Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cajun band Lost Bayou Ramblers to perform in Chicago on heels of new live album


The excitement and energy that Grammy nominated rock influenced Cajun band Lost Bayou Ramblers generates on stage is documented on the band's new live album, "Gasa Gasa Live," which will be released Sept. 30.

In support of the new album, Lost Bayou Ramblers will perform Oct. 5 at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St., Chicago. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $15, available at www.citywinery.com/chicago.

I had the chance to talk to the band about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you. Your last live album, "Live A La Blue Moon," was released in 2007. Was it just the right time to do another live album? What was it about that show at Gasa Gasa that made you want to record it?


The beauty of "Gasa Gasa Live" is that we didn't know the show was being recorded in multi-track, so we weren't at all self-conscious. It was our third show that day, we were on fire, and it was our first time to perform at Gasa Gasa, and we had an amazing show, so when they told us they recorded it we knew it was worth a listen.

It really is a perfect snapshot of where we've come in our live show since the release of "Mammoth Waltz." 

Q - The album features a new song from your upcoming studio album. What should people expect from the new album? Are you following in the same direction as your last album, "Mammoth Waltz?"

We're definitely picking where we left off with "Mammoth Waltz." As much as "Mammoth Waltz" was a huge step from our previous albums, it was a natural progression, not an overnight remake.

It's all about embracing our generation, and not trying to freeze tradition in time, but to grow it and keep it alive.

Q - On your last album, you add more rock influences into the mix. What were your goals for the album and do you think you accomplished them? Did you think that the album would be so well received? 

The goal for "Mammoth Waltz" was to create new songs that were exactly what we wanted to hear, with no censorship, no filter, or no fear of it not being traditional or Cajun. We brought back tunes from the late 1800s and early 1900s, and brought new originals, but it's hard to tell which is which.

Much of the album was recorded during the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010, which no doubt had a lot of influence on the lyrics of the album. 

It's all about expressing our experience in this time, not trying to re-live another era.

Q - The album also features a number of guest stars, including Dr. John, Scarlett Johansson and Gordon Gano from the Violent Femmes. What do you think they brought to the table? 

All three of our guests were organic relationships, and they all happened at different points in the recording process. We were influenced by all three musically ("Anywhere I Lay My Head" was a big influence on me at the time) and knew their contributions would all take the songs to another level, and they did.

Their artistic contributions are as heavy as their names, and we're lucky that such amazing people were game to share their art with us.
Q - The band is also featured on the soundtrack to "Beasts of the Southern Wild." What was that experience like and do you think being part of that project has widened your audience? 

We recorded the very first tracks to the "Beasts" soundtrack, and they built off of them creating the score, so we had no idea what to expect from either the film or the music. When it finally came out, we were blown away.

The movie is an amazing portrayal of the situation in South Louisiana, and it definitely exposed our music to many people that may have never heard us otherwise.

Q - What do you think of the New Orleans music scene these days? 

New Orleans is exploding, musicians both famous and unknown are moving there every day, because it's so alive, and has so much prolific creation going on all the time. It's always been an inspiring place for artists, and we're no exception; New Orleans is our artistic home.

Q - Does the band have any dream projects or collaborations? 

Many! Daniel Lanois always comes to mind, as I think he would connect with our story and sound, and seems to be a very cool person to be around, after meeting him a few weeks ago in Canada.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wilmette native Adam Kromelow returning to area with band KROM, new album in tow


New York-based jazz trio KROM earned critical and commercial acclaim for its first album, "Youngblood."

The band, led by pianist and Wilmette native Adam Kromelow is currently touring in support of its self-titled sophomore album. KROM will perform Oct. 5 at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Sherman Avenue Theater, 1702 Sherman Ave., Evanston. 

Tickets are available by going to www.brownpapertickets.com.

I had the chance to talk to Kromelow about the upcoming show.

Q - Great talking to you. Is this upcoming show even more special to you, seeing that you grew up in Wilmette? How does the jazz scene in New York City compare to when you still lived here?

Absolutely. It's one of my favorite things to come and perform in my hometown.

Generally we play at jazz clubs in Chicago like Andy's or the Jazz Showcase. But I wanted to do something even closer to home so the show was more accessible to family and friends who can't easily make it into the city.

I have also lately liked performing in theaters instead of clubs because we can organize the show on our own terms. The scene in New York is amazing, there is so much diverse music happening and so many outlets for it. 

I can't really compare it to the Chicago scene because I never really lived there as an adult. But I have a lot of friends playing in Chicago who are doing amazing things so I know jazz is alive and well there.

