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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chicago band Flatfoot 56 taking its Celtic punk to Ignite Fest



Going to see Flatfoot 56 today at Ignite Fest? Read this interview first:

By ERIC SCHELKOPF

For Chicago Celtic punk band Flatfoot 56, playing together is a family affair.

Singer Tobin Bawinkel, 27, formed the group in the summer of 2000 with his brothers, Justin and Kyle.
I got the chance to talk to Tobin about the tour and the daily grind of being in a band.

Q - How are the songs from "Black Thorn" translating live? Are they fun to play?

Oh, absolutely. We're trying to do some new things, get new things to do the "Braveheart" to.

Q - How did that whole thing start, with the audience recreating that scene from the movie "Braveheart."

I think we just tried it one day, and said, 'Let's see if this works.' It just blew up and it was awesome. It's one thing that gets the entire crowd moving.


Q - So when you guys sat down to record "Black Thorn," what were your thoughts? What did you want to accomplish?

We wanted to get the idea out that the band has been maturing. We had a lot of new subject matter for the record, things we had been going through. We wanted to get down some good production, which I think happened. 

Johnny Rioux was involved in it from the Street Dogs. He had a lot of good insights. He has a long history of really good ideas.

Q - How did you hook up with him?

We had toured with the Street Dogs about two years ago, and he said he would be honored to work with us.

Q - What did he bring to the table?

He brought to the table a lifetime of playing with some of the best bands in punk in the United States.

Q - Your schedule for the rest of the year looks pretty intense. For some stretches you don't even have a break. Do you like your schedule to be so intense?

We do and we don't. Being home is nice. It's nice to be around family. Two of us have our wives out on the road with us. It gets pretty intense, but you have to work.

Punk rock is not necessarily the thing that everybody is clamoring for, so you've got to work and pay the bills and get your record out there and make sure people hear it.

It's kind of a daily grind thing. A lot of people who work in factories and stuff have to work a schedule that is ridiculous in order to make ends meet. 

I think that is the same thing for some bands. You have to keep going for it to stay afloat, you know.

Q - How is it like being in a band with two brothers? How does that work out?

It works well, honestly. We all get along with each other. I think working with two new members, Brandon and Eric, it was kind of an adjustment. 


You learn how to work with your brothers and work with new people as well.

Q - How did the band form? Did you guys just decide to stay playing with each other? Did you have any goals in mind when you guys formed?

I was 17, Justin was 14 and Kyle was 12. We just wanted to play live shows. It wasn't like we had a goal of playing Warped Tour or anything. That kind of came as we started going to a lot of these events. 

It was just a desire to play at shows and it just kind of kept going.

Q - You guys grew up on the south side of Chicago. Are you all Sox fans?

All of us are Sox fans except for Eric. He's a Cubs fan. We were kind of suspicious of it at first.

Q - Who were your influences growing up?

Musically, we were really influenced by a lot of old British bands like Blitz. We also listened to a lot of New York hardcore stuff like Cro-Mags. We were also listening to a lot of traditional stuff. 

Obviously The Pogues are an influence for any Celtic punk band. You want to understand what the roots of this movement is, the scene it started in.

The first street punk show I ever went to was the U.K. Subs at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago. It was a life changing experience. It was part of a whole new world. 

We played our early shows at a place called Rubes in Harvey. At the time, it was the only all-ages place that punk bands could play in Chicago. A lot of good shows happened at that place.

Paul McCartney to take the stage Sunday and Monday at Wrigley Field


Going to see Paul McCartney at Wrigley Field? Read these stories first:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tenth Avenue North among Christian bands playing at this weekend's Ignite Fest


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Christian band Tenth Avenue North continues to build an audience after being named the best-selling new Christian artist of 2008.

Tenth Avenue North is among several Christian acts that will perform Friday through Sunday as part of Ignite Fest at Lake County Fielders Stadium in Zion. Skillet, Stryper, Thousand Foot Krutch, Switchfoot and Rebecca St. James are among the other acts set to perform.

Tickets are available at www.ignitefest.org.

Last fall, I had the chance to talk to Tenth Avenue North drummer Jason Jamison about the band and its current album, "The Light Meets The Dark."


Q - Your first major label album, "Over and Underneath," turned out to be such a success. What were your goals for the second record?

The second record is always the scary record, especially if the first record did pretty well. There was a little bit of pressure there as far as that goes, like we have to deliver something that is going to be comparable to the first.

But it really wasn't our focus. I think musically, we've grown. I think we have been able to play off each other better and create music together that is a better representation of kind of all of our styles.

So I feel like the second record was definitely a step up musically for us. All of us were really excited musically what happened. And I think thematically, we wanted it to kind of be a continuation of the first record.

The first record talked very specifically about our relationship with Jesus and the Gospel. The album's title "Over and Underneath," refers to God's love being over and under us, and in all things and through all things.

For the second record, there's two themes - identity and confession. The things that you've done, whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, don't really define who you are. Instead, Christ defines who you are. He's the one that has made us a new creation.

