Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chicago band Common Shiner plugs in on new album


Chicago band Common Shiner is the kind of band that keeps people guessing.

After releasing the folk-oriented "Before They Sold Out: Part 1" last year, the band turns up the energy on its new CD, "Before They Sold Out: Part 2."

Common Shiner will celebrate the release of its new album with a show on Feb. 2 at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago.

The show starts at 10 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at

I had the chance to interview Common Shiner frontman Morgan Foster about the new album.

Q - What made you want to release "Before They Sold Out" in two parts? How did you decide what songs should get both the unplugged and plugged in treatment?

Well, it was partly a musical decision and, to be honest, partly a financial one. We've historically