Get To Know: Sedgewick
The three members of Chicago's own Sedgewick have been through quite the journey since they first released their debut EP Gardens in 2015. First off, the group expanded when Jake Hawrylak joined founding members Sam Brownson and Oliver Horton. Secondly, the group has worked to broaden and reinvent their style of music. Cumulating influences from all different corners of R&B, Hip Hop, Rock, and Alternative genres and sub-genres, the trio have built a sound that's completely their own. With this distinct new sound comes a rebirth of sorts and a fresh slate for the group to take their music to different venues around their hometown and on tour.
Last month before Brownson, Hawrylak, and Horton took the stage at SPACE in Evanston to support Family and Friends, I met up with them to talk not only about their new album, but the journey leading up to it. Find out which groundbreaking albums inspired them, what challenges they faced, what they love about the Chicago scene and more in our talk with Sedgewick.
The New Album Hasn't Gone According To Plan...
But not in a bad way, the band say. While the album that the three members of Sedgwick set out to make may have been left behind long ago, the band are all extremely proud and happy with how their finished product has come out, even though it's far from what they first envisioned. Oliver Horton shared his take on the recording process saying, "It’s been really exhausting. It’s a lot of hard work. But it’s gratifying work. It feels really good to get these in some sort of place where we can send them off to people and be really proud about it. I’m super proud of it. I really think it’s gonna accomplish what we want it to. A lot of planning for this has just all sort of fallen by the wayside. What we planned to do with it." Horton continued on to reflect about the effect on the band that this change in route had, saying, "That alone has created a bond between the three of us that we’ve never had before. Sort of dealing with that, dealing with that totally unexpected has caused us to grow deeper together. I think that’s really starting to show up in the record. It’s been really interesting. Just rolling with the punches and seeing what we can come up with."
Jake Hawrylak echoed that sentiment on the recording process, adding, "It’s been very eye opening. It’s been very enlightening in a lot of ways. Hands down the biggest thing any of us have been a part of, not just in terms of budget, but in terms of scope. In terms of sounds… I think where we’re at on a personal level too." Sam Brownson weighed in on the biggest challenges of the process, saying for him the mixing proved to be the most difficult. "The hardest thing is to draw the line for yourself and as a group and saying this expresses what we want it to. And also being ok with saying if it doesn’t we can’t control how it’s gonna affect someone that listens to it. It’s a lot of trusting instincts. I’ve learned how to sit down over the course of recording and just do what feels good," Brownson said.
Their Influences Range From Bon Iver to Frank Ocean
In addition to the departure from Plan A, the band have also had a departure from the strictly folk sound of their EP. Their live set opening up for Family and Friends incorporated so many layers and took so many twists and turns. Before they performed, the band gave a little bit of insight as to where that influence stems from.
Brownson shared his influences, saying, "When the Dirty Projectors record came out, I....that changed how I thought about mixing. I’ve also been listening to a lot of hip hop music lately... Like SZA and Kendrick Lamar’s new record. From a mixing perspective, the space that those records create are very influential."
Hawrylak also found some specific influence from Kendrick Lamar and other artists. He shared his insight on specific records that made his year, adding, "It’s been interesting to me to watch a lot of the bands we play with and a lot of Chicago industry people who keep talking about how the record’s dead. That everybody just needs to start releasing singles or songs. Then something like Damn. comes along. Or A Seat at the Table or Blond and they’re very much---[they] needed to be records. There’s a very specific narrative. Or on the non-hip hop side, the new Fleet Foxes that just came out is very much a record. The songs exist in their own framework, or one thing at a time. But there’s this specific arc that I think it captures. Which is so much of what was enjoyable when I really started to get into music. The records and getting lost in the world it creates. 22, A Million, the Bon Iver record, huge one for me last year."