If that's true, then it frees us up to confess our sins. The first single off the record, "Healing Begins," basically says that if we believe we are a new creation, then all of a sudden our identity is not in jeopardy any more. Confessing our sins brings us healing, and light into dark places. That's kind of where we are going with it.



Q - Was it a surprise how successful the first album was?

Yeah, it was kind of crazy that people actually liked it. You are so closely tied to the music that you don't know if what you are creating is awesome or not.

Q - You majored in biblical studies. What would you being doing if you weren't in a band?

Well, I worked in a church with students for five or six years. And I really enjoyed it. It was a different pace than what I am doing now. Right now, I would probably go back to work at a church in some type of capacity.

I don't think I'm necessarily the senior pastor or even associate pastor type. But I could probably help out at a church.

Q - Are there bands out there that you admire what they are doing?

I think Switchfoot is a band favorite right now. Their new record is just incredible. There's a lot of bands that we enjoy listening to - Coldplay, Need To Breathe. We go through seasons. We are always listening to something different.

Q - All bands approach their music differently. Some bands view their music also as a ministry. Is that how Tenth Avenue North feels?


Yeah, absolutely. It's kind of where we start. If you keep that in mind, that helps with a lot of decision making. The music is more of a way we can communicate the Gospel.

Our end goal at the end of the night is not to melt people's faces with amazing guitar licks or drum solos, but instead to be able to say that we had a chance to encounter Christ, and maybe that night somebody was able to confess a sin or meet with the Lord for the first time.

Q - Do you find the Christian music label confining at all, that people might not want to listen to your music because it has that label?

I think the thing to remember is that truth is truth, no matter who says it. I could be listening to some mainstream pop band. I could be listening to Katy Perry, and she sings a lyric that might ring true.

God can use anything to communicate truth. It's something that we've talked about quite a bit as a band. There's no such thing really as Christian music. Music doesn't have a soul. I happen to be a Christian who is playing music.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Pines to bring captivating folk-blues sound to Chicago area; shows set for August and September


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

From Bob Dylan to Prince to The Jayhawks, Minneapolis has helped launched many innovative acts over the years.

Count Minneapolis-based The Pines among those acts. The band's haunting blend of folk and blues demands attention.

Comprised of Iowa natives David Huckfelt and Benson Ramsey, The Pines has released two critically acclaimed albums on indie label Red House Records. Benson's father, well-known musician and producer Bo Ramsey who has worked with the likes of Lucinda Williams and Greg Brown, had a hand in producing both albums.
The Pines, www.thepinesmusic.com, will perform Aug. 5 at S.P.A.C.E., 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston, www.evanstonspace.com.

Haley Bonar also is on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10 in advance, $14 at the door, available at www.ticketweb.com.

The Pines will come back to the area when the band opens for Mason Jennings Sept. 30 at Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $20, available at www.jamusa.com.

I had the chance to talk to Benson Ramsey about the band's latest activities, which include working on a new album.


Q- On this tour, are you guys going to be doing any new stuff, or are you just playing off your other albums?

That weekend will probably be the first time we try out some new stuff live. We recorded the new record last week, and a lot of it we haven't played out before.

We'll probably try some of the new stuff.

Q - How long have you guys been working on the album?

Maybe a month. We pretty much wrote and rehearsed about 80 percent of it in three weeks, and then we went in and recorded it in five days.

Q - What should people expect from the new album?

Well, we took a little more time than we did with the other one. We still recorded the basic tracks in two days, and then we took a little more time to flesh it out.

So it's more lush. I think it will be different.


Q - Is that just a new direction you wanted to explore?

Well for this one, anyway. It is something we were wanting to do. We have everybody on this one. Before, the timing just never worked out.

Our banjo player is on some of the stuff, and another guitar player.

Q - Did your dad help out again with this new record?

Yeah, he co-produced it. He came in when we did the stuff with the band, and we sort of took it and re-worked it.

Q - Was it natural for him to produce your last album? Did that just make sense to bring him in?

Yeah, absolutely. He's worked with us since we started making records.

We have this kind of team. It's just like this big group of people and we make a record. Everyone knows each other, and he fits right in.

This one was different because he hadn't really heard any of the material when he came in. So he could come in with fresh ears and help us, so we could just focus on delivering the songs.

Q - What do you think he brings to the table?

He brings so much to the table. He kind of raises the bar, so everyone is sort of on their toes.

We just have a lot of faith in him.

Q - Given his musical background and the fact that he's worked with a lot of people, including Lucinda Williams, was it inevitable that you would become a musician as well?

I think so, just because I grew up in a small town (Washington, Iowa), where I wasn't surrounded by much else, besides my family.

I was just around when he was producing records. I think I just absorbed it. I never thought of doing anything else. It never really crossed my mind.


Q - Did your dad try to get you in the music business? Did he give you advice?

He didn't steer me in that direction. I don't know if he wanted me to get into music or not, but once I left Iowa, I went to Arizona, and was searching how to find myself musically.

