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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.







Get To Know: Deeper

In a major city like Chicago, there's always ample opportunities to catch local bands playing live music every night of the week. Especially with venues like The Empty Bottle, Schubas, and Lincoln Hall, you can often discover a new favorite hometown band by just getting to the show early enough to catch the opener. I first discovered Deeper by doing just that; showing up early to Twin Peaks' ACLU benefit show held at The Empty Bottle back in March of 2017.

Since that show, Deeper has continued playing all around the city, from bars shows at The Whistler to a support slot at Whitney's Valentine's Day show at Thalia Hall. The band's four members, Nic Gohl, Drew McBride, Mike Clawson, and Shiraz Bhatti, have also been hard at work putting the finishing touches on their debut record, which will finally be out on May 25th via Fire Talk Records. Around the release, Deeper has put out three singles; "Pink Showers," "Pavement," and "Feels," all of which have garnered buzz and kept the momentum surrounding the album in full swing.

Just ahead of the album release, I met up with Nic Gohl and Drew McBride to get to know more about the band. Check out these six things I learned about Deeper so that you can also be in the know before their release show featuring Earring and Pool Holograph, at (you guessed it) The Empty Bottle. At the show, you'll get to hear songs from the new record played live and you can even snag a copy of the album early, so tune in and get to know Deeper. 

Photo By Alexa Viscius

Photo By Alexa Viscius


Growing Up, They Had Split Opinions on The Strokes

"I hated The Strokes," said no one ever...except for Deeper vocalist and guitarist Nic Gohl. "I like them now!" Gohl continues. "I had this vendetta against MTV and all that shit. I think I had a really shitty taste in music. I was into Ska bands at one point..." Unlike his bandmate, bassist Drew McBride talks about a fascination with The Strokes while discussing his early influences. "I think for me, the moment I was like wow I wanna play music, I was 12 or 13. I was a total nerd loser kid, so I would check out a ton of CDs from the library. I didn’t know much about indie rock before this, but I checked out The Strokes Is This It and-- it almost sounds cliche looking back on it, but I listened to that and I was like oh my god, this is the coolest thing ever.  That was sort of it for me," McBride says.

Despite Gohl's self-proclaimed questionable taste in music growing up, he still managed to get into making music at an early age. "I think it was like second or third grade and my best friend had gotten one of those Squier starter packs. I was super jealous and really wanted to start playing music because they were, so I played my brother’s shitty guitar through his practice amp, and put the distortion on, and just started kinda hitting it," he recalls about his early days of playing. 

The Group Completely Changed Up Their Sound Two Years Ago

Gohl's music taste isn't the only evolution the band has had over the years, it turns out. The original lineup that formed in 2014 actually had completely different songs and contrasted with the signature sound that the present-day Deeper has honed in on. For the group's self-titled debut that's out May 25th, the process only dates back to 2016, a couple of years after the start of Deeper. "It kinda started in 2016 when Drew joined the band. The name has been around for four years but before that, we were approaching music and trying to make something different," Gohl says. "It's essentially a different project, but the name stayed through," McBride chimes in, Gohl joking that they basically didn't feel like making a new Facebook page for the rebirth of the band. 

"When Drew came on we basically got rid of every song we had before. So none of the stuff we were playing in the earlier form of Deeper came on. It’s different, completely. We were just starting from scratch. We would have a few and be like fuck it, we should get them down on paper before we forget them," Gohl says about the writing process. "I think there’s some more guitar pop songs, and also some punkier songs that are a result of like when we recorded them. We were in a phase of writing songs that were a little more straight forward."

They Used a Piecemeal Process When Recording

Since the band first started writing for Deeper 2.0 in 2016, their recording process has been an ongoing journey. "We started slowly recording with Dave Vettraino, who recorded the whole album and was also Drew’s roommate. They used to live in a place called Public House, where numerous records....the first NE-HI--" Gohl recalls, and McBride tosses in the names of Melkbelly, The Hecks, and Pool Holograph, just to name a few of the fellow Chicagoans who have recorded with Dave. "Everyone has recorded with Dave," he says. 

"Yeah, Dave’s the best. We basically started recording tracks down there. We’d do like two days, one weekend, and then we’d maybe get back together a month or two later and record another one. Slowly we had all the bones after about a year and a half. It was a long process," Gohl adds, admitting it wasn't the most efficient process.

About halfway through the recording of the tracks on the debut, Dave moved out of Public House and started working in other studios, which Deeper couldn't afford at the time. "So we just had him come to our practice space and we recorded the rest of it there. So there’s definitely some differences in some of the songs you can hear," the band says. While there is that difference in tone that comes from the multiple recording locations and sessions, the band also sees a positive side to piecing everything together. "The tones are a little bit different from song to song cause it’s not like all the drums were tracked at the same time and mic'd in the same way. It creates a wider range of sounds," McBride says. 

"The nice part about it, for a long period of time when putting the record together, I was kind of afraid of it sounding super piecemeal. That element makes it better for the listener. It evolves throughout the record, and kind of brings you in the different mind sets we were at when we wrote and recorded those songs," Gohl reflects. 

They Believe Exposure for Some is Exposure for All

If you're a fan of music in this city, you've obviously noticed the growing buzz around the current scene, which has sent more and more bands out on national tours. In the past few years or so, we've seen bands like Whitney, Twin Peaks, NE-HI, Post Animal and more start to regularly tour the country and drastically grow their audiences. With bands popping up over night, between either new musicians just starting up and established bands kicking up side projects, it can seem daunting to try to stand out among the masses. However, as Deeper points out, it's more about camaraderie in Chicago, not competition. 

"I forget who I was talking to, someone...it might have been Drew actually," Gohl says, "But, it’s not like there’s a limit on opportunities. You know? I guess city wise, you’re fighting to get the bigger shows from bands coming from out of town. As far as getting on a record label or booking agency, if you’re gonna get on it, you’re gonna get on it. You’re not fighting those people necessarily. Focusing on that, you’re never gonna be able to do this. There’s no fucking point. I think I would never call each other competition. It helps out each other. Having like Twin Peaks and NE-HI definitely have helped us out a lot. Those are some of our closest friends. We got to watch them go through becoming a national act. Being able to see what they had to go through kind of helped us figure out how we want to attack this and make sure it can be as successful as possible."

Elaborating on the communal spirit in the city, McBride says, "When people like Whitney or Twin Peaks are successful, then people start looking at what else is going on in Chicago, so I never think yeah it’s this competitive thing. Exposure for some is exposure for everyone. If someone is like 'Oh man, Twin Peaks are cool. Who else is from Chicago?' Oh you also like NE-HI? Check out Deeper!"

