Band of the Day

2012.05.03

Wise Blood

A former undertaker reincarnates old samples into futuristic pop songs
Darling, you’re sweet. If you wanna take my name, then you’re going to have to run it by me.
lyrics from Darlin' You're Sweet

Wise Blood, aka Chris Laufman, takes his stage name from the title of the 1952 Flannery O’Connor novel. Originally from Pittsburgh, Wise Blood composes his own pieces which meld soul, pop, hip hop and other elements amongst ethereal synth beats and cleverly used samples. Constantly touring, Wise Blood has earned a reputation for giving energetic and spectacular live performances. When performing live, Laufman employs the use of a live drummer and mixer as his accompaniment as he belts out his lyrics. His first EP ‘+’ was released in 2010 on his website for free, followed by his second EP These Wings in 2011. His first full length album is slated to be released in the spring of 2012 on Dovecote Records, preceded by a mixtape.

If you've spent over a year working in a cemetery, it's inevitable that death will be on your mind much more than the average person. Former undertaker Chris Laufman—the experimental musician better known as Wise Blood—now spends more time in recording studios than mausoleums, but death still seems to be very much a part of his career. Instead of laying bodies to rest, however, he's playing the role of a resurrector. All of the instrumentals on Laufman's songs are created entirely from existing samples of music and found sounds. On his 2010 debut EP '+', for instance, opening track “Here Comes The Sun” takes its title from one Beatles song, but the music is actually sampled from the infamous coda of “Hello, Goodbye.” Laufman is like a master crocheter, the way he loops and weaves these electronically-manipulated samples together to create something entirely original. While “Here Comes The Sun” is created entirely from existing recordings, “Loud Mouths” (from his 2011 EP These Wings) incorporates Laufman's distinct gravelly falsetto voice into the mix. Lines like “You've got those loud bitches/Loud bitches/Telling you lies/Don't listen to those girls/They're just snakes in disguise,” are spit out with the rhythm of an MC, and there's no hiding the sense of vitriol in Laufman's delivery.

Musically, he warps traditional church singing into a glitchy and darkly experimental bed of sounds. The song is accompanied by a haunting video from the Young Replicant crew, which has Laufman attempting to fight for his survival in a doomed world. He's even brought back to his former occupation, as one of the scenes was filmed in a family's crypt that was built in the 1920s. “I'm Losing My Mind” also alludes to Laufman's pre-Wise Blood days, as he sings lines like, “I put kids six feet under/Who had no chance to fault/And waste their whole lives away” over a stark, synthesized soundscape. While death is a prominent theme on These Wings, “Darlin' You're Sweet” proves that Laufman is just as adept at writing love songs. He softly utters, “Darling, you’re sweet/If you wanna take my name/Then you’re going to have to run it by me” over a wheezing heartbeat of synths. Penultimate track “The Lion” comes in as a palate-cleanser of optimism, with a jaunty tuba riff and bouncy bass line enhancing sentiments like, “I'm looking at the world like a brand new man.” Though Laufman's themes can err on the morbid side, songs like “The Lion” show that Wise Blood is ultimately about breathing new life into the music landscape.