When I came back, he was there, right from the get go. He helped so much. He was very supportive.

Q - What made you guys want to move to Minnesota?

We were living in Arizona, which is sort of like living on the moon. Growing up, I worked at Trailer Records, which was a little label out of Iowa City that our music first came out on.

I'd never been to Minneapolis when I moved here. It seemed like an interesting city.

I was really surprised at all the great music after I had been here for a while. I think it was just about coming someplace new and Red House Records was here. We thought if we could be around them, we could eventually work for Red House.

Q - It seems like the label is pretty eclectic. You can't really pigeonhole the label.

We feel like we can pretty much do whatever. But they haven't heard the new record yet.

Let's just hope they like it.

Q - Hooking up with David Huckfelt, did you guys have a vision for The Pines when you first started?

We didn't start out to form a band or anything. It was basically just us grinding it out, playing our strange interpretations of blues and old folk songs.

We would have these funky gigs where we would play for four hours. In Phoenix we did that, we had a monthly gig there.

It was just exploring those songs and finding out who all those blues artists were.

Q - How would you describe it? How do you view your music?

To me, I just call it Midwestern. I don't know what else to call it.

That feels appropriate, even though it's not really a genre. It's like the filter, I guess.

Q - How does it feel to be opening for Mason Jennings in the fall?

He's just an inspirational guy. He's become a good friend.

He has a sincere approach to music, as we do. He's just all about the music.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Foreigner not slowing down, will perform next week in Tinley Park with Journey and Night Ranger


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Even though Kelly Hansen has been fronting the band Foreigner since 2005, he still gets called the band's "new" singer.

Then there are the inevitable comparisons to longtime Foreigner singer Lou Gramm. But the 50-year-old Hansen, best known for fronting '80s band Hurricane, more than proves his vocal chops on Foreigner's 2009 studio album, "Can't Slow Down," his first with the band.

Foreigner will perform with Journey and Night Ranger at 7 p.m. July 30 at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland Ave., Tinley Park.

Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com.

I had the chance to talk to Hansen about a variety of topics.


Q - Of course, you joined Foreigner in 2005, but you probably still get called the "new" singer of Foreigner.

I was very happy when I started being called the "newish" singer of Foreigner.

Q - Does that bother you? You've been in the band for six years now.

You can't take things personally. If people don't know things, then they don't know things. You can't blame them for it.

If they haven't heard what the band has doing for a while, then they're going to think I'm the new guy. I just don't take it personally.


Q - You also get some comparisons to Lou Gramm. Can that be both a good thing and a bad thing?

Well, I think it's inevitable. Lou is known as the iconic voice that sang on all these hits. There's no reason to deny it. That's just what it is.

I think that I'm fortunate that for the sake of the songs and the sake of Foreigner, that my sound is kind of a similar sound. But we're not trying to be a previous version of this band, and I'm not trying to be Lou, it just happens to be what it is.

I respect all that Lou has done with this band. If people are going to compare, then that's what they are going to do.

I guess it's good and bad in a way. People are familiar with these songs, and they're familiar with Lou's voice on them.

I'm just singing great melodies. They've proven themselves to be great. So the only thing I can do to mess it up is by trying to prove how different I am.

Q - Did you listen to many Foreigner songs growing up?

I was very aware of the band. I remember the band got a lot of flack from critics when they came out because they were saying it was a manufactured band, a corporate rock band.

Back in the day, that's what they called a band like Foreigner. They accused them of being a sellout.

There was big harsh criticism from magazines like "Rolling Stone" and some of the big music critics. My thought was that I really loved commercial bands because if they were commercial, that meant they were successful, which meant they were reaching people and communicating with them, and having an affect on a lot of people.


And that's what music is supposed to be about. It's about communicating. If a band is out there communicating and reaching a lot of people, how is that not a good thing?

So I felt this kind of understanding of what they were doing, and didn't agree with all the critics and what they said about bands like Foreigner.


Q - Speaking of commercial success, the first album that you made with Foreigner, "Can't Slow Down," reached number 29 on the Billboard 200 chart, with two of the songs reaching the Top 20 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart. Did that surprise you at all, that the album was received like that?

Well, I'm certainly happy that the album was received like that. I didn't go in with any expectation, because I think that will lead to disappointment.

What you should do is just let be what it is, work hard, and then if it achieves something great, you look at that as a bonus.

I was very happy to see that people were responding well to the record, because this was the last kind of hurdle we had to jump as a new band.

It took a hell of a lot of work, though, in this day and age, to try and get any kind of notice.

Nowadays, even on some of the largest labels, it's difficult to get your head and shoulders above the sea of releases that are out there by people who are making them in their bedrooms. That all just clogs up the works, and makes it hard for people to know your new music is out.

So we had to really work hard at that. And it's an ongoing progress. There's still millions of people out there who were Foreigner fans, who don't know this current lineup and what we are doing.

There's also a new generation of people who haven't discovered the band.

