ANCHR Magazine

Holding you down with the best new music

A Chat With: The Total Bettys

Based out of San Francisco, California, the four-piece band The Total Bettys just released their sophomore album This is Paradise on November 16th of this year. The album follows up the debut record released by singer songwriter Maggie Grabmeier (she/her) and guitarist Reese Grey (they/them), the founding members of The Total Bettys, who have both since joined forces with bandmates Chloé Lee (she/her) on bass, and Kayla Billos (she/her) on drums. With their catchy pop punk sound, The Total Bettys have garnered all sorts of attention in their hometown and shared stages with the likes of Palehound, A.W., Jay Som, Hazel English, and Oso Oso.

Just one week after they put out the second album, Maggie Grabmeier took some time to chat with me on the phone from Cleveland, where she had been visiting her family for Thanksgiving. In our chat, we talk everything from the musicians who inspired This is Paradise, the band getting booked to play Treefort Music Festival, and pushing for a more diverse music scene. Tune in below!

 Photo by Kelly Sullivan

Photo by Kelly Sullivan

What do you remember as your first musical memory?

It’s kind of funny, I think I remember growing up, my parents had this big like speaker system thing. You know, you always needed a lot of technology to make music play in your house, so I remember sitting in front of it and listening to Green Day CDs and I also really liked A Very Special Christmas 2, you know that compilation CD? That album—I just really loved it! I remember barely knowing how to use a CD player but putting in Green Day and that CD.

Nice, and that’s timely now with The Holidays coming up!

I know right? I’ve been thinking about it!

Nice! Well you just had your second album with The Total Bettys come out last week on November 16th—

Yeah it’s one week old today!

Awesome, so as far as the writing process on the album, how collaborative is it between you and the other band members and where were you coming from writing these songs?

I’ve been working on these songs since we recorded our first album. Once that was over, I started writing right away and I wrote the fill of the song with the lyrics and the chords and all that. And then usually I bring it to Reese our lead guitarist and they usually add the--I usually like it a lot more once I hear it with the lead guitar. They help it a lot. Then Chloe writes her own bass parts as well and it just flushes out the song. What’s interesting is Kayla, our drummer is brand new to the band. So she joined and we had like two months or something until we had to record, which is just not a lot of  time to learn 10 songs, plus we wanted her to learn all of our old songs too so she was hustling and we’re really grateful she was able to learn everything so quickly and she wrote these parts that were awesome. Our previous album had really like present, loud drums, and she just totally picked that right up and added--she just had a really good sense of how it should go. It just seemed really natural when we started playing with us. So I’m really impressed with her. She was able to learn everything so quickly and so well. Lots of props!

Once the songs all came together, what was the recording experience like?

We recorded with Grace Coleman, she engineered our recording and mixed it and mastered it. We worked with her our last album Peach as well. We went to a new place, Secret Bathroom in Oakland…and I don’t know if they’re still around under that name. They’ve kind of had a brief life as far as I know. But we recorded in The Secret Bathroom and then mixed at Different Fur, which is where we recorded our first album, and working with Grace is amazing. We already knew that we really loved her but that first album recording was my first experience with professional recording. So I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into and I was extremely nervous but she just has a special way about her of being like if something takes time to get it right, we’ll take the time. And it’s not like roughed or scary and she’s just very patient with us and lets us hear stuff as many times and as many ways as we want. It felt a lot easier this time and not quite as scary because we already knew we had someone we really trusted leading us on the way.

That’s always a better environment to work in when you trust someone and they don’t make you feel uncomfortable. Then as far as the songs I’m sure it changes day to day or week to week, but what song on the album are you most proud of or do you consider your favorite?

Yeah that does change a lot! But I think I really loved “Dark and Stormy.” That song just felt really real to me and it’s also structurally a little different from the other songs that I’ve written, so I was proud that I was able to kind of try something a little different. I also really love “So Much Better.” That song emotionally feels really real to me now. It’s one of the more recent ones that I wrote for the album so I’m still kind of like…the emotions of writing it are still kind of fresh. And that one’s about being able to give advice but not being able to take your own advice. I think that for me that’s just like really how I’ve been feeling. When my friends are going through something, it’s like ‘oh my god no you don’t need to worry about this’ but when it’s myself I’m like no you’re useless.

Yeah that’s everyone. I think we’re all our own worst critics and it’s impossible to take our own advice.


So you’ve cited Charly Bliss and Diet Cig as influences in the past, but what else inspires you when you’re writing? And this could not necessarily be music, but other art mediums.

Interesting. I think with writing music, the first thing I jump towards are other musicians. And stylistically I really get a lot from those pop punk bands and I really love like the amazing women and queer people that are making music in the scene right now, but I also as I was writing these albums, I went through a huge Lorde phase. So I think what I love about pop music in general is it’s okay to say exactly what you mean and exactly what you’re feeling. It took me a long time to get to this place of just saying how I felt without having to try to make it more poetic than it is. That’s what I love about pop music and that’s something I really love about Lorde.

Yeah totally. It’s just so straightforward. So as far as your live shows, I saw you’ll be playing Treefort Festival which is exciting.

Yeah I’m so excited!

What other plans do you have for tour next year? Anything you can hint at or anything in the works?

Yeah so we also just announced we have a show January 17th-it’s gonna be our tour kickoff show with Remember Sports in San Francisco. I’m so excited. I really love Remember Sports and I’ve seen them live a couple times and I’m so excited to be able to play with them. I think it’s the second week in January, we’re leaving on our tour and going to Nevada and Southern California and Arizona. That’ll be a 10 day tour. We’re really really excited for that. I don’t have all my ducks in a row for announce yet but that’s in the works.

Awesome. Then what are some other bands in the San Fran scene you would recommend, or do you have any venues or DIY spots you’d like to shout out?

Sure! I really love Pllush, they’re a local band that’s really super great. I love Scrim. We love playing with Difficult Objects. There’s a really awesome scene of like queer people especially who are totally making amazing music. In the city, my favorite venue I don’t know that’s a hard one! Maybe Bottom of the Hill. That’s where our album release show as. El Rio is a queer bar that has shows and they have really great stuff. I wish there were more like house venues and DIY venues but it’s really hard for venues to stay alive. I just heard news about a club, The Mezzanine, in San Francisco closing. And the Hemlock which was a great club just closed a month or so ago. So people are a little freaked out that our venues are gonna start disintegrating but hopefully that means more people are gonna step up and start something new.

Ah but that’s the worst! Losing a live music venue and all the memories attached!

Yeah it’s really sad. It’s really sad.

I was also gonna mention you already send such a positive message of inclusivity with your members all either being female or non binary. And you just shouted out the queer music spot, El Rio, but what else would you like to see from the people in your music scene or promoters in general to help promote more inclusivity? What else would you recommend or like to see more of?

Yeah I think that it’s really exciting to be a part of a queer music scene and I feel like really lucky to be in San Francisco where theres so many musicians who are doing amazing things. And so many venues that are willing to host us. I think that’s really awesome and really special but I think that there’s still not quite as good representation of people of color in our scene and I’m trying to think of ways that my band that can help support bands that have people of color and also just uplift the music of people who we love. My big piece of advice to people is just to start a band. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I decided I wanted to be in a band. And I think it’s fun to do it. I’m also kind of working through the different ways that I as a person can help and that the Total Bettys as a band can help make the scene more welcoming and more inclusive. But I think it’s something that we’re striving for and we hope other bands in San Francisco are also trying to do better

Yeah if more people work together, things can finally change! So besides the tour and including people in the scene, what are some of your other goals for 2019?

I think I really want to keep writing. The last couple songs that I wrote, I felt pretty proud of, and I’m kind of doing some different interesting things so I’m excited to keep on writing and keep writing with my band. I want to tour more so we’ll see how that goes. And just kind of keep going and keep playing lots of shows and meeting new people.

Keep up with The Total Bettys on Twitter + Instagram + Facebook

A Chat With: Flasher

Taylor Mulitz, Daniel Saperstein, and Emma Baker have known each other since they were teenagers, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that the three got together to form Flasher. Since the trio’s inception they’ve released a self-titled EP in 2016 and followed up with debut full length, Constant Image, released June 8th of this year via Domino Records. With its mix of genres ranging from punk, shoegaze and pop, the diverse yet straightforward record has been very well received. Flasher has toured these songs relentlessly this past year, sharing stages with the likes of Ought and The Breeders throughout The States, and recently completing a European run.

This Tuesday, December 4th, Flasher will play The Hideout as one of their final tour stops of 2018, and before the show, the band took some time to chat about their debut album, their music video for “Material” and the DC music scene. Check out our chat with Flasher below, and go see them on Tuesday night.

 Photo By Amy Breesman

Photo By Amy Breesman

Congratulations on the release of your debut album Constant Image earlier this year. What was the writing process like for this set of songs?

Thanks! We wrote almost every song on the record in the month leading up to our time in the studio. Out of the whole record we had only played one song (“Skim Milk”) live before going into recording.

How was it working with Nicolas Vernhes as the producer?

Traditionally we've strictly recorded ourselves with the help of our friend and collaborator Owen Wuerker- in Owen's and Daniel's DC studio, Lurch. We've never seen recording as a matter of transcription or a production of representation. Recording for us has always been approached as a process of writing and a production of new ideas. When searching for another engineer to collaborate with, we wanted someone whose records sounded like they appreciated a similar approach. We also wanted someone who was conveniently located (somewhere on the east coast). Out of a list of a handful of engineers Nicolas' records stood out to us. At once, his body of work is so eclectic in style and yet there's an attention to form across all of them that sounds as if the techniques of engineering and production are foregrounded in the songs themselves. We don't want to just make unique songs, we want to make unique sounding records and Nicolas was instrumental in helping us do that with Constant Image.

You definitely have a versatile sound that blends different genres together, so who and what are some of your influences from a writing standpoint, and who inspires you as a performer?

Some touchstones for the writing of a Constant Image were My Bloody Valentine, The B52s, Juana Molina, Broadcast, Stereolab, and Blood Orange. Some of the most inspiring live shows I saw this year were by US Girls, The Breeders, The Funs, and Beach House. Beach House do an amazing job of getting a huge sound with just 3 musicians on stage (with the help of their FOH engineer and samples, of course). Figuring out a creative way to introduce some of those elements into our live set on a much smaller scale is a goal moving forward.

Although your first release as Flasher was only in 2016, you all had known each other and been into music since you were teenagers. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about each other since you started playing music together?

It’s been a steep learning curve of trying how to be more sensitive with one another. Feeling safe and understood by each other can feel like a moving target, but communication and checking in with one another is key.

When it comes to the band’s visuals and your music videos, how hands-on are you all with the concepts? Specifically with the “Material” video that came out earlier in November, who came up with the YouTube parody/videos-inside-videos idea, and what was the experience like filming all the different clips used in it?

So far, Taylor has handled most of the artwork and design for the records, t-shirts, and posters. Music videos have been much more collaborative and often begin with a director submitting a treatment and then workshopping it with us. For the Material video, the entire concept came from the mind of the director, Nick Roney. Filming it was intense but really fun and well organized. It was shot over two 14 hours days in LA, which began the morning after we had driven from DC to LA in 4 days. When Nick first submitted the treatment we were all like, “This is brilliant but I don’t know how the fuck we’re going to pull it off,” but we decided to go for it anyway. Nick was super organized, had a strong concept and vision, and had a great team of people working with him, so things went surprisingly smoothly.

What were some of your favorite moments or highlights of your November European tour?

In terms of the shows we played, Glasgow and Paris were standouts. We had days off in both Hamburg and Amsterdam and it was such a treat to have extra time to explore those cities. In a dream world we’d have a day off in every town.

Do you have anything special in store for your last few shows on the year?

Why yes, I’m glad you asked! From December 1st - 7th we will be touring the east coast and Midwest with two incredible bands, Public Practice from New York and Gong Gong Gong from Beijing. In honor of this super tour we will be selling a tour-exclusive 3-way flexi split featuring a previously unreleased track from each group.

What are some of the best things about the DC music scene, and who are some local bands you’d recommend?

Growing up in DC we really took for granted having access to all ages shows all the time. It was much easier for us to get involved in the music scene at a young age because of the all ages culture in DC, and it’s a huge bummer that it isn’t the standard everywhere. There is a ton of exciting music coming out of DC. It’s hard to narrow it down but just to name a few: Clear Channel (new project of Mary from Downtown Boys, Carson from Merchandise, and Ahmad from Vasillus), Knife Wife, Mock Identity, Bad Moves, Des Desmonas, and - *shameless plug* - everything on Sister Polygon, a label Taylor runs with his former bandmates in Priests.

What are your goals for 2019?

Write more music , make more art, spend more time with friends and family.

Grab your tickets to see Flasher at The Hideout on December 4th here and keep up with them on Facebook + Instagram

A Chat With: Mallrat

Australian singer, songwriter and producer Grace Shaw has been making music under her moniker Mallrat since 2015, releasing her first EP, Uninvited, in 2016. Inspired by an eclectic range of rap, pop, and indie music, Mallrat shares her honest and clever narratives over refreshingly diverse beats and melodies. Since her first release, Shaw has gone on to collaborate with one of her biggest influences on 2018’s In The Sky EP and tour the world.

At the end of October, Mallrat played Chicago for the first time during a support tour with Maggie Rogers, and she took some time to chat with us before her set. Tune into the conversation below to hear about what first inspired Shaw to start writing, who she’d like to mentor her in freestyle rap, her tips for eating vegan on tour, and what she’s planning to conquer next in her career.

 Photo Courtesy of Mallrat

Photo Courtesy of Mallrat

What was your first musical memory, either as a fan or wanting to play music yourself?

The first time I was like maybe I can do this was at a concert for a guy called Allday. So that was the most important one.

What was your first memory as a music fan?

I’ve always loved music. When I started listening to my own music, and got my first CDs, they were like Lana Del Rey and Florence and the Machine. And Azealia Banks!

Awesome! Speaking of Allday, when I was doing my research I saw that you said you were inspired to start writing after seeing him in concert, so how did that feel to be inspired by him and then end up collaborating with him on your second EP?

It was cool! It wasn’t maybe as sudden as it seems, because we became friends and toured with each other. He’s literally my best friend. I’m so protective of lyrics— [the sound of Mallrat’s Tamagotchi cuts her off] That’s my Tamagotchi, I’m sorry! I just got it today.

Nice! Where did you find it?

Just at a comic book Store! I saw it in the window and I was like everyone stop! We have to go in here. I forgot what I was saying…

Oh you mentioned touring with Allday and how you are protective of your lyrics…

Oh yeah, but cause we’re so similar and he’s my best friend, he’s kind of the only person that I feel like I can trust to speak on one of my songs.

Cool, and then you just had your second EP out this year, so what else do you have planned as far as new music goes?

I’ve got another EP almost finished, but I don’t know when that will come out.

Nice, so we can expect another EP instead of a full length?

I’ll probably do an album after that.

Do you have any teasers you can give or any new sounds you’re exploring?

Every song sounds very different to all the others.

Are there any themes you’ve noticed between the songs?

Not themes really...I just do a song. I don’t think like ‘this is gonna be part of a concept album.’ I want to make this song sound like the best version of that song, and then I’ll make another song that sounds like the best version of that song, and then another song that’s the best version of that song.

Cool, so your writing is more of TV show with episodes instead a movie?


I also love how a lot of your songs already have such a different sound from one another, where you fit in with the indie pop world, but then you also have that cadence and influence from rap music. So who are some of your favorite artists of the moment that have a unique sound as well?

So many! Like Kanye and A$AP Rocky...and Lana and Florence still. Billie Eilish. She’s so good! I love her new song “When The Party’s Over.” I like this producer called Sophie, who’s like— I was describing it to someone earlier and I said it’s like electronic music from 50 years in the future. It’s really cool and I like my friend’s band Cub Sport. The Jungle Giants. I love Ariana Grande and Charli XCX.

Nice, that’s a good mix of different genres. So as a fan of rap music, if you could pick one person to face off in a rap battle, who would you pick?

I don’t think I’m a rapper. I wouldn’t want to challenge anyone. I love rap, but I don’t think I’m a rapper. Some people are amazing freestylers. I’ve never tried it. Maybe I should try it..

Who would you want to teach you or mentor you? Kanye?

You know, Kanye is my favorite artist. But I don’t think he’s got the best bars. Probably, like…I love Lil Wayne’s style. I don’t know if he freestyles. But you know he never writes down any of his lyrics. He doesn’t want someone to take them. So he memorizes even when he’s recording. So maybe him!

Nice! So being over here in the states, what would you say are some of the biggest culture shocks, both as a musician with the different audiences, and then just generally? Any crazy food or anything you’ve experienced?

Nothing has been shocking, but I always get weirded out at the gas stations. Like all the different snacks, all the meats that are in the fridge just gross me out. Everything has been pretty chill or normal. Even when we were in Texas, I didn’t see anyone carrying a gun around.

Yeah, none of the Texas stereotypes actually happened?

Yeah I kind of expected to see that. It was definitely a lot of people wearing stereotypical things like camo and trucker hats.

Any cities that have stood out as favorites?

There haven’t been whole cities, it’s been more like different things that we’ve done that I loved. When we were in Phoenix we went to The Butterfly House. That was my favorite thing, like this big green house filled with butterflies. Chicago, so far I’ve loved! We’ve only been here a few hours but I got a Tamagotchi, had a vegan Chicago style deep dish pizza.

Oh did you got to Kitchen 17?

Yeah we did!

Oh yeah I’m vegetarian and I love that place. There’s another place called Kal'ish that’s not far from here, and they have really good vegan food.

That sounds sick! Thank you for the tip! Just like things like that, food usually is what sticks with me. I remember the other day we had really yummy bagels…

What are some of your tips for eating vegan while on tour?

Get Happy Cow. It’s an app that shows you vegan places nearby. The only time it’s annoying is like when you’re doing long road trips, there isn’t much stuff at gas stations. You can go to Chipotle or Subway or you can just get corn chips. I don’t eat much in the car and just have a delicious meal when you get to the city. Happy Cow is the bomb!

You already kind of mentioned this about collaborating, and you said All Day was one of the only people you’d let touch your music…but in the future, who else would you love to work with?

Well I really want to write and produce for other artists. So like Kanye is my number one. And also I’d love to write some really cool pop stuff for like Dua Lipa or Camila Cabello or Little Mix. Or produce something for A$AP Rocky. Stuff like that!

How do you feel about Kanye’s rants recently?

I feel like I always want to say something and then I check Twitter and I’ve missed all this new stuff. The last interview we were talking about Kanye and she said you know about half hour ago he tweeted and said he’s not doing political stuff anymore, and I had no idea.

Yeah I can’t keep up with him.

So it changes so quickly, but my biggest thought and feeling from all of this is just headlines, just clickbait headlines. People don’t actually watch the whole interviews. That’s my biggest thing, cause he actually hasn’t said that much outrageous stuff. He’s said a few things, but he’s made some really good points. Like Trump is the president whether or not you like it, so he’s said why don’t we try working with that instead of against it. I’m not a Trump supporter at all, but nobody thought that he would win because the media only presented what they wanted people to see. Like, this is crazy, but that’s why he did win. Because the media is not realistic.

Yeah, especially in a city like here we’re in such a bubble! Sorry to get all political on you.

Oh that’s ok. I’m no expert, but I just hate seeing Kanye taken out of context. I definitely don’t agree with everything he’s said either. I’m mostly…70% support.

Nice, anything else you want to touch on? I know you mentioned the new EP and you’re finishing up this tour with Maggie Rogers, but anything else you’re looking forward to this year?

I’m just trying to be a better producer as well as songwriter. So just practicing that a lot and being in LA a lot. I miss my dog!

What would your advice be for someone trying to produce their own music and having to critique your own work from that producer standpoint?

I’m still very new to it. I’ve only finished one song so that’s a good point. It’s hard, for me, to finish things, especially when I’m trying to do it all. But it’s also more rewarding when you finish it. And there aren’t enough girls as producers so I was like why am I just sitting here being annoyed about it? Why don’t I just start calling myself a producer? That’s the biggest trick! If you want to be a producer, just say you’re a producer.

Right, fake it til you make it!