All in all, the band just want to keep their focus on their work and moving forward in their own time. "We really enjoy playing together, and we’re really happy to finally get a piece of music out. I feel like we’ve definitely been humbled through the process and with that, we have no set expectations of where...we definitely want to shoot for as far as we can go, but I think we know what we’re doing more and I think that we have an honest approach. I just want it to stay fun, and keep on progressing and be able to reach more people," Gohl says. 

Tour Horror Stories Won't Keep Them Down

Every band, especially those just starting out, tend to have some battle wounds when they return from a tour. As Deeper get ready to hit the road after the album release, they recall some eventful shows in both Nashville and NYC. 

Starting off with the scarier of both tales, the band describes the time they played a Halloween show at Fond Object in Nashville, which is a record store with a performance space outside of a house. "We played with Jack White’s girlfriend at the time, who was on Third Man Records. I forget her name. We also played with these guys called the Boo Dudes. They were a Halloween cover band. They covered a bunch of songs and changed all the words to Halloween themes. Then they all wore costumes onstage. So the drummer was the Headless Horseman so it looked like he was drumming with no head," McBride says. Gohl says they hung around with the Boo Dudes afterwards and had a great time, but the night had started off rocky when they found out the promoter had double booked, and they didn't have the night. Despite the double booking fiasco, they got added onto the spooky bill and the night went from a dud to a great time. 

The last time Deeper performed on the east coast, they also had an epic comeback while in NYC. "We’re having an album release show in New York as well because that’s where Fire Talk, our record label, is based," McBride says. "To me, I’m excited for New York so that we have a little bit of redemption. Last time we played New York, we played two shows on a Friday and Saturday. As we were leaving the show on Friday- I didn’t realize it- but the car keys for our van fell out of my pocket and I didn’t realize until mid way through the next day. We’re about to go to load in and I’m like, oh my god, the keys!" McBride says they looked everywhere for the keys to the van they had rented through a service that's the car equivalent to Air BnB, but they were nowhere to be found. After even checking with the Brooklyn precinct to see if anyone had turned the keys in, the band had to let the van owner know what had happened, and Uber their gear to their Saturday show. Just as they were about to give up hope of continuing their east coast tour, McBride says Gohl convinced him to check with the police station one more time. McBride recalls, "So I go in and check again and he’s like these? And pulls out the keys. I remember sprinting out of the precinct as he was filling out the discharge forms. I kicked open the door and I was yelling THEY HAVE THEM!" Gohl remembers the band members all going crazy with excitement over the return of the keys, mentioning they all went out all night in Chinatown to celebrate.

Hopefully when Deeper plays in NYC this time, they'll only be celebrating a successful album release show, not the return of any more lost items. 

I think also to evolve the sound, you can’t just listen to the things that sound the same as you. Otherwise the album is going to be similar to what you’re already doing or what your peers are already doing. By listening to like other genres, it allows us to find what we think is cool in music that’s not the same as us.
— Drew McBride on the process of growing Deeper's sound

Most of Their Favorite Music Sounds Nothing Like Theirs

When shouting out other Chicago bands that they like to support, Gohl's and McBride's lists include the likes of Bunny, Pool Holograph, Clearance, The Hecks, The Knees, and so many more...a lot of bands that exist under the same Chicago rock umbrella. However, when it comes to listening to music from outside of the city, their picks come from all different genres. 

"I am obsessed with this band from Philly- they’re a part of the 80's post punk scene-called Crash Course In Science. They’re playing the Bottle for Cold Waves Fest, so I’m really excited to see them play. Besides that, honestly, I’m just obsessed with listening to DAMN. still. I think that will be my forever album," Gohl says. "I’ve been listening to a lot more electronic music. I’m really into synthesizers and drum machines, which is definitely something we’ve been pursuing with some of the newer stuff," he continues. 

McBride agrees, adding,"I honestly have been listening to a lot of electronic or experimental electronic music instead of solely just indie rock. Like Nicolas Jaar and Jon Hopkins and things like that. I feel like all the other music that we listen to allows us to not get burnt out on what we’re doing. If I was only listening to the same kind of music that we’re making, I just don’t think I would enjoy it as much. I think also to evolve the sound, you can’t just listen to the things that sound the same as you. Otherwise the album is going to be similar to what you’re already doing or what your peers are already doing. By listening to like other genres, or electronic music, I think it allows us to find what we think is cool in music that’s not the same as us. Then bring that back. If these other artists did something cool in this way, I don’t wanna do that same thing, but I like the concept of how they did that."


There you have it! Do not miss out on Deeper's record release show at The Empty Bottle. The band promise there will be some special surprises to set this show apart from the rest, so don't snooze!

Grab tickets to Deeper's release show here, and keep up with them on Facebook + Instagram + Twitter

A Chicago City Guide by Ganser

From our very own city of Chicago, post-punk outfit Ganser is set to release their debut album Odd Talk in just a few short days on April 20th. To celebrate the release, Ganser will hit the Empty Bottle stage tonight, April 16th to perform songs from the new album in one of the city's most legendary music venues. Ahead of the show, the band took some time to put together a guide of some of the other best spots in town. The best bars, resturaunts, venues, record shops...even the best car repair shops; you name it, Ganser didn't miss it on their guide. Get the scoop on Ganser's free show tonight here, and tune into their Chicago guide below to get to know the band a bit better!

Photo by Samantha Lare

Photo by Samantha Lare

Bars

If there’s one thing we know how to do in Chicago, it’s drink. From high end cocktails to neighborhood dives, we’ve got you covered.

Charlie Landsman: One of the best places to drink in the city is probably Longman and Eagle. You can drop $50 bucks on scotch or $1 on PBR, also they play sweet tunes.

Brian Cundiff: Rainbo Club is one of our favorites for sure. They have some of the cheapest drinks around, play top tunes and they have a vintage photo booth to commemorate your debauchery. They also regularly feature the work of local artists on their walls. 

Nadia Garofalo: I’m not a big drinker, so I’m a fan of Logan Arcade. Barcades have popped up around the city in the last few years and Logan Arcade is by far my favorite. They have three rooms of vintage (and some newer) games, along with a full bar serving fair priced drinks. Bonus, they also have an awesome record store down the block called Logan Hardware. 

Alicia Gaines: We also wanted to mention Late Bar, a great late night spot with a darker ethos. You can dance to your favorite goth/post punk/ new wave etc. tunes until 4am! 