Q - Compared to your other projects, how does being in Foreigner rate?

I think this is kind of what I was really born to do. It feels really comfortable for me.
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Monday, July 18, 2011

Chicago band Gold Motel bringing its sunny pop songs to Lollapalooza




By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Not everyone think that Los Angeles is a music mecca.

Take Greta Morgan, former lead singer of The Hush Sound, who moved back to her hometown of Chicago to start the new project Gold Motel after living in Southern California for a year.

Gold Motel also features the talents of several other Chicago musicians, including Dan Duzsynzski, Matt Schuessler and Adam Kaltenhauser, of the band This Is Me Smiling, and Eric Hehr, of The Yearbooks.

Gold Motel, www.goldmotel.com, is one of several Chicago bands that will perform at next month's Lollapalooza in Grant Park.

The band will perform from 12:15 to 1 p.m. Aug. 7 on the PlayStation stage. Tickets are $90, available at www.lollapalooza.com.

I had the chance to talk to Morgan and Hehr about the band and its current projects.


Q - You guys were just at the Taste of Chicago, and now the band will perform at Lollapalooza on Aug. 7. Is this just another goal for the band, being part of Lollapalooza?

Greta: It was a big goal, but I kind of didn't think it would happen this early. In the band The Hush Sound, we toured all over with a bunch of really big bands.

But we were never asked to play at Lollapalooza. So the fact that Gold Motel has only been a band a year and a half and has only released one album and we got a personal invitation from one of the lead bookers at Lollapalooza was really, really flattering.

It has been one of my goals for a really long time to play at Lollapalooza, so I just feel really lucky we get the chance to do it.


Q - Have you gone to Lollapalooza before?

Greta: I went last year actually for the first time. It was incredible. I saw Phoenix, Arcade Fire, Metric, The National, and Erykah Badu. 

It's going to be really cool, because we're going to be playing on the same stage where I saw Metric and The National.

Q - There are several Chicago bands that are going to play at Lollapalooza, which to me shows that Chicago has a strong music scene.

Greta: Yeah, definitely. I feel a little out of touch with the Chicago music scene unfortunately because I moved to L.A. for a year. I was touring a lot with The Hush Sound, and in between, I was living in Los Angeles for a year.

Since I've come home, there's been all these new groups, and I don't know any of them. So hopefully Lollapalooza will give me a chance to meet the other Chicago artists.

Q - As far as what happened with The Hush Sound, was it just time for that band to end?

Greta: I don't know. We would break up before we would make every album, and then get back together. 

We had a huge beginner's luck opportunity when we were still in high school. We got signed to a record label, and asked to go on all these tours. I skipped my high school graduation to go on tour in the U.K.

We had all these really big opportunities right away. We were kind of too young to handle them in a way.



I think we really didn't know how to get along and respect each other. I think we just needed a break. Since we've been on this break, everybody is so happy doing their own thing.

I've never been happier in my life, so I feel like I should just keep everything the way it is.

Q - The Gold Motel started out as your solo project but then it evolved into a full band. How did that happen?

Greta: While I was in The Hush Sound, we were friends with a lot of people who were playing in Chicago.

There was one band called This is Me Smiling who we were really close with. The guitar player, Dan Duzsynzski, had co-produced one of our albums, he played guitar on it, and he did some vocal engineering.

This is Me Smiling came out on tour with The Hush Sound, and we became really friendly with them. And then another person who I kind of always had my eye on was Eric Hehr. He played in a group called The Yearbooks.


And it just so happened that all of our groups went on hiatus within a few months of each other. I called Dan to start demoing some songs, which became the Gold Motel EP.

While we were demoing, I kind of kept inviting kept Eric over, and asking him, "What do you think of this, what do you think of that?"

Eventually, we had to get ready to play a live show. We put the band together. We got three of the guys from This Is Me Smiling, and Eric and myself.

We played the show at the Beat Kitchen, and it was sold out. It was just a really exciting thing, to play a new project that was welcomed so warmly in our hometown.

From there, we just kind of decided that we would keep going. We finished the "Summer House" album by working on the songs together. After that, we put out the "Taking Fiction" 7-inch, which are two songs we all kind of developed from the ground up.

It just happened in a really natural way.



Q - Did it feel comfortable right way working with each other? Did things start clicking right away?

Eric: I think everyone had the same sensibility. I'm still figuring out how to play with everyone, so I'm still not quite comfortable.

But I think that all us of have the same mind frame to a certain extent. We are all I think usually aware of what we are going for and what we are trying to accomplish when it comes to getting together and working on songs and how they should be arranged and performed and stuff like that.

The other three guys in the band have played together for years and years and years, and it's hard to walk in and try to jell with three people who are that close knit.

Greta: It was a little bit intimidating, because I really looked up to all the guys in the band.

It was kind of like when a little dream comes true, like, "What do I do now?" But it was fun.

I can definitely feel myself getting better every month we are playing together. As a musician, the way you become a better musician and a better songwriter and singer is to play together with people who are going to challenge you to take it to that next level.