With anything, if you want to be a singer, just say you’re a singer. If you want to be a journalist, just say you’re a journalist. You don’t have the job yet, you just have to create that reality.

Grab tickets to see Mallrat at The Bottom Lounge on January 26th here, and keep up with her on Instagram + Facebook

A Chat With: Caroline Rose

With her monochrome outfits, quirky stage props, and straightforward stage banter, it’s impossible to forget a Caroline Rose show. Rose’s latest album Loner, released in February of this year via New West Records, creates its own little world in which Rose feeds listeners pop hooks and personal stories in an outlandish fashion. With this record, Rose establishes herself as an all around artist, not just another singer songwriter. It’s this passion, vision, and authenticity that has continued to catch the ears and eyes of music fans and led Rose to be on the road touring for the majority of this year. From playing multiple showcases a day back at SXSW in March to headline runs and support stints for Maggie Rogers and Rainbow Kitten Surprise, it’s been a whirlwind of a year for Caroline Rose.

Now, Rose is in the midst of another headlining national tour, and she’s stopping in Chicago tonight, November 8th, with And The Kids. Ahead of the show, she took some time to chat with me about finding her sound for Loner, her favorite movie directors, Kanye West’s mental breakdown, writing songs for Lana Del Rey and more. Turn on the record, tune into the full conversation with Caroline Rose below, and get to the gig tonight!

 Photo Credit: CJ Harvey

Photo Credit: CJ Harvey

What do you remember as your first musical memory?

Oh that’s a good question! Well…ok yeah yeah yeah here’s a good one. When I was four or five, my funcle Randy, my fake uncle, he brought me a little acoustic guitar, and I remember jamming with him. He was playing piano and I was playing guitar to Dave Brubeck Quartet “Take Five” and that’s still one of my favorite songs. Of all time.

That’s awesome! So fast forwarding from that, you’ve since put out a few records, most recently Loner, in February of this year. I just love how straightforward and fearless you are on this album with satirical lyrics. I’ve seen you live too and when you talk about the songs, you just say it how it is. So what were some challenges you’ve faced with being so transparent and fearless with your writing? And then on the flip side, what do you find rewarding about not holding back at all and being honest?

I think being personal in music is something I’m trying to push even more. A lot of times I’ll use personification or blend stories together to make something new, but I’m always inspired by other artists who are even more personal in their music. It’s definitely something I’m continuing to push further. But I do think that the more personal the music is, the easier it is to relate to it, so that’s something that I find rewarding. When I’m listening to other artists, it’s the first thing that I gravitate towards, if someone’s being really open and upfront about what they’re trying to say. And at times being vulnerable. I think there’s a line to be drawn with being vulnerable, especially as a female songwriter. I think there’s a lot of stereotypes about female songwriters with guitars that are using their songs as a diary. It’s a stereotype I’m trying to break down a bit.

I definitely think you do a good job at keeping it fun and not sounding like it’s just another singer songwriter. You put a different spin on it. I’m sure that you find people voice their appreciation more when you’re honest in your songs.

Yeah and I think the more honest you can be, it pays off in the end. So it seems scary at first, but it does kind of pay off. It’s like if you’re being honest about who you are as a person even if you’re afraid of opening up, I think once you do it, you quickly realize that more people are gravitating towards it.

So I’m sure you’re somewhat sick of this kind of question, but there was a shift in your sound between your past albums and Loner. What growth did you see personally or what experiences did you have that helped you explore a different sound?

Well you’re right, I am sick of this question, but I also see why it’s important to bring it up. I think the first thing is five years passed between me making that album and this one, which is a long time. I was 21 when I made that last one, and it’s just been a long time. I think over the course of those years, I have just grown musically and my tastes have changed. I’ve kind of become more honest with myself, with what I want and what makes me happy. I think that kind of takes some time to figure out what you want and for me personally when I first started I really just wanted to write songs for other people. And be free and not be so much in the limelight. I just wanted to write a good song. Period. And I think once I started in that realm I realized that’s definitely not all I want to do. I have this boundless creative energy sometimes. I think that would be really limiting to me to just do that. It’s more challenging to me--I’ve realized over the year it’s way more challenging and I enjoy the challenge of creating my own world. Rather than creating a song, you can you know create the visuals and try to do something new. Instead of just trying something good. It’s just more interesting to me to maybe push the boundaries a little more. It’s definitely something I’m gonna do on the next record. I’m not gonna let that much time pass again, and a lot of that was really out of my control. I just hit a lot of roadblocks trying to get this album out. There’s a lot of material that never even came out because of label issues and switching my management and all the stuff that people don’t really know, or care about.

Yeah, all that behind the scenes stuff. I also read that for Loner, you met with a lot of different producers before ultimately deciding to co-produce it. What was the experience like producing your own work?

When I first started I had just signed with a new label and I wanted to get in the studio immediately and I had a short list of producers that I really wanted to work with. I was just gonna let them do it because at that point, I had all these songs but I didn’t really have the direction that I wanted to go in. Then I had all these kind of setbacks with producers and there was just so many setbacks and failed opportunities and not quite getting the songs right, or the label not liking what we did. Eventually a year passed and cause it takes so much time to schedule everything—it just takes months and months to schedule stuff—and by the end of the year I had really developed what I wanted to do, like a voice and narrative and the kind of direction I wanted to take it in. I’d gotten a lot better at using software and I was pretty well versed in Pro Tools so I was just teaching myself different formats to write and create string arrangements and all this stuff. By the time I found another producer, I was pretty much already producing a lot of it myself and all I really needed was help with a very specific set of things. That ended up being very useful to me because now I feel like I can do all that stuff that I once didn’t have as much confidence in. But now I’m pretty solid on all of those voids I’d had starting this record.

Circling back to your creative vision, you wear a monochrome wardrobe and your stage set up isn’t just you on a stage; You have that cat on your keyboard, you’ve had piñatas and flowers everywhere…Is there anybody that you found inspiring when you were trying to come up with your vision, or anyone else you think does visuals really well as an artist?

Oh yeah! I think most of the aesthetic is inspired by films, and I have a handful of directors that I’m obsessed with. Pedro Almodóvar is probably one of my favorite directors ever. And I’m inspired by his writing as well and you can kind of sense a lot of it in my own writing because there’s an element of whimsy in it, but all of his films are really serious. It’s very serious stories that are 9 times out of 10 really violent or there’s some sort of trauma that is experienced by the characters. But it’s also filled with these really bright, fun colors and the characters are very quirky and whimsical but they have a dark side to them, and I am hugely influenced by stuff like that. And David Lynch and a lot of the Coen brothers using drama and comedy, blending drama and comedy.

Yeah like that sense of dark humor.

Yeah, sometimes even blending horror with comedy. I love horror movies, like B horror movies that are one second terrifying and the next second they’re hilarious. I’m really inspired by stuff like that. I think you can tell when you go to see the show, especially our headlining show where we can decorate the stage however we want and I like that there’s kind of like a seedy porno vibe to it, but it’s also fun. I want people to walk away feeling like they experienced something special and you know blending that drama with whimsy is important I think.

Yeah totally, and I actually planned on bringing up David Lynch if you didn’t because I saw another interview when you talked about him and Wes Anderson specifically. Going off of that, what are some of your favorite films from either of those directors or other ones you’ve mentioned?

Well I think one of my favorite Almodóvar films, it translates as The Skin I Live In, and there’s another really great one called Bad Education. Volver is another one that people are probably familiar with. All of those include some sort of just like bizarre story line, just completely bizarre. The Skin I Live In is probably my favorite because it is just grotesque and completely unique, but the story is about this plastic surgeon whose daughter is allegedly raped by this boy. And he gets back at the boy by kidnapping him--this is like an insane story, but by kidnapping him and surgically altering him so he looks like his deceased wife. So the boy transforms into this plastic surgeon’s dead wife, and it turns out he didn’t actually do anything to the surgeon’s daughter. So it’s all this crazy fucking story, it’s an insane story, and it’s obviously really serious, but it’s whimsical. It’s so bizarre, so unique. So is David Lynch…Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive. It’s like these really serious horror stories, but then there’s always this goofy character that comes out of nowhere for no apparent reason and is like wearing a cowboy hat in a casino. I think Tom Waits is a big influence too for that same kind of reason.

Yeah, just throwing in absurd references in a very serious plot line. I can see that connection for sure. Is there anything recent, like any new films or anything else as of late that’s inspired some new material?

Yeah! I’m really inspired by Kanye West’s mental breakdown in the public eye. It’s extremely inspiring.

Well I’ll be on the look out for the song or songs about that.

I’m also inspired by Britney Spears’ mental breakdown.

You should do like a parallel between the two!

I should! That’s a good idea.

Well I’d love to see what you’d do with it. So talking the headline tour, you mentioned you’ll have more control of the stage. Past times I’ve seen you, you’ve had a piñata and you’ve busted out a recorder to play some tunes. What kind of shenanigans can audiences expect this time around?

We’re gonna be playing some new songs! I may or may not have a new instrument on my pedal board next to my recorder. I actually broke my recorder yesterday so I have a new one.

Oh good, I was gonna say we’d have to bring one to you if not! So a little while back I interviewed Naked Giants and they were saying it’d be fun to start a New West Records super group with you and Ron Gallo…Besides your label mates, is there anyone you’d love to form a collaborative group with?

Oh man! Well besides Lana Del Rey or can I say Lana Del Rey?

You can say Lana!

I’m obsessed with her. I think she’s a genius.

Nice! Anyone else? Let’s say you had to pick at least two people for your hypothetical super group…

I can’t say that. Ok, I just wanna write a song for Lana Del Rey. I actually have written songs for her, but she hasn’t heard them yet. I haven’t sent them to anyone.

But they’re ready and waiting?

They’re ready! They’re pretty good though. So I might use them, but I would love to write a song for her one day. Supergroup though...that’s hard to say! That’s like putting myself on the same level as a lot of the people I admire.

Oh yeah, well don’t even think about it like that, it can be your dream collaboration!

I would say definitely Mitski and St. Vincent.

Oh, that would be amazing.

They really create their own little universe when you see them live, it’s very uniquely their thing.

Very true! So just wrapping up, anything else you’d like to share about the tour coming up or anything else you have planned for the rest of the year?

If there are people who have seen us--we’re just finishing up an opening tour this month--I guess I’d say if anybody hasn’t seen our headlining set, it’s a different experience. We add a lot to it. I’d encourage people to come to the headlining show if they haven’t seen it yet.

There you have it! Keep up with Caroline Rose on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram and snag tickets to the show at Lincoln Hall tonight here.

A Chat With: Madeline Kenney

Nowadays, with all of the behind the scenes work and promotion leading up to an album release, it’s become more and more rare for an artist to release a record two years in a row. But for singer songwriter Madeline Kenney, the feat of releasing her sophomore album just one year after her debut falls into place among an array of creative interests and achievements. Besides touring her first record, Night Night at the First Landing, and sharing stages with the likes of Wye Oak, Soccer Mommy, and Jay Som, Kenney also managed to run her own record label while writing Perfect Shapes and recording it with a new collaborator and producer, Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak.

Full of complexity on both a lyrical and sonic level, Perfect Shapes takes listeners on a comprehensive journey while weaving together layered and experimental sounds. It’s an album that showcases the creative triumph that can stem from stepping out of your comfort zone and challenging boundaries. When you hear more about Kenney’s background, like the fact that she studied dance and choreography for years before moving on to study Neuroscience in college, it’s no surprise that her songwriting and composition remain so intricate and thoughtful. Kenney’s unique range of passions blend together to form a multifaceted and diverse outcome on this record.

Shortly after the release of Perfect Shapes, Kenney took some time to speak with me on the phone as she prepared for her current headlining tour. “I’m in Austin and I just got real danky dank tacos,” she tells me at the start of our conversation. Although we joked about keeping the interview solely about tacos (“Talking Tacos with Madeline Kenney” does have a nice ring to it…), we spent the next half hour discussing her background, her different creative endeavors, how she manages her time, and what we can all do to make concerts a more diverse and safe space for everyone. Turn on Perfect Shapes, tune into the full conversation with Madeline Kenney below, and then come see her perform the new songs at Schubas Tavern this Friday, November 9th.

 Photo By Cara Robbins

Photo By Cara Robbins

Your sophomore album Perfect Shapes just came out last Friday, so it’s been about a week now. How are you feeling at this point and what have been some of your favorite responses?

Oh boy, you know it feels good to have it out. It feels good that the wait is over. There’s a lot of fear and anticipation associated with an album rollout...Singles start to come out and you’re like oh god, is everyone gonna hate this? But yeah it’s been good. Favorite response is a strange question maybe because press responses are just so nerve-wracking. Pitchfork reviewed it. That’s fine, that’s cool. As any sort of fearful musician I sort of hate them a little bit. They’ve reviewed my friends’ records badly. Like leave my friends alone!

Yeah it’s like hey, if you don’t like it, just leave it alone!

If you don’t have anything nice to say...But no, I think my favorite response is it’s really nice to get texts from musicians and friends of mine, who I really respect their opinions. For somebody to just be like I listened to your record and the sounds are great, or the drums sound great…

Totally, a fellow musician telling you means the most?

Yeah, people who have done work that I really admire...I’m just like oh man. That’s been nice. Mostly I’m just like ok what’s next?

So for the album you worked with Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak. How was that experience working with Jenn and how did that feel to work with someone new as a producer, compared to your last record?

It was great! She’s an angel upon this earth. Just a boundlessly creative person. We were both trying a lot of new things. She’d never produced someone’s album that wasn’t her own and that she wasn’t a part of, like Flock of Dimes or Wye Oak. So there was a lot of experimentation, there was a lot of mistakes. Not a lot, but some. But we were all learning together and I think it was a really forgiving environment. It was-- we were very free to experiment and try new things. Just working with somebody different you know? I didn’t stop working with Chaz [Bundick] because I hate Chaz it’s just--

New ears?

Yeah, new ears! Exactly. We made this thing that was great, and what would happen if I made a thing with someone else, what would it sound like? And it sounds like Perfect Shapes.

Do you think you’ll continue then in the future to try other producers and partner with other musicians to keep the sound fresh and in a new perspective for each album?

I think that I’m ready now to produce my own. I think I needed to work with a woman and I needed to work in the space that we worked in to realize hey, maybe I can do this! I mean, I would work with Jenn any day again, of course. But I think it’s important for whatever I do next to maybe trust myself a little more. I just learned from this experience that I think I do know what I like. Yeah again, some really sweet people reached out after hearing the record and just made me feel like maybe my intuition can be trusted. I think that’s a skill to learn that about yourself.

Yeah sounds like this was overall a positive learning experience! Which is awesome, not everyone can say that! So you actually recorded in Durham, North Carolina right? Were you writing in North Carolina as well?

No, all of the songs, I wrote in Oakland. I wrote most of them like right after or during the roll out of Night, Night. The record came out in September of last year and then I was on tour in that month and I ended up sending demos to Jenn in December. Then I recorded them in January.

Nice, so no time off?

No time off! Why have time off when you could be making things? No, time off is actually important. Don’t learn from my workaholic tendencies please.

Do you think that the vibe of recording those songs in the new surroundings of Durham affected you when you were making the album?

Yeah for sure! We were out in the woods in this house that was converted into a studio by Sylvan Esso. I was like recording guitar tracks and looking outside at cardinals, which I’d never seen before. I’m a west coast girl so I was like wow cardinals! Oh my god! And yeah I think that the space that we were recording in made it into a little softer feeling, even though there’s some like distorted guitar, louder drums, I think the general vibe is you can kind of feel that it’s not made in a regular studio or my apartment in Oakland.

Yeah, it’s very layered and you can feel the thought and intention behind it, like it wasn’t recorded in someone’s bedroom.

Yeah and it also doesn’t sound like a studio which is strange. Which is another thing I’m interested in. I made a record in my bedroom. I made a record in a house studio, and now I’m kind of interested what would it sound like in a real studio.

Yeah to just keep experimenting?

Yeah I think that’s so important. It’s important to grow and learn.

So as far as taking this into the live show, has it been difficult to translate what you recorded on the album? Have you had to get creative with certain arrangements?

Heck yeah! It’s been super hard! I was like what did I do to myself? All these new sounds! I’m used to just having a regular band with two guitars, bass and drums. So we had to get kind of creative, but I’m excited. It’s really fun you know translating things onto different instruments. We’re using a lot of samples. Camille plays drums and does the samples, she’s just a multitalented force of mature. Her bandmate--they have a band in Austin called Dead Recipe which is incredible and you should listen to their music--

Oh I haven’t heard of them, but I will check them out!

Yeah, I run a very tiny label and we put out their EP. I say we, but I don’t have a staff, it’s just me.

That’s how I am with ANCHR so I can relate!

But yeah, Kyle and Camille are my rhythm section but they also multitask and do a lot more. There’s a guitar part on one of the songs that Kyle has translated onto bass and he does it with an effect that sounds cool and wacky. Mostly it’s just gonna be really fun. I’m very well aware that the record doesn’t have like one cohesive style. There’s a couple songs that are out there and different and that’s fine. It makes for a really fun set to play!

Totally, if you wanted to just hear the record, you wouldn’t go to the show. It’ll be fun to see how you come up with it and how it comes out on stage. So kind of switching gears, I read that you grew up dancing and you thought you were more geared towards doing choreography in your future. When did you decide to focus more on music? Was there a certain moment that it clicked?

Not really. You know, the dance world is kind of messed up. I was gonna go to college for choreography. I had applied to Columbia College-

In Chicago? That’s where I went!

Oh really?

I went for music business though.

I remember seeing one of their performances and I was like man, I would really like to do that. I applied and everything and I just realized I love eating a lot...And I don’t think all dance culture is that toxic, but a lot of it is. A lot of academic dance when you have to do crazy amounts of ballet, that’s a body negative environment. So I just realized that world wasn’t for me. It’s still something I’m interested in.  When I decided not to go to college for it, and I went to college for neuroscience, I was teaching classes at the college. Teaching modern dance. I’m still really interested in choreography and I try to incorporate it into music videos, but yeah it just wasn’t for me.

Yeah I was going to ask then when you’re songwriting, do you think you pull in your dancing-- like picturing yourself dancing to the melody you come up with?

Probably not. I think with anything, like when you’re writing if I can use you as an example. Like whatever your experiences and education or whatever you’re interested in in the moment or even what you’re reading or listening to, it’s such a subconscious amount of influence.

Yeah, like you don’t even realize it.

Yeah, so I think that--I get questions sometimes about neuroscience and I’m a baker too, so people are like do you think about bread when you’re writing? And I’m like well no, unless I’m hungry. But maybe in a way! I spend a lot of time doing really repetitive motions to make this one thing, so subconsciously I think that definitely contributes to how I think about music.

Like all of your different creative passions fuel into it?

Yeah if you can allow me to be a nerd for a second...I did study neuroscience. Neuroplasticity is like the most amazing concept; it’s the concept that thoughts physically change the layout of your brain, they really do. They can strengthen some connections and weaken others, so just the science behind Neuroplasticity that whatever you’re interested in or doing at the current moment is kind of changing your brain, so it’s changing you. So in that way, in that molecular way, it affects how I write!

Oh wow this is the most informational interview I’ve ever had. I didn’t even know about the label that you run when you’re not busy with your music and I didn’t know you studied neuroscience, so I’m just learning all kinds of things.

You know, I’ve got problems. I think I’m diagnosed ADD. It’s fine though!

So with the label then, what kind of artists are you looking for to help do a release?

I just helped this band--they’re kind of out of The Bay, kind of out of Japan. One of them lives in Japan and one of them lives in The Bay. They’re called Curling. My record label’s called Copper Mouth Records, you can go look it up if you want to. That record that they made is really good. Really amazing sounds, they are very dedicated to this idea of recording and mixing in mono to tape. It’s a very Beatles kind of thing in a way. So we just put out their record in August and what else? What’s next for Copper Mouth Records, I don’t know, but I kind of have a side project that I have yet to unveil at all. I might do something with Copper Mouth with that. I’m trying to get more production work. I’m producing this woman’s record in December and I think I might help her put out just the tape release. I want to work with more just not white dudes. I think I gotta take a little break from that demographic.

