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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: Allman Brown

Allman Brown at SXSW 2018

Allman Brown at SXSW 2018

While at SXSW last month, we caught up London-based singer songwriter Allman Brown before one of his showcases.

Following the success of his debut album 1000 Years, Brown released his new EP Bury My Heart during the Austin festival. Tune into our chat with Allman Brown below for the backstory of the EP, his SXSW survival tips, a teaser of his upcoming North American tour and more!

What do you remember as your first musical memory, whether it was playing it or listening to it?

I grew up in Hong Kong. My mother listened to Lionel Richie a lot, so one of my first musical memories is “Dancing on the Ceiling." It inspired me to listen to a lot of pop music. I listened to a lot of Michael Jackson. So I watched "Bad" a lot...a lot. A particular music video that was really cool. I used to dance like Michael Jackson. My mother once made me dance for her tea party, in the style of Michael Jackson.

How are you feeling about releasing your Bury My Heart EP [out March 16th]?

I’m very excited, just because the album came out last year. This is just the first release where I’ve been doing full time music. These songs have been ready for quite a while and I’m pretty psyched for them to get some life and to be released. I’m thrilled. Then, I’m thinking about the next one. Just trying to get that next one lined up, get the momentum going.

Can you talk a little bit about the process behind the EP?

I went in with my friend Liz Lawrence who I did “Sons and Daughters” with way back when, and she also produced “Palms” which is on the album. I just love working with her, she’s a really good friend of mine. So we went in, and I wanted to...I wanted to do a little more electronic stuff this time. Push the dial a little bit further into the realm of electric guitar, and quite synth-heavy, reverb-heavy drums. Just to get that atmosphere. It’s not all totally like that, there’s a track on there called “Wild,” which is a bit more folky and guitar driven. But I was interested in getting that vibe done. So kind of early morning, nighttime vibes.

Taking that into the live sense, is there anyone you look up to as far as stage presence?

I just saw Bon Iver for the 6th time, and I’m not anywhere close to the amount of technology that he uses-- I saw him support Iron and Wine, and then I’ve seen him play every single album on every single tour, and it’s just kind of incredible the sheer amount of gear he has onstage now. And how he has managed to accumulate the really kind of organic, beautiful melodies that everyone loves about him with this like crazy,  I don’t know what’s going on, electric circus. I’m inspired by that. I’m kind of nervous to do live setup, I try to peel the layers away. I tend to think the less that can go wrong technologically speaking, the better. Which is why--it’s not crazy simple--but I’m comfortable with it. I haven’t been playing with a full band for that long, but now I’m really enjoying that.

What has been the biggest culture shock, either onstage or offstage when coming to America?

I’ve been to America a bunch of times and I think the biggest culture shock in terms of crowds is American crowds are so enthusiastic and lovely, and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. Crowds are great everywhere, not saying that American crowds are better, but my music is quite sentimental. I think that American audiences are quite sentimental as well. They’re happy to come up to me afterwards and talk about lyrics, and they’re really engaged, which is lovely.

Anything from just traveling around, that's a culture shock to you? 

I’m European, so I like to walk. But in America, if you walk you’re either crazy or an outcast, cause it’s a country built for cars. So Austin’s quite nice cause there’s a place you can amble about. And the food. The food is just crazy. I recently burst--it sounds very dramatic, but I burst a blood vessel in my chest, so I was coughing up blood. It happened three weeks ago and it was pretty horrible. If you’d seen me in a film, you’d be like that guy’s dead. So I can’t have rich food. So being in Texas...that’s a bit upsetting I can’t have spicy food.

Oh no! What’s your favorite food that you’ve had over here though?

I’m recently getting into the Mexican food. My wife has always loved Mexican food, and she worked in Mexico for a whole year, so I’m getting into tacos in a big way. But I now have to like check myself, cause I can’t have any hot sauce. I love hot sauce. 

 What else are you looking forward to while you’re at SXSW?

We’ve seen a couple shows--

 I saw you were at Shame earlier right? I was there too!

I did see Shame earlier, they were nuts! It’s just nice the sheer quantity of acts. I’m looking forward to seeing Jade Bird, she’s playing all over. She’s been quite pushed by the industry. I shared a bill with her once in Amsterdam, but I never met her. I’m keen to check her out. There’s so much to choose from. My manager just takes me from place to place and I just follow.

Any SXSW survival tips that you’ve picked up from your short time here?

Go to South Congress. Go across the bridge, get out of the central bit, and go to South Congress Avenue. It’s just lovely restaurants, lovely shops and it’s really beautiful. It’s quite chilled out and relaxed. And comfy shoes. That’s about it.

