Why? questions the boundaries of alternative hip-hop, will answer to fanfare at Arcata Playhouse Friday

Why? -- the band -- begs so many questions. Are they an alternative hip-hop outfit? Would they consider themselves an indie-rock trio? What strange fusion of styles will they attempt next? One thing's for certain: This Cincinnati-based group embraces the strange and runs with it as fast as they can in skinny jeans. For lack of a better term, one will be made up: Why? will be performing their unique brand of hipster-hop on Friday at the Arcata Playhouse.

Josiah Wolf is the frontman -- a guy born in Ohio to Messianic Jewish parents who first started experimenting with music production on a four-track mixer in his dad's synagogue shortly before high school.

"I was 13," Wolf said. "I recorded a couple jams in the sanctuary on the drums, piano, bass, trumpet and a little portable record player -- I was scratching a 'Jack and the Beanstalk' childrens' 45. One of them featured me rapping and the other one was sort of a jazzy funk scratch-fest."

Evidently, the eclecticism heard in Why? began at the inception of Wolf's recording career. Eventually, while attending college at the University of Cincinnati, Wolf met rapper-poet Doseone -- or Adam Drucker -- at a hip-hop festival and the two would eventually serve as co-founders of the Los Angeles indie label Anticon. While Wolf and Drucker partnered in experimental hip-hop groups like Greenthink and Clouddead along the way, Why? only served as Wolf's solo name until 2005 until the outfit became a four piece and released a second LP, "Elephant Eyelash."

The current lineup features Yoni Wolf (vocals/keys), his older brother Josiah Wolf (drums) and Doug McDiarmid (multi-instrumentalist).

Though the band's first three full-length albums better represented experimental hip-hop, their latest and 2009 LP "Eskimo Snow" dabbled almost completely in the worlds of folk and indie-rock. Despite the venture into new territory, the somber nature of the record cooled the fiery passion heard on previous efforts. Luckily for fans of the hip-hop side of Why?, their latest single and EP "Sod in the Seed" contains rapping as Yoni Wolf honestly admits "I make decent cash, I'm a minor star." The single will appear on the band's fifth LP, "Mumps, etc.," which is due for release on Oct. 9.

"I'd say Eskimo is a lot looser than 'Mumps, etc.'" Yoni Wolf said. "There is a lot more bass and a lot more cracking drums on this new one ... I'm just so glad people seem to be really digging 'Sod in the Seed'."

Advance passes to Friday's show at the playhouse are available online at browpapertickets.com.

A release for the show reads that Why? has performed in "various permutations" with Atmosphere's Slug and that their" wildest dreams were achieved when they relocated to Oakland to make pop-inflected psychedelic folk-hop."

"We played a show in Arcata once before," Yoni Wolf said. "I remember it being kind of raucous. Our friend Peter Agoston, who used to live there, brought us out. We're going to rock the (expletive deleted) house. ... Wear a diaper."

If you go

What: Why?

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Arcata Playhouse, 1251 9th St.,

Admission: $17 (advance), all ages