Totally! Kind of on that subject, I was going to ask you about, when I was researching you, I read that Billboard feature and one part that really stuck out to me was when you were talking about Perfect Shapes addressing certain expectations that are placed on women. You said that you’re placed on bills with other women who also have bangs and play guitar...simply for that reason that they have bangs and play guitar. I think you totally hit the nail on the head, so what would you like to see from venues and promoters and other music fans in the industry that can help stop those kind of patterns and the promoting mostly white dudes in bands?

Yeah, white dudes or white women... Like I’m part of the problem and I realize that. I think that everyone’s awareness helps and I don’t pretend to have the answer because I have one aspect of oppression, being a woman, but that stops there. So I think that what I would love to see is people getting creative with their bills. Like not being afraid to mix genres. Not being afraid to mix comedy and music. That’s a show that I would love to see. I did that when I played in Durham last year and I met the whole crew that I would be working with. It was a college and they were down to do something kind of weird, so I was like can you book a comedy act, preferably a woman? So they booked this female comedy duo that was totally goofy. It was such a fun night. I think it starts really small, and DIY venues are the answer a lot of the time cause they’re doing things that I think are really meaningful and maybe less commercially accessible but emotionally--

Like they’re able to be more creative, it’s not like a set venue. DIY venues can make their own rules.

Yeah, and I get it, a venue is a business and they need to make a profit. This is my first headlining tour and I’m terrified to play to empty rooms, not really for myself, but to let the promoter down or to let the opening band down. Like there’s so much pressure. But that pressure is absent in DIY venues because the point of those venues is not to make a profit, it’s to create a safe space to consume something important. I really think that thinking small is the key.

I really like your suggestion to either have comedy on the bill, or like you said, don’t be afraid to mix genres because yeah, some people might not or might not think they’re into comedy and they just want to go for music, but that kind of broadens the audience and they have draw from all sides.

Yeah, I would love to see a show that’s like a lady MC and a dude rock band. I listen to so much dude rock, I love it. I’m obsessed with that shit, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like other genres or I think that they don’t influence each other in ways.

It’s cool to collaborate with different genres and have them learn from each other.

Yeah, just like you said, you might not know that you like it a lot. I went to a show in New York, it was Palm’s album release and they had, I wish I could remember her name, I feel kind of like a piece of shit for forgetting it, but she was like this sci-fi rapper. She wore a fake bionic arm and rapped about saving the planet. She was talking about onstage how you don’t often see women of color loving sci-fi, like it’s a very niche interest. She was just breaking all that down and that was before Palm! Which I would not associate with that genre at all, and it was so good. I was really taken aback by that combination.

I think everyone, like audiences too, can play a part in that. Being willing to check somebody out that you might not have gone to their show. Don’t miss the opener. Openers are people too!

Exactly! I love being an opener because there’s no pressure to sell tickets, but I know the pain of people being like, hey, missed your set but I’ll check you on Spotify! Like, sick, dude, that did nothing for me.

Yeah, I promote shows too through ANCHR and I’m actually doing the second anniversary show at Schubas where you’re playing. I totally can relate to the anxiety of selling tickets, like thinking no one will show up because there will be 5 tickets sold in advance. Everyone just wants to buy at the door.

Yeah with clubs this size, that’s what I’m hoping for that people will buy at door. I’m scared!

Yeah don’t worry, Schubas will have a lot of door sales.

I think that’s kind of the MO of clubs that size. So I’m taking a deep breath that people will show up.

I have faith! People will be there. So wrapping up, what are some of your self care tips, which I’m sure you don’t have too much time for with everything you have going on….But how do you stay sane when you’re traveling and now trying to do production for other artists and running a label while promoting your own record? Any tips for time management and not going completely insane with your to do list?

Oh man, yeah…First of all on tour, I have a couple key secrets. Witch Hazel and blotting sheets will save your face. We keep blotting sheets and witch hazel spray in the van so like halfway through a drive we’re like “ok we’re all gross we just have to clean up a little bit.” Baby wipes, you know you gotta keep laying around to keep yourself clean. But also, it’s easy to eat really poorly. So just being aware of that, and drinking water...As far as in general, I have a crazy amount of things that I’m doing, but I think for my personality that helps me stay sane. If I don’t do a bunch of things I start to lose myself a little bit. I have to find a balance cause I have workaholic tendencies and will overwork myself easily. But I think that if you’re balancing a whole bunch of things—Oh there’s this great book called You Are a Circle. It’s about being a creative person and making art. It’s a minimalist book where each page just has one or two sentences. Like little quips, little bits of advice and inspiration. I wish I had it on me and could read it, but if I can recall it, there was this one bit of advice that was like “have three things going for you. One to pay the bills, one that doesn’t pay the bills right now but could in the future, and one that is completely passion based.”  And if can balance these three things you can have a fulfilling life. Like you’re not needing money but you’re also creating and making things that matter to you.

Oh wow that’s great advice!

I hope I got that right! It’s You Are a Circle and then the follow up to that is called You Are a Message, which is about making your creative endeavors a business. It’s not like concrete advice like first make a spreadsheet. It’s like think of your audience and who are you trying to reach. It’s really good!

Keep up with Madeline Kenney on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram and grab tickets to Friday’s show here.

A Chat With: Stuyedeyed

With just one EP under their belt, Brooklyn’s Stuyedeyed has already made their message crystal clear; They’re not just here to make great music, they’re here to do it with intention and a strong sense of conviction. They’re here to use their voices and their platform along with their music to try to bring change to a society littered with systemic issues.

During the band’s Saturday afternoon set at Audiotree Music Festival back in September, they used their time onstage to talk about important issues. “Black lives matter,” lead singer Nelson Hernandez-Espinal addressed the crowd, also asking the audience to look out for each other at the start of their set, making it clear they wouldn’t tolerate anyone violating the safe space of the festival. Their song “Mr. Policeman” from 2017’s Funeral EP details the band’s stance on police brutality and misconduct, and when speaking with the group after their show, they say the brutal honesty in their music won’t be disappearing on their next projects. In their upcoming EP and eventual full length album, Stuyedeyed will continue to address the uncomfortable in order to find growth and change, and they say they aren’t afraid to start introspectively. Tune into our chat with the full band below to hear what else they have to say about using their platform for good, the TV show Sábado Gigante, Ozzfest, and more!

 Stuyedeyed is Nelson, Humberto (Bert) Genao, George Ramirez , and Luis Ruelas

Stuyedeyed is Nelson, Humberto (Bert) Genao, George Ramirez , and Luis Ruelas

What were each of your first musical memories?

Nelson: My first musical memory is my cousin came home stoned one day and he was just blasting records, and he played “Whole Lotta Love” followed by “War Pigs.”

Luis: I guess my first musical memory was finding Pantera “Cowboys from Hell” on tape in my garage. It was my brother’s tape. I found a tape player and put it on, and I was like woah, this music! Yeah that was it.

Nelson: It’s all finding everything by accident you know?

George: I grew up with my parents watching this show Sábado Gigante. It was like this television variety show that was going on for a hella long time, hosted by a guy named Don Francisco and they would have like performers sing and do an audition. I was always impressed by the music, but what I loved the most was that for people who didn’t make the cut and got heckled the most, there was a guy named El Chacal, who was this like executioner who played a trumpet and he’d go [imitates horn] and yell “FUERA!” Then a lion would come out from behind the curtain—

Nelson: Out of context this is fucking ridiculous, but you have to go home and watch. Sábado Gigante…Saturday Giant.

Bert: I think my earliest memory of music was me finding a a James Brown tape where he goes and shows us how to dance. There’s a Youtube of it. When I was three, four years old, there’s an embarrassing video of me as a child dancing to James Brown and I just started playing around with drums. Then I picked up the snare as a kid at 8 years old. I never really developed much around that but then I picked up stringed instruments that derived from that genre, like James Brown, Marvin Gaye. I was living in Brazil at the time so like that music was just carrying through. If you think about American media, it has so much output. It has so much influence in other media. The Brazilian media caught on to a lot of the soul, Africana, you know all of that memorabilia. Marvin Gaye, Black Sabbath...etc...hence why you have all these different varieties of music that are parallel. So we were getting the James Brown, Marvin Gay when I was growing up, in a sense that I remember that was my first discovery.

You recently posted about having some days off and working on the new record. How far are you in that process?

Nelson: I think what we’re doing is...we got back from tour and we actually recorded most of our full length LP. What we recorded this past time was just a short EP, four songs. But we got back from a four month run, and we were like man, we’re saying something with like “Funeral” and “Believer,” the shit that we have put out, and then with the LP we’re saying something, so there needed to be something that bridged the gap. So the name for the whole thing is called “Moments of Terribleness” and it’s like, four less-than-two-and-a-half-minute long songs. Like Jesus Lizard kind of chilled out, like one-two-three-four just like a punk band.

Bert: The way that I like to attribute it, is the songs come about in a very unique way. All songs come about differently.

They all have their own journey?

Bert: Yeah, and these songs specifically, Nelson has been formulating, layering dynamic for the songs and themes. The lyrics. The theme essentially. But the way that we all perceive it is very important, and I think that at the end of the day, you know like the moments of terribleness are the things that we need to start hearing nowadays. It’s so easy to do the things that are safe, but it’s so hard to look introspectively. Whether you want it to be or not, we’re in a position where we have a platform now, and we’re gonna speak about it. And the things that need to be talked about. Like you’re in media, you understand how it’s very hard to feel as a woman to have your voice heard. We’re gonna speak about you in a song.

Thanks, guys! I appreciate that!

Bert: We’re gonna speak about moments of terribleness. Like oh fuck, I’m a woman and I have to stand in line now because some dude wants to take pictures. Like no! You need to have that moment of terribleness so that you can understand that all of this, the conversation needs to move forward.

Nelson: The biggest theme in the record I think is pretty much just like we’re all a Latino band. We grew up having been taught sort of “machismo.” Like thematically the record really explores like me tearing myself down. The opening lyrics to one of the songs is “I need to cut off my hair because I need to stop pretending.” Just doing that kind of’s a very introspective punk piece. But we’re just like saying--

Luis: It’s very much so a very raw, minimalistic version of ourselves where we’re trying to express ourselves in a way that this is us, stop being a fucking asshole. We’re all fucking people. We’re all in this together. We just want something to shove in people’s faces and be like yo, stop being an asshole.

Bert: The most important thing is like I said, it’s very hard to look introspectively. So writing these songs and experiencing the music naturally kind of gives you like a mirror to look at yourself. Like there’s a saying that’s like don’t judge unless you’re ready to be judged yourself. So in that sense it’s like writing these songs and saying society is fucking shit, we look at ourselves like oh my gosh, I’ve been shit so many times you know. Deconstruct it. Deconstructing every single thing that has caused pain, and working backwards. Like literally whatever it is that does it, that’s what applies.

Nelson: The songs speak for themselves. Like Bert’s not sitting there on the mic and breaking down these themes, but I mean we like in the most simple form, in 59 seconds of a song, you’re getting that it’s funny but it’s also ok to be wrong. That’s what the whole thing is about. Moments we all have experienced… moments of terribleness. But let’s talk about it, let’s talk about being a dude. Hold yourself accountable and what we’re expected as men. Like what’s expected of women.

I was reading your bio and one sentence that stood out to me was something like finding comfort in the uncomfortable

Nelson: Yeah there’s growth in the uncomfortable.

Yeah, so having to get uncomfortable to shake things up. You already kind of touched on this, but what are some of the challenges of being blunt like that with your writing?

Luis: I think it’s a constant thing of trying to improve yourself every step of the way. Because no matter what you’re never gonna be at a perfect point like ‘I fucking figured everything out.’

Nelson: That’s like to say you can never be wrong.

Luis: It’s something we’re always working on. Like how we were talking about the machismo thing, it’s like we’re all for the most part first generation or as far as how we grew up in that sense of like breaking down that old stereotype. No matter if it’s gender or race or someone being in power….I think this is a great EP for us to put out as far as getting our voice out a little more.

Bert: It’s so simple. As far as it goes, everyone has their own choices. And again the platform runs very deeply. You can choose to do what you wish with your platform but for us it’s very important that we do what we do. As we’re talking right now, we’re smoking a joint. We’re drinking a beer. All of these things are natural to us, but people don’t really see the other side of us or our dynamics. We’re just trying to push our mentality in a way that feels a little more natural. It shouldn’t be… it’s modest. There shouldn’t be like a manual. We’re not born with anything and here we are in society with no context on how to live. Given all of these scenarios that are not necessarily right and there’s these archetypes that we have come to agree with. And it’s not ok, but the best way to do it is like hey you make yourself feel uncomfortable so you can reach a point of truth.

Exactly, so stepping out of your comfort zone, right?

Bert: One of best things is finding that peace within yourself. Like no one can affirm that for you. Like yeah we can sit here and talk about oh yeah society this, society that, but we’re looking for ways to improve ourselves when we bring these conversations up. Nobody has the answers for anything but we’re here like hey look, Mr. Police Man go fuck yourself. But we understand we also do some things wrong. We have to deconstruct. Moments of terribleness are happening everywhere.

So then you have the full length done already you said?

Nelson: Yeah we have to revisit, we just got done recording. Now I think the LP is definitely gonna take a little bit of a different shape. Now the bridge is formed and we’re like ok cool so we can now do all of these other things. Just different avenues.

Luis: I think as far as time wise we’re trying to put this EP out by the end of November, December.

This run of shows is just like an end of Summer stretch for you right?

Nelson: Yeah we’re gonna take time off I think the next couple shows are gonna be like our release or a Halloween show. Then we’ll tour for another three weeks after the release. Probably east of the Mississippi.

How do you stay entertained on the road? Are you podcast people? Or mostly listen to music?

George: We listen to music.

Bert: It kinda shifts each tour. It’s all contextual. Like we did this tour around two festivals. So essentially pretty much we’ve been pretty easy riding this tour. Nobody’s driving, we’re all kind of like hanging back doing the Nelson will be doing the business stuff on the backend . All of us like doing individual things. There are other tours that involve just having fun or buckling back and doing your work. It all kind of comes down to figuring out where you gotta be and how you’re gonna show up. Sometimes it’s cool to get drunk and sometimes it’s cool to do the job.

Nelson: For me it’s music. And writing. Listening to a lot of fucking music.

While we’re at a festival, do you have any best or worst festival memories?

Nelson: I don’t really go to festivals…

Luis: I remember Ozzfest when I was like 14. I got trampled in the mosh pit. No one picked me up.

Bert: The craziest shit that I’ve ever seen at a festival— Do y’all know Rock in Rio? So that’s like 100,000 people festival back in Brazil. But like Brazil doesn’t have a lot of festivals, so obviously like 100,000 people show up… everyone from the country goes. Black Sabbath was playing and my brother Phil snuck me in. There was a whole fucking mosh and Phil was just like yeah it’s about time you learned, you’re 13 and he throws me into the mosh. I’m like 4’11 in a fucking mosh...but after that, I knew what I wanted to do.

 Stuyedeyed at Audiotree Music Festival

Stuyedeyed at Audiotree Music Festival

Wrapping this up, anything else you’re working on this year?

Luis: We’re working on a little video series for the EP coming out. They’re so short, the songs, so we made them specifically like bangers. We wanna do like a four video thing.

Nelson: Jonny Kapps….When we did the LP we documented everything, just like gathered some film. He’s the dude. He does good work. Shout out to Jonny Kapps. Great work, great human.

Anything else you want to mention. You had some good wisdom during your set!

Luis: 311. Never forget

George: Black Lives Matter.

Yeah, I loved that you said that in the beginning of your set and said to look out for each other.

Bert: There’s a lot of dumb things going on. Just read a little, listen a little bit, hug each other. You know. These bros right here put in hard work for the things that are right. Ain’t nobody trying to do things in the way that it’s perfect. It’s just you gotta reach for excellence. Nobody’s perfect but you can reach excellence for sure.

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A Chat With: CYN

Singer songwriter CYN may not even have her debut EP out just yet, but with a handful of her first singles each reaching over 1 Million Spotify streams and a slot supporting Years & Years on their North American tour, she’s already got a lot of eager listeners and supporters hanging on for her next release of new music. Not to mention, among those supporters stands pop superstar Katy Perry, who signed CYN to her label Unsub Records. When you listen to CYN’s ethereal vocals and her catchy melodies, it’s easy to understand exactly why she’s garnered so much positive buzz early on.

Now based in LA, CYN grew up in Michigan before moving to Chicago to attend DePaul University, so when I met up with her ahead a sold out show at The Vic Theatre with Years & Years, she was getting ready to perform to a room that held some of her best friends and family members. During our chat, CYN talks about her full circle moment performing at The Vic, what she reads while on tour, what kind of direction she’s taking on her new music, and more. Tune in below!

 Photo courtesy of CYN/ High Rise PR

Photo courtesy of CYN/ High Rise PR

What was your first musical memory?

I remember listening to Jewel on the radio. I was so young...I think her first album came out in 1995 and I was born in ‘93. So I must have been tiny, who knows! But I just remember singing [sings] Dreams last for so long… “You Were Meant For Me.” Sometimes I just have to sing it to remember the name of the song. And when I heard that, my parents were going through a divorce at the time so for whatever reason I always thought I was feeling emotions or going through something emotionally that was too much as a child, just because you know, not everyone handles those types of things in the most mature way. I think that I was kind of in some situations with certain adults, I was in situations that were too emotionally stimulating for a baby, I think. So I was basically feeling the heartbreak of my parents as a child.

Oh wow so you just had that sensitivity back then?

Exactly, but then back to the music, it was almost like Jewel was speaking about this heartbreak that I didn’t have the the words to speak about. So just listening to her, I just understood my feelings and my heartbreak over my parents’ divorce because she did it perfectly. And because I was better able to understand my own personal experience through music, I always from that point forward used it as a point of therapy and used it as way of getting through things.

Yeah and it’s cool how you can take a song and pinpoint it to a certain time in your life when you look back at it.

Exactly! I also think that people can aspire to be like songs. Like whereas we’re using songs in the present you can also think like...For example, Alicia Keys “If I Ain’t Got You.” That song I’m like oh my, oh my god, I want to have a love that incredible!

Like vision boarding but with a song?

Yeah! To me, that song is the epitome of knowing that you love someone. So I think you can like strive to be like songs too.

So you’re a Midwestern girl, growing up in Michigan and then you went to DePaul right?


So this is sort of like a homecoming show in a way!

Yeah, it is.

What are some of your favorite spots in Chicago then, like to see live music, to buy music, to shop, to eat, etc…?

It’s been some time since I’ve been here and I had all of my go to spots--

Oh yeah I’m sure there’s so many new places now.

Yeah a lot has changed! I’ve been gone for 2 years. I used to love to go to Wicker Park...what is that one venue there?

The Subterranean?

SubT. Yeah! That was awesome. I loved that venue. I just loved hanging out in Wicker Park in general. When I first came here from Michigan, I was really intrigued by like Lincoln Park and Lakeview, all of the basic girl stuff. Then you’re like ooh, I’m cool in Logan Square, like I know where I can get some local beer. But yeah Wicker Park, Logan Square. I was such a huge Chicago advocate when I first came to LA. I was like what am I doing here? It was not easy to adjust.

Anything special you’re planning for the show or is it mostly that you’ll just have your friends and some family here?

It’s more so just a feeling. I don’t have anything special planned for only Chicago. I will talk about how I came here [The Vic] as a fan and I saw Sam Smith and Kiesza.

Oh no way I was here!

You saw that show? I was here too! I was just like damn, I can do that.

That’s so cool you came here when Sam Smith was playing and now you’ll be on the stage yourself!

Yeah I was really like, I thought I could be like Kiesza. And now I’m at the point where I’m touring with Years & Years and I’m like I can be like them. I don’t always have to be the opener. I have a few hurdles to overcome first though.

So I really love the newest single “I’ll Still Have Me.” I love how it’s different from your usual dancey, bass heavy kind of sound. Is that kind of a sneak peek at what your debut is going to be or how are you approaching that EP?

So the producer who I wrote “I’ll Still Have Me” with, he is executive producing that whole EP. So just the emotion and the character in that song...even though I’m sad in “I’ll Still Have Me” it doesn’t really make an appearance in the EP because I’m in a happier place at the moment. It’s definitely like that richness in character and when you listen to it you can feel what I was feeling. There are moments on the EP where you can feel what I was feeling, in another light. But it’s all guitar driven. More alternative but still very pop.

