ronnie about it, and he says, 'I'm not trying to put any particular message in it. I lay down words that fit the songs, and in retrospect, I look back a month later and see how they were appropriate . . . at the time.'"

Shooting the shit with these folks, I almost forget they're a Buddyhead band, associated with that hilariously toxic, scene-skewering Web site. That is, until they discuss Washburn's confrontational stage approach, mocking an appreciative audience as feverishly as an antagonistic one.

"I don't think a lot of people get his wit," Matsumyia offers.

Watke laughs. "A lot of people think he's . . . "

" . . . an asshole," she giggles.

"... conceited."

"But it's funny," Contreas asserts. "That's the bottom line: It's funny."

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