Q - You both have worked on different projects. Do you feel your different projects are reflected in Gold Motel at all?

Greta: If somebody listened to all of our back catalogues and then listened to the band, they would be able to hear a little bit of everyone.

But I definitely think that despite the fact we each carry a little bit of our former projects into this one, it's got a whole new look because it's the combination of all those things.


Eric: A lot of people after listening to the album or after coming to one of the shows will come up and talk about the different styles of guitar playing. They talk about how Dan and I have totally different styles of playing, but that it still somehow works when we are on stage.

Q - And it seems like that in all your bands, the melody is the most important thing. Would you say that's true?

Greta: I think that everyone has agreed on a pop focus. If the song can't be brought down to an acoustic guitar and a melody, then maybe there's not enough melodic key to it.

Eric: I think that rhythm is as important as melody. I think they're interchangeable.

I think you have to have a really solid foundation of both to have a good song.

Q - Are you guys going to be trying out any new songs during your set at Lollapalooza?

Eric: We have two new songs that we played on our last tour. We are recording one of those songs right now that we hope to have done by Lollapalooza.

Those two will probably be included in the set list.

Q - What should people expect from the new album? Is it kind of going to be a continuation of what you've done?

Greta: It's kind of hard to say yet, because we're still in the writing process, but I'm kind of hoping it's stronger pop songwriting and more energy.

I think it will just be a more streamlined, sophisticated pop version of Gold Motel.

Q - You're still operating as an indie band, right?

Greta: We released "Summer House" independently. I think with this album, we may try to shop it. But it would have to be the right partner for us to want to dive in working with a label.

Q - I suppose there are both pros and cons to being an indie artist. Do you think the pros outweigh the cons?

Greta: Well, it's hard to say, because it depends on what label you are working with. The general pro of being an independent artist is that we have total creative control.

The con is that we shoulder all the costs of making an album, all the costs of going on tour. We shoulder the costs of having a publicist and we have to pay for our own radio campaigns.

It's kind of like all of the things a label would normally do in exchange for their royalties from the album. But the pro is that we have total control, over our schedule, over which songs go on the album, over the artwork, all of that is in our control.

So I think that if we could find a really great record label that would be willing to let us keep holding onto the reins and also let us continue to own our masters, then I would be super optimistic about doing that.

Q - I've heard from other Chicago musicians who say that Chicago is still a great place to make music, but it's not necessarily a great place to get exposure for your music compared to L.A. Do you think that it is harder to get your music out there now you're back in Chicago?

Greta: I think it's easier in Chicago. Los Angeles is so oversaturated with new acts. It's almost like it's hard to catch someone's attention.

It kind of seems like bands are getting more attention in Brooklyn in the tastemaker scene, like in the Pitchfork world.

I still think that Chicago is a great place. I see Chicago as having a very loyal and supportive audience. 

People go and see their friends play. People want to see a band succeed from Chicago. I think it's a great place to be.


Members of Cheap Trick escape injury after stage collapses at concert



Luckily, Rockford's favorite band Cheap Trick escaped injury during a show Sunday at the Ottawa Bluesfest. For more on the story, read here:

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mariana Bell bringing her brand of folk, pop to Uncommon Ground in Chicago


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

A move to the West Coast gave singer-songwriter Mariana Bell a better mindset as she went about making her latest album, "Push." 

The album better reflects the intimate experience of her live shows. That will be evident when Bell performs at 9 p.m. July 24 at Uncommon Ground, 3800 N. Clark St. Chicago.

There is a $5 cover charge, and more information is at www.uncommonground.com.

I had the chance to talk to Bell, www.marianabell.com, about the making of the new album.


Q - Have you played in Chicago before?

I have not actually. I've never even been to Chicago. I have got a lot of friends there and acquaintances that I've met over the last couple of years.

They are like, ''When are you going to play in Chicago?'' I'm super excited. I've heard so many wonderful things about the scenery, and all the stuff to do and the great restaurants.

Q - Of course, you have this new album out, "Push." I understand that you recently went back home to Charlottesville, Va., to perform the new songs. What was that like to go back home and play the new album for people there?

I think it went over pretty well. I think certain songs surprised people. It's definitely a departure from the last one.

Hopefully, it's a little grittier, a little more rocky kind of fun and organic. But overall, people were super supportive and wonderful there. It was really fun to go back and play in Charlottesville.

Q - I understand this is your first album since moving to the West Coast. Do you think that played a part in the album's sound?

I don't know, because I made the prior record (2008's "Book") between L.A. and New York as well. While I wasn't living out here, I did come out here to record parts of it.

We hired musicians from New York and Texas to work on this record here in California, so I think it matters less and less where you are in terms of the sound you want, because there are amazing people with great gear in a cabin in the woods in upstate New York, or in the middle of Arkansas, and you can produce something really incredible.


However, in terms of my mindset about it, being out in California probably was a really good thing for me.

Q - How so?

I think I was just needing a change of pace, a change of scenery. And it changed my motivation and my work ethic about things too.