Very true to your roots?

Yeah. Still “consumable”. Even though that’s not the most sexy word to use when you’re talking about your own music.

Yeah but you still gotta consider that and take care of the business side.

Exactly. It’s really a struggle finding that balance. And being aware of it. But I’m so excited about the EP. I feel like my truest version of myself so far, and I’m not paying too much attention to trends.

Nice, you’re doing you!

Yeah, I’m not like, this is what all the pop girls are doing. When we’re like putting a snap, I’m like maybe we shouldn’t. There’s so many out there! I’m really just trying to pave my own individual path

Ah well I think you already are! So the video for that song [‘I’ll Still Have Me”], how did that come together? Were you involved in the process of choosing it or did the director come to you with a story line?

Basically, to give you the most honest version of how that went...It started with me. We wrote a couple of treatments, which is when we write down all of the lyrics, we write down what we imagine happening during certain lyrics. I wrote one--actually I wrote a couple. My manager wrote one. We reached out to a few directors. We had a few come in...but we ended up going with my A&R’s idea for the video. She came up with interviewing elderly people.

Yeah they were all so cute!

It was really special because it was their version-- we didn’t script it. They came in, did their thing. They’re literally wearing the clothes they walked in wearing. We didn’t put any make up on them. It was a very authentic thing to match what I think is a very authentic song. Then one of my best friend’s mom said “Oh I really love this song, I listen to it all the time. I feel like the woman dancing alone is me.” Cause her husband recently passed away.

Oh no! But it’s kind of comforting in a way for her to have this song then, right?

Exactly! And that’s the most you can hope for with your music. Like what I said in the beginning, like going through an emotional experience and then understanding it more through someone else’s art. Like that’s all you can hope for.

Right, like you’ve done your part as an artist. So switching gears a little we talked about your music before this new EP is very dance driven. So what are some of your favorite songs that you like to put on and dance to? What’s on your dance soundtrack?

I recently have been getting back into Elvis. I went to the Rock‘n’Roll hall of fame yesterday and I was listening and just thinking I love how bluesy it is. You know?

Yeah it’s just got that groove to it.

Yeah that’s something that I’m gonna let influence me as I keep going forward. I really love soulful things. So Elvis...I like Stevie Wonder. I love Carol King. I love a lot of 90s, sweet girly pop. I love “Kiss Me” and “Love Fool” and like [sings] There She Goes… Basically, if it’s in an Amanda Bynes movie. Every time I get on a plane, I’m like there I go again [sings again]

Anything else that you’ve been listening to on this tour? Are you podcast people?

I’m not, but today I read the whole Wikipedia page of Ted Bundy. So there’s one thing I did while on tour. I don’t know why! People who lack empathy are fascinating to me. I’m like how can you not give a fuck about somebody else? That is the weirdest thing to me! It’s so crazy! So I was reading that.

Have you heard of the podcast And That’s Why We Drink? Probably not if you’re not a podcast person, but there’s two hosts, and one of them does ghost stories and the other one does true crime. And their episode with Ted Bundy creeped me out! I just moved into a garden apartment, and he used to always break into basement/garden apartments, and I was so scared after hearing that one.

Yeah, it’s absolutely terrifying! So terrifying.

But yeah I would recommend that podcast if you are ever looking to get into them!

I can’t, I can only read those things. If I hear someone say them or watch it on a movie or TV, I can’t sleep at night. But then I’ve also been really into Rosalía. She’s a Spanish singer, she’s incredible.

Awesome! So wrapping up, anything else that you’re looking forward to this year? After this tour or anything else on this tour?

This show! And I just love meeting everyone but obviously this is like a full circle moment. I told you about coming here for that show. I’m just so excited to release another single. I’ve got another lined up like nearly right away. The art direction is insane!

Keep up with CYN on Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

A Chat With: Clearance

Earlier this year, Chicago four piece Clearance followed up their 2015 debut with their sophomore full length: At Your Leisure. Released July 27th via Topshelf Records, the record combines bright, buoyant tones with easy-going melodies, creating the perfect laid back summer soundtrack. In recent years, the group has spent time touring around the country and even branching out to Brazil, all the while sharing stages with the likes of Widowspeak, Slowdive, and Alvvays. Although they’ve had their fair share of triumphs as a band, Clearance’s extensive history of DIY tours and the common hardships of being in an indie rock band trying to make sense of the industry is a subject that lead vocalist and principle songwriter Mike Bellis doesn’t shy away from in the songs of At Your Leisure.

The album’s release kicked off yet another tour for the band this past August, but now the band is back home and this week, they’ll play their first Chicago show since the album release show on August 3rd. Ahead of Wednesday’s show at Subterranean, where they’ll play with Hypoluxo, Goody Gel, and our pals Pool Holograph, Mike Bellis took some time to sit down and talk with me about the journey behind the album, Clearance’s place in the Chicago music scene, the metaphorical meaning to the band’s name, and more. Check it out in our chat with Clearance.

 Clearance is Mike Bellis, Arthur Velez, Kevin Fairbairn, and Greg Obis // Photo courtesy of Clearance

Clearance is Mike Bellis, Arthur Velez, Kevin Fairbairn, and Greg Obis // Photo courtesy of Clearance

What was your first musical memory?

I grew up with The Beatles probably first and foremost. My parents had a lot of CDs around the house, but I think as young as three I was just kind of fixated on The Beatles, as many people are. I was very encyclopedic about it from an early age. By the time I was in first or second grade, some of my friends and I had actually made a fan zine about The Beatles, called The Beatles Hotline, which was fan lyrics and fan fiction. We were like six or seven. That was my first punk moment, making a zine.

Nice! Did you start playing music around that age too then?

Yeah I took piano lessons when I was five or six, but I started playing guitar when I was seven and just kind of stuck with that primarily ever since. There was an episode of The Wonder Years where he got an electric guitar and I finally got the nerve to be like mom, I’m getting an electric guitar. If Kevin can get a guitar, I can.

So when we first started talking about doing an interview, the Clearance record had just come out, and now it’s been a couple of months. Can you talk a little bit process behind the record, like the songwriting and where you recorded?

We recorded the record a little less than 2 years ago at this point. It’s our second LP at this point. We’ve been a band for five or six years at this point, and wee recorded with our friend Dave Vettraino.

Oh yeah, everybody works with Dave!

Yeah we’ve been working with Dave for four years now and he’s recorded the last three or four of our recordings. And he used to be roommates with our guitarist Kevin Fairbairn when Public House was still physically a thing in Logan Square. We’re comfortable recording with him because we did our last album with him and a couple singles. We recorded this record with him in a studio called Minbal, which is now called Jamdek near the West Side. We recorded at the end of 2016 and it took like a year and 9 months to come out after that. We went on tour a lot last year. We went to Brazil and supported our friends Widowspeak for 6 weeks and did a couple DIY tours. Playing it a lot, and looking for labels. Topshelf was looking to put it out this summer. It was kind of a long time coming, but sometimes you just kind of have to play the game, as it were.

I know you just did a tour in support of the album, but what have been some highlights generally of the last year or so of touring?

Brazil was certainly a highlight. We played a couple festivals. We opened for Slowdive in São Paulo, which was incredible. We’ve gotten to play-- when we book our own tours we just play with our friends in different cities. We’ve played with EZTV in New York City, our friends throughout the midwest. A lot of international bands when they come through Chicago, like Ultimate Painting and a lot of those Trouble in Mind bands. We’ve opened for maybe a dozen of their bands. Playing with Widowspeak for 6 weeks was really fun. We did a full US tour with them about a year ago now.

Nice, what would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned since you started Clearance about five or six years ago? Either a life lesson or a music business lesson.

Don’t put too much stock in other people handling things for you. Because for better or worse, my experience has shown me that I’m gonna be the only one that really cares too much about it. So don’t wait for other people to validate what you’re making, just keeping moving forward. Be confident in what it is that you’re doing, and it’s a weird kind of moment with indie rock. It’s certainly not a big money maker to be playing guitar pop and guitar rock these days, but if it’s what you want to do, just kind of look to yourself and don’t put out too many external signifiers for validation. You’re not gonna get them, probably.

So how does the songwriting process between you an the band generally work? Is it you who does most of the writing?

Yeah, I write the songs and then I’ll demo them or whatever with a four track or on my own. When I bring them to the band we kind of interpret them as a group. This time around, I ended up playing a lot of the music on the record. I played the bass on the record and I played a lot of the guitar. We’ve done more live stuff in the past, but Greg Obis wasn’t in the band at the moment when we were recording this record because he was touring with another band at the moment. So I ended up doing bass. Usually when I’m bringing songs to the band, it’s just a matter of I have an idea of what the song should be, and then I bring it to them and they kind of color it in.

Basically you do the outline and they fill in the lines?

Yeah, I think especially in the last year and a half, since the time that we started recording this record and the time that we’ve spent putting it out, we played well over a hundred shows. We really sound like a four piece now in a way that we always hoped to.

Yeah, it’s evolved as you’ve played more together right?

It’s a little more automatic now and when we record again, it will be a little more reflective of that. I won’t be leaning so hard on my own ideas of how these songs should sound. Certainly when were making this one, the guys filled in the gaps of what I’d written.

I’m sure it’s different for each song, but as far as influences go, do you usually prefer not to listen to other music and kind of do it all as personal experiences, or do you ever go outside of yourself for inspiration?

I just went to New Zealand and Australia right before recording this record, and I’ve always been a fan of New Zealand indie rock from the 80s and 90s, the current crop of Australian indie rock bands, which I think is the ground zero of guitar pop at the moment. So many good bands coming out of Melbourne in particular. So I’ve always been influenced by that, and I think all of us in the band have, but I’m not…I’m certainly guilty of being influenced by the things that I listen to, but I also don’t let that weigh down too many things in the end. It’s always gonna end up sounding like you or the band anyways. You can get fixated aesthetically on some kinds of things and try to hit them, but I think in general we were more influenced by making a pretty straight forward guitar pop record. A couple of the songs are more straightforward like a band like Ultimate Painting or Omni that we’re friends with, something like White Fence and Tim Presley making more retro throwback, 60’s Brit Pop stuff. But a little bit off, like more influenced by Faust and interesting krautrock elements. It sounds very straight forward, but it’s influenced by more out there sounds.

Do you ever find yourself looking to books or films, where you read it or watch it and think oh I should write a song about that?

I think just in terms of like a mindset or an approach. I’m really influenced by Ray Davies and his skepticism not only towards the music industry, but just convention in general. His kind of irreverent attitude, no one’s really been better at doing that than him. But when we were writing this record, it was a lot about our experience of doing this as a band. Indie rock and touring and kind of like a dispatch from the DIY world we’ve been participating in and taking an irreverent look at that and star making machinery that the indie rock world is not immune to. I think Ray Davies has been someone I’ve always looked to. People like Stephen Malkmus are good at that too. Just kind of thumbing their nose at the pageantry of it all, even though you’re still beholden to all of the forces. But you can’t take it too seriously.

So I recently interviewed your friends Pool Holograph, and I asked them to compare their music to an inanimate object. They said Pool Holograph is a closed a Urban Outfitters store in 2008. What would Clearance’s music be?

That’s very specific! I don’t know, we kind of have a ready made capital image. Every time you see a sales rack, you see a clearance sign. That certainly was in mind when we came up with the band name, cause it’s pretty ubiquitous. It’s everywhere, but it’s also just like, it shows the absurdity of how we value things. Something that would have full price like a week ago is now 80% off so it’s kind of that contrast is something that resonated when I was thinking about that band. It’s all about context and what you bring to something. To answer the question directly, though, I would say literally any clearance section. There’s a negative capability there that you project value onto something you know. Or you’re beholden to the value that capitalism or the system gives it. So it’s like you know I think there’s a mirror going on there.

So talking more about the music scene then, there’s a specific conversation going on after The Orwells disbanding about making the scene safer in general. So what would you say are your goals as a band to make sure you play a part in that?

Yeah totally. Everybody that we’ve surrounded ourselves with have always been inclusive and progressive and everybody that we know and play with sort of has a zero tolerance for that shit. If you would have asked me four, five, six years ago what I thought about The Orwells, it probably wouldn’t have changed. I think most people had them pegged for what they were a long time ago. Obviously now that people are speaking out about it, they need to be heard and it’s pretty horrifying.

What would you like to see as a band here going forward or what do you think venues can do to make sure shows remain safe spaces?

Speaking personally, we always prefer to play bills that have women or non-binary people. It’s boring when it’s an all white male bill and it’s like you’re playing into an echo chamber at that point. It’s not as good of a show. There’s something to be said for having more voices on a bill every time. With the exception of maybe two or three bills in my memory of at least 100 shows that we’ve played, there have been women on the bill or trans individuals. It makes for a better show. It’s not a box we’re trying to check, it’s a better show. It’s objectively better when you are drawing upon a larger group of people. It includes more people in the audience, it gives the audience more people to listen to, and it’s a better experience for everyone. Performers and audiences. There’s no room for exclusivity.

Yeah, I put on ANCHR showcases occasionally, so that’s something I’ve been trying to be more conscious of. I’ve had so many all white male bills and I need to change that. Last night I had a showcase with Seasaw, a female duo from Madison, and it just felt so much better to have that diversity.

We deal with that very personally, cause we’re an all white, straight male band. Very cookie cutter, very traditional, and there’s more responsibility as someone that is like that. We embrace that responsibility. We absolutely should be people that are leading that change from within that traditional framework. This is what our band happened to be, fully realizing that’s not the most vital voice that needs to be heard right now. We’re just doing our thing and while we’re in this world, we’re gonna be extra conscious that we’re including as many voices as possible.

That’s awesome. While we’re on that subject, anyone that you want to shout out like any new artists you’d like to put the spotlight on that we should all check out?

Everyone in Chicago is doing really good stuff. Lillie from Lala Lala put out a great record yesterday. She’s phenomenally talented. OHMME just put out a new record. I’ve been friends with Sima for almost twenty years now, I grew up with her in Chicago. I think the Chicago music scene has become a little bit different in the past few years. It’s not quite as vibrant a house show scene as it was a few years ago, with some prominent places closing. But that’s just kind of the nature of it. It always changes and as people like us get older, we’re gonna get out of touch with what’s going on. There are great new houses that have been popping up. There continues to be incredible music being played everywhere. Marbled Eye from Oakland is a favorite of ours. Some Melbourne bands like School Damage… Trouble in Mind continues to put out great stuff. Nap Eyes...Omni. Ethers. They’re friends of ours! There’s tons of great bands on our label Topshelf, which is based on the west coast. Ratboys is a Chicago band on that label.

Lots of great recommendations there! Do you frequently DJ too? [Mike had just wrapped up a DJ set at Big Star]

It’s more like a side hustle.

What are some of your favorite records to spin?

It depends where I’m at. We’re at Big Star right now, full disclosure, so you play a little bit more country rock or country adjacent stuff. Like Arthur Russell or weird Neil Young records. I try to play like the obscure records from major artists. Like a weird 80s Dylan record or like 80s Neil Young. Just play things that I think are interesting. And then I throw in things like The Feelies or like a weird Alex Chilton single. I typically play all that stuff plus some early post punk, late 70’s stuff. Just the stuff that I listen to in general. Gang of Four. Wire. A lot of new records too. I’ve played some Omni here, a live Ultimate Painting record…

Where’s your favorite place to shop for records?

I used to live around here, so I would shop at Permanent when it was still Permanent Records. It is now Joyride Records. I live in Pilsen now. But Reckless is great. Any good mom and pop record store, and there are a lot in Chicago.

So wrapping up, what else are you looking forward to throughout the end of the year?

We have a couple of local shows in November and December. I’d like to start working on another LP. We’re not touring a lot at the moment cause we’ve done the DIY tour grind like 10 times now. It’s hard to keep pushing that boulder up the hill. So we’re gonna be a little bit more deliberate about when we tour and what opportunities we take. In the meantime, just working on new material and getting our shit together at home.

Cool, any last closing comments?

Support local artists. Believe survivors. This has been a weird week. I think that’s been on the mind of everyone. Speaking personally it’s just a matter of reaching out to those survivors in your life and take stock of all that, and value their voices.

Grab tickets to see Clearance on Wednesday night, October 24th here and keep up with them on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram.

Catching Up With Skela: Project 10

 Rachel Turley, Zoe Kraft, and Skela (Left to Right)

Rachel Turley, Zoe Kraft, and Skela (Left to Right)

Last year, we introduced you to NYC based singer-songwriter Skela, and now, we’re catching up with her in the midst of her latest release: Project 10.

As an artist, Skela catches the ears of listeners with her powerhouse pop vocals, but her DIY spirt and indie approach really connects her to her community. Whether it be a poetry zine, the photo series called “Be Your Own Indie Boy” that Skela collaborated with photographer Rachel Turley on, or the frequent behind-the-scenes updates that she posts on her social media, Skela is all about staying connected with her community via different art mediums that accompany her music.

This year, Skela amplified the level of creative content she produces along with her music when she set out to do a ten part music video project with her friends Rachel Turley and Zoe Kraft. As we catch up with the singer and artist, see what Skela, Turley, and Kraft have to say about the process behind the project.

In a nutshell, what exactly is Project 10?

Skela: Project 10 is 10 songs and 10 music videos released over the course of 20 weeks. Everything was made with friends. The project is about building together. It’s a countdown. When the 10th song and music video are released - I’m going to unveil a “secret” but it’s really a secret project I’ve been working on.

Can you describe the moment when you came up with this idea and what inspired you to start the project?

Skela: Everyone knows it’s really fucking hard being an artist - but I was making it hard on myself by putting limits on myself. I came up with Project 10 because I wanted to put music out, I wanted to run around New York City making cool shit with my friends, I wanted all the good parts of being an artist - doing, creating, putting something out into the world. I know I’m a multifaceted artist, but no one else did. I came up with 10 because at the end of the countdown - it’s going to bring on the next phase of my life.

Once you had the idea for the project, how did you decide to enlist Rachel and Zoe for help? Was there anyone else you considered asking to help or did you always know it would be you three?

Skela: Well they’re my friends so that’s how I initially thought to ask them, but I also respect them both immensely as creative minds. Rachel helps me with the creative behind Skela so that was a natural fit, but Zoe lives in Chicago. I actually flew her out to work on this project. She creates genuinely and it shows through her work.

We actually did have to pull a couple of favors from friends to make this project happen, but it was always just us three at the drawing board. I wanted this project to be as much mine as it is theirs. I might be Skela, but I would be no one with out my friends. I think it’s so weird when artists try to take credit for everything - like there weren’t so many people who contributed their intellectual property. I recognize what a sacrifice that is - how being creative isn’t just whimsical, it’s hard work and sacrifice. By it being the three of us behind these music videos - I hoped it would help bring their talents to light as well.

What were some challenges you faced working on this project?

Zoe: Even with the amount of planning that we put into the project, there was so much that we had to do on the fly. The hardest part was letting things go that were out of our hands. Sometimes we couldn’t get a shot we wanted or we didn’t have time to try alt takes.

Rachel: Finding enough time to sleep.

On the flip side, what were some of your favorite moments working on the project?

Zoe: Without a doubt, my favorite part of Project 10 was getting to work with such creative ladies. Skela and Rachel both have unique visions. It’s refreshing to get to work with people willing to do things that are different and so genuine. The atmosphere was very important in making this project come together. If we hadn’t gotten along as well as we did, especially with the pressure that we had put ourselves under, there is no way we could have accomplished what we did.

Rachel: The whole thing was honestly unbelievably fun. I worked with my best friends everyday, being purely, uninhibitedly creative. A stand out moment to me had to be when we built a “sailboat” in the middle of a field at 5 in the morning while the sun rose. I’ll never forget how happy I was I got to experience that.

Who are some filmmakers, photographers, or directors who inspire each of you?

Skela: Tim Burton everything and always. I love his brain.

I love this one photographer who goes by Earthly Cruel Photos… she’s really good. I heard she’s horrible to work with though…. just kidding. It’s Rachel [Turley]. Go follow her.

