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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chicago band The Future Laureates expands sound on new CD, reaching out to new audience


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

For its third studio album, Chicago band The Future Laureates wanted a sound that more captured its live sound.

Fans will be able to judge for themselves when the band, www.thefuturelaureates.com, performs Saturday, May 12, at Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave., Chicago, as part of a CD release party.

Cobalt and the Hired Guns and Tree also are on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at www.ticketweb.com.

I had the chance talk to the band's three founding members (Danny Surico (guitar/vocals), James Hyde (bass/vocals) and Matthew Daigler (ukulele/vocals) about the new album.

Q - "Fortress Sessions" is the band's third studio album. What goals did you have for the album and do you think you achieved them?
Matthew: We wanted a more professional sound and we wanted a sound that captures our live show more.  I would say it’s generally more professional sounding and I think that we’re closer to getting it to our live sound, but it’s hard to capture that.

Danny:  I think along those same lines, we wanted to capture the energy of our live sound a bit more while also treating the recording process as a separate process than our live shows.

Q - The band decided to expand its sound on the album. Was that a case of the band wanting to create new challenges?

Matthew: No, I would say it’s more that we wanted to try new things and do what was best for each song.  If we felt that was including some new instrument, then we would do that.

Danny:  For example, the inclusion of violin, organ, percussion, trumpet—those are instruments we don’t typically play with live but were instruments that we felt complemented a number of these songs quite well.  So we said, “What the hell? “Let’s feature them on the record!”

The album touches on many themes, such as hypocrisy on the song "Convert Them in Convertibles." What messages were you trying to get across?

Danny:  I think it’s important for me when I’m writing lyrics to have a variation of themes from song to song.  I get a bit bored when I’m listening to an album and every song pretty much sounds the same and talks about a slight variation of the same theme (love being the most common example).  

So I’m aware of that when I’m writing my lyrics and I try to steer clear of that. While there are love songs on this album, I was trying to avoid the typical clich├ęs that people often hear in love songs.

On the other hand, “Convert Them in Convertibles” is a catchy pop song about religious hypocrisy (even I admit that’s a little strange); “Song for My Grandchild” is about the failure of our politicians to represent the American people; “Serenity” is based on the Serenity prayer.  

“Galahad’s Song” is about being at the point of actualizing one’s potential—something I think we are closer to as a band with this record. So, there are a variety of messages, and I hope people can take something a little different away from each song when they listen.

Q - Your faith also seems to play a large part in the band's music. What would you like people to take away from your songs?

Danny:  Well, for me, faith is an issue I struggle with. It is not easy for me, and I find that I constantly am challenging my own beliefs and reflecting on what God’s role is in my life.

I think that is actually a good thing. When people think they have faith and God completely figured out, that can sometimes be a barrier to new ideas and new beliefs. 

So I wouldn’t say my faith appears in all my lyrics, but at this point in my life it is something I am working on and coming to understand, so my lyrics sometimes reflect that internal inquisitiveness.

James:  We’re not trying to push any particular religion or beliefs on people, but the presence of faith, or the references to faith and God in our music come out of our experience and our beliefs.  

We’re not trying to hide our faith, and that comes through in some of our songs.

Q - Ellis Clark is someone who has been around the Chicago music scene for a while. How did the band hook up with him and what do you think he brought to the table?

James: We were connected with Ellis through Michael Teach and CAUDog records. Ellis does the sound engineering and producing for the label. I think he brought a strong voice in the studio that we wanted and needed to refine the arrangements of the songs.

Because he has a lot of experience both as a musician and a producer, he has a great instinct for what improves a song, and what might not be working. He’s also not afraid to tell you.

Q - How was the experience of playing at this year's SXSW festival? What were the highlights for you?

James:  It was our first time at SXSW, and one thing that struck us was the magnitude of it. There were a LOT of people. But all those people had come to see live music and discover new bands.  

One of the highlights was definitely being able to play for so many new people, who had never heard our music before, but were really pumped up to hear it.  

In that sense, it was really gratifying. The emotional exchange between the musicians and the crowd was a great experience, especially given that we were all strangers.

Q - It's impressive that the band has been able to gain airplay on 140 college and community radio stations across the country. How has the band been able to build its following?

Danny: Well, the short and sweet answer is through a lot of hard work and time. Over time we’ve gotten to be better musicians and write better songs.  

Our live show has improved with the inclusion of new members in our group.

Our presence on social media, on radio, and with bloggers such as yourself helps build our following. So a lot of little things, but the x-factor is time.

Q - What's next for the band?

James:  Well, in the immediate future, we’ll be playing some summer festivals, including Summerfest in Milwaukee. Our more long-term plans are to expand our regional presence into other cities, including a trip in the fall back out to the East Coast where we played last June. 

Maybe even someday we’ll have a song placed in a TV show or movie.

Danny:  We want to tour the country and we want to connect with more national acts. We are not afraid to open for artists and warm up a crowd—in fact, we relish that challenge.  

We continue to push ourselves to reach a point where we can live as self-sufficient musicians. We’re not looking to be famous or be rock stars, but we are looking to make music our livelihood.

Every day, we get a little bit closer to reaching that goal. Our hope is that this new record will be well-received and help us reach new audiences.

We’ll start there, and over time, we believe the rest will fall into place.