I really threw myself into this project 100 percent. I feel very much at home here, despite not being here very long.

I think it really helped me that I was driven to do the best thing I could do.

Q - Eddie Jackson produced the album. He's worked with a lot of different people, Guster, James Taylor. How did you get connected with him?

I've known him for a long time. When I lived in New York, I was friends with a bunch of different musicians. They are all kind of in this group of people that are also friends with Eddie.

So I've known Eddie for years. And he is absolutely wonderful to work with.

Q - What do you think he brought to the table?

We co-produced it, which was something I had not done before. So he simultaneously sort of put in his input where necessary, because he has of course has all the technical and engineering knowledge.

But he also left me a lot of room to breathe. He allowed a lot of things to happen organically.

Q - You said you think this album is more gritty than the previous one. Is that what you were striving for, to have a more gritty sound?

I definitely wanted a more gritty sound. In terms of just the songwriting, that's kind of where it was going as well.

It sort of happened by accident. It was originally going to be an EP, and then we were having so much fun. We took a little break so I could write more songs, and make a full record.

What I had originally set out to do at the very least was to make something that was a little bit more representative of what I wanted to sound like live. So most of the drum and bass guitar performances are performances, rather than snipping together a lot of different things.

It was about performance, and it was about a live sound. The last record I loved, but there was stuff in there that I could never reproduce live.

It is just a little bit closer to what I do.

Q - You were talking about how the CD sounds more like you live. What is it like playing these songs live?

It's really cool. It's fun, because I can get into them quite a lot. I'm very much behind them. I'm committed to these songs.


Q - Do you consider yourself a folk musician?

Not in the traditional sense of the word folk. There is a really, really deeply rooted folk scene in America that I sort of skirt the lines and edges around.

Ellis Paul is an incredible folk musician that I'm friends with and that I've played with. He's a true folk artist, I think.

I think my genre is on the outer limits of folk, more pop-rock, singer-songwriter vibe rather than just folk.

Q - Are you trying to put more contemporary influences in your music? I know you've been compared to Joni Mitchell.

Which is flattering. I'm certainly influenced by Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez and all that. Growing up, that's definitely what I listened to.

I thought "Imagine" was written by Joan Baez because the first version I heard of it was hers. I didn't know it was John Lennon's song for a long time.

I've also been compared to Fiona Apple, and I loved Ani DiFranco growing up, so I certainly try to push toward those more current artists that I love.

Q - Now you were born in Australia. Have you toured over there?

I wouldn't call it touring. I've played a few shows down there.

I haven't gotten gutsy enough to just take a month or two off and do that. But I do play shows when I go over there.

They are very supportive down there. They don't necessarily like a cover band or whatever.

Q - Do you think the fact you were born in a place like Australia is reflected in your music at all?

I've been very lucky my whole life to travel quite a bit, not just in Australia, but in general. I went to Vietnam and Thailand when I was about 17 or 18.

So I've been very, very lucky to have traveled a lot. There is a song on my last record called, "Vietnam."

So whether that makes me necessarily ''worldly,'' I don't know. But it certainly does give me a perspective on things that some people might not have.

Q - You've been singing since you were 6 years old. Did you always think you would be a musician?

Actually, no. I think I fought it for a long time. I didn't want to commit to it, because it was just a little too scary.

I was a theater major in college. I don't have a lot of music theory background. I don't really read music very well, so I'm not a musician in that sense.

I had a lot of fear surrounding me in terms of being a musician, and it's only been in the last four years or so that I committed to doing it.

But being on stage is one of the happiest places I can be.



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chicago band The Luck of Eden Hall putting fresh take on psychedelic music with new CD


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Psychedelic music is alive and well, thanks to Chicago band The Luck of Eden Hall.

But under the direction of frontman Greg Curvey, the music sounds fresh and not dated, as reflected on the band's new CD, "Butterfly Revolutions Vol. 1," released on July 1.

The Luck of Eden Hall, www.theluckofedenhall.com, will perform July 20 at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., www.beatkitchen.com, as part of a CD release party.

Red Light Driver and Umbra & the Volcan Siege also are on the bill. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at www.ticketweb.com.

I had the chance to talk to Curvey about the making of the new CD.


Q - Of course, the band has a new CD out, "Butterfly Revolutions Vol. 1," the followup to 2009's "When The Clock Starts to Wake Up As We Go to Sleep."

I think with the last record, we finally hit the bullseye as far as my production capabilities and how I wanted a record to sound.

So this one's much along the same lines. It's just a new one.

Q - Did you have any particular goals for this album?

The goal for this album is that I want more people to hear it. It's such a shame to paint a beautiful picture, and have it sit it in your living room and only your friends get to see it.

I want everyone to have the chance to listen to it. So we're trying like crazy to get it out there.


Q - Have you already started "Vol. 2?"

Yeah, "Vol. 2" is finished. When we started on this project, our drummer, Carlos Mendoza, who has two beautiful twins, had one of them diagnosed with cancer.

