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The Mae Shi

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Los Angeles' noise rock outfit the Mae Shi features Ezra Buchla, Brad Breeck, and Tim and Jeff Byron. The bandmembers were longtime friends before starting the Mae Shi, with Buchla and Jeff Byron's friendship dating back to their high school days. With influences spanning no wave and classical legends like the Ex and Erik Satie, the band aimed to bring a wide array of sounds and approaches to its music. After playing their first gigs in early 2003, the Mae Shi issued their debut EP that summer, which they gave to people in exchange for mixtapes or CDs. When they began recording tracks for their first album that fall and into winter 2004, the band used the flow and unpredictablilty of mixes and play lists as an inspiration, along with the ambitious and varied production techniques of hip-hop albums. The result, 2004's Terrorbird (named after a two-million-year-old flightless, predatory bird that reached heights of nine feet), was a sprawling, digitally processed affair that cost approximately 130 dollars to make. A little more than a year later, the Mae Shi returned with Heartbeeps -- which, like Terrorbird, was released by 5 Rue Christine -- and embarked on their most ambitious tours of Europe and the U.S. that summer and fall. The band released their first DVD, Lock the Skull, Load the Gun -- which combined a tour documentary with friend- and fan-made music videos -- in April 2006. Later that year, Buchla and Fogel left to form Gowns, with singer/guitarist Jonathan Gray joining the band. This version of the group issued the limited edition CDRs III and IIII in 2007 while on tour with Yea Big + Kid Static; by that December, the lineup changed again: Breeck opted not to tour with the group but remained a member, while Marcus Savino became the Mae Shi’s touring drummer, and Bill Gray replaced bassist Tim Byron as a touring member. However, by the time of 2008’s South By Southwest Music Festival (during which the band played 18 shows), Savino had been replaced by Bark Bark Bark’s Jacob Cooper. Later that year, the band’s critically acclaimed third album HLLLYH arrived. During the Mae Shi’s 2009 European tour, Byron flew back to the U.S. to deal with substance abuse problems, while Bill Gray, Jon Gray and Jacob Cooper performed the dates without him -- a scenario that repeated at that year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, when the Grays and Cooper, who had formed another band, Signals, played Mae Shi material without Byron’s consent. Though Byron said he would continue with the Mae Shi name, the band was essentially finished, with Breeck forming Skull Tape and Byron forming Physical Forms with the rapper Busdriver. ~ Heather Phares