By ERIC SCHELKOPF
The time is now for Chicago band The Right Now.
The band is putting a fresh face on soul and R&B, with its latest album, "Carry Me Home," receiving rave reviews.
The Right Now, www.therightnow.com, has opened for the likes of Bettye LaVette and Bela Fleck, and will perform April 16 at Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln, Chicago, to celebrate the release of its two new singles on a seven-inch record as part of Record Store Day.
The Revelations featuring Tre Williams and Vertikal also are part of the bill. The show starts at 9:30 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at www.martyrslive.com.
I had the chance to talk to lead singer Stefanie Berecz about the band and its recent appearance at the South by Southwest festival in Texas.
Q - Coincidentally, I recently interviewed JC Brooks, who I see contributes his vocals to a couple of tracks on "Carry Me Home."
He's a good friend of ours. I've known him for a while. It was good to have him on the record.
Q - There seems to be a growing neo soul, or indie soul, movement these days. Would you say that you and JC Brooks are a part of that? And why do you think it is happening in Chicago?
I feel that it is still on the brink in Chicago. There are very few bands that are doing this, the pop soul thing we are doing. I think we are similar in a lot of ways, but we're still just scratching the surface with other bands in Chicago that are doing this kind of genre.
Q - The band has been together for four years. Did you guys come together thinking you would form a soul band?
No, absolutely not. I met Brandan (O'Connell) about five years ago. We kind of started this thing by saying, "wouldn't it be cool to have this?'' or "wouldn't it to be cool to have a full horn section?"
We were just shooting all these ideas out. And then we randomly met all the other members of the band, just through networking and through word-of-mouth of great players in the city.
We touch a little bit on the soul in our music, but I'm not a complete soul artist. I loved listening to pop music and R&B growing up.
We touch on that as well. It's not strictly a retro soul vibe. It's a little bit of everything.
Q - Did you try to bring all that to "Carry Me Home?"
The album has a very contemporary feel. It does have that feel of a more pop soul album, with a little bit of R&B.
With this next album, we want to stretch our limits a little more. We want to get more of a raw, live feel, not so much of a polished sound.
Q - So you are in the middle of recording the new album?
We're starting. We recorded two new singles - "If I Wanted To" and "I Am Who I Say I Am" - that we are going to be releasing on Record Store Day (April 16). The two singles are going to be on a 45.
These new songs definitely lend themselves to going after that more raw, live sound. You feel like you are in the studio with us. And I think they will sound great on the 45.
Q - How was performing at South by Southwest?
It was great. It was my first time. I've never been to anything quite like that, and that's funny, because I've lived in Chicago my whole life and you've got Lollapalooza running through here and the Taste of Chicago. I said that I never wanted to go to those things because I don't like singing music in those kinds of manic, crazy environments with tons of people.
But what I learned at South by Southwest is that it is not so much about a bunch of bands coming. It's about artists supporting artists.
Q - How was your showcase?
The first one was on a Wednesday, and it was amazing. It was called SXCHI. It was a lineup of a lot of Chicago artists. It was really a great event that showed a lot of support for Chicago.
I must say, there was a lot more Chicago representation there than I'd thought there would be.
Q - Do you think the opportunity has helped broaden the band's audience base?
I really hope so. If you can walk away with anything from South by Southwest nowadays, it's just that, that people hear your music and will remember you.
We got great feedback on Twitter, where people would come and see us and there were tweets going up by the minute by people who had never heard us before.
Q - You do all this while juggling being the mother of a two-year-old. How do you juggle everything?
I think I've become pretty good about scheduling. When she was little, she went on the road with us all the time. Now she's two, so I hate to stick her in a car for 15 hours straight.
I've had amazing support at home to help me. Thank God for iChat. I get to video chat with her all the time. She thinks that mommy lives in the computer. It's funny.
Q - How does she respond to your music?
If I play one of our records, she's picking up words and she's picking up pitches. She knows them. She requests what songs she wants to hear.
She definitely knows whose momma's band is. She doesn't know the name of the band yet. I'm trying to teach her.
Q - The band has already opened for some notable artists, like Bettye LaVette. What have you learned from opening for people like this?
Literally, you go to school. I have a mental note pad that opens up every time we get these opportunities. These people are veterans and have had incredible careers. We've also opened for soul legend Otis Clay.
He is just incredibly wise and he always has amazing advice for showmanship. When we have these opportunities where we are playing shows with these amazing veterans, I take in every second that they are up there and take mental notes on how they do what they do and how it's made them so successful.