Q - You are touring in support of your self-titled sophomore album, which was released earlier this year. Your first album, "Youngblood," was critically acclaimed and reached number 14 on the College Music Journal radio chart. Did you feel a lot of pressure in following up the album? In sitting down to make your sophomore album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

I didn't really feel that much pressure because I knew the music was so much stronger. I almost consider "Youngblood" our "zeroth" album and KROM our real debut.

"Youngblood" was all over the map genre-wise, but with KROM, we have really settled into our progressive rock/jazz sound. My only goals were for the melodies to be very clear and memorable, the grooves to feel very danceable, and the improvisational moments to feel natural. 

I feel like we accomplished this, but I guess its really up to the listener.

Q - I understand that you and Jason attended the Manhattan School of Music and that Raviv graduated from Columbia University in New York City. How did the band come together? What do you think each of you bring to the table?

Jason and I were actually next door neighbors in the dorms at Manhattan School of Music and we ended up playing together a lot in classes and jam sessions. I met Raviv through a number of mutual friends from Manhattan School of Music who knew him from high school.

We all became fast friends over the years and formed this band in my last year of school. They each bring a lot to the table.

I write the music, but they help arrange it and give it the real mood that ends up coming across. Raviv has such a strong articulation that adds incredibly to our beats, and Jason orchestrates on the drums using a lot of textures that you don't hear a lot.

We often try to utilize the full capacity of our instruments to sound like there are a lot more than just three of us.

Q - The band was previously known as the Adam Kromelow Trio. What was the reason for the name change? 

There are sort of two reasons. One was that no one could find us online because they couldn't spell Kromelow. I remember once we opened for Rusted Root, and people would come up with us and say "I want to buy your album on iTunes.  You're Adam Cromwell with a 'C'?"

KROM is a lot easier for people to remember.  But also, there are so many jazz bands called "The so and so trio or quartet," I wanted to have a band name that shows that we are a real unit with our own music.

Not just another dime-a-dozen jazz band.

Q - You have received the "Downbeat Magazine" award for outstanding jazz performance, and the Manhattan School of Music President's award. What have you tried to do with your playing? Are you surprised at how many people are connecting with the group's music?

Those were student awards that I received a long time ago, but it wasn't until after graduating from the Manhattan School of Music that I started to figure out my identity as a pianist. I always loved rock and pop music, but was studying jazz so seriously, that I felt like two separate musicians.

Writing music for KROM was a way for me to incorporate all of these parts of my musical identity to create one cohesive sound. I guess you're always surprised that people are liking your music, but you just have to be true to your own tastes and ideas and trust that that honesty and passion will resonate with listeners. 

KROM has been fortunate to receive some really great reviews and we are very grateful for it.

Q - You have worked with such esteemed musicians as Bob Mintzer, Jon Irabagon and and DJ Logic. What did you learn from such experiences?

Bob Mintzer and Jon Irabagon are both incredible saxophonists whom I got to play one gig each with due to lucky circumstances. These were not high profile gigs at all, but as a young musician I very quickly picked up on their confidence.

As improvisers they were so sure of themselves that they were free to take enormous risks that almost always paid off. I think that just comes with experience. 

DJ Logic is a collaborative DJ who has worked with people all over the map, from Christian McBride to John Mayer. He performed on a song that I wrote for Arturo O'Farrill's (the producer of Youngblood) Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.

He created the coolest sounds on the spot. I would love to work with him again. We have spoken about collaborating, hopefully we'll be able to make that happen sometime.

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

Our real goals right now are just to play more shows and reach more people. We feel that the music is sounding really good and we just want to get it out there more and more. 

As for musical goals, I really would like to try to add some singing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Chicago band Renegade Lightning Rebellion bringing unique sound to Beat Kitchen in support of new EP


Chicago band Renegade Lightning Rebellion's sound is as distinctive as its name.

The band will perform Sept. 25 at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, in support of its new self-titled EP. Also on the bill is The David Mayfield Parade.

The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $12, available at www.ticketfly.com.

I had the chance to talk to frontman Brian Stark about the new EP.

Q - Great talking to you. Of course, the band will be performing at the Beat Kitchen on Sept. 25 to celebrate the release of the new EP. In sitting down to make the EP, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

Great to be here!

In the three years since the release of our first LP, "Four Statues," we had gone through a lot of changes in membership, style, and especially repertoire - it was to the point where our live shows sounded almost nothing like our record.

We wanted to give our fans something they could take home that actually sounded like the show they just heard, and give people who hadn't heard us yet a meaningful preview of what to expect from us at a show.