Food

Food is a big part of culture in Chicago, here are a few of our favorite places. 

Charlie Landsman: My favorite place to eat is a tiny 10 seater in Rogers Park called Noon Hour Grill. It's super far north, so I don't get there very often anymore but I've probably been there (and this is no exaggeration) upwards of 200 times. I grew up pretty close to it and have been going since high school. I've had probably everything on the menu and now just usually get bulgogi, bee bim bop, or kimchee bulgogi fried rice. Miss you Susie.

Nadia Garofalo: For my vegan folk, you can’t beat Chicago Diner, offering comfort classics as well as contemporary dishes at both their Boystown and Logan Square locations. They carry gluten-free options too, which I’m pretty excited about. If you go, be sure to save room for one of the best vegan milkshakes around. 

Record stores

Brian Cundiff: Slightly outside the city proper, Hip Cat Records in Wilmette is a favorite of mine. They’ve had the same owner since the 80's, he's right on in his grading of used vinyl and the prices are the best around.

Alicia Gaines: I’m a fan of Bric-A-Brac Records, it’s a really cool little shop that has a good selection of local and hard to find music as well as the basics. They also have a ton of vintage/nostalgic toys and memorabilia to peruse. 

Live Music

Charlie Landsman: The Empty Bottle is probably my favorite place. I've seen some of my favorite shows there for cheap and it always sounds at the very least decent no matter where you stand. They keep their intimate rock venue atmosphere with a low stage and no barrier which is great, and they let people go pretty nuts within reason).

Alicia Gaines: I always look forward to seeing shows at Thalia Hall. It's equally great seeing shows from the floor or sitting in the balcony. It's a great stage to play, too. Charlie and I saw Xiu Xiu perform their Twin Peaks cover album there recently, my favorite show of the year so far.

Other

Brian Cundiff: Favorite Car Repair- Warren's Shell, Evanston. Warren is a straight shooter who does fantastic work and will do whatever he can to save you money.

Nadia Garofalo: Favorite coffee shop-Star Lounge, serving delicious local coffee from Dark Matter. Local art on the walls, good vibes, good music and a patio in the summer. Chicago is home to a lot of local gems, my favorite is Space Oddities, a book store/ oddities/ local handmade shop and more. Just an all-around cool place to browse. It's also near some good vintage stores.

Alicia Gaines: The Music Box theater deserves a shout-out for consistently wonderful programming in one of the most beautiful places in the city. We've always been a group that's really interested in film, so it's a frequent haunt. 


There you have it! Check out Ganser's upcoming tour dates and follow them on social media below!

4/16 - Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle (Record Release Show) 

4/25 - Detroit, MI - Outer Limits Lounge %

4/26 - Pittsburgh, PA - Howlers %

4/27 - Brooklyn, NY - Alphaville %

4/28 - Philadelphia, PA - Mothership %

4/29 - Providence, RI - Alchemy %

5/01 - Brooklyn, NY - St. Vitus

5/02 - Baltimore, MD - Sidebar

5/03 - Richmond, VA - Flora

5/04 - Raleigh, NC - Slim's

5/05 - Atlanta, GA - 529

5/06 - Memphis, TN - Bar DKDC

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Get To Know: Blue Dream

Chicago's Blue Dream is coming in hot this month with their official debut single "Freedom Eyes," which Treehouse Records will put out as their first label release. "Freedom Eyes" cranks up the volume, demanding attention from listeners, but it's only a teaser of what is to come for the four piece. Blue Dream also have their full length debut primed and ready to go, and they'll be performing most of those songs at Treehouse Records' showcase at Schubas Tavern this Thursday night. Before the show, get to know more about the band from our chat with lead singer Justin Sanetra and guitarist Anthony Cook. We talk everything ranging from their beginnings as musicians, their work with Treehouse Records, David Lynch, and McDonald's chicken nuggets. For all of the important details and the random musings of Blue Dream, keep reading to find out these 7 must-know facts about the band!

Blue Dream is  Justin Sanetra, Anthony Cook, Jimmy Russell, and Danny Awisha (not pictured)

Blue Dream is  Justin Sanetra, Anthony Cook, Jimmy Russell, and Danny Awisha (not pictured)


Jimi Hendrix and an ABC Family TV Show Inspired Them To Play Music

Justin Sanetra says he started getting into making his own music as soon as he started learning to play it. "It was kind of immediate for me. I started playing my first year of high school, and then within the span of starting, I wanted to be in bands and write songs. It’s my outlet for that," he recalled. As far as what inspired him to start playing? "Seeing Jimi Hendrix play the guitar," Sanetra says. 

Anthony Cook, or just Cook, as people call him, says his original motive behind wanting to play music is a little more shallow than that. "Honestly when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, my first experience with trying to play music was I was watching some show on ABC Family or something like that. There was this character on the show that was this high school douchebag guy, but he had a guitar and all the chicks were around him, and I was like 'damn, I wanna get a guitar.' So I tried to learn guitar when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, but I didn’t have the discipline to do it." Cook continues on to say he bought a guitar in 8th grade and finally took it seriously.  "I took it from there, practicing a lot. Especially playing with these guys and playing with other musicians is what really made me realize this is what I want to do with my life," he adds. 

Cook and Sanetra also mention that they'd played music with other people in high school, but they joined forces as they graduated and haven't looked back since. It's now been 6 or 7 years that the members of Blue Dream have played together. 

They All Dabble With Other Bands and Side Projects

Although Blue Dream is the main priority of Sanetra, Cook, and their bandmates, Cook says they also have side projects that they work on. "My other group that I play in is called St. Marlboro. We’re gonna be recording [at Treehouse] next week, so I don’t know when that’s gonna come out. The road is long ahead of us, but we’re gonna record here and we’ve had all the songs for a while," he says. 

Sanetra also plays in the live lineup for Strange Foliage, who open up the Treehouse show this Thursday. "It’s a newer project. It’s more of a solo project from a guy Joey Cantacessi and he found some friends to play live with him," Sanetra adds.

Both Cook and Sanetra also say how much they love being a part of the collaborative Chicago scene. "Just how into it everyone is. The energy of it. There’s so many bands, so many different types of bands," Sanetra adds to his list of pros to the Chicago scene. Cook echoes that sentiment, adding, "There’s a lot of diversity in it, but I think my favorite thing about it is the fact that it’s so big that there has to be bands that are taking it seriously. In a small town there might be like one band that’s really taking it seriously. There’s so much competition here it’s driving everyone to be better." Lastly, they name Zoofunkyou, Post Animal, and Groovy Louie & the Time Capsules as some of their favorite local bands. 