Zoe: Jean-Luc Godard

Rachel: Super into Daniel Arnold’s street photography. I am so enamored with his eye and the amusing way he captures New York; he makes it look like a playground of oddities, a museum of all the moments in the city worth seeing that you missed.

How would each of you sum up your artistic vision and/or aesthetic in three words?

Skela: DIY, Latina-Gaga, Red.

Zoe: Abstract, Dark (in concept), Colorful (visually)

Rachel: Unprofessional, pseudo-grunge, and fake bougie.

Having done this project now with such a time crunch in place, what is some advice you'd give other artists wanting to do something like this?

Skela: Work with people who care about making something genuine - not perfect. There will be a time and place for perfection - but the now is more interesting.

Zoe: 1. Make sure you are working with people you want to create with.

2. Sometimes you have to let go of the things that you planned for, but don’t let that discourage you.

3. If you don’t haveeee to rush it, don’t. Because we are all working artists, this was the most feasible way we could accomplish getting the work done.

Rachel: Know what you’re signing up for! It’s so hard so make sure you’re doing it with people you really get along with that share your vision and work pace. It’s like an intensive art summer camp. You have to show up excited, ready to work hard and be down for anything. That’s how you end up making the greatest bonds and walking away with the best experience. Just know what you’re signing up for and you’ll walk away with art you’re proud of.

Make sure you subscribe to Skela’s Vevo to see the rest of the videos as they’re released, and keep up with Skela on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram

A Chat With: Dream Wife

At first listen, Dream Wife will catch your ear with their high energy, anthemic rock music; Whether it be the explosive introduction to “Let’s Make Out,” the singalong chorus to “Hey Heartbreaker,” or the head-bobbing melody in “Somebody,” it’s the kind of music that instantly demands the listener’s attention. After diving past the surface level though, it becomes obvious that this band has a message, and they’re not afraid to get in your face to deliver it. Their lyrics tell their story— In “Somebody” they make it clear they won’t stand for objectification of women, saying “I am not my body, I’m somebody.” And in the gritty anthem “F.U.U.” they let it be known that they’re really not messing around.

The women behind these songs, Rakel Mjöll, Alice Go, and Bella Podpadec, have had a whirlwind of a year after releasing their debut, self-titled album in January, delivering their message across the globe. They’ve played countless festivals around the world, from Summersonic in Japan to Lollapalooza right here in Chicago, they’ve toured the US supporting Sunflower Bean, they’ve toured Europe with Garbage, and now they’re in the midst of their first US headline run. On this tour, the trio enlisted local female and non-binary artists to open up each show, and tonight they’re playing with Chicago’s own Girl K at Schubas. Before the tour kicked off though, I spoke with bassist Bella Podpadec to find out what Dream Wife has in store for us at these shows. To find out what you can expect tonight and to also hear more about the band’s accomplishments this year, their creative process, and what they’re doing to make the industry a safer space for women and non-binary people, check out my conversation with Podpadec below.

 Photo by Joanna Kiely

Photo by Joanna Kiely

Kicking things off, what was one of your first musical memories?

My first musical memory… Really honestly I think my first musical memory was grabbing my tambourine and dancing around as a really young child. When I was really small, like 3 maybe. My first memory of being in a band-- I met Alice, our guitarist, at Mid Somerset Battle of the Bands. So we lived in these little places in the countryside in England and there was this competition. Alice’s band played one year and my band played the next year, and we started playing shows together in Somerset. So that’s how we got to know each other.

Very cool, and then now since you’ve started Dream Wife together, this year has been huge for you. You released your debut album, you toured the States- I saw you with Sunflower Bean when you were in Chicago--

Oh cool!

Yeah, it was a great show! And then you came back for Lolla and you’ve played tons of festivals… you’re even touring with Garbage in Europe. With all of that going on, what have been some of your personal favorite moments or highlights from this year?

From this year? I think for all of us a number one lifelong sort of dream was going to Japan. We went and played Summersonic Festival in August and we managed to take a little holiday around it and explore. No one had been so that was really special. We’re so grateful just to play live shows cause that’s really what it’s all about for us. It’s been amazing to play so many shows to so many people.

Totally! So just from seeing you live or seeing your social media, it seems like you and Alice and Rakel are very close, and very good friends. What’s something you’d say that you’ve learned about each other from being on the road and touring so much?

I mean we’re all very different people and we all need very different things. It’s kind of allowing each other the different kinds of space that they need, as well as like the closeness. It’s understanding where you aren’t the same and learning best how to support each other on this whirlwind of a thing that we do together. It’s been a lot of understanding each other throughout the years.

One thing I really love about this tour you have coming up, you had female and non-binary artists submit their music and you picked a local artist to open the show in each city. What was that process like and how did you go through everybody, and were there any particular favorites that you remember listening to and loving their music?

It was super overwhelming! We got over 400 responses, it was so exciting to receive that kind of feedback from it. I’m really bad, I can’t remember the ones we picked from the US run. But we split up the bands between us, and yeah we kind of listened through a lot of them and gave them ratings. Then we went through the top rated ones together. It was a lot of figuring out where people were from and trying to fit them to where they need to be. A band called Bitchcraft was really cool. They were in LA.

So going off of that, what are some things you think venues, promoters, and other bands should be doing to use their platform to help artists who are maybe more marginalized in the industry and music scenes?

I think stuff like the venues making it known that sexual harassment will be spoken about with the people that work there. That there’s a line of communication and people are helping each other out. I think the main thing is everyone looking out for one another and questioning the standard. And elevating the voices of people who wouldn’t be heard otherwise.

Did you hear about what happened in Chicago with The Orwells recently? They had allegations made public about them and then ended up disbanding, so it’s been a big topic of conversation here.

Oh really? The Orwells? I don’t think I know that band at all. I’ll have to look into that.

Yeah, I actually just wrote about it…They had a Google Document that went public with sexual assault allegations, so it’s been a topic that’s very much being talked about here in Chicago at the moment. I appreciate you making sure that female and non-binary artists are a part of your show here and this tour. It’s very important to changing the culture. I also saw you had recently partnered with Girls Rock for a t-shirt, right?


Are there any other organizations that you’d like to work with?

We’ve been working with Girls Rock. We’ve been giving them some money from a t-shirt and also they’ve been helping work with the tour submission project as well. For our UK shows, we’re gonna do some kind of panels and conversations facilitated by Girls Rock. Having conversations with people there about what’s going on in the places they live in. It’d be really great to bring that out to America. There’s a group in the UK called Girls Against—

Oh I’ve heard of them

Yeah we’ve worked with them quite  a bit. They raise awareness of sexual harassment at gigs. They put posters out and send representatives out at gigs.

Yeah, we have a similar group here, they’re based in Chicago, but they travel around the US, called Our Music, My Body.

Oh let me write that down!

They’re actually partnered with the venue you’re playing in Chicago so they’ll have signs and information up there.

Oh yeah it’d be really good to get in touch with them. Thank you!

Of course! So backpedaling a little bit to another subject, you actually met Alice and Rakel when you were studying visual arts at university right?


So when you’re writing, and not even necessarily just songwriting, but when you’re working on stuff as a band, how do you utilize your visual arts skills? Do you find yourself ever envisioning the songs you write as visual artwork?

I think maybe from the artistic side it’s like seeing the whole project or the idea of a band being this very three dimensional, multi-faceted platform where there’s many different things within that and you can find ways to kind of elevate that. I think all of us are visual in different ways and it kind of feeds in. We talk about videos quite a lot and it’s like the music definitely comes first and the rest of it’s built around that. We’re a band first, but it’s understanding the myriad of things that a band is or could be. That’s way over the top.

Yeah, I get that! Then you kind of just touched on this a little bit, but this is your first US headline run in the States. So is there anything you’re planning as headliners that you might not have done when you were playing as the support band?

Oh for our show? It’s gonna be SO much better! I mean it was amazing playing with Sunflower Bean, and we got to play some shows with The Kills. But we’ve actually done some pre-production for the first time ever. We’ve been rehearsing new, much longer sets with loads more things that the US hasn’t seen yet. I think it’s gonna be really good. I’m really excited.

Are there any other bands or artists that you can pinpoint that you look up to from a stage presence aspect?

I think Sleigh Bells. Kind of seeing their work ethic...we played a couple of shows with them before. And they just treat it like such athletes. I think after seeing them play, we started looking after our bodies and the dedication to be able to provide a good show physically. Like their show is so high energy. It was really inspiring.

Yeah you already have such a high energy so I can’t wait to see the headline show. So then you’ve been to Chicago a few times now, playing with Sunflower Bean and coming back for Lolla.

Chicago is one of my favorite places!

Did you get to see much of the city when you were here?

Yeah! I was actually there for my birthday. We went to the Art Institute and spent almost all the time in the Medieval section.  

Is there anything on your list that you’re trying to do this time around?

Oh I don’t know! Do you have any must sees?

Did you go to The Bean and all that last time? If you did all the touristy things you should go to Chicago Music Exchange. A lot of bands go there when they play Schubas because it’s close by. Deep dish pizza is always a must if you’re in Chicago. It’s almost more of a cheese pie than pizza.

Yeah it’s completely like pie! But is it just a New York thing to say “pizza pie”? We find that very confusing when people say they’re gonna get a pie. But in Chicago it is like a pie!

It is! But there’s good food here, and if the weather is still nice, you can just walk around downtown and see all the architecture.

I wanna go up a really tall building!

Oh you should do the Skydeck and take a band photo up there! So wrapping things up on kind of a fun note, I saw in your KEXP performance, Rakel mentioned you all like collecting neon colored tape, which I thought was an interesting fact. Is there another random fact about the band or anything that fans could win you over instantly by bringing it to your shows, besides the tape.

I mean, neon colored anything to be honest!

Your shows will look like a rave now.

That’s the dream! We just want to bring it back! New Rave specifically. Did you have new rave in America? This was like when Indie and Rave met and flirted for a bit in 2006. In the UK specifically. We joke about that sometimes.

I think I missed out on that. I wish I had experienced it. But we’ll bring it back to be the newer wave. Anything else you want to share before we sign off? I know that’s a big open ended question to end on.

It is such a big open thing…So many things! I mean, I think live music is such an exciting thing because it brings people together in a real physical space. It’s just really great and the shows are really fun, and everyone should come!  

Get your tickets to see Dream Wife, Russo, and Girl K tonight here, and listen to Dream Wife in full below!

Get To Know: Pool Holograph

Initially founded as the bedroom-recorded brain child of Wyatt Grant, the now four-piece band Pool Holograph has been making waves in Chicago over the last few years with their carefully crafted mix of lo-fi, art rock, and post-punk elements.

After releasing their second full length album, Transparent World, in October 2017 and touring the east coast, the band has been consistently booked at Chicago staples like Schubas, Lincoln Hall, and The Empty Bottle, but this weekend they’ll be hitting the road to play Audiotree Music Festival in Kalamazoo, MI. Ahead of the festival’s kick off on Saturday, September, 22nd I met up with Wyatt Grant, Zach Stuckman and Paul and Jake Stolz of Pool Holograph. Get to know the band better as they discuss their creative process, 2008 Urban Outfitters, DJing a party with Kevin Parker and more.

 Pool Holograph // From left to right: Jake Stolz, Zach Stuckman, Wyatt Grant, and Paul Stolz

Pool Holograph // From left to right: Jake Stolz, Zach Stuckman, Wyatt Grant, and Paul Stolz

Loyola University Brought Them Together

Long before the current day lineup of Pool Holograph came to be, brothers Jake and Paul Stolz grew up listening and playing music together from a young age. “Paul showed me everything music-wise growing up. We grew up playing guitar together and listening to like Creed and all those legendary bands of the early 2000s, late 90’s,” Jake says, adding that they also played drums a lot as kids. “We both grew up playing other instruments that our parents would force us to play and then when I got into middle school, I started hanging out with kids who knew how to play guitar and I wanted to do that,” Paul says, explaining how they got into multiple different instruments early on. “Then I was too embarrassed to play guitar because my cousin played guitar and I didn’t wanna copy him. Then my friend Derrick played drums, so I didn’t wanna play drums either. So I learned how to play bass. We just learned how to play together.”

Paul says after that, he and Jake continued playing with bands in high school, both together and separately, but it wasn’t until Jake started attending college at Loyola University that they met the rest of Pool Holograph. “I met Wyatt [Grant] and Zach [Stuckman] cause they were both living in Rogers Park. We had mutual interests and started playing,” Jake says. From there, Jake invited Paul to join the lineup.

Unlike the Stolz siblings, Stuckman got into playing music later in life. “I played piano for two years when I was younger and then never touched music until Wyatt and I started living together, and I picked up bass through some friends I lived with one summer between years in college,” he says. Stuckman brought the bass back with him to Chicago to continue to pursue it, and from there everything just fell into place. “Wyatt taught me a bunch of bass lines to songs he was working on. It was really unexpected…I didn’t really anticipate being in a band or playing music at all. The circumstances were given to me and it was the right time. Now they can’t get rid of me.”

Grant grew up away from Chicago, in a suburb of Memphis, TN, so his path to musical discovery was much different from the other band members. “Music culture is very much dominated by what was on the radio. There was no like musical god at my high school,” he says. Grant recalls being in punk and hardcore bands in high school because he was so eager to get into music, but it wasn’t until he attended a show at The Buccaneer in Memphis that he found clear direction. “My friend Michael Peery (he’s in Ex-Cult) and I went to this garage rock show at the Buccaneer, and saw the Rat Traps and the Final Solutions, and it was the first time I ever stayed up all the night.” After witnessing the sense of community that night, Grant says he had a sense of navigation to pursue his own project. “It wasn’t even necessarily that I could do it, cause I hadn’t had that confidence until well after I met these guys. I was confident knowing Zach and having such a close friend back you up, but having navigation is a different feeling I guess.”

The Band Started as Wyatt’s Solo Project

Prior to the band coming together, Grant had started writing for Pool Holograph as more of a solo project recorded in his bedroom. The project eventually evolved from there to accommodate a full band with a live show in mind. Describing the transition into writing as a band, Grant says, “I would say when we started writing Town Quarry, it was after we had written Mortals. We had started to write songs together from scratch. A lot of those came from jams where we were kind of able to strut or express our own---basically be indulgent in our own musical curiosities.”

Since then, the band agrees that the creative process has remained collaborative. “Sometimes the seed will be planted by Wyatt, like he’ll have an idea and bring it to the group. Sometimes there’s a fully formed song, but there still room to reflect upon it from each of the band members,” Paul says. He adds that they recently had a voice memo recording of them doing a 12-minute long jam that they’ll now work on fine-tuning. “That was just spur of the moment and evolved naturally, so I don’t know what the next step is gonna be. But just to refine it. It depends on what we’re hoping for, what day it is, how we’re all feeling...”

Grant agrees that the current day process totally depends on the day. “There’s some eras when maybe they’re out of town or we go through a process of moving to different places. Where we’re separated geographically and can’t get together that often. If we’re apart for a while or I know we’re really busy, I’ll start writing by myself quite a bit,” he says. No matter where their writing sessions take them, Grant has noticed one common theme in the way the band works together. “What’s been really consistent is a drafting. Like a way of… not reducing necessarily, but just walking through the steps of it. Together. So that when we start it’s really elementary and then new concepts and new ideas start to bleed out from that. The writing process for me collectively has started to call for something more crude almost. Where I make a move that’s maybe more atypical, or outside of myself or outside of all of our comfort zones. Then it’s like I maybe know that it will throw one of us for a curve ball.”

Technology Helps Them Stay Collaborative

Speaking of their writing process, the band is currently writing and recording new material. Although they don’t know what form the follow up to 2017’s Transparent World will take just yet, the band says they continue to push themselves outside of their comfort zones and challenge themselves. Grant says the curveballs he throws out sometimes act as writing prompts for the rest of the band. “It’s a matter of knowing that you have vitality as a group. So it’s like fertilizer or whatever. It’s a matter of how I’ll do something that’s maybe seemingly wrong or uncomfortable but in the long run, digging out of that is a matter of like creating devices that you never had before. Not that I’m omniscient enough to know that. We’re cycling ideas into someone else’s wheelhouses or musical memory. Like Zach might have a bass line that I didn’t think of the song being that way or having this attitude, but it kind of actualizes things.” Pool Holograph songs continue to morph and mold into different places until it reaches a point that sits right with them. “It’s not a peak or a high point like a lot of people think. It’s just a matter of depth,” Grant adds.

Another way that the group maintains a certain level of collaboration is by having a place to pool together their ideas and voice memo demos. “We have this folder on a drive called ‘Revolving Door’ and we just throw them all in there. Sometimes you listen to them sometimes you don’t. It’s a matter of keeping that stream of consciousness, or keeping everyone in the know of our interests and stuff,” Grant says. As far as the subject for most of the new material, the band is trying to pull in more realism, rather than the Sci-Fi elements their last release had. “We like aesthetics and putting yourself in different scenery. That’s a really fun way to make music but I think it’s… recently I’ve been trying to speak from the first person and put words to the things that I’ve kind of struggled to say sometimes. Or even putting myself in someone else’s shoes.”

With this loose framework in mind, the band already has plans to start recording, even before having a solid arrangement of the new material. But they’re ok with that. “The longer it takes to actually nail down what you’re gonna do, the more rules tend to form subconsciously. Like the more conditions tend to pop up,” Grant says. Paul echoes that sentiment and adds, “The more bored you get. Even from a performative aspect… you record a song you’ve played 500 times, it doesn’t feel the same as one of those songs you’ve only played like 15 times before we recorded.”

The band also credits producer Dave Vettraino with guiding their recording process on Transparent World, and will be working with him on the next project. “He’s so patient. The way that he’s able to kind of guide you in the right direction. It’s the best form of musical diplomacy. Even if he knows what you’re doing is wrong, he can sit there with you to get the final project done,” Paul says.

“A lot of people talk about people they like to work with, saying they point us in the right way, like pointing in this solid direction, as in like a dictator. But I think of [Dave] more as like an extractor. Where he’s like a psychologist. He’s a therapist. He knows a lot more about me than I think my parents,” Grant says.

They Describe Their Sound as an Urban Outfitters Store Circa 2008

When discussing bands that they’re excited to see at Audiotree Music Festival next weekend, Grant brought up the band Lushh. “It kind of reminds me of the bath bomb store [Lush]! It’s soothing. They seem like it’s not in an aged way where it’s like ‘oh you know in decades from now it’s gonna sound like a bath bomb’.”

So if Pool Holograph’s music was to be compared to a store or an inanimate object (besides a bath bomb), what would the band members say? Jake says their music reminds him of a bowl of oil, while Stuckman picks an old, favorite t-shirt. “I don’t want to make a stupid pun, but it has the potential to get worn but not like worn on your body. But worn out over time. It has a sentimental value to it. I think through Wyatt’s lyrics there’s these sort of introspective narratives that happen. With a t-shirt you live out these narratives and have connections to it.”

Grant elaborates on that metaphor, adding “The narratives are kind of graphic elements on top of the song and it’s kind of like ‘oh shit I accidentally washed this on hot’ and it’s gone.”

“You can spill oil on it. And then that stain is there the whole time. Like when I joined the band, I poured my oil on it,” Jake jokes.

Grant goes one step further and paints a full picture of the band’s sound, combining the oil and old t-shirt. “Pool Holograph is an Urban Outfitters. A closed Urban Outfitters at night, in 2008. 2007. And the janitor is wearing a Rolling Stones distressed t-shirt and slips on some oil… and I feel bad now.”

The band jokes that they might start selling oil-stained t-shirts at the merch table to go along with this; “Wait this is covered in oil! Want your money back? Too bad… all of them have oil.”

They’re Fans of Visual Artists Who Also Make Music

While you most likely won’t actually be picking up an oil-stained, homemade t-shirt from Pool Holograph’s merch table any time soon, Grant does design and print their band shirts (they’ll be selling ‘em at ATMF). Naturally, Grant mentions other bands who are also into visual art when talking about some of his other favorite Chicago artists. “We really like Bunny. As artists making music, Courtesy is another example of that. My friend Drew is a really inspiring graphic designer. I think those bands give me a lot of motivation to continue as an artist/musician. Sonnenzimmer is a really good example of like an art/musician duo. They make posters and they make art all over the place. They’re legendary poster-makers and also musicians inherently.”