Brownson interjected to say that they listened to that Bon Iver record a lot while making their record. Hawrylak continues, "'Creeks' was one of the more frustrating songs I’ve ever heard. That was a sound that we wanted on the record. Then that came out and we were like that’s exactly what we were trying to do." Tying back into the change in path for the album, Brownson says, "It’s also a credit to how much space this record has spanned for us. Cause we were in the studio when 22 A Million came out. Since then, Dirty Projectors. Damn. I just remember seeing like all that stuff came out and saying wow, this has been a journey."
Hawrylak says the band are also able to measure their own personal growth through these records and how they've evolved for him as a listener. "Blond is a great example. That record meant something very different to me when it came out to like a year later. Particularly to that album, half of the songs I loved and half of them were like ah whatever. Then in that year, I’ve come around to see what was brilliant about those other songs," he said. Brownson echoed that, saying, "I think that over the course of the year...the advantage of making a record over the course of a long time is that you internalize what’s going on around you. You can’t help but be influenced by the trends, or the energy and culture going around. I feel like that was very--initially you think you want to get it out right away. Which, I think there’s merit to that, but I also think there’s something about sitting and letting it marinate and you as a creator, listen and try to understand its relevance. So that’s been very cool."
They Consider Chicago's Music Scene Eclectic and Collaborative
Although Hawrylak disagrees with some fellow Chicago musicians who think the record is dead, the band are all very appreciative of the collaborative scene that Chicago is known for. As far as his favorite musicians, he says, " Astro Samurai is like one of the coolest bands I’ve seen. They call themselves 'Third Eye R&B.' They’re working on something special." After Brownson interjected to show his appreciation for NoName, who they don't know personally but very much admire, Hawrylak eagerly agreed that the Chicago poet and rapper is one of his favorites as well.
Hawrylak continued on to say, "Saba is another one. We did a Sofar Sounds with David Ashley. He was the MC. He was really cool. For me so much of what’s cool is it’s rooted in poetry in a very particular way. NoName came up in the local After School Matters program. There’s a very distinct cadence to her flow that comes from that. It’s casual and maybe that’s what I like about the Chicago scene. It’s casual and eclectic. Like NoName is casually rattling off this fucking rapid fire, weird twist of images, then she starts singing and then she goes back. Jamila Woods is another one! Good god!"
Brownson then called attention to the spirit behind so many of these up and coming artists in Chicago, saying, "I think for me, the collaborative spirit and friendship. From what I read about NoName, she’s got a lot of people and this music community where they all look out for each other and help each other out. That’s just not the way I was brought up to think about the music industry. Just a group of friends getting together making good music? It was always like, sell your soul so you can continue to do this. Instead of saying no I want to have deep relationships with people. That’s part of the reason why I connect so deeply with her music, and Chance and Saba and all those people because they invite you in. It’s just this spirit of friendship."
Horton concurred with his bandmates observations on the city's spirit, saying, "It’s a small city! Especially considering the music scene." Bouncing off that small city sentiment, Hawrylak said, "Look at like the people on Acid Rap. It’s all Chicago people. It’s the whole record. That was my first exposure to the scene. I was playing bass with a guy named Brendan Forrest, he goes by B. Forrest. He’s friends with a lot of the Sidewalk Chalk people, who connected me to Jude [Shuma]. When I met Brendan, he needed a bass player, and we got connected. He started showing me his tunes and first record he came out with, was every other track was with somebody. Now he’s working on a new one, and every track is about collaboration."
Brownson wrapped up his take on the Chicago scene saying, "If you just are a good person, it pays off. Even if you don’t make big bucks, you’re gonna be happy with your relationships. If you decide I just want to make good art for the right reasons... I want people to hear it, but I’m not gonna fight and shove it down people's throats to make a dollar."