We tried recording some new songs on our own (the same way we'd done "Four Statues"), but for a multitude of reasons, couldn't quite get ourselves to finish them. Fortunately, we met producer Scot Stewart when we played at the Throne Room, and he offered to produce us.

So we started over again, picking four of our favorite songs to play and knocking them out really quickly. Scot did a great job capturing our sound, and we are very happy with the recording. 

Q - It seems like there is a story behind the band's name. Is there? Do you think the fact that the band has a unique name has drawn more people to its music? 

Ha ha, if anything it seems to make it harder for people to remember our name! We get called Renegade Lightning Brigade a lot, which is wrong.

Renegade Lightning Rebellion I think captures the playful energy of a band of close friends constantly trying to surprise each other, which is what we are. The name is also a spinoff of a name I used for my solo material - you can still find those old songs on iTunes.

I'm not going to tell you what that old project's name was, you'll have to follow these clues. 

Q - Your live shows must be fun affairs. Do you think that performing live is the band's strongest suit?  Is it hard performing the songs live because they are so musically complex? 

Performing live is my favorite part of music. An important distinction between our new EP and our old LP is that "Four Statues" was conceived before I even had a band to play the songs, and recorded before we ever played most of the songs live, whereas the material for our new eponymous EP was written specifically for the members of this band and further honed by years of live performance.


The biggest challenge we've had in performing live is that none of us are trained vocalists, however I'm very proud of how much we've all grown as singers since this band's inception.

Q - Do you have any favorite places to play in the Chicago area? What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you see the band fitting into it? Are there other Chicago bands out there that you admire what they are doing? 

We fill an interesting niche in the Chicago music scene, in that many of us are active as professionals outside the band: Jessie has played in the orchestra for Candid Concerts and American Chamber Opera companies, Marty regularly plays in the pit for musicals at Drury Lane, Keith does studio work, Brandon plays weddings and I've had the good fortune of having been commissioned to compose a cantata for Covenant Presbyterian Church, in addition to regular work with some jazz dance bands.

Cantata Selection:

So we are bringing this wide range of influences and experiences into the rock and roll/singer songwriter scene, and we find it draws us into some interesting non-musical associations - we often get asked to play alongside comedians, we played as the pit orchestra a musical production my friend wrote, and we have an upcoming association with another comedian to be part of a collaborative creative revue based on one of Shakespeare's early works.

Aside from that, my favorite venues in Chicago are still the Gallery Cabaret and Uncommon Ground, because they represent opposite ends of the discipline/insanity spectrum, and I think that is what Renegade Lightning Rebellion is all about.

The bands I follow the most closely personally in Chicago are probably John Dorhauer's Heisenberg Uncertainty Players and Bryant Scott's Great Postmodern Nightmare - two large jazz ensembles with incredibly creative and talented writers at the helm.

Q - How did the band come together in 2011? How do you think the band's sound has evolved since forming and how do you see it continuing to grow? 

I assembled the band to perform a suite of songs I composed while backpacking in Europe that eventually became "Four Statues." I invited friends from college, from work (Starbucks at the time) and from church (Evanston Vineyard, at the time).

My initial concept for the band was to completely defy conventional instrumentation by selectively eliminating or re-orienting the bass and drum parts, and also to have everybody playing instruments they weren't comfortable playing. This is how we all became singers, and all of us took turns being the drummer.

After playing out a bunch and working new material into the mix, we've settled into a slightly more conventional format with bass and percussion at the center of the mix. The two main things I'm trying to accomplish with this band musically as we move into the future is a greater embrace of musical space, and incorporation of more danceable beats.

Q - The David Byrne/Talking Heads influence in the band is strong, in my opinion. Would you view him and the Talking Heads as major influences in the band's music? Who or what are the band's other major influences? 

When I heard Talking Heads for the first time in college, it was an amazing validation and encouragement to me - finally a singer in a successful band who has a voice like mine and is using it effectively! David Byrne's vocal style and free-associative lyrical approach were huge influences, and I think are especially evident on our early song, "Nature."

The next great vocal archetype I came across was Spencer Krug, especially his work with Sunset Rubdown. He wraps his voice around unconventional melodies with a power and assurance that I found very inspiring. 

His songwriting was also a great challenge to me - he had a way of organizing lyrical motifs and images that reminded me of how a great composer would arrange musical motifs in a symphony. "Four Statues" was in many ways a tribute to Sunset Rubdown and the lessons I learned from listening to them over and over again. 

Krug's associate Carey Mercer, from Frog Eyes, has also been an inspiration - his commanding, warbling voice was the impetus that led me to compose a series of "Pirate Songs," from which "The Swashbuckler" on our EP is derived.