Fortunately, the cancer has cleared up, but it totally occupied Carlos' time. I also play drums, so Mark Lofgren, my bass player, and I started to record the project.

We were getting all different types of songs that were coming out that didn't quite feel like they made a cohesive record. We had more than a double album on our hands.

So all the songs have been done for a long time. We wanted to pick the songs that really flowed well together as a side A and side B.

Q - Did you look at the order of the songs? I think the song "Chrysalide" is a great way to start off the album.

Absolutely. The funny thing behind that song is it almost didn't make the record because I couldn't get a mix out of it. 

It finally came together, but I was getting very frustrated with it. And it turned out being the best song. We feel that it's the best song.

Q - And I think that's a song that can get some attention. Yeah, it's psychedelic, but it has some pop sensibilities. 

Right, absolutely.

Q - That song reminds me of early Pink Floyd. Would you consider them as one of your big influences?

I'm influenced by so much, so it's difficult for me to pick a main influence. 

But I would say that what I'm trying to go for here isn't a retro sound. However, I want to utilize the sounds that I always thought were cool from that era, from that psychedelic era, like the thin vocals, the backward guitars, the sitar, stuff like that.

Q - How would you describe the band's sound?

I came up with the phrase, Popped Psychedelic Rock and Rollism. I like a hook.

When I'm writing a song, I like to have it so there is a melodic part that you can hum to.


Q - You guys have been on the scene for a long time. In 2009, you bumped into your friend Billy Corgan, who you hadn't seen in 10 years. How did the meeting go? Did it seem like 10 years had passed?

He came out to see us, and we just picked up the conversation where it had left off, that kind of thing.

Q - Your respective bands were on the scene at the same time, but Smashing Pumpkins hit it so big. Any regrets about your band not achieving the same success?

It is still what I want to do. I would love to be able to make a living off The Luck Of Eden Hall.

Right when our first single came out, my first drummer moved back home, then we were forced to get a different drummer.

You know, things like that. Life gets in the way sometimes. I definitely feel that I'm writing the best stuff now that I've ever done.

Q - So you're not doing this full time now?

No. I have my own business. I do stenciling and murals. And Carlos is a teacher. He teaches music. And the bass player, Mark, is a teacher who teaches video, how to edit and stuff like that.

So that's what we do to make the meals.

Q - Did you do the album cover for "Butterfly Revolutions Vol. 1?"

I did. I do all the artwork. There's one album cover that I didn't do, and that's "Subterrene," because my little girl was born right at that time, and my hands were literally full and I couldn't do it, so a friend of ours did the cover for us.

But that's one of the things I enjoy. I like putting together the package. I really enjoy doing that.

I've created props. If you come see us play, we have props to try to help set the mood.

Q - Is that to kind of add to the mood of the songs?

Yeah, yeah. I want people to come in and experience something fun. I want the smell in the air to be different. 

I built a couple of these optical wheels that spin. I have different wheels, and some make it look like the room is bubbling, some look like it is going down the drain, just different things like that.

Q - When should people expect "Vol. 2" to come out?

The label in England is going to release a four-song EP of us on colored vinyl on Oct. 3. We're going to coincide "Vol. 2" with that.

Q - What should people expect from it?

It is a continuation of "Vol. 1." It really is, because all the songs were written at the same time.

We just kind of placed them in an order that we felt flowed right and felt right.

It's every bit as good as "Vol. 1." We didn't pack "Vol. 1" with the good stuff.

As a matter of fact, we were really trying hard to spread the songs around, so that one album wasn't stronger than the other one.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Acclaim keeps growing for musician Michael Jade after collaboration with John Mayer


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

There's not many 23-year-old musicians who can say that they've already worked with John Mayer and made it to the Top 40 of "American Idol."

Northbrook resident Michael Jade can. His appearance on "American Idol" this season drew high praise from judge Steven Tyler, and Mayer has said Jade has a ''special voice and attitude.''



Jade will perform from 8 to 10 p.m. July 15 at the Nova-HP teen center, 1770 1st St., Highland Park, www.NovaHP.org.

I had the chance to talk to Jade about his appearance on "American Idol" and what it was like working with Mayer.



Q - Were you a fan of "American Idol" before you auditioned for the show? What made you want to be on the show?

Well, to answer your question, yes and no. Can I be a fan without actually watching the show?

I saw the first season, and I loved the idea. And then I started watching it the way I watch sports. I watch the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup and the NBA Finals.

So I was only watching the season finales, so to speak. But I was still a very big fan of the show. I just didn't have time to actually watch each of the seasons.

Q - What intrigued you about the show?

Just the idea of it was brilliant. The idea that you could take someone who normally sings in a subway and change their lives in this kind of superhighway to a music career is pretty incredible.

If anything, I wish I had auditioned earlier, because then I would have felt ready for it. But I think it was just an ego thing, and being worried about the stigma that comes with 'Idol.'