Without getting specific, Stuckman agrees that they’re fortunate to be surrounded by great friends and artists; “The people that we play with already I think are great, and in my mind, we only have room to encounter newer people along the way. We’ve been really fortunate to have a solid group of friends and bands that we’ve played with.” The Stolz brothers also give shout outs to the likes of Pixel Grip, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, The Hecks, Deeper, and Charlie Reed- just to name a few.

After reflecting on some of their favorite creative Chicagoans, Grant adds that being a part of “the scene” isn’t something that they necessarily strive to do as an end goal. “I don’t like to paint a static image of what ‘a scene’ is. I know there are like cumulations or like things kind of congeal in a certain shape for a little bit. Chicago has been a good example of that for all forms of music. I think it’s significant, historically speaking, to notice that like ‘now it’s this’ or ‘now it’s that’, I think at best Chicago has been a place where bands you don’t know about or people that you don’t get to hear from get to step forward and contribute to the conversation. There are a lot of ears and a lot of eyes and people listening and people breaking the mold constantly.”

Kevin Parker Attended One of Their DJ Sets

Imagine having the Kevin Parker of Tame Impala attend one of your DJ sets and not even knowing he was in attendance until weeks later. Well, that’s what happened when I brought up the fact that Parker had been in the crowd for the Pitchfork Music Festival after show in July that included DJ sets from Pool Holograph, Knox Fortune, Whitney, and NE-HI.

While Grant may not have noticed that members of Tame Impala had been present that night (in his defense, the place was packed), he says he’s got big plans for any future Pool Holograph DJ sets. “The thing is it’s about dictating the consciousness of the club,” he says, mentioning he just added some Bo Diddley and Rolling Stones albums to his collection. Pool Holograph has also recently DJed events at Crown Liquors and The Whistler, but be sure to keep your eye on their social media for future events.

You can catch Pool Holograph on Saturday night at the official ATMF after show at Old Dog Tavern, and on Sunday at 4:30PM at the festival. Get your tickets to the festival here.

Follow Pool Holograph on Twitter + Instagram + Facebook

A Chat With: Hudson Taylor

Hailing from Ireland, brothers Harry and Alfie Hudson Taylor have been garnering attention all over Europe since releasing their debut album in 2015. Earlier this year, the pair made their North American debut, touring with Gabrielle Aplin, and this month they'll be returning with singer-songwriter Hozier as he makes his long-awaited return to The States. Ahead of their show in Chicago on September 21st, get to know more about Hudson Taylor as they talk their early days of busking, their favorite fellow Irish musicians, and new music!

 Photo Credit Brandon Harrell

Photo Credit Brandon Harrell

What do you remember as your first musical memory when you were younger? 

Our first musical memory was probably a nursery rhyme but can’t remember which one. What first came to mind when we read the question was traditional Irish dancing music from our years spent as young Irish dancers. 

You’ll be heading back to The States soon to support Hozier on tour this month. What are you most looking forward to during your time over here? Any cities you’re particularly excited about?

We are so excited altogether for the North American tour with Hozier! It’s a huge step up from anything we’ve done over there before and we’ll be playing in lots of new places supporting Hozier and on our own headline tour. We have fond memories of playing New York, Seattle and Chicago.  

What’s the biggest culture shock you experienced when first playing music in America?

There’s not much of a noticeable difference onstage or in venues but when you travel around you do notice things and how munch bigger a country it is to Ireland. 

How would you describe your live show in three words for anyone who might be coming to one of the shows? 

Energetic, eclectic, harmony. 

As I understand it, you used to busk a lot before you started touring. Where were some of your favorite spots to busk and do you have any interesting stories about your busking experience? 

We started busking on Grafton street in Dublin when we were 15 and 16. We grew up watching buskers there. Every Christmas Eve loads of Irish musicians make their way here to raise money for the homeless, it really inspired us. We used to stand up on street bollards, bins and signs with our guitars to catch people’s eyes whilst playing covers. We had and still have a lot of fun busking and met some wonderful people doing so. 

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned since releasing your debut album in 2015?

The biggest lesson was simply making and releasing the album. We had never done that before so everything was new to us and like most things it involves a lot of trial and error before you find out what you like or maybe don't like.

Following your latest EP “Feel It Again”, which you put out earlier this year, can we expect any more new music from you this year? 

Following our EP "Feel it Again" we’re releasing a new album called Bear Creek to Dame Street featuring four new tunes we recorded in Bear Creek studio in Seattle and four tunes we recorded live at our hometown gig at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin.

After selling out shows back home and getting to tour internationally, what else is on your bucket list to achieve as a band? Any certain venues you’re keen to perform in or any collaborations you’re hoping to make happen? 

When we started would have never imagined we would get to the level we are at now, of course we have dreams but overall we are very happy and grateful to be in the fortunate position to be touring, writing and doing music full time.

Lastly, who are some of your favorite new Irish bands or musicians that we should check out? 
So much great music coming out of Ireland a the moment. Would highly recommend checking out fellow Irish band The Academic. Lovely lads, great tunes and brilliant live show.

You can pre-order Hudson Taylor's new album Bear Creek to Dame Street here and keep up with them on Facebook + Instagram

Get To Know: OHMME


"It’s really exciting because I feel like we’ve both been producing a lot of work in the last few years, and we’ve been working a lot on music, but there’s nothing that’s been out tangibly. It’s very satisfying to have something coming out that feels representative to us and where we’re at in our lives," Macie Stewart says about OHMME's debut album, Parts, which is out today via Joyful Noise Recordings. Since 2014, Stewart and her counterpart Sima Cunningham have endeavored to create a new sound together, following their years of experience playing music that fell into different sonic territory. 

While the pair continues to split their musical talent into multiple projects, OHMME has remained Stewart and Cunningham's main focus over the past few years, which saw them put out a self-titled EP last year and tour nationally. With so much experience already under their belt, the release of their debut full length marks the beginning of bigger and brighter things on the horizon for OHMME. Ahead of the record release show at Thalia Hall tomorrow, tune into Parts and dive into these six facts I learned while chatting with Stewart and Cunningham earlier this month. 

They're Both Classically Trained Musicians

If you live in Chicago and haven't seen Stewart and Cunningham perform as OHMME, chances are you've probably still seen them on the stage. Whether they're singing backup vocals for Twin Peaks, performing in the strings section at Whitney's show, or collaborating with Chance The Rapper, there's no shortage of ways to see the duo putting their musical talent to use throughout the city. Both Stewart and Cunningham are classically trained musicians and wear multiple hats in the music scene, experimenting with different genres, but they still recall their early days of first getting into music. 

"I remember going to my mom’s work," Stewart recalled. "Going to pick her up, cause she’s a musician too. She plays piano in restaurants around Chicago. I remember being really little and getting to sit on the piano bench with her and being like this is really fun," she continued. 

"I can kind of remember doing really, really early Suzuki violin, which I did not stay with," Cunningham pondered. Stewart chimes in that she understands that, as a former Suzuki violin teacher herself. Cunningham added, "I think one of my earliest memories was probably my dad would play the Boogie Woogie a lot on the piano and would just kind of like let us bang along or sing along with him on the piano. And do a lot of making up lyrics. A lot of just playing the blues. I think playing the blues with my dad, just singing with him..." 

They're Pros at Time Management

With all of the projects that Stewart and Cunningham have going on outside of OHMME, they don't have much free time to spare, but they're quickly learning how to manage their time. Cunningham credits coffee with keeping them going through their busy schedule, while Stewart says, "That’s a difficult question cause I’m not sure that we’ve exactly figured it out. I think we’re really good at managing our time and when we have an hour free just by ourselves, we’re able to get stuff done that needs to get done. Probably what I’m learning is that I have to schedule time to be free. Instead of scheduling time to do things. I have to schedule time to be productive in that sense. It’s really impossible when your brain is flying through so many thoughts. Not even just working on music, just working in general, just life in general. You gotta make sure that you make time for your own brain space in order to be creative. That’s the thing that I’ve learned over the last year."

For Cunningham, putting one project as the number one priority has helped her manage her overall schedule; "I think in a partnership like we have with OHMME, both of us, kind of a year and a half ago, made the commitment to each other that [this] would be number one. That has made a lot of things easier for me in my life as far as making decisions and figuring that out," she says. 

Their New Material Focuses More on Live Creation

After dedicating their priorities to OHMME, the pair set aside some time last year to knock out writing the album, and they set to work to record it with a loose plan in place. "I think it’s good to create loose perimeters for yourself for whatever you’re doing and then mess with those. That’s kind of a life mantra in general, for whatever you’re doing," Stewart says about their outline for the album work. Tracing back to the beginning of the process a couple of years ago, Cunningham says, "It's kind of interesting... there’s a little bit of a ping pong effect of like where the audience hears the music at because if you were in Chicago, some people might have seen us when we first started playing these songs. Some of the songs were about two years old, some of them are just a year old and we finished them right before we put them on the record. It was just kind of like we had this window and we knew we had to get the record done cause we’re gonna be on the road and we’re both really always busy and always doing stuff. So we had this nice window of time where we knew we had to finish the record," adding that they also didn't want to draw out the process. "We just wanted to put it out, record it and then get to work on making it come out and come to fruition. So a lot of that was bringing ideas to each other and kind of improvising on those ideas." She described plotting out the core of the melodies, harmonies, and arrangements with Stewart before bringing in their live band. 

"Yeah, we kind of had a loose conceptual idea of what we wanted it to be, which was that we wanted it to capture what we sound like live more than the last EP. The EP that we put out was a lot of layering and just me and Sima. Kind of stacking all these things on top of each other. Not necessarily playing at the same time. Doing a lot of overdubs and writing things that way. We wanted this record to be more capturing this moment in time where we’re all playing together in a room, getting the energy of the songs and how they sound when we’re all communicating with each other. So that was kind of like the loose concept of the record," Stewart elaborated. 

Prior to the studio time spent on the album, Cunningham and Stewart played a show at The Hungry Brain to test it in a true live setting. "I feel like playing a live show is worth ten rehearsals. It tells you a lot about the songs that you’re playing and where they’re at and about what works and what doesn’t. So that was really helpful to play a marathon show where we just played every single song. It was like a last minute thing at our favorite bar," Stewart recalled about the show, adding that they did gauge the crowd responses to the album, but they mostly judged their own reactions. 

They're Bookworms

Talking outside subjects that inspired the writing on the album, Cunningham and Stewart credit books as the main medium that influences their writing tactics, but even then it's a faint influence. Stewart recently tweeted about the task of moving her massive book collection, but she says, "For this record, at least for the lyrical content that I created, it was mostly drawing from my introverted experiences in the world and how I am perceiving things around me. A lot of the time, we draw inspiration from books. I think that’s something we have in common. When we’re reading, it kind of sparks all these different ideas and sets us off when we’re writing. For this record specifically, I wouldn’t say that-- I mean I’m always inspired by that cause I’m around it all the time, but far as something that was purposely inspired by that, that wasn't what I contributed."

Cunningham agrees, adding, "Yeah I don’t really know if I can point to anything specific, but I would say that a lot of the lyricism of the album is drawn from thinking about things in a very tactile way, and thinking about little clips, little image clips and kind of trying to dissect them and peel layers back. I’m trying to think of what I’ve been reading a lot over the past year. I’ve been reading a lot of Margaret Atwood and I feel like I always love the way that she describes scenes. Parts of the album I think are very landscape-like."

Sheryl Crow, Sigur Ros, and Sofia Jernberg are all on Their Collaboration Bucket List

While they may not rely on other art forms as inspiration, the pair says they are inspired by working with other people. Reflecting on the biggest lessons they've learned, Stewart says, "I’ve definitely learned that I love collaboration. That’s my most ideal method of creating, is in a collaborative environment with someone. I’ve also learned that I need to get out of my comfort zone in order to get something that’s actually viable or that’s actually interesting. We recorded this record in Sima’s basement studio that she has, and it was really great. We recorded the first project there too so it was nice to record there because we knew how it worked there. It was also a different method of recording than we’re used to with this band... On the other hand it was like now that we’ve recorded this record there, I think for whatever happens next we need to get into a new environment to really push forward and make something that’s not the same that we’ve been through."

As far as their dream collaborations they'd like to be a part of in the future, Cunningham says, "I’d love to work with David Byrne, I think that’d be super fun. He just did that whole project that was really cool except that there were no women on it. His live show also looked really incredible. I just feel like he’s very much into putting on large performances."

Stewart adds, "I personally love Deerhoof a lot. They’re an awesome band, and I know that they also dabble in the free improvisational scene. We’re also label mates with them," before excitedly throwing in, "I wanna work with Yoko Ono!" A Le Tigre song came on in the a cafe where I'd met up with Stewart and Cunningham and both agree they'd love to collaborate with that band, while the latter also adds, "There’s a singer and composer named Sofia Jernberg who is in Norway. I’d love to collaborate with her sometime." 

It's clear that the duo really does love collaborating and experimenting with other genres because they also mention Sheryl Crow ("St. Vincent just collaborated with Sheryl Crow!") and Sigur Rós as artists they'd love to work with before changing subjects.

Their Favorite Artists are Also Multi-taskers 

As demonstrated by their endless involvement in the Chicago music scene and their massive nation-wide tour coming up after the release of Parts, it's obvious that Stewart and Cunningham are no strangers of multi-tasking, but as it turns out, many of the local artists that inspire them are also jacks-of-all-trades.

"I really admire Ken Vandermark actually. He’s someone who is in a bunch of different projects and is constantly doing a million things but he’s able to make things that are different from each other and still remain interesting and new. That’s someone that I look to for inspiration to keep moving forward," Stewart says. 

"We have a lot of amazing friends around us. Our friend Alex Grelle...he’s a really talented theater performer and has been doing these amazing variety shows that I think influenced us but also everyone in our very close proximity into falling back in love with the idea of true performance," Cunningham added. 

The pair has no trouble listing plenty of other local artists with work ethics that they admire, like Crystal Zapata and Maren Celest, who both assisted with their album art. Talking about the latter, Stewart says, "She shot our album cover but she’s also a musician and just released her own record. She does stuff with Manual Cinema, which is this amazing theatre, shadow puppet, multi-disciplinary company in Chicago. She works with them and she used to have a vintage shop in Chicago and she was doing all these things at the same time. But doing them all really well, it’s not even like she was just putting limited attention towards everything. She’s definitely an inspiration cause her work is always so unique and inspired. She’s constantly working and just trying to figure out new ways to do things." Zapata, who did the design of their record, works with The Normal Studio and creates other art. 

"There’s a lot of inspiring people in Chicago. I feel like it’s an endless list, which is why we stay here," Stewart wrapped up the topic. While the two love Chicago and find infinite inspiration here, Cunningham mentioned they'd love to do residencies outside of the city. "Both of us are really craving to go do residencies in places. When we’re in Chicago, it’s hard for us to not be working all the time. I mean, whether it’s on OHMME or just music, it’s very exciting cause our lives are full of music and we’re busy, but in Chicago it feels like every minute of our time gets swallowed up sometimes. So I think giving ourselves an opportunity to go spend time away and just be with our own creativity, cause it can be hard to set time aside for it."

OHMME will begin their biggest tour yet this weekend, kicking things off with a hometown show at Thalia Hall with V.V. Lightbody and The Hecks-- get tickets here, and check out the rest of their tour dates here (They'll be playing in Vancouver for the first time, making their first non-SXSW appearance in Austin, and performing at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.)

To get ready for the show tomorrow, listen to Parts in full below.

Follow OHMME on Twitter + Instagram + Facebook

A Chat With: Bob Schneider

This weekend, we'll be out in Waynesville, Ohio covering Bellwether Festival. The festival lineup includes the Austin-based singer-songwriter and visual artist Bob Schneider, who just released his seventh studio album Blood & Bones on June 8th. Ahead of his 5PM set on Friday, get to know Bob a bit better by checking out our chat below.

 Photo Credit: Charles Reagan

Photo Credit: Charles Reagan

You recently put out your seventh studio album Blood and Bones earlier this summer. What would you say is the main difference between this album and your past work?

All of these songs were written after the birth of my daughter. I've noticed that since she's been born, there's been a bit of a shift in how I approach romantic songs. Before this album, the songs were basically, 'you're hot and I'd like to get together with you'. Now they're more like, 'I love you and I want to take care of you.' So I tend to write sweeter songs than I did before. 

Going back to your early days, I read that you were born in Michigan, and grew up in Germany before moving to Texas. Do you think that your time in Germany has shaped you as a songwriter and musician?

For sure. Mainly, I ended up hearing a lot of early new wave music overseas. I listened to a lot of British, German and American music, but the British and German stuff I probably wouldn't have been exposed to if I was living in the states. It doesn't necessarily show in terms of what I end up putting out, but I really do love quirky, strange-sounding music.

How do you usually split your time between creating music and your visual art? Is it sometimes difficult to find time to balance both passions in your busy schedule?

I love doing both. I've found myself devoting more time to art than to music the last couple of years, mainly because it takes more time to make art than to write songs. You can write a song in a few hours, but sometimes it takes days or weeks to make a single piece of art. I don't think i'll ever stop making music though. I really love writing songs and getting the chance to play them live is the most exciting thing I get to do.

In all your years of creating both music and art, what has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

The best thing you can do when you're making any kind of art, whether it's visual, music or anything creative really, is to not try to make anything that's 'the best.' Nothing stops you from creating faster than the critical part of your brain. If you're trying to make the best song ever, or the greatest piece of art in the world, you'll never get anywhere, because that voice in your head will constantly be telling you, 'it's not good enough.' The creative part of your brain is like a little kid that wants to play and have fun. If you can get the critical part of your brain to leave that part of your brain alone, you'll never have any problem writing and creating. You can always go back afterwards and figure out if the thing that you made is good or not, but that shouldn't be part of the creative process.

What are some of your favorite aspects of the Austin music scene at the moment, from the best bands to the best venues?

I don't really know. I'm sort of out of the scene. I used to go out all the time and see music, when I was younger and single. Mainly, just to get laid, but also to see live music. Nowadays, though, I don't go out at all. I'm either playing or staying home and hanging out with my family. It's much more interesting and fun for me than to go out and see stuff. Of course, there's always SXSW every year, as well as the 150-200 shows I play throughout the year where I get to see and hear music and meet other songwriters, but I guess that's about it. I do have a favorite Austin songwriter, Danny Malone. Just an amazing songwriter. Max Frost is also doing great work here as well.

I like that on your website, you have a section called “Some of My Favorite Things” where you shout out everything from your favorite books, movies, food, etc… I noticed most of the posts were made in 2015, so do you have any more recent favorites that you’d like to shout out now?

I was talked into hosting an online magazine three years ago and they wanted me to interview my favorite artists and talk about my favorite things, so that's where that came from. It was weird contacting people that I didn't know very well - or at all, in some cases - and asking them questions about their art. I would never do anything like that, and probably won't be doing that again anytime soon. I do have some recommendations though: in film - 8th GradeFirst ReformedGhost StoryDen of ThievesBlockers (this list can go on and on). Books - The Overstory by Richard Powers, The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmins. Poetry - Ted Kooser and Frank Stanford. Graphic novels - The Saga series. Podcasts - Philosophize This. TV - The Great British Baking ShowScott and BaileyBarry (this list could go on as well).

This weekend you’ll be playing at Bellwether Music Festival, and the lineup is incredible! Are there any other sets at the festival you’re hoping to catch?

There are some incredible bands playing. Two of my all time favorites included, The Flaming Lips and Psychedelic Furs, but I'll miss both of them, because I have a gig the next day...

What can we expect from your show at the festival? Will you mostly be playing the new songs or a mix of your discography?

It'll be mostly new songs with a few of the older songs thrown in for any fans of mine that might be in attendance.

Lastly, what else are you looking forward to this year?

GOMFT! (that stands for "Game of Mother Fucking Thrones"), but I think that's actually not coming out till next year, for some reason. Either way, Im looking forward to it!

There's still time to get tickets for Bellwether Festival. Head here to snag yours, starting at only $65 for single day. Bob plays Friday at 5PM on the Sunset Stage. 