They Became Treehouse's First Label Release In a "Right Place Right Time" Moment

As Cook mentioned, his other band St. Marlboro will record at Treehouse, as does Strange Foliage and of course Blue Dream. The list of Chicago bands recording at Treehouse goes on and on, and Blue Dream have the honor of being the first release on Treehouse's Record's label.

Talking about the chance to work with Treehouse, Sanetra says, "It happened kind of spontaneously. We always had friends that recorded here and we kind of took forever to get our shit together and get stuff recorded. We finally booked time here and we ended up talking to Matt [Gieser] about how they wanted to start a label. It just worked out with the timing, with us releasing our first single besides a demo we did a few years ago. Also there’s an album too that’s been about 4 or 5 years in the making."

Cook can't say enough positive things about the studio, adding, "The main reason I wanted to record here...first of all, it’s been recommended to me by friends and other local musicians. One thing I noticed is that all their records, every band I knew that made a record here, it sounded like how they sound live. They capture their sound the way it’s supposed to be. They didn’t totally-- it’s never over produced, it’s all analog. It’s all tape. I thought that was really cool." 

As far as the actual 7" that will be released this Thursday, Cook says, "The song that’s the A side of the single ["Freedom Eyes"] came together pretty much right before we recorded. Some of the songs that are gonna be on the full length are older ones from a couple years ago, but the single was fresh."

"There’s a good mix of songs that we’ve been working on for a while. Then there’s songs that we’ve never played live and wrote in the studio," Sanetra says about the upcoming album. 

They All Play Equal Part in the Process

As with most bands, Blue Dream says their writing process varies per song. However, Cook says, "It’s largely hinged upon Justin’s songwriting. He usually brings in the idea and then the rest of us fill in the spaces and lay out the song." "I go out and hunt the food," Sanetra continues, with Cook interjecting to say, "And we cook it. I put on the seasoning. Danny hammers out the meat. Jimmy fries it..."

Sanetra discusses the particular process for "Freedom Eyes," saying, "It was kind of scattered lyrics over just so many things going on in our world right now. So many people have different opinions. We get caught up on there’s a right and wrong." Cook picks it up here, adding, "It’s all arbitrary. There’s no such thing as right and wrong. We invented that. That makes me think of the fact how connected the world is right now. Everyone is always looking at their phones and always connected to everybody else. It’s definitely got some pros...there’s a lot of conveniences that come out of that, but at the same time, I feel like it’s pushing people further and further away from each other. It’s dividing people. I think it especially has an impact on the music industry. It’s very different these days. It used to be if you didn’t get on a major label, you had no chance of anyone hearing your shit. But now, anybody with a computer in their bedroom can make an album. That makes a lot more competition, a lot more good music, and a lot more bad music. It’s all relative. There’s no good or bad expect what’s relative to each person. The average of society is what’s considered right and wrong." After this reflection, Cook lightens to the mood, joking, "We’re getting a little too metaphysical right now. Let’s talk sports!"

Their Album Features the Sound of a Toilet Smashing and a Chicago Traffic Jam

There's still no official word on when we'll get the full length debut from Blue Dream, but they were even considering dropping it digitally the day of their release show, or on New Years Eve for the last album of the year. While the timing still isn't decided, one thing the band knows is that one of their favorite tracks is called "Battle of Cicero." 

"That’s a tough one. I’m most excited for...we have a 15 minute song. It's an adventure of a song," Sanetra says about the tune when he was trying to pick out his favorite song on the album. 

Cook agrees, adding, "It’s interesting, it features a drum solo from our drummer Danny. All done live...almost everything we did on that song was done live. Other than the fact that we threw a toilet off a balcony and mic'd that up. We smashed an acoustic guitar. We were trying to create an ambience of destruction and violence." Sanetra chimes in" [It's] pretty much what Chicago sounds like."

Although throwing a toilet off a balcony sounds like the most extreme thing you could do for abstract recordings, Blue Dream didn't stop at that. "I caused a traffic jam. I parked at the green light at Cicero and Wrightwood. I just parked at the green light for two green lights so people would honk at me and scream at me. Like 'Fucking Move!!' and all that, and just had a mic hanging out the window," Cook continues. 

The band definitely thought outside the box to create a diverse and cinematic album. "I think we were trying to keep a bit of a variety but with a cohesive sound. A lot of it’s heavier stuff, but there’s some moments where it’s more melodic. There’s dynamics in it. We were trying to---I don’t want to say showcase our different sounds, but the songs we have tend to be pretty different from one another. You can tell they’re all Blue Dream songs, but they’re all pretty unique. We’re trying to make a record where the songs are far enough apart that it stays fresh the whole time. You don’t get locked in one sound. It’s like, you get the general aesthetic of the band," Cook says. Just like a movie, he adds, "Each scene might have different lighting or a different kind of ambience to it, but they’re all parts of the same movie." 

(Oh, and the toilet was found in an alley and in clean condition they say, if you were wondering...)

They're Chicken Nugget and Mozzarella Stick Connoisseurs  

While they're on the subject of the band's identity, Cook says, "Blue Dream can be boiled down to marijuana, electric guitars...LSD, McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets. And Signature Sauce!" He adds, "I’d like to plug Signature Sauce. It’s the best sauce you can get at McDonald's for your chicken nuggets. Don’t get the strips. The nuggets are the way to go. They have the new Buttermilk strips...it sounded so good, I tried it. The only time I tried it, I was on my way to record here. They were alright, but I wish I would have gotten nuggets."

Sanetra mentions he misses the mozzarella sticks from McDonald's, and it turns out Cook also has the local mozz stick wisdom and expertise. "If we’re talking mozz sticks, you’ve got the breaded kind with the bread crumbs, and you’ve got the Italian bread crumbs on it. The ones where it’s like deep fried and flakier, those are the ones that I like," Cook says before plugging Snappy Dog as having the absolute best cheese sticks, which they call Snappy Stix. "It’s like an eggroll. It’s like the casing of it is what an eggroll looks like. But instead of vegetables and rice, it’s cheese," he says. 

There you have it...Make sure you pick up some Snappy Stix when you're listening to Blue Dream's album for the first time to get an authentic Blue Dream listening experience.