Aside from that, I think everyone in the band has great admiration for the Dirty Projectors, who are a constant inspiration to perform difficult music at a high level.

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals? 

This EP contains less than half of the exciting new material we've introduced in the last three years. We hope that through our release show and sales of the EP we can raise enough money to record at least another EP's worth of music.

Our long-term goal is just to keep working on our music so we can connect with audiences on an ever deeper level for the rest of our lives.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Chicago band Ten Foot Tail to bring its eclectic sound to House of Blues



Chicago band Ten Foot Tail is not the type of band to be pigeonholed. 

The band, featuring brothers Chris and Paul Castelli, believes that music is to be explored. Over the years, the two brothers have done just that, sharing the stage with the likes of Heart and Lynyrd Skynyrd and working with esteemed producer Bob Ezrin. 

Ten Foot Tail will perform at 8 p.m. Sept. 24 at House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., Chicago.

I had the change to talk to Paul Castelli about the upcoming show.

Q - Great talking to you. You guys will be performing at the House of Blues. For those people not that familiar with your music, what should they expect? 

People should expect an eclectic mix of music with a great vibe that will make people feel good. They can also expect some longer jams and some improv during certain songs we are feeling.

Q - You guys dip into a lot of musical genres. Is that a result of being exposed to different music and/or not wanting to be pigeonholed? Is the band currently working on new music?

Yes, we love all sorts of music and to be honest, get bored playing the same styles. It is fun to be able to take different genres and use them as influence for a song. We currently are writing and heading into the studio to record in January or February of 2015.

Q - In the late '90s and early 2000s, you were part of the band Escape From Earth. The band's EP "Three Seconds East" was produced by well-known producer Bob Ezrin. What was that experience like and what did you learn from the experience?

That experience was amazing and it is the reason Ten Foot Tail's sound is what it is. Bob told us to go back to our "roots" and start jamming classic covers to give us more feels and ideas. 

Well, we took his words to heart and it is the best creative awakening we have ever had.
No genre is off limits to us. 

I like to think we have our own sound. When you hear us you know it is Ten Foot Tail, but you also get an eclectic mix of sounds, feels and styles.

Q - The both of you also have played with the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Heart. Did those experiences give you more insight into the music business?

Those experiences gave us the thrill of playing large venues with a lot of people seeing us. Working with Bob Ezrin was a true insight into the music business.

Bob has done it all and seen it all. His words were golden. It's an honor to play with bands such as Heart and Skynyrd and it was a lot of fun.

Q - Escape From Earth had a harder rock sound than your current band. Do you have a favorite genre of music?

I think we all just really love rock based music. Escape from Earth was going for a particular sound and was geared towards a look and fitting in.

Ten Foot Tail is basically the complete opposite. We don't want to fit in, we want to do whatever we want without thinking about genre.

Chris has a very soulful voice so bluesy and soulful styles fit him, however, we love jamming at getting funky and loud. If I have to say a favorite, we all would agree that classic rock bands in the styles of Cream, Zeppelin and Floyd is def our favorite.

Q - What are the advantages of being in a band with your brother? Do the pros outweigh the cons?

The advantages are that we can pretty much read each other's minds at this point and yes the pros outweigh the cons. We have a lot of respect for what each other is good at and trust each other to just do it.

Our likes are extremely similar and we pretty much have the same vision for the band. Of course, we have our moments, lol.

Q - The both of you have been in the music business for a while. Is it easier or harder to be a musician these days?

It is way harder to be a musician these days. In every aspect of the business. 

We love playing live, but venues rely so heavily on the bands to bring out people that the music gets lost. Every aspect of the business is the bottom line. 

We get it cause it's business, but music is also art, so it is a different kind of business. I wish clubs would get a bit more creative with promoting themselves instead of relying on musicians to keep their club afloat.

We don't rely on them to write our music and play our instruments. As far as record deals
and all that jazz, we don't even think about it. We write, record and play live. Repeat.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you see the band fitting into it?

We really have no clue about the scene, ha ha. Seriously, we just do our thing and kind of have blinders on. 

I have seen some really cool bands we have played with, but we are so in our own world, it is hard to keep up with everything. As far as us "fitting in," I think we can play with anyone because of our diversity and originality. 

We don't gear ourselves toward only playing with certain style bands. If there is a gig to be played, we don't care where or what, we will do it. 

We just love playing live and taking risks.

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

Our short term goal is to record a new EP at the beginning of 2015. Long term goals are to get on more festival gigs and create more of our own little following around the Midwest.

We know we can, just need more exposure. Playing for us is the easy part, getting that following is the hard part. 

So thank you for helping us spread the word about Ten Foot Tail, we really appreciate it.