A Chat With: Taylor Janzen

In a time where "fake news" is a thing, there's something particularly refreshing about music that's honest, raw, and vulnerable; especially when those authentic narratives are told with the uncomplicated delivery of an acoustic guitar and a sole vocalist. Enter Taylor Janzen, the 19 year old singer songwriter from Winnipeg who sings about topics as serious as mental health or emotional abuse, but fills her social media with more lighthearted musings (like her love of Dennis Quaid). 

Janzen just released her debut single "Stations" at the end of June, but in just a few short days, she's gracing us with her debut EP--called "Interpersonal." If you're looking for a new artist whose tweets are just as relatable as her lyrics, look no further and dive into our conversation with Janzen below. We discuss her songwriting approach, having Hayley Williams as a fan, her favorite Dennis Quaid movie and so much more. 

 Get to know your new favorite singer-songwriter, Taylor Janzen. For fans of: Julia Jacklin, Phoebe Bridgers, and Soccer Mommy

Get to know your new favorite singer-songwriter, Taylor Janzen. For fans of: Julia Jacklin, Phoebe Bridgers, and Soccer Mommy

What do you consider to be your first music memory...Either what really got you into music or what got you interested in playing it?

My first musical memory was when I was 5 or 6, my mom had bought me the first two Avril Lavigne records...I think the second album had just come out. She bought me the first two, and I was in love with her. I thought she was the coolest person. I wanted to be her. I just remember thinking she was the coolest ever.

I went through that Avril phase too so I can relate! So your debut EP is coming out this month, and you co-produced it. What can you tell me about the whole process behind it and working as a co-producer?

When I wrote it--I didn’t really sit down and write it. I pulled from different songs and tried to make it as thematic as possible, and cohesive. I wrote them over a year. It was a very interesting process to work with someone else. I’ve never done that before, but I worked with my friend Shane. He is brilliant and we did it out of his house, but he actually knew what he was doing as opposed to me making weird stuff in my basement. He was so cool to work with. He’s a great friend and great musician, and he helped make them sound a lot better than I think they originally did. It was interesting to work with someone else cause I’d never done that, but it was a really cool experience to have someone else’s perspective and someone else’s ears on it.

As far as your two singles that you’ve released...You have “The Waiting Room” which tackles the subject of mental health, and a lot of people find it taboo to talk about and it really shouldn’t be. Then with “Stations," you talk about emotional abuse. Did you find it challenging to open up about subjects like that, which are so personal, or is it more rewarding for you to be able to let that out?

I think the first moment that these are shared is always the scary moment. Actually the scariest moment is when I played them live for the first time. One of the songs on the EP called “Colourblind"--that one was probably the scariest song I’ve written. I would put it on my set list and then take it off right before I was supposed to play it. I would just switch it out with a cover, and be like I’m not playing this song! People are gonna think that it’s too much. Now it’s one of the songs that gets the most reaction out of people. That one and “The Waiting Room.” It’s the one that I’m most proud of, and it’s really interesting how the ones that you’re usually most scared of are the ones that people like the most or connect to the most. Cause they’re honest. And they’re transparent. So it’s scary at first, but I think once you can get into it, it is less scary.

Yeah, there's that reward that comes with the risk. Then I know Hayley Williams has voiced her love for your music, and I know you’ve done Paramore covers in the past. So how does that feel to have her support?

That is so crazy. She’s so cool. She’s one of the first artists, or Paramore is one of the first bands that I ever fell in love with in a real or personal way. I remember basically watching Hayley Williams be able to stand up there and be a woman and not be afraid of her loudness. I think sometimes as women, we’re told to tone ourselves down so much and just to watch someone embrace those parts of herself and not be scared of herself, that was the most empowering thing and that’s always been something that inspired me. The fact that she would listen to anything that I would ever write, is crazy to me. She’s one of the reasons why I feel comfortable being myself.

Are there any other women in music that you find to be great role models or inspire you?

Oh man yeah! I’m just always so inspired by women who are not afraid of themselves. Like Torres I always say is one of my favorite artists. As a songwriter she’s so open and honest and smart about the delivery. Then I’m always super inspired by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Like Karen is just so cool and so herself. She doesn’t focus on like...I love the way her voice is. She doesn’t try to make it sound pretty, it’s more emotive and expressive and I love that. Or you know, I could go on, but Brandi Carlile. I love the dynamic of her music.

Yeah, I love how those women are examples of completely different types of music, but they’re all so inspiring. So kind of switching gears a little bit, I saw your tweet the other day from when you were in LA. You took a picture in front of Dennis Quaid’s star on the walk of fame and you referenced his bit that he does with Ellen yelling “Dennis Quaid is here!” So what is your favorite bit he does with her, cause he’s done a few.

He has! I think the original one was so iconic. I think would be my favorite, but I love the one where he goes to like that massage therapist and she makes him eat the tomato. He suffers for his art. Truly! I love Dennis Quaid. I just want to talk to him. I feel like he’s just so calming. I have a song named after him.

I saw that when I researched! You really do love him.

Yeah, when I was in LA I wasn’t there for a long time, so I only had time to do one cool thing that wasn’t related to the industry. So I wanted to see Dennis Quaid’s star.

Priorities! What would say is your favorite Dennis Quaid movie?

Oh, Parent Trap! 100 %. Why is he so cool? He just seems like the cool dad.

So I was going to ask, and you just kind of mentioned it, but was this your first time in LA when you had that show there?

Yeah! I’d never been to LA yet.

What else is on your bucket list in LA, or anywhere else in the states?

I would love to see all these cities in America. I was recently in Nashville and that was really cool. I want to go to New York. I’m easily impressed by things since I’m from Winnipeg. I love Winnipeg...but when I was flying into LA I was so impressed by like how not-flat it is. I’m very intimidated by big cities, but I’m also really fascinated by them. I really want to go to New York one day and also go back to LA.

Did you have any culture shock moments in LA?

Everyone really likes avocados. Also my manager got his burger lettuce wrapped when we went out for dinner.

It’s such a health freak city!

I’m just kind of blown away by the people and how busy and huge and spread out [the city] was.

Besides LA, you also played the Winnipeg Folk Fest and The Real Love fest recently. So how did those go? Any highlights?

Yeah so my show in LA was the first real show I played out of Manitoba. I’m excited to do more of that! Winnipeg Folk Fest went so well, then Real Love Fest was out in Teulon, Manitoba and I had to drive a lot for it. It was really fun. I was really tired from LA, but the atmosphere was so chill that it did not bother me at all.

Any other plans to tour once the EP is out?

Yeah, I’m for sure working on getting something. It takes a lot of planning!

Any other local bands that you’re really into that I should check out?

Yes! I love the local scene so much, I have like an embarrassing amount of pride for it. I think my favorites right now are Boniface... it’s actually named after the neighborhood they grew up in and which I grew up in, called Saint Boniface, so it’s like extra local for me. There’s also Olivia Lunny, she’s an incredible singer songwriter. She’s really feel good, I love listening to her when I drive everywhere. Then my friend Cassidy Mann also just released a single. It’s incredible. There’s a lot of really really good music here. I think because it’s so secluded people don’t really hear about it?

Awesome, I will check them out! Any last closing comments? 

I never know what to say at this part. My EP comes out on August 10th and I’m really excited and hope people like it.

And support Dennis Quaid?

Yeah! Show him some love!

Make sure you listen to "Interpersonal" this Friday, August 10th, and keep up with Taylor on Twitter + Instagram

A Chat With: BODEGA

 Photo By Mert Gafuroglu

Photo By Mert Gafuroglu

Brooklyn's BODEGA combines the thoughtfulness and wit of lead songwriters Ben Hozie and Nikki Belfiglio's lyrics with a cheeky attitude and an array of influences on their full length debut. The album, called Endless Scroll, released via What’s Your Rupture? records last week, and the band has been out on the road for the better part of this year playing songs from the record. 

They're currently overseas on a UK and European tour, but Ben Hozie recently took some time to chat with us about his songwriting approach, their touring essentials, their favorite fellow Brooklyn bands and more. 


Congratulations on having your debut album out this week! The writing on this record has such an authentic and thoughtful quality to it-- is it sometimes difficult to get into that space when you’re in the writing process? If so, how do you get around that challenge? 

It is difficult to get into the proper headspace to create — the most important thing is to stay away from the internet to avoid distraction. I am old school - I write best with pen, paper, and acoustic guitar.

As far as the inspiration behind the songs, you obviously have some pop culture references, like with “Jack in Titanic.” Did you find yourselves drawing inspiration from other mediums like film or TV on other songs? 

I’m also a filmmaker so I am always thinking about cinema. When it comes to music, you listen with your eyes and see with your ears.

How was it working with Austin Brown as the producer, and what was the recording process like? 

Austin Brown is a very hands-off producer. He set up an 8 track tape machine (the same one Parquet Courts recorded Light Up Gold on) in their practice space and had us play all of the songs live. We did the whole record in four days. I kept wanting to embellish the arrangements but he was very adamant about keeping the recording as simple and honest as possible. I am a big fan of his band —- I became a peacock internally to show off the songs.

I love the 360/VR video you put out for “How Did This Happen !?” Who came up with the idea, and do you have any plans for more VR videos in the future? 

The VR vid was Nikki’s idea. We wanted to fake a live show recording which would mock the trope of super hype ‘live’ videos. Honestly, I’m not crazy about virtual reality. I find it very limiting - the art of cinema is ‘framing’ and ‘cutting.’ VR removes human agency from the medium. It was a fun experiment but i’d be surprised if we did it again anytime soon.

I caught your recent set in Chicago at The Empty Bottle and you guys all had such a fun and energetic stage presence. Who inspires you as a performer?

I have a lot of heroes of the stage (ones you might not suspect from our music) : Bruce Springsteen, Perry Farrell, Public Enemy, and the Grateful Dead. 

Speaking of playing live, you’ve toured a ton this year; from playing SXSW to traveling to the UK and Europe. What have been some of your favorite shows or highlights of tour? 

Some of our best shows have happened in unlikely places. We played at a library in Birkenhead and a batting cage in Philadelphia. Every show is different——- we try to make every show unique. 

When you’re traveling, what are some of your favorite ways to stay entertained on the road? Any podcast or album recommendations?

Good books are the best. We are pretty obsessed with the 33 and 1/3 book series. I’m trying to read them all. Right now i’m going back and forth between ‘Trouble Boys: The Story of the Replacements’ and ‘Bubliminal’ by Leonard Mlodinow. 

What are your go-to snacks or drinks that you’d pick up at a bodega? 

The two essential liquids : coffee and beer.

Who are some of your favorite bands fellow Brooklyn bands that you think everyone should check out? 

Milk Dick, Parlor Walls, GUSTAF, Eaters, Pill, Public Practice, Operator Music Band, Straw Pipes, Shilpa Ray, and The Consumables.

Keep up with BODEGA on Instagram + Facebook, and listen to Endless Scroll in full below.

A Chat With: Matt Maeson

Considering he grew up playing music in prisons and at biker rallies with his parents, you could say singer songwriter Matt Maeson has quite the interesting backstory...But ultimately, it's his dynamic vocals, piercing lyrics, and knack for storytelling that hooks listeners and fosters the growing buzz surrounding his music. With millions of streams racking up on Spotify and appearances booked at major festivals around the country, the momentum surrounding Maeson just keeps building, and he hasn't even released a debut full length yet. 

The music Maeson has released so far remains sonically multifaceted, with each song on his two EPs having a distinct sound of their own. Most of his songs tend to cover serious subject matters, but to juxtapose the heaviness that comes with some of his music, Maeson keeps the mood lighthearted on his social media, often cracking jokes on his Twitter. (Go follow him if you're not already, trust me.) That same personality transfers over to his live show, so if you're heading to Lolla this year, make sure you catch Matt Maeson on Friday, 8/3 at noon...but first get to know him a bit better. I recently caught up with him after his set at Bonnaroo last month, talking his favorite festival moments, his love of Chicago food, Johnny Cash selfies and more. 

 Photo Credit: Matthew Reamer

Photo Credit: Matthew Reamer

So I know you grew up with a musical family, but when do you remember wanting to start making music on your own?

I was, like you said, raised in a very musical family, so from the time I was able to consciously receive music, I loved it. I started on drums when I was really young. I was like 3 or 4 and my uncle passed away and he left me a drum set. I just drummed away until I was 13 or 14 and then I picked up a guitar around 15, and that’s when I started writing songs. My dad would teach me chords. So 15, around that age was when I started writing, and I started performing live when I was 17. The rest is history.

When you started performing live, is there anyone you looked up to, or whose stage presence you admired?

That’s tough cause there’s different aspects. Vocals, Britney Howard from Alabama Shakes is insanely talented. Jeff Buckley is one of my all time favorite artists. Then Manchester Orchestra is a huge one for me.

Oh were you around yesterday when they played?

No I wasn’t I missed it! I missed them at Bottle Rock when they played the day after.

Oh no! One day you'll get to see them! Anyone else who inspires you?

I love Johnny Cash. I love the way he performs... and I played in a lot of prisons growing up.

I caught your set earlier and before you played “Cringe” you said “This is the one everyone has been waiting for.” How does that feel since releasing that song to have such a viral response to it? What has been a highlight?

It’s sick! “Cringe” is my most streamed song so I know every show that’s what everyone wants to hear. I’d say that the really dope thing was I played this show at The Hawthorne in Portland, Oregon. That was the first show that I ever heard people singing the lyrics with me, and that was to “Cringe.”

Then you just mentioned you played Bottle Rock, you’re playing 'Roo now, then playing Forecastle and Lolla too. What is your favorite festival moment and your worst festival experience that you’ve ever had?

I’d say my favorite festival moment would probably be the time I played this festival in Houston called In Bloom. It’s a smaller one, but it was my first festival. My girlfriend was there, I just played solo acoustic. And people were singing along. It was just the first big crowd at a festival I saw and played in front of. The least favorite was I went to this festival called Beach Goth in Orange County. It’s cool and the line up was had three of my favorite artists; King Krule, James Blake, and Bon Iver were all headlining. The stages were so close together and it was so packed that if you were trying to see King Krule you were hearing like TLC play. And then if you were trying to see Bon Iver you heard this, and there was just so many people that I was like I don’t want to see any of my favorite artists like this. I’d rather wait to catch them in smaller shows. 

What made you come up with the idea to release stripped versions of songs like "The Hearse" and "Cringe"?

[It was] mainly cause this is my first tour doing a full band thing. So everything before that was just acoustic. So that’s what people who have seen me live have grown to love. That’s when I think the songwriting really shines, when there’s not all this big production behind it, but it’s just this simple thing where people can really focus on the melody and lyrics. We put a couple out and people loved it.

My mom loves the stripped version of “Cringe!”

Yeah that song is streaming extremely well! It’s streaming better than the regular one.

What about new music? Are you working on that on the road at all or just focusing on touring these songs?

I mean, both. I don’t really try and force myself to write too often because I think that’s when the writing feels like it’s a job or something. It gets a little less sincere when you’re trying to force something out. Typically what happens is I’ll go on tour, I’ll get so drained and so exhausted, and then I’ll get home and write an amazing song. We’re definitely writing for the album right now.

So you’re coming to play Lolla, and I’m based in Chicago--

Yeah I love Chicago!

So what are you looking forward to about Lolla and coming to Chicago in general? Are you sticking around at all?

I will be because I’m doing a Lolla set and then I’m doing an after show, and then I’m doing another show...I think it’s just acoustic. So I’m doing the acoustic show and then I’m opening up for Gang of Youths, they’re awesome and I’ve done a couple shows with them! Then I do the actual Lolla set, so I think I’ll be there for three or four days.

Did you check out the rest of the line up at all?

The line up is insane. So good. I’m pumped. There’s definitely people I want to see, but I’ll know in about a month and a half from now.

Anything else you're looking forward to doing in the city while you’re there?

I love Chicago. I would 100 percent live there if it didn’t get so cold. It's brutal. I’ve been there in the winter and it’s so brutal. But Nando’s, I love Nando’s and it’s one of the only states that has them. Au Cheval, the burger spot. It’s insane. I love food. I still haven’t been yet, but my buddy works at the restaurant called Alinea. It’s insanely expensive. I just love Chicago, I love the people there.

Also your Twitter can be really hilarious, and I saw the other day you posted about people DM-ing you selfies. So if anyone in the world were to DM you a selfie, who would you want to slide into those DMs? We can even do dead or alive.

I would say Johnny Cash. Cause not only would that be amazing to receive a selfie, it would also be hilarious just to see a selfie of Johnny Cash.

Yeah, those don’t exist. Then last thing, do you have any unknown facts or something that you’ve always wanted to talk about that no one has brought up yet in an interview?

That’s a hard one! I skate...nobody ever asks me about that! If you look at my Instagram or something everyone I follow is pro skaters. I never get starstruck and the only people I get starstruck by are pro skaters. Which is funny cause they’re usually the chillest dudes.

When did you get into skating?

When I was super young, around 7. I’m not like great. I was better when I was 16, but I still love it. Love the culture.

Anything else you’re looking forward to or any last closing comments?

Looking forward to getting this album done. We don’t know when it’s gonna come out. It’ll either be late this year or early next year. Then we’re gonna do a fall tour that I’m pumped about. We’re still figuring it out if it will be a headlining or support tour.

Chicago, if you're not going to Lolla this year, you can still catch Maeson at his aftershow--snag those tickets here, and listen to The Hearse EP in full below. 

Get To Know: Naked Giants

2018 has already been a whirlwind for the Seattle trio Naked GiantsBetween releasing their debut album, touring Europe with Car Seat Headrest, and playing new cities for the first time, it's certainly been a year of career landmarks, and things aren't slowing down for the band any time soon. 

Back in May, the group played Chicago for the first time, packing Schubas Tavern on a Saturday night. Just as the audience warmly welcomed Naked Giants to their city, the band made sure everyone in the crowd had a great time by periodically checking in to make sure everyone felt comfortable, promoting a completely safe space at their show. 

Before the show began that night, I had a chat with the band, talking everything from movie soundtracks, their bucket lists, starting a New West Records super group, and their proactive songwriting habits. For all that and more, get to know Naked Giants now. 

 Naked Giants is Gianni Aiello, Grant Mullen, and Henry LaVallee

Naked Giants is Gianni Aiello, Grant Mullen, and Henry LaVallee

Their First Musical Memories Heavily Involve Movie Soundtracks

The three members of Naked Giants all remember getting into music at different ages, but there's a common thread in all of their introductions to music. Gianni Aiello says he remembers laying in his dad's bed with a green iPod listening to "Human" by The Killers, but adds "Before that I really liked the SpongeBob Movie soundtrack. That had some tunes on it. When I look back on it, it’s like Flaming Lips, Ween, Avril Lavigne, Wilco... It’s a pretty cool soundtrack." 

Drummer Henry LaVallee also had early memories of movie scores. "I remember this movie called Bedknobs and Broomsticks, with Angela Lansbury," LaVallee says, animatedly describing the film. "It’s like an old Disney movie from the 70’s, it took place in Britain during World War II. It was like a musical, but it was one of those trippy ones where the first act is all humans, and then at the start of the second act, they go into a cartoon world. So these humans are interacting with---it’s like Roger Rabbit. Then they get out of this cartoon world, but it follows this Medieval story book and it’s a really good movie honestly. These kids are orphaned from the war and then Angela Lansbury is like a witch and she takes them in." Aiello interjects at one point to ask if it's like Nanny McPhee, and LaVallee continues, "Little bit, little bit. Then the kids don’t believe in magic and they think Angela sucks, but then she’s actually badass. They also all sing together. And Angela doesn’t like the kids either, she’s forced to have them, but then they’re all really chummy by the end of it and they fight off the Nazis with magic at the very end and it’s really cool. But the music in that [inspired me]. So we used to watch that, it was a great summertime movie. Or Meatballs with Bill Murray and the songs in that!"

As for guitarist Grant Mullen's first musical memories, he recalls having a tiny Casio keyboard. "They’re really small and they sound really weird. I just remember playing really scary music, cause you know it’s really easy to play music like that when you have no idea what you’re doing. I was probably 4 or 5 when my parents got me that."