I think we were trying to keep a bit of a variety but with a cohesive sound. A lot of it’s heavier stuff, but there’s some moments where it’s more melodic. There’s dynamics in it.
— Cook on the theme of the upcoming Blue Dream album

They Like Twin Peaks the Band, But Like The TV Show Even More

As a supporter of the local music scene and just good art in general, Cook brings up Twin Peaks....both the TV show and the Chicago band.  "I like Twin Peaks the band, but Twin Peaks the TV show changed my life," he says. 

Cook has watched the entire series, including the recent reboot, or third season as it's been considered by many. If you watched the show yourself, make sure you talk to him on Thursday night about his take on the series ending. If you didn't watch it, we'll avoid any spoilers, but seriously, just go watch it. 

Cook also says that David Lynch and Twin Peaks have influenced the music and direction of Blue Dream. "That program definitely influenced our music video I would say. David Lynch is probably my favorite director of all time," he says. 

As far as his favorite character on the new season, Cook says, "I really liked Jim Belushi in the new season. I didn’t know much about his acting career prior to that, other than According to Jim, and I thought that was fucking stupid. He was amazing in Twin Peaks. Blown away by Jim Belushi’s acting...."


There you have it! Don't forget, Blue Dream play their release show at Schubas THIS Thursday, December 7th. Grab your tickets here. If the idea of them playing their entire album isn't enticing enough, Cook says, "We’re having a hologram of John Lennon performing "Imagine" in the middle of our set!" Whether or not that's true, it looks like you'll have to go to the show to find out.  

As for next year, Blue Dream will be touring across the Southeast, so make sure you follow their social media to stay informed on all things tour.

Blue Dream:

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You can also pre-order the 7" single here. 

Get To Know: Capital Soirée

Indie pop-rock band Capital Soirée knows how to write a song with a sticky, stuck-in-your-head melody. Since forming in 2013, the group has released a handful of singles, including two EPs called Next Weekend and Take Me Anywhere. Founding members James Kourafas, Max "Rom" Romero, and Steven Rejdukowski have also been playing around the city for years, recently adding on a live drummer, Griffin Shaw. Last weekend, we chatted with the four-piece before they headlined the main room stage at Wicker Park's Subterranean to not only celebrate their upcoming EP, but the one year anniversary of Griffin joining the live band....and Max's birthday. In our interview, the group discusses their new music, the lessons they've learned over the summer, their evolution as a band, and more. Here are five things you need to know about Capital Soirée!

Capital Soirée is Max "Rom" Romero, James Kourafas, and Steven Rejdukowski

Capital Soirée is Max "Rom" Romero, James Kourafas, and Steven Rejdukowski


They've Changed Roles Since the Band Started

The three core members of Capital Soirée are all multi-instrumentalists and have all been able to take on multiple roles throughout the years. After initially starting to play drums at age 6, Max Romero eventually picked up the bass, which has since remained his role in the band today. Vocalist and guitarist James Kourafas describes his start in music, saying, "I was like 9 or 10. [Max and I] initially had met in third grade. We had this whole thing that we were gonna start a rock band." Steven Rejdukowski, who now plays guitars and keys in the current day lineup says, "I learned how to play drums so I could be in a band," after meeting Kourafas and Romero and finding out they needed a drummer to complete their band. He had initially picked up a guitar and learned to play at age 14. Griffin Shaw came in to play the live drums with a lot of experience already under his belt. "I've been playing [drums] 12 years now. My grandpa plays jazz drums. So he got me into the drum world pretty early," he recalled. The band's ability to be flexible and take on playing multiple instruments had led them to a seamless live show, even with the new material they debuted at the Subterranean. 

They've Recently Taken on Producing Their Own Music

The band have been working away on new music that not only features a more developed sound, but a more in-depth process behind the scenes. Talking more about their current recording process, Rejdukowski says, "We record at my house. I’ve been building a studio for the past 6 years or so. We recorded at a few places before when we were younger and we kind of hated it." Echoing that sentiment, Kourafas says, "It took us a while to come to the realization that so much of a record’s sound actually has to do with the way it was recorded and produced and mixed. At the time when you’re younger, you don’t necessarily have the words to express what you’re trying to get down so you’re kind of at the mercy of the producer who’s recording you. That’s kind of what drove us to want to do the DIY thing." As far as who takes the lead in their production work, the band says it's a democratic system, each on them getting an input. "Yeah we kinda all just sit around the computer, and one person drives, and we all make our own comments," Romero describes their process. 

The band also discuss some of their favorite producers that they admire and look to for influence. "I really like the band Hoops, their production style. It’s not so much an inspiration for our music, but I admire that sort of lo-fi production. But we also like hi-fi, like super high fidelity electronic stuff. There's all sorts of different styles that we’re trying to mesh together,Kourafas says. "If I had a big influence...Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. He was the whole reason I wanted to record and build a studio, besides that I’m tired of hearing other producers tell us what to do. He opened my eyes,Rejdukowski chimed in. 

They Spent the Summer Locked Up in the Studio...and Other Places

The band have spent a large chunk of the summer recording and producing their upcoming EP. Talking more about the direction of the songwriting style for this new material, Romero says, "It’s slowly been evolving. Back in the day, one of us would write a song on acoustic guitar, bring it to the group, and figure out parts from them. Nowadays it’s more like ok we have a song pretty much written. For the most recent recordings, we had demos that we made ourselves and we brought them all together and kind of decided which one was gonna be the best and from there we opened up the doors. So anyone could add on anything they want." The amount of collaboration varies track by track with the band's best interest in mind. "A big thing with the technique we’re using now is we’re trying to get past our own personal egos and make music that we feel is the best possible music we could make. Being in the studio... it really lends itself to coming up with different sounds," Kourafas adds. 

So while the band has been working hard, remaining locked up in Steven's studio to get this new music complete, they did also have a scheduling conflict pop up, when Romero got literally locked up for getting caught with a little bit of Colorado's finest export at Bonnaroo Festival and didn't show up to his hearing. Consequently, he got sentenced to two weeks in jail in Coffee County, Tennessee. Despite the setback, Romero gained some wisdom from the experience. "The biggest lesson I learned besides don’t take drugs across state lines, is don’t stress the shit that you can’t control. Cause you can, especially in jail, go crazy. Like, I can’t do anything about the fact that I’m gonna be in here for two weeks. You just have to sit back and let the world do it’s thing. Control what you can and don’t kill yourself over the shit you can’t control," he says. 

