The brainchild of Joey Cantacessi, Strange Foliage, released its debut track "Take Care" in April 2017. In the year following the initial single release, Cantacessi and his bandmates have been on a roll; playing shows around the city and recording a debut album. Called Settle, the record releases via Dark Matter's record label in just a few short days. To celebrate the record release, Strange Foliage headlines the Subterranean on Thursday night, accompanied by fellow up and comers in the Chicago scene: Easy Habits, Town Criers, and Rookie. Ahead of the show, I met up with Cantacessi and his bandmate Stuart MacFadyen at Treehouse Records to chat all about the band's beginning and the album process.
What was your first musical memory growing up?
Joey Cantacessi: Honestly, it was probably something lame like Blink 182. Watching music videos growing up, I was always like it’d be so cool to be in a rock band. I feel like I used to tell people I played guitar, even though I didn’t play guitar when I was growing up. Then I was like, I gotta do it to live up to what I’ve been saying.
Stuart MacFadyen: Our high school variety show always had a band at the end. I would see that and wanna do that. It was just our high school local band, but then I did it. I made it!
Do you have anybody specifically that you feel influenced your sound?
JC: We’ve been in multiple different bands, so we had a phase of like jam bandy stuff. Our last band Marmaletta was more jammy, so I was kind of listening to a lot of Tame Impala, Temples kind of stuff. With Strange Foliage, I feel like we were influenced a lot by Fidlar, Queens of the Stone Age, The Misfits...kind of bands like that. I feel like I got into heavier rock in the past year or so. Just more of a punk sound. Also, it kind of blew up in Chicago. So it was easy to find people to play that kind of stuff with.
Strange Foliage has only been around about a year right?
JC: Yeah, we were just saying we recorded our first song in October of 2016, but we didn’t do anything until June of this past year, 2017. I basically just started Strange Foliage as my music. Once our past band broke up, I was like I’m just gonna do this solo thing and have people play with me. I was kind of trying to have all these different musicians on all the tracks. Then we got asked to open for Meat Bodies at the Empty Bottle, and I was like I should probably get a band going. Stu has always been with me, I went to high school with Justin so I kind of just cherry picked him. And I worked at Music Garage with Goose [Andrew "Goose" Giese], he’s our drummer. I just picked a little all star line up, and they enjoyed it, so they’ve kind of just stuck around.
So as far as the songwriting, it’s pretty much just you, and the band comes in to collaborate on the live show?
JC: I write all the songs for sure, then usually go to Stuart and we almost rewrite it. Then we go to practice and we show them the songs and [Justin and Goose] make their own parts.
As far as the songwriting on the record, is there a common theme?
JC: Yeah, I guess it’s like discontent. It’s kind of heavier, more aggressive sounds. I think the original idea with every band I’ve been in the past, we’re always fighting or stressing and I just wanted to have this outlet that I kind of had control of and can kind of do whatever I wanted with and have all these songs already written. So it was kind of just an outlet for my own music. To not have to be arguing with band members, it was more of a personal kind of journey that shaped into its own band. It wasn’t really planned.
Then you recorded it all here at Treehouse?
JC: Yeah. Everything was recorded here. This is the last day we’re gonna be at Treehouse.
Any interesting recording stories? Like Blue Dream told me they threw a toilet off a balcony....
JC: Nothing too wild, just...it helped getting closer to Barrett [The engineer]. I feel like it was a more friendly process than the past recording I’ve done.
SM: Yeah, it was smooth.
JC: It was really smooth. It took a long time. We were here a lot, and it’s only like 6, 7 songs. But nothing crazy or wild stories, just a lot of beers, joints… I don’t want to name any names or anything, but we did have one weird experience. We had a friend come in that really wanted to play on the record, and it was at the time when I didn’t have these guys. It was just us bringing in people to record. He wouldn’t play anything we told him to, and it was just a waste of hours of our time and money.
