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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chicago band bringing vibrant sound to scene




By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago band Kyle Mann Combo has morphed into a new band that is bringing a new and unique vibrancy to the local music scene.

Sometimes atmospheric, sometimes disarming, Dozens' music, www.dozens.bandcamp.com, www.myspace.com/dozensband, demands a listen. The band will open for Why Intercept? at 8 p.m. Nov. 24 at Pancho's, 2200 N. California Ave., Chicago. Also on the bill is The Atlas Moth.

I had the chance to interview frontman Kyle Mann, who formed Dozens with guitarist Vince Naples and drummer John Norman, about his latest incarnation.

Q - What happened to the Kyle Mann Combo? Were you happy with all that the band was able to accomplish?

Dozens is really the evolution of what started as the KMC. I am happy with what we accomplished. We made good connections and learned a lot from writing, recording, touring and the business side aspect of running a band that we’ve brought over to Dozens.

In 2008, Matt Nagrodski, (the original drummer for KMC) developed severe tinnitus in his ears and had to give up playing drums. Vince and I started looking for a new drummer and asked John Norman to jam with us.

We were blown away by John’s drumming and asked him to join the group. We played a few shows with John as KMC, but throughout rehearsals and performances we recognized a new group dynamic.

With fresh material, new members and varied instrumentation, it was time for a reboot. I was also enjoying a lot of music that was stylistically miles away from what I had been listening to when I wrote "Goodbye Kites," and I felt limited by KMC’s sound in terms of the kind of music I wanted to be making.

We are writing and producing differently now, integrating denser synth, guitar and electronic textures into our music. These songs are written with more of a collaborative process between the band, which is a clear departure from a singer-songwriter format with accompanying musicians. 

Q - Vince was also in the Kyle Mann Combo. Was he a perfect fit for the new band? How would you describe the band's chemistry?

Definitely. Each of us bring different skill sets to Dozens. I'll usually take a song into a rehearsal, and together the three of us tweak things until we have a working live arrangement.

Vince will usually whip out the red pen on some lyrical passages, and we all go back and forth with the editorial process. A lot of decision making happens in the studio, as Vince works with all the pedals and effects he has to create a textural bed for John and I.

In KMC, Vince was mainly playing electric and acoustic bass. In Dozens, there is no bass player; he and I both play guitar and keyboards, covering the bass with an octave pedal or synths live.

Vince also mixed and produced the Dozens EP...even with KMC, he blurred the roles of producer and performer. John is not only a phenomenal drummer, but a great arranger, trumpet player and singer as well.

He wrote the string and brass parts on the EP. All three of us sing and harmonize, and have started to split up lead singing roles.

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

Right now we are working on our debut full length record. We hope to have the full length out by summer of 2011.

We are also looking to release a single and make a few videos. I’d say our long term goal is just to keep making music that we are happy with.

Q - Are you happy with the current music scene in the Chicago area? How do you think the band fits into the current scene?

Music in Chicago is very diverse just like any big city, but I think it’s a great scene and it has been very good to us. There are plenty of outlets for bands in the indie/rock modicum, and venues like the Double Door, Schubas, the Whistler, Subterranean, etc. have been very accommodating.

There is also a wealth of venues catering to classical, folk music, free jazz, punk, fusion and world music, as well as a thriving theater scene. For as many clubs as there are in town, there are underground artist run loft spaces that are well curated with fresh music.

In the last eight months, Dozens has already played more shows than KMC ever did in a year. It’s been a great run for us so far.

Q - The music business continues to change. Is it easier to make music these days? How is the band trying to keep up with new technology?

In terms of recording music, I think it is easier than ever since there is so much accessible and affordable technology. We track at our respective home studios and at Shivaree, the space Vince runs in Logan Square.

The flexibility that comes with not having to watch the clock, and the option to take the time to experiment has been crucial in the development of our sound. New technology is proliferating at an overwhelming rate, and we're always encountering new tricks and gimmicks at shows or online (Vince is kind of addicted to Synthtopia.com), but at the end of the day, technology serves to address some particular obstacle or problem.

We are always experimenting with new ways to make the big trio sound work live, including tinkering with Ableton, elaborate looping rigs and sample pads etc. in order to make our arrangements come across.

Between web sites like bandcamp, soundcloud, reverb nation etc., there is also no shortage in ways to distribute your music or keep people informed, but the Internet tends to become a wash. I think a lot of bands are struggling with how to stand out in an over saturated blogosphere.