The Subterranean Holds a Lot of History for Them

The band has played all around the city over the years, but the SubT holds a special place in their heart. Their show last week acted as one of several times they've played that stage. So what are some of their favorite memories from the Wicker Park venue? "There was that one time you ripped my shirt off [to James]. That was one of the first times I had my shirt off at a show," Romero recalls. He also describes another time he stage dove at their last EP release show, saying, "I was over on the front by the monitors. My friend who is like 6’5, pretty large guy like grabs me and picks me up. This was during 'The Count.' I’d never stage dove before. It was kind of scary cause I was like I still have to play these parts... I didn’t want want to hit anybody with the bass!" Griffin Shaw also played his very first show with the group on the SubT stage.

This most recent performance will most likely go down on their list of Subterranean memories, seeing as Romero did take his shirt off again at the end of their set, and they played one of their unreleased tracks. The experience of playing this new song already proved to be landmark for the band, Romero pointed out. "It’s weird because before when we wrote songs, we would play them all together before we would even record them. This is the first time we’ve flipped it around. So we recorded first and now we’re playing it." Kourafas agrees, saying, "It’s kind of goofy cause we had to like learn our own songs. At the time when we recorded, we lay down what we lay down and don’t necessarily think about it too much."

Their List of Dream Collaborators is a Cross-Genre Super Group

If the band could collaborate with anybody in the world, Rejdukowski says he'd love to work with Tame Impala, since Kevin Parker has inspired him as a musician and producer. Romero throws out The Weeknd as a personal bucket list collaboration, while Kourafas says Phoenix and Shaw named Hans Zimmer. Basically, their dream collaborators sounds like an ideal super group that needs to happen at one point in the future. The group also shout out their bucket list venues and festivals,  Rejdukowski saying, "Absolute dream place--kind of cliché, but Red Rocks!" Romero mentions Shaky Knees festival, which takes place every Spring in Atlanta.

Although they'd love to one day work with more established acts and work their way up to playing bigger shows, the band also have a lot of hometown appreciation. Talking about the Chicago scene, Romero says, "Rare is it that we’ve found people who are shitty. Everyone is pretty supportive honestly. The Chicago local scene...I’ve never really been around other local scenes, but from what I’ve heard it’s pretty large." Rejdukowski agrees, adding, "Even like a lot of the bands we play with, they don’t necessarily sound like our music, but that’s the best part about it. The people who come to the shows are exposed to more genres and everyone is just vibing on it." As far as their favorite fellow Chicago musicians, the band shout out Floral Couches. "They’re great. Last time we played here we got to meet them. We all really fuck with The Walters. I like the Symposium. Post Animal’s great. [Twin] Peaks..." Romero says. 


The band says we can expect a new 7-track Capital Soirée EP and some music videos before the end of the year. While we await the new music, check out photos from the band's show at Subterranean, including some Behind the Scenes shots. 


Follow Capital Soirée on Social Media:

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Listen to the latest EP "Take Me Anywhere" Below:

Catching Up With: White Mystery

If you're at all familiar with the Chicago music scene, you've undoubtedly seen White Mystery out and about over the years. The sibling duo of Alex and Francis White still manage to pack a serious punch with all of their live performances, despite only being a two-piece band. In addition to developing a full live show between the two of them, Alex and Francis have remained completely hands on with all aspects of the band, from management to booking tours to sending press releases...they do it all. In between all of that hustle, the pair still find time to put out an album every year on April 20th. Their latest, Fuck Your Mouth Shut, marks their eighth studio album, and their ninth is on the way in 2018. In the midst of working on new music, playing shows, and gearing up for tour, the duo developed their own TV show called (you guessed it)... White Mystery TV! The show has featured artists from all corners of the local Chicago scene and just wrapped its first season (but more on that later). Before White Mystery start their tour along the east coast and midwest this Friday, we chatted with Miss Alex White after their set at The Slippery Slope Anniversary party last weekend. Here are six things you need to know to get caught up with White Mystery!

Photo Credit:  Diane Alexander White

Photo Credit: Diane Alexander White


Their Influences Provided "Permission By Example" 

While strolling down memory lane trying to pinpoint what first inspired her to pick up an instrument, Alex White describes two distinct childhood memories. "When I was pretty young, my mom would take me to the dollar store, called Amazing Savings. And they had discount tape cassettes of oldies music. Like all the great one hit wonders from the 60's, and I really really loved those songs," Alex recalls. She continues describing her journey to rock 'n'roll, saying, "As far as the moment that inspired me to start playing rock 'n' roll….And I’ve said this a couple times too because it was just that distinct of a moment that I remember... I was in fourth grade, and my parents were repurchasing their old record collections on CDs 'cause CDs were like a new invention, you know? I heard The Who for the first time, and the album was Who’s Next by The Who. It’s the classic song “Baba O'Riley,” which is like [singing] 'Teenage Wasteland...' And that song just really connected with me. Where I was like I need to play guitar, this is so cool!"

The inspiration continued through Alex's teen years, where she found influence in other bands. "If you flash forward a little bit...Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth. I heard Sonic Youth and I was like I can do this! This is so great, this is so powerful. It’s a female singer, she’s playing guitar, it’s experimental...I really believe in permission by example. You see something and you’re like oh yeah, I could do that! Maybe better, or differently. And Sonic Youth really did that for me when I was about 14 or 15," Alex says. She also reveals that some of her artistic and musical talent stems from somewhere down her family tree. "My mom played piano as a very young person, but her job is being a photographer. My grandfather, who passed away when I was like 5, really young, he played mandolin. So he never showed me how to play, and I don’t even have memories of him playing...But, I’m convinced that I’m genetically predisposed to having really fast fingers and that kind of thing. So while I didn’t know him very well and he never taught me, I feel that the heritage lended to it," she says. 

They're Always Up for the DIY Hustle

In addition to rocking the stage all by themselves, Alex and Francis White know how to work the DIY system as a band...and man do they work hard! Talking about the benefits and challenges that they face being an independent band, taking on multiple roles, Alex says, "Well like anything there’s pros and cons to being DIY. The biggest pro is that when you take on multiple roles, like when you become the management, the licensing agent, the booking agent, and the art director... and the the creative force, you can make a career out of it." She continues to give major props to her brother Francis, saying it's very much a partnership. For any struggling musicians or music industry professionals, just remember Alex's "permission by example" principle and look at how she has earned a living with White Mystery. 