They've Played SXSW the Last Three Years

SXSW usually does quite the number on bands with schedules involving multiple shows a day all around town, but Naked Giants hasn't let that madness deter them from returning to Austin for the last three years in March. However, they all agree that this year had been the best by far, confirming that the third time really is a charm. "It was better in every way. We played better shows on average, there were people at the shows. We got to stay with our friends Ron Gallo. We had some good connections. We made some friends...The Do512 people who are all super nice. We’re actually gonna see one of them in New York cause their other coworkers [DoNYC] are there. Just in general it was a good vibe. Just like the flow and all of that," Aiello said. 

Mullen mentions that the group got to see their label-mate Caroline Rose for the first time at this past SXSW. "Meeting her was kind of like meeting a cousin. It was like oh, we’re probably gonna get along. You know? It weirdly reminded me of that. And we totally did, I thought," LaVallee added. 

They Want to Start a New West Records Super Group

Speaking of New West Records label-mates, if you've ever seen some of the label's artists like Naked Giants, Caroline Rose, and Ron Gallo perform live, you might have realized that they all have an unforgettable stage presence. Well, Naked Giants has also recognized that trait about themselves and their extended record label family too. "I realized after seeing Caroline, and after touring with Ron, that New West Records--what they really love is gimmicks. We have the whole smorgasbord of everything we do on stage. Ron’s got the whole trumpet thing and playing a guitar with a skateboard or whatever. Caroline and her band have the outfits and the end of her show where she pulls out the recorder. So New West wants something that people will remember," Aiello says. Mullen interjects to say, "People that don’t take themselves too seriously." Aiello continues, "Exactly, that. So I had this dream of forming a super group of all 3 of our bands. I don’t know what the music would sound like..."

While they may have no idea what it will sound like, they do have some idea of the band name, and how it could work. "What if the name was Mick and the Gimme Gimmes?" LaVallee suggests. "That’s good, gimme more! There’s this band called Superorganism and they’re like a collective thing, but they would send music across different countries. Like one of them lived in England and one of them lived in Greenland, I don’t know if anyone lives in Greenland... But I would imagine it would be something like that [where we send music to each other]," Aiello ponders about the structure of the group. 

Their Favorite Performers Range From The Lemon Twigs to Freddie Mercury

Speaking of memorable stage presence, the members of Naked Giants always seem to give 200 percent of their energy whenever they perform. So whose stage presence do they admire the most? "Freddie Mercury," LaVallee says, adding that he tries his best to be the "Freddie Mercury of the drum kit." 

"I was just talking to somebody yesterday about The Lemon Twigs," Aiello says. "I haven’t seen them live yet, but I’ve seen videos and that one kid’s got some really good kicks. So I started doing kicks after I saw that." 

Mullen adds, "I don’t think I’ve ever admitted this, but now that I think about it, early White Stripes, Jack White stage presence. Cause he just you know, looked so almost like, he had mixed emotions while he was playing. He didn't want the crowd to even look at him. Cause he didn’t like being there, but he really wanted to tell them something really important. Which was I’m a white guy singing the blues. Something about that, like he has this weird vibe that I remember thinking was really cool when I would watch them play. Now when I watch modern Jack White, I still like him, but it comes off as a little pretentious doing it twenty years." 

Aiello also mentions that the group caught [Thee] Oh Sees' set at Sasquatch festival and realized that’s where Grant gets all his stuff.  "[John Dwyer] looks like a lizard man too, but he surprisingly doesn’t move that much. He just does weird little gimmicks, like spits in the air and catches it in his mouth. Something I also steal from him is the mouth around the microphone. He really throats that thing," Mullen says. If you still have yet to see Naked Giants live, you can get a glimpse of their energetic stage presence from the photos below of their Schubas show.  

They're Not Procrastinators When it Comes to Album Writing

Naked Giants' debut album just came out in March this year, but despite their busy touring schedule, the band has already started working on new material. Rewinding back to the release of the first album, Mullen says, "It’s just good to get it out. So people can listen to twelve of our songs in a row now.... If they want to. They all sound pretty similar production wise...They’re all one package that you can experience our songs. Before everyone was like who is this band? Like I’ve heard of them, but they just have six songs on an EP, what’s the deal? And now we have an album." 

"The best response was a review on some online magazine, and it was a really nice review. They were like we really like this album, love all the tracks, and then they called the album Slush instead of Sluff," Aiello chimes in. While the group were happy to finally get out a cohesive catalog of their music that's been well received, rather than relishing in the debut, they're eager to get out even more material. "We actually just recorded nine demos in the week and a half we had off between tours. One actual song that’s gonna hopefully be a single in the fall or something like that," Aiello continues, highlighting the group's work ethic. 

Despite their eagerness to release new material, don't get too excited for their sophomore album just yet; Mullen disclaimed they potentially have sixteen months of promoting and touring backing their first record. "It’s never a bad idea to just have the next one done," Aiello says about their sophomore effort, mentioning that they're only that proactive when it comes to making music.  "In all other areas of life we are [procrastinators]. We like to make albums." 

Their Music Contains Easter Eggs 

The trio has even gone as far as constructing a loose common theme throughout the new material. "It’s secret though," Mullen says, but Aiello hints that their might be some clues in the last song of the first album. Going back to their love of film, the band admits they're fans of putting easter eggs in their work, which is a common factor in movie and tv series. "Once all the albums are out, if you really like our band, you’ll be able to find all these things and nerd out about [the Easter eggs]," Mullen reveals. At this point, LaVallee pointed to an Alfred Hitchcock book under the green room coffee table, saying the book was a good hint to their future work without using any words. Elaborating on the connection of film and their music, Mullen adds, "I feel like a lot of times I get inspired by the feeling I get from watching a movie. If it’s very dark, I might be in that place for a while. I don’t do it consciously." 

The group also says they've tossed around the idea of a TV show for the band. "Like a Naked Giants TV show, we're always thinking how to make that work. We might have to start it as a web series. Then for one of the future albums we have planned, we’re hoping to do a visual album."

They Perform Double Duty with Car Seat Headrest

This year, Naked Giants got the opportunity to not only open for Car Seat Headrest, but to join Will Toledo's live lineup during Car Seat's set on the tour. The gig has certainly added to the band's workload on tour, but it's also given them the opportunity to cross a lot of places and goals off their bucket list. This year, Naked Giants has already toured Europe and performed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,  and they'll be continuing on another double duty tour this fall in The States. 

While the band is grateful for all the career-highlight opportunities they've had with Car Seat Headrest, they remain ambitious to achieve the same feats as Naked Giants too. This fall, they'll be playing their first major conventional festival when they return to Austin for Austin City Limits. "We’re doing this whole thing with Car Seat Headrest, going to Europe….but ACL is the kind of first big step that’s just Naked Giants. I mean of course we’ve done SX and that kind of stuff, but there’s a huge difference when you start doing the festival circuits. Then that gives me hope for next year, maybe in the summer, we’ll start doing Coachella, Lollapalooza, etc..." Aiello says. They're also keen to cross off all of the Seattle staples from their list, naming The Neptune and The Paramount Theatre as the ultimate goals. 

Check out Naked Giants' upcoming tour dates here (Chicago, they'll be at The Riviera on September 7th), and listen to Sluff in full below!

Get To Know: Engine Summer

Back in April, we first got acquainted with Engine Summer when they played our ANCHR Magazine showcase with Blue Dream and Faux Furrs.  With their catchy mix of lo-fi, garage and post punk tones, Engine Summer has drawn comparisons to Wire, Omni, and NE-HI. That sound coupled with an uninhibited stage presence has been landing them on more and more bills around the city; from our show at Sleeping Village to Schubas and from Coles to house shows, there's no shortage of venue stages and DIY spots that the group has graced so far.

Tonight, the trio returns to the Empty Bottle stage to warm up the crowd for Brooklyn band Bodega. Ahead of the show, get to know more about Engine Summer by checking out these five facts we learned when we caught up with them before they departed on their most recent tour.

 Engine Summer is Jeremy Marsan, Ben Kostecki, and Ryan Ohm. The trio is joined by their part-time member Kubrick here.

Engine Summer is Jeremy Marsan, Ben Kostecki, and Ryan Ohm. The trio is joined by their part-time member Kubrick here.

They All Used to Take Piano Lessons

The three members of Engine Summer, Jeremy Marsan, Ben Kostecki, and Ryan Ohm, have all been playing in bands for about ten years now, but before that, they all coincidentally started out learning the piano, which is something they hadn't even realized about each other until this interview. Kostecki describes when he got into making music in early high school, "What first got me into music, band-wise, I was just kind of hanging out with some friends and I knew how to play piano. I took piano lessons for a long time. I think just playing music and having fun with my friends...I was like 'oh this is awesome.' Writing songs, and just developing from there."

Ohm says he also grew up playing piano, and joined bands to put a purpose behind hanging out and making music. "I think I liked being in bands in a way because it was something to do. It was a reason to hang out. That’s why I like it now... You can go out and party but now you have kind of a purpose. So it’s like I’m not just gonna go get drunk, I’m gonna go get drunk and play a show," he says.  "And you form bonds," he continues. "That’s what I really like. And from the beginning I was playing with some of my best friends. I played with Ben ten years ago."

Marsan says he grew up in a musical family, and also played piano as a kid before moving onto learn saxophone in the school band.  Elaborating on their history of being in bands, Marsan chimes in, "That’s the ironic thing. We’re still a young band. We’re 25, 26, but we don’t feel like that at all. It feels like we’ve been doing it for a while." Although they've all got a decade of experience under their belts, they say they're still excited just to have a green room at some of their shows. 

They Recorded and Mixed Their Debut Album Themselves

Like many great bands starting out, Engine Summer is still very much DIY when it comes to their creative process and their band business. For their debut Trophy Kids, the trio worked together to write, record, and mix the 15 track album, only getting assistance on the mastering from Dave Vettraino. Taking about the completely immersive process of their album, Marsan says, "We took our time so it wasn’t really overwhelming. But we spent a lot of time on it...Basically 30 hours a week for 6 months or so." 

The band says at the start of the long process, they took a long weekend and just spent three or four days straight working on tracking. "It was nonstop. We’d be up til 4 AM tracking....It was definitely memorable. It was really eye opening to do that all yourself, cause it was all the opportunity to experiment and like fuck around and not have somebody be like no, with engineering," Ohm says, also mentioning they might go in the direction of using an engineer for their next EP or album to try something new. Marsan agrees, adding "So it only takes a week versus six months. I preferred [recording on our own] for sure since I’m basically a control freak. The guitars sound just right, the vocals have just the right amount of distortion." 

"It’s lo-fi in sound," Ohm says, "Not where we didn’t care about the quality and sound, but purposeful lo-fi where we had all these orchestrated elements. The aesthetic was in that range of slightly garage-y, but it’s not like a four track, basement recording."

As far as the theme of the record, Marsan says, "The fact that we named it 'Trophy Kids'...there was a little bit of a theme, cause it was a bit about us thinking about our generation," also mentioning that their newer materials sees the band thinking in terms of a storyline and style. 

They're Renaissance Men

As if producing and mixing their own record isn't enough, the three members of Engine Summer all have additional creative talents. Kostecki admits he used to be into theater before moving towards music in high school, but as it turns out, he still has a prop from his theatre days which is tied to a lot of memories. "It’s a tunic. It’s felt. It doesn’t fit him anymore," Ohm says. "It never really fit anyone. I stole it from the theater department in our high school. It was this cool dungeon-y area," Kostecki says, mentioning he also took a spear, which has since been thrown away. While the spear might be gone now, Marsan says Ben used to sit on their porch with the spear...and that may or may not have led to some drinking tickets. 

On a related note (to acting, not to spears), Ohm also has a film production company outside of his work with the band. Talking about his filmmaking skills, Ohm says, "Jerry and I just finished a feature film that we’ve been working on for like the last two years, that's in about five festivals now. He was one of the stars, Ben has some cameos. That was a good side creative project while we were making the album, to do a day of filming. We’re all just friends first of all, so we do a bunch of shit. Usually it comes back to music, but we just hang out a lot."

The band members also admit they're creative with the most random of outlets when they want to be, saying they once procrastinated recording to build some furniture. "One of the first days we got together to record, we spent two hours building a chair. We attached a boating chair to a swivel piece. It’s still in the garage," Marsan says. 

That's not all, folks; all three work together to do the band's artwork, press, and marketing. "Jerry built a sick website. Our tour poster, our album art, it’s a photo, but the design and layout...We’ve done most of the music videos ourselves," Ohm says. 

They Take the Side Roads on Tour

Speaking of press and marketing, Engine Summer recently returned home from an East Coast tour they booked themselves. Talking about the process of booking the tour, Marsan says the playing ends up being the easiest part. "Trying to book is that slow build up. Before we booked, we weren’t a well enough known band where people were excited about booking us and taking a chance. Now that we have it booked, now we can get on all these cool shows in Chicago. Before that, it almost feels like a scam. How many people can we sucker into booking us? Not in a negative way, but it feels like that a little bit. We’re not on a  label, we don’t know anyone in your city...will you book us?" Ohm agrees, mentioning that they're getting booking inquiries now that they have a tour booked. 

As far as their favorite part of hitting the road? Ohm says he's definitely a side road guy, opting to take the winding detours rather than a direct route so that they can explore, while Kostecki says he'd rather get where they're going to be able to hang out there. As they discuss the excitement of heading out on their longest consecutive run as a trio, the band recalled some memories of past travel dates. 

"There was one time Ryan convinced us to drive along the Mississippi River," Marsan says, "It was Winona, Minnesota--which Winona Ryder was named after this town. It was gorgeous. At one point, the sun was coming down, there were no lights, the road was icy, it was 15 degrees out...I was just kind of shook driving." Ohm agrees it was a crazy drive-- "Again, cause I was like 'let’s take the side roads'," but the experience remains one the three piece won't forget. "I was so relieved when we made it out. I couldn’t believe we were within five hours of home cause it felt so out there," Marsan says.

They Can Connect to the City and Rural Scenes

Marsan, Kostecki, and Ohm all have nothing but positive takes on the Chicago music scene. From the venues to fellow bands, the three have an appreciation for it all.

"We thought Sleeping Village was really cool," Ohm says, continuing, "Empty Bottle, to me, felt like one of the coolest shows we’ve played. It was almost full and that was so much fun. This little bar Archie's, which is in Ukrainian Village, they have shows there. It was sick. They stopped letting people in cause it was at capacity."

As far as other Chicago bands, the group shout out Torch Room, Pointers, Luke Henry, L.Martin, Girl K, Modern Vices ["We all played tons of shows with them in high school. Kind of fell out of contact a little bit"], and Rookie. "There’s just a lot of bands around, and the more we play bigger shows, the more people we run into. Small links like just need a reason to talk, and then everybody is buds," Ohm says. 

The band is also game to continue playing DIY spots around the city, even as they continue to take on more venue shows. "I feel like we always wrote our songs knowing they could sound good in a venue or at a DIY show. We can totally pull it off. We’re doing a couple shows on tour that are gonna be backyard, minimal PA stuff. We’re totally fine with it and it’ll be fun. I don’t really notice a difference. I don’t feel different if we’re playing a basement or a venue. We meet just as many people. We drink just as much," Marsan says. "If we booked another tour and we got signed, it would be sick if it was three venue shows, one DIY,  three venue shows, one DIY. Spice it up, get sweaty," Ohm says. 

So while they're more than acquainted with the Chicago scene now, the band says they may take things outside of the city for their next album. Marsan says the second album may be loosely based around an old road map of Indiana that they found. "It’s very 80's and it’s trying to show Indiana as this tech hub, industry center. Just something that we’re toying with, it’s not really set in stone...We’re thinking about writing our songs from the perspective of somebody from Indiana. Which is not very much represented, especially in the Chicago scene," he says. "Like someone 'from the sticks,' per se," Ohm continues. 

"I don’t know if this is dumb to say, but I feel like we as a band can fit in more with a rural scene than the city scene. Not that we feel left out of the city scene or something," Marsan says, mentioning they always try to stop at old dive bars in smaller towns on tour. 

Grab tickets to see Engine Summer with Bodega and Daysee here and keep up with them on social media below. 

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A Chat With: Night Riots

Over the past few years, Night Riots has toured relentlessly; from supporting the likes of The Maine and Andrew McMahon to their own headline runs, it seems like the five piece is constantly up on stage, engaging crowds in cities across the country. Night Riots' discography showcases a wide range of different musical styles, but their contagiously catchy melodies remain consistent, as does lead singer Travis Hawley's signature vocals, which have drawn frequent comparisons to The Cure's Robert Smith. Hawley's timeless vocals translate even more powerfully when he's up on the stage, charismatically commanding the room's attention with his magnetic stage presence and bond with the entire band. While their recorded music has this quality that makes it instantly like-able, Night Riots' live show only amplifies that quality, making their concerts a must see. 

If you still haven't found your way to one of their gigs, make sure you change that this month as they tour nationwide with Silent Rival and courtship. The tour swings through Chicago on Friday, June 22nd, but before they hit the Subterranean stage, get to know them as they discuss their ideal companion in an elevator outage, their favorite Ewoks, how they stay entertained on the road and more. 

 Night Riots is Travis Hawley, Nick Fotinakes, Mikel Van Kranenburg, Matt DePauw and Rico Rodriguez

Night Riots is Travis Hawley, Nick Fotinakes, Mikel Van Kranenburg, Matt DePauw and Rico Rodriguez

You’ve been on tour with courtship. and Silent Rival since the start of the month. What’s your favorite part of touring with each of these bands?

It’s been awesome to be with bands that are good people.  It’s not always the case that you get along with everyone you tour with but both bands are awesome and really talented.  

Speaking of tour, you’ll be in Chicago again on June 22nd, and you’ve played in Chicago several times in the past. What are some of your favorite things to do here?

We try to make a point to stop by the Chicago Music Exchange.  That place is amazing...has so many guitars and synths and just rad music gear.  Also always gotta hit up a Pequod’s Pizza for that deep dish.

How would you describe your live show on this tour in 3 words?

Energetic, theatrical and transportive.

Your song “Breaking Free” was recently featured in the show 13 Reasons Why...If you could pick any other TV show to have your music on, what show would you pick and why?

I’d want to go back in time and get a song on Star Trek TNG.  Maybe even have us be like a holodeck band or something.

You’ve had a couple new singles out this year, which are both great! What other plans for new releases do you have this year?

We’ve kinda been releasing unconventionally.  We aren’t necessarily releasing songs as legit singles.  We just want to get new music out there...maybe we will compile it into an album this year.  

What are some of your favorite songs or albums from this year so far?

J. Cole’s new album KOD is rad.  Vacationer is putting out an album we are stoked for.  The new Kid Cudi/Kanye West album that just dropped is pretty tight too.

I saw your tweet the other day about the Gunslinger Series by Stephen King. What are some other books you’ve been into recently?

The Dark Tower series has been one of the best series I’ve read in a long time.  The scope and storytelling in it is remarkable. I think almost the whole band has read it at this point.  I just read The Stranger by Camus. I felt weird for a week.

Even though it seems like you’re constantly on tour and consistently working on new material, you guys are still really great with engaging fans on social media. What are some tips you have for managing your time with crazy tour schedules and how do you make sure to prioritize fan interaction?

At the end of the day the only reason we can continue what we do is because of the fans.  So I think it’s important to remember that. You need to be true to yourself and make art that is real but you also need to remember why you do it.  It’s fun and another way to be creative and think of new interesting ways to engage, entertain and help transport people out of their everyday lives... at least for a minute. Sticking to a schedule and consistency is key.

If you were stuck in an elevator with someone for a few hours, who would you want to be stuck with and why? (It could be anyone in the world.)

Probably Shaq because 1) He’d probably cradle you like a baby and calm you down 2) He could just rip the doors off and save you and 3) If it all goes to shit and you’re stuck, you could live off eating his body for like 6 months.

What’s one thing you’ve never been asked in an interview, but you’ve always wanted to talk about?

Who my five favorite Ewoks are.  Not in particular order they are: Chief Chirpa, Paploo, Teebo, Wicket, and Logray.

There you have it! Grab your tickets to see Night Riots at The SubT this Friday, June 22nd here, and follow them on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram. 

Can't get enough Night Riots? Check out our past coverage of them here