The good thing is that I didn't get that much airtime. So I got to be on a reality show without being on a reality show, which is kind of cool.

Q - So you're not Snookie.

Right, exactly.

Q - You made it to the Top 40. Did you surpass your goals?

Yeah. I sort of went into it on a whim, and I didn't really get a grasp of how far I would go until I got to Hollywood Week.

So I don't think there is any doubt about that. I definitely went further then I thought I would go.

Q - As far as this year's "American Idol" winner, Scott McCreery, was he the right choice?

I love Scotty. I had a lot of time to talk to him when I was out there, and he's all grass roots. He loves his mama, and right now, he's doing everything he's doing for all the right reasons.

And I just hopes he sort of remains that way. Because the real competition starts now for him, being able to make a career for himself. Now he's competing with all the artists out there.



Q - How are using what you learned from "American Idol" in your current activities?

I learned what an well-oiled machine in the entertainment industry looks like. That's probably one of the biggest things I learned.

Q - What about the comments from the judges? Steven Tyler had nice words for you, saying he loved your sound.

The comments from the judges are pretty minimal I think until you start getting into the Top 12. They say things that we already know.

There wasn't that much face time with them, where you are really getting some serious counseling.

Q - Was that nerve-wracking, the first time you walked out on the "American Idol" stage?

Yeah, sure. I've never been in front of people like that. I was fortunate enough in college to be gigging four nights a week in wedding bands and cover bands and doing original stuff, so a lot of the general fear of performing I didn't have, because I got those butterflies out of my stomach after doing it so much.

I think that is part of the reason why I got as far as I did. But yeah, you're always going to be a little extra intimidated when you're standing in front of Jennifer Lopez.

Q - What was the best piece of advice you received from the show?

I guess it would be to keep doing what I am doing, to not give up.

Q - You're only 23 and you've already worked with the likes of John Mayer. What was that experience like?

Working with him was priceless. I was studying at Berkeley, where he is an alum, and I was taking a songwriting class with a mutual teacher of ours, Pat Pattison.

And I played a lot of my songs for Pat and I guess he liked them, because I got a call from him one night asking me if I wanted to spend some time working with John Mayer.

He was in town, so I played for him, and then I was told the next day that he wanted to get in the studio and record the song ("Chicago") with me.

I knew I had the winning lottery ticket when Eddie Bayers, who has played on tons of big records in Nashville (working with the likes of Peter Frampton and Steve Winwood), he walks in the studio, and decides to play on the song with us. It was just a cluster of incredible talent that I got to work with, so it was really, really fun.

Q - Did John Mayer give you any advice?

Obviously there's three hours of stuff I could tell you about things that I learned.

Probably the biggest thing that I can manifest is how much I actually don't want to be him.

And it's not because he's an undesirable guy or anything. But it's more because nobody can do what he does better than him.

People are kind of sizing you up next to these artists. I got to the point where I realized that if I want people to listen to me, I want to be the only one up there and I don't want to sound or feel like John Mayer when I do my stuff.

Q - So you don't want to be so identified with him that people start calling you a John Mayer sound-alike or look-alike?

Right, right. I don't want people saying, 'Oh, that's just like John Mayer.' Because there's already a John Mayer. We don't need another John Mayer.



Q - That said, how would you describe your music and who are your biggest musical influences?

Well, that's also an interesting question. I think that's up for you to decide.

When I start to classify myself too much, I start playing by the rules I don't really want to play by. But if I had to fill in the blanks, I would probably say my music is about lyrics that make you think, dressed in pop Top 40 clothing.

I grew up listening to The Beatles. Rob Thomas, from Matchbox Twenty, is one of my biggest idols, just the way he carries himself and the honesty he has about himself.

Q - Was there something that propelled you to want to become a musician?

It just felt right. It's kind of like when you see a girl you like. You can't really say why or why you don't like her. You just do. And that's what music started doing for me.

Q - I understand you also work with teens with mental and social disabilities as a music teacher/therapist. What made you want to do that and what do the teens teach you?

Working with kids with mental and social disabilities actually fell into my lap in high school, and I haven't turn back since then.

They genuinely just want to be your friend. They have no form of judgement against you whatsoever.

These kids also have a genuine contentment that I wish I had. And the reason I don't have it is because I judge and analyze everything.

Since working with them, I keep pushing myself to judge as little as possible and just make lemonade from lemons.

Q - What do you think you add to the Chicago music scene?

I think Chicago is a fine place to make music. I don't necessarily find it a great place to have a music career, though.

I was spoiled during my time at Berkeley and when I lived in Nashville. I haven't seen musicians like that anywhere else in the world.

I try to be bold in everything I do. My lyrics are more than 'insert name and dance club here,' but my melodies will still make you shake your ass and feel something in your body rather than just your head.

Q - Do you have some short-term and long-term goals?

My short-term goal is to build a fan base, get my name out there more.

Everybody knows the checklist what an artist needs to do. What I really want people to do is come talk to me on Facebook and YouTube.

I really make a huge effort to connect with people through those sites.