"This has been my job full time for 7 years. It’s a very bohemian lifestyle. I work really fucking hard and all day long, but in the comfort of my own home or on tour with a laptop," Alex continues, vouching for the DIY lifestyle.  However, she does also recognize the potential downfalls. "The disadvantage is that it can be very challenging to penetrate these very established systems. Something like Lollpalooza...While we play big ass shows in Chicago, we played in Japan, we’ve been in Sundance Film Festival movies. We’ve played with Patti Smith and The Stooges many times. We played Riot Fest...for some reason it’s been damn near impossible to get into Lolla, while we’ve put 8 albums out," Alex continues. She still manages to see the positive side of the situation and brace herself for the challenges, adding, "So there’s certain things, but I try to convince myself that everything happens for a reason, and I just kind of stick to my vision, and good things always happen when you do that. You’re gonna have challenges. Be prepared for the challenges."

Video Games Inspired White Mystery TV

Well kind of...For the past month, White Mystery have invited different artists and musicians around Chicago over to talk, play music, and play video games. All while broadcasting live; hence the name White Mystery TV. Talking about the origin of this clever concept, Alex says, " I have to give my brother Francis credit for it. He plays a lot of video games, and there’s this network called Twitch. It seems like a lot of people in the rock scene aren’t very familiar with it...It’s the second largest streaming service on planet earth. World wide." Alex continues on to say that there's been times on tour where she and Francis wished they could share their view with friends and family back home. "Before Facebook Live and Instagram Live...it was more like us driving through the Swiss Alps thinking this is so crazy and so beautiful, I wish we could show people back home what this looks like," she says.

The inspiration to launch WTV also stemmed from their past work on a White Mystery film, called "That Was Awesome." Alex says their past work on that film coupled with their desire to share their experiences beyond their live concerts helped push the project forward. "We’re realizing wow, our worldwide audience is able to watch us. So while there might be 100 people at the show, there might be 1000 people watching," she continued. Talking more about the show itself, Alex says, "It took a long time to develop it because of the technology required to make the infrastructure. It’s not like 'Hey I have an iPhone..” let me hold it up to something. It’s a little more sophisticated. So when people are watching they’re getting a little more of the Wayne’s World basement thing, but what we’ve done is bring all of our favorite musicians on. So people are like wow, that’s so great you have so many cool local musicians. Like The Orwells...Mario [Cuomo] was one episode one. Twin Peaks are freakin’ huge!" The show has also had rappers like ShowYouSuck, Joseph Chilliams, Mykele Deville, as well as newer buzzy bands like Bunny and Post Animal. "We’ve been trying to represent the city of Chicago so that we can share what’s going on here with our audience in like Germany and Japan. It’s been a really cool thing and they’re all archived on YouTube so you can watch them again. They’re like each 3 hours long," Alex concluded. Make sure you tune into Season 2 when it starts!

They've Witnessed the Peaks and Valleys of the Chicago Scene

Speaking of representing the local Chicago scene on White Mystery TV, Alex and I also discussed some of her favorite parts of the scene at the moment, and how it has gone through cycles. "Chicago is a very special place. I’m born and raised here in the city. Having gone to New York and LA and San Francisco...Chicago is a very supportive, cooperative scene. There’s a lot of idea exchange and support," Alex says. 

"I guess what I love most is the mutual support people give each other, and that goes across the arts. That goes to comedians. DJs. Actors and Actresses. Everybody is like 'I’d love to help you with that.' It’s not this cut throat thing. There’s friendly competition where we push each other higher. But the community is full of support," she continued. 

This principle of helping each other out and lifting each other up can be seen just on White Mystery TV alone, when genres are mixed and collaborations extend to poets and performing artists, not just musicians. It's also demonstrated in Lollapalooza performances here, like when Joey Purp showed up for a song with Whitney. "It’s genre bending," Alex says before shouting out her favorite venues in the city. "I love the Empty Bottle. The DIY scene is very, very strong. There’s a new one every time. I’m kind of older than a lot of people in the scene. So how you were saying 'Wow, Chicago’s really popping right now…” I’ve seen several cycles take place. There was a point when I was younger when a place like The Empty Bottle would not book rock shows. They would only book very kind of indie stuff. I’ve seen it with highs and lows. And it’s always good, and there’s always stuff happening, but there’s definitely times where it’s thriving and that’s cool to watch," she says.

I try to convince myself that everything happens for a reason, and I just kind of stick to my vision, and good things always happen when you do that. You’re gonna have challenges. Be prepared for the challenges.
— Alex White on Being a DIY Musician

They Stay Entertained on the Road By Reading Wikipedia Pages

Since they're gearing up for tour (starting tonight), Alex and Francis discussed how they stay entertained on the road and what they're looking forward to on this particular run. Although Francis had been loading out for most of the interview with Alex, he jumped in for this question. 

"Reading Wikipedias is a very interesting way to observe a story of a person or place or event," Francis chimed in about their road trip habits. Off the back of that, Alex says, "I read books to him for hours at a time. I recently read the entire Mount Everest Into Thin Air book to him. I read the whole thing. We read Wikipedias...He drives, and I’ll read. Hours will go by. We’ll be like oh my gosh, you know that was 3 hours. Sometimes you read these biographies of like James Brown and you’re like crying at the end. You’ve started with the moment they were born and gone through their whole life, to the moment they died. It’s very emotional to go on that trek."

Although they educate themselves on the road by reading, the biggest lesson from touring and playing music is unrelated to Wikipedia and books. "I never really had to learn this lesson, it was just something we knew, but don’t leave your guitar or money in the car. Don’t leave your passports. Or the stuff you need. Ever," Francis says. Alex and Francis both emphasized the importance of knowing when to stick together and not splitting up while on the road. 

As far as where they're most excited to play on this run? "Meltasia," both of them said in unison when I asked. "I’m looking forward to Meltasia, but I’m mostly looking forward to the drive into Meltasia cause for my sister and I, it’s always a really special drive where we blast Led Zeppelin...we’re going deep into the woods, further and further and further away. Usually all we have is a case of beer and that’s it. No tents, no water, and we just know we’re gonna hang as long as we can, and shotgun as many beers as we can. The build up to it is one of my favorite feelings throughout the whole year," Francis elaborated. "It’s the anticipation of getting there. It’s the journey. A lot of people have told that to me in my life, and now I really, really believe that," Alex chimed in. 

Despite Her Vintage Style, Alex Admits She's Bad at Thrifting

Again, if you've seen White Mystery around, chances are you've noticed Miss Alex White's incredible retro inspired style, and no one pulls it off as well as she does! Fortunately for Alex, she's able to acquire most of her clothes, she says, admitting that she's not actually that great at thrifting. "A lot of my stuff just comes from my friends. I get a lot of custom made clothing now. When I went to The Grammys I had this amazing custom made jumpsuit. I was the Vice President of the Recording Academy for the Midwest. So I’d go to the Grammys and get to walk the red carpet with all these cool clothes," Alex reveals.

Alex also gave her mom props for being a great thrifter, even though that didn't pass down to Alex.  "What I love shopping for is shoes. These shoes, they’re just really practical and comfy, just wood platforms...I’ve had so many versions of this kind of shoe. We were in Beverly Hills and we played on late night television, The Carson Daly Show. After we were walking around Beverly Hills. I was like oh, a shoe store, cool! I go in there and find these, they’re made in Portugal, I was like oh, I like ‘em...once in awhile treat yourself. So I bought these shoes, I left the store, and I look at the storefront and see this is like an old lady shoe store. I just bought shoes from like an orthopedic shoe store," she recalled. 

Alex's once last piece of style advice? "I don’t buy vintage shoes...vintage clothes, but never vintage shoes. I was crossing the street once in a vintage pair of shoes, and my heel broke, and I wiped out on the street. I was like never again!"


Check out all of White Mystery's tour dates below and keep up with them on social media.

White Mystery: Facebook. Twitter. Instagram

09/01/17   Experimental Procedures Chelsea, MI Details
09/02/17   Happy Dog Euclid Tavern Cleveland, OH Details
09/03/17   Arsenal Lanes Pittsburgh, PA Details
09/04/17   The Pharmacy Philadelphia, PA Details
09/07/17   St. Vitus Brooklyn, NY Details
09/10/17   Meltasia Fest East Durham, NY Details
09/11/17   Bug Jar Rochester, NY Details
09/13/17   State Street Pub Indianapolis, IN Details
09/15/17   Trumpet Blossom Iowa City, IA Details 
09/16/17   Farnam Fest Omaha, NE Details
09/22/17   Ingenuity Fest Cleveland, OH Details


Also- Listen to White Mystery's 8th album Fuck Your Mouth Shut below!

An Interview With Modern Vices: An Excerpt From Sub/Verse Zine

Fellow Chicago music publication Sub/Verse Zine is gearing up for issue no. 10 of their zine, The Interview Issue. Check out this excerpt of Sub/Verse's editor Chloe Graham's interview with Chicago's own Modern Vices, which can be found in the new issue.

Photo and Interview by Chloe Graham

Photo and Interview by Chloe Graham

Modern Vices is a name that comes up a lot when you talk about Chicago music these days. But unlike many bands that form under the influence of a specific music scene, they don’t sound much like the other guys. Their songs sound like slow moments of significance and extremes, calms and lows. Their show on Friday at Beat Kitchen with White Reaper will be the first time I see them, but I can imagine people dancing to their music in a trance, not exactly violently moshing like you might see at an Orwells or Twin Peaks show (though there is always a place in my heart for plenty of that). Here is my interview with frontman Alex Rebek; enjoy, and see them May 5th with White Reaper at Beat Kitchen!

How did you get started with music?

Alex Rebek: Back in middle school me and my friends thought it would be cool to start a band, so one thing led to another… We were covering bands we liked, like the Strokes and Radiohead. As time went on we got more serious, writing our own songs. After being in three bands, I’m in this band! How I started making music was my sister and I sang with each other all the time. Overtime, music has just become a main part of my life. Same for the rest of us, we have all evolved over time, and now we’re together.

Whats behind the name of your band?

AR: Modern Vices was originally called Baby Baby, after the Supremes song. After releasing our first record, we found out there was another band called Baby Baby, and we had to change it for our record deal. So it took us like an entire day to come up with ideas but we just landed on Modern Vices, and it just stuck with us.

What are your favorite things to write about?

AR: I want to say like love, and struggles, you know? Just everyday struggles and I feel like thats what translates the most with us, into our music and how we’re able to express ourselves. So romantic stuff,  but also the underlying issues that would make anyone emotional. Also just writing in the moment, like however I was feeling that particular day. I really like doing that because thats as real as it gets, when your actually feeling the way the song feels as your writing it.

How does being a musician in Chicago effect how you make music, or how does it inspire you?

AR: In Chicago the scene is really great, and everyone is really supportive of each other. All the bands are pushing each other at the same time, so it's a good environment for rising bands. There is some competition, but everyone is still supportive. So it's just a good way to progress at becoming a better band. Living in Chicago has really pushed us to be who we want to be.

Yeah, I think when musicians are really competitive, they rarely get too far since they don’t want to work together with anyone else.

AR: Yeah, there’s always that underlying competition, I guess, but when you’re also friends with these people, everyone’s supportive of each other. I’ve gotten together bands and we’ve had little listening parties, and listened to each others new music, not to criticize it, but to give constructive criticism. Its a good place to be because you don’t think you’re the only band in town, because you’ve got all these bands around town that you’re constantly thinking about, like, “oh what are they doing?”, or “could we do that differently?” Since moving from the suburbs to Chicago we’ve become good friends with Twin Peaks, and being friends with them has helped us in a lot of different ways, in terms of their support and the shows they’ve gotten us on.

How has your approach to making music changed since you started as a band?

AR: When the first record was made we were all going to college. I was going to college in upstate New York, at Skidmore, and the rest of the guys were going to school in the city. Peter was at Columbia, and Patrick, Thomas, and Miles were going to DePaul, and we decided we were going to make the record over winter break, just as a fun thing to do. We were like, we can just make this record, put it out, and that's it. Once the record was released, it actually got some traction and the record label hit us up and was like “do you want a record deal?” and we made some decisions, and dropped out of school for the band. Since then, with the second record, the one we’re about to finish today, we’ve taken a lot of time to think about what band do we really want to be, and we’ve definitely evolved a lot. There’s still little snippets of the first record, like similar vibes, but with time we’ve become something really different.

Whats your least favorite thing about being a musician?

AR: Hm… that's a hard one… I feel like a while ago I would have said touring, not just touring but just driving a lot. But I’ve grown to like it. So I’d say my least favorite thing is maybe the schedule, it just messes up your schedule. You’re always up late, waking up late. That might be the worst part, but all around I think we all really enjoy it, and want to continue to do it.

Do you have any guilty pleasure music?


AR: Just like hip hop, and random songs that really aren’t that good but are fun to put on. There’s probably a lot that we listen to and always joke around about, but I can’t narrow it down right now. But you could put Drake down, I think thats a good one.

Keep up with Sub/Verse on their social media:

Instagram: @subversesmusic

Twitter: @subverses_zine