What else are you looking forward to the rest of tour? Any cities you’re looking forward to?

I’m playing Chicago on the 6th of May at The Beat Kitchen! The May tour-- I’m just doing SXSW and then coming back in May, and I’m just really excited to get to do a proper tour. We’ve been trying to do it for about 3 years. We have such a nice audience here, but it’s just trying to arrange the visas and the funding. Now for the first time, we’re in a position where we can do it, so I’m just excited to finally get it done and be to cities that I’ve never been to as well. To see Chicago and San Francisco as well, and hopefully soak up a bit of atmosphere between shows.

Yeah sometimes tour is so busy you can’t do anything besides go from show to show, so hopefully you get to explore a bit. 

We try to make a point to go and see something cultural, one thing at least.

Cool, and recently you released a live music video for “Moonlight.” How did that come together?

I love that way that a track can sound one way on a record and totally different live, so my friend Mary plays the cello in the live version, and it’s just amazing. So I wanted to have that counterpoint. We might release that on Spotify at some point this year as well.

Any other music video plans?

None yet, I find them really tough. I find music videos really hard. Just to get something good, cause there’s so many of them now. Unless you have a ton of money, it’s quite hard to get an ambitious idea across. I’ll do another live session for sure, but an actual music video, I haven’t done one for ages.

Do you find that you ever draw any inspiration from visual artists or anything visual (i.e films) that inspires your sound?

I don’t watch music videos any more, but a lot from films, just from cinema. That’s my big thing. For me, songwriting is you try to take a feeling, and then try to smash it and shape it and encapsulate it into a song, so whether you’ve seen a sculpture or a painting or a great film, you come out thinking oh wow I want to write a song about that. A lot of cinema does that for me.

Wrapping up, anything else besides the tour over here that you’re looking forward to this year?

I am looking forward to playing with my band again. I had a lot of fun with that, so I’m hoping to sort out more dates before the end of the year. 

Chicago, don't miss Allman Brown at Beat Kitchen on Sunday, May 6th. Grab tickets here, and check out the rest of his North American tour dates here. Get ready for the show by listening to the Bury My Heart EP in full below!

Slum Sociable's Melbourne Mood Boosting Guide

Melbourne based duo Edward Quinn and Miller Upchurch of Slum Sociable are on the brink of releasing their self-titled LP on November 24th. Dripping with melancholy, the twelve mellow and textured tracks blend together elements of electronic and indie music. To celebrate the release, the pair put together a guide to some of their favorite places to go to boost their mood. While you await the new album, check out Slum Sociable's mood-boosting guide to Melbourne. 

Photo Courtesy of Slum Sociable

Photo Courtesy of Slum Sociable

Vinyl Solution, Cheltenham

I grew up going to Vinyl Solution every weekend and crate-digging through everyone from Can to Miles Davis. It’s still my go-to store for vinyl in Melbourne. Owner Glen has an inimitable knowledge twice the size of this vinyl collection about so much great music and will be more than happy to lend a helping hand if you’re struggling for inspiration. 

Prudence, North Melbourne

I’m going to go on record here and say that Prudence is Melbourne’s best bar. It’s got a really nice, relaxed crowd and spins vinyl well into the early morning. We first discussed the recording of our debut album with producer Russell Fawcuss at Prudence, so it holds a dear place in our heart. If you’re hitting a wall in the studio, having a beer at Prudence is a nice way to replenish your creativity. 

Howler Bar, Brunswick

Howler’s my favorite place to go and check out live music. I caught Whitney there earlier this year and truly agree with them when they say that Howler is one of their top three favorite venues in the world. Acts that are quite established overseas and are about to break here usually play Howler before they come back and play far bigger shows, so it’s pretty motivating to catch them in an intimate setting. 

Fairhaven Beach, Fairhaven

We really enjoy getting away from the city and heading down the coast for writing sessions, especially at the start of Slum Sociable. I’m not going to be pretentious and insinuate that the air down there brings out a special lil something, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I guess it’s a lot easier to turn your phone off and really concentrate on what you want to achieve when the reception is terrible, and that’s exactly what we do in Fairhaven. 

Found Sound, Carlton

If you’re lacking inspiration, sometimes you’ve just got to treat yourself to a new toy. Found Sound is great for second hand music gear that’s been restored back to impeccable quality. The staff know a heap about what you’re looking for too, and if they don’t have it, they can usually point you in the right direction.

Preorder the self-titled album from Slum Sociable here, and keep up with them on social media.

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