Any song or two that particularly stand out as favorites?
JC:I’m really excited for the song called “Well Kept," that is my favorite song on the record. It’s literally only two lyrics, but I think it bangs. I like it...that would be the one I’m most excited about.
How did the relationship with Dark Matter come into play?
JC: That’s been pretty cool. I was just happy that someone was interested. [Stu] works there so that was the first point of contact, but that wasn’t why it happened. That’s just kind of how they heard of us--
SM: They came to me actually. It wasn’t like us asking them to put it out. They were like get an album and we’ll put it out. They’re super excited too.
JC: They were just like we’re trying to integrate more of a music aspect into what they do. They started this label called Press Pot Recordings. The whole process has been cool cause they’re not like telling us what to do. They’re promoting us, they’re gonna put out the record, and they’ve helped us a lot along the way.
SM: They’ve had some other releases... they’ve been around for like a year or so.
JC: They’ve done a couple cool ones. You know that show Metalocalypse on Adult Swim? It’s this weird animated show about stereotypes in metal. The producer of that just did a record for Dark Matter. So we’re just excited. They also do a coffee release with every release...it comes out on 4/20 so it’s their yearly April blend.
As far as the release show, do you have anything special you’re planning? Any special guests?
JC: We have some things planned for sure, I don’t know about any special guests yet. If there are, I don’t wanna say, but we’re just really excited for that. We picked the lineup by hand, we picked the venue….We haven’t--as Strange Foliage--we haven’t headlined any shows yet. We really like all the bands that are opening. I’m excited to have Easy Habits. They’re a good band, they’re in their own kind of scene. I feel like there’s such over saturation in Chicago with similar line ups.
Who are some of your favorite other bands in the Chicago music scene that you want to shout out?
SM: We don’t know them, but Meat Wave.
JC: They’re one of our favorite bands, so good. All the bands that are playing with us at the release show [Town Criers, Easy Habits, Rookie]... Post Animal...they’re pretty tight. They’re putting out a record the next day. Pretty sweet! Who else? Blue Dream! Justin plays in that band. Goose Corp. Our drummer plays in another band called Goose Corp., they’re really tight. There’s so many bands in Chicago right now, it’s hard to choose.
You mentioned the over-saturation of similar lineups, what are some of the pros and cons to having a buzzing scene like ours?
JC: I think Chicago is just booming right now. It’s fun to be a part of it, and all of our friends are--while there is that over saturation, it’s also kind of fun to be able to go to a show and see everyone you know kind of thing. I’m a really big fan of the DIY scene in Chicago. In terms of venues, I love the Empty Bottle. It’s my favorite venue. I used to work there. SubT is cool. I’m not a huge venue goer. I like DIY spots. I was just at Observatory the other day, I like that place a lot.
One other thing I wanted to touch on, do you ever notice yourself pulling from non musical influences...like movies or visual artists?
JC: I don’t know about directly, but I’m really into Twin Peaks the show. A lot. I feel like I love the dark aspect of it. That’s kind of a tough question. I think just living in Chicago...the general vibe of like the scene is an influence.
Do you have any other hobbies as a band?
JC: I feel like that’s had a big influence on [my sound]. Just the skateboarding scene.
SM: Going back to one of the last questions...speaking of skateboarding, there’s this place in Pilsen called The Fallout. It’s a DIY venue/space/skate park.
Any plans for summer tour?
JC: I'd like to! It’s one of those things that we’ll probably do like multiple 3 or 4-day tours, locally. For the time being, just cause we’ve done longer tours in the past and it’s a ton of work if you’re not at the point where you can bring people out in like, Nashville. I don’t know if anyone knows us across the border. We’re probably gonna be opening for some touring bands, like some local bands from Chicago that are touring.
Any closing remarks?
JC: Just listen to the record, you’re gonna hate it
SM: Drink water.
JC: Support local music, drink water. Shop local.