Horton chimed in with an influence of his who holds similar values, saying, "Another musician for me, is Jamie Chamberlin. He’s been a huge mentor to me. He has exemplified exactly what an old guy on the scene needs to be doing. I’ve seen a lot of musicians treat each other really poorly. It’s amazing to see a dog as old as him and how frequent he’s been on the scene, how lovely he is to be around. You can tell he’s an amazing human being. He honestly cares about you when you show up to a gig. Seeing that has made me realize what’s so amazing about music. Treating people with respect. Giving them integrity when you speak to them. Making sure everybody is held accountable for what needs to be said. I feel like that has really taken a ramp up at least in our band, as far as accountability and integrity. Seeing that roll around all these really cool scenes in Chicago is really interesting to me."
They Describe Their Live Show as Intentional Disorientation
At the Friends and Family show, the band performed the entirety of the new album to the crowd. Talking more about the set, Hawrylak said, "We’re kind of doing the whole record backwards, which is funny. I think. I’m really liking the ones that sound bigger than they should. I like the ones that take people by surprise when we have a lot of other loops and stuff going on. We were just on tour back home where I’m from, in New Mexico. One of the cooler things that one of my friends said was that she didn’t know where anything was coming from after a while. It was hard to tell who was creating what sound. I think I like getting in that space of intentional disorientation."
Although they managed to create this layered and intense live set now, Hawrylak admits it's quite challenging to get there at times. "The way we play the songs live is a little different. For better or for worse. We’ve been running into a lot of problems with sound guys when we pull out this upright, these synthesizers, all this gear...they’re like what the hell? And they’re immediately mad. Then after check, they start to kind of get that it’s supposed to be a little different. With the record we’re kind of trying to balance how do we make it it’s own thing that’s still a faithful representation in the live set. Cause we have strings and a choir and all this other stuff on the record. Live, it’s just the three of us," he said.
Brownson mentions some highlights of their recent live shows. Talking about their recent tour, he said, "We got to see Jake’s hometown. The music was incredible. The shows were incredible. But I think we all kind of had time to just spend time together as people and talk more about what and why we do music. Why we love and respect ourselves. Why it’s important to do that. In the process getting to know Jake and also Oliver who was going through some stuff. We were all going through stuff together. That relationship is a huge part of why this record feels so good and it’s a huge part of why the show is how it is because of this energy."
There's a Lot More to Come in 2017 for Sedgewick
The band is obviously ready to get the record out to listeners, but they're also ready for what goes along with a proper album release. Hawrylak elaborates, saying, "I am excited about putting out the record. It’s been a long time coming and it’ll be good to have it out in whatever form. I’m most excited about the new perception we can give people of ourselves. A lot of the songs on the EP were just completely different from where we are going with the record. I wasn’t in this band for the EP, so I can’t say much more than I like the songs. But I’m really proud of what this record has become. I’m really proud of a lot of the journey that became of it. I want to share it! We did three different tours to wet our feelers in the name of this record. I’m kind of ready to start going out and bringing it to people."
Horton reveals what he's most excited for with the upcoming release, and even afterwards saying, "I’m really psyched for scheduling and doing the PR and making sure we’re really super ready to have a huge release show. We’re really looking forward to cultivating something that nobody has ever seen before. Maybe more importantly, I’m getting super stoked to get back in the creative process with these people. Whenever that is, I think the next whatever it is, it’s gonna be much more webbed together. It’s gonna feel really good to create something again. These songs at this point are like...we’ve recreated them so many times. One of the tunes is four or five years old. We’re ready to just wipe the slate and start over."
The band continue on to say they're currently performing songs that have been around for over three years, but they still feel fresh thanks to arrangements they're worked out. They also admit they're at peace with the process taking as long as they need, saying, "We’re no longer at the point where we just want to put out the record when it’s done. We kind of want to raise some interest. And do it right. Put it in the right hands."
The trio don't have a definite release date, but they're just enjoying the process. "That’s really important. I’m looking forward to having a fresh ear for new things and I feel like this record has been--what’s great about it is, this whole thing is a process. [The record] reflects the process. The process has led us to some really cool things for the next project as well. That’s what this record is-- it encapsulates an evolution in itself. I’m excited to share that," Brownson concluded.
Photo Gallery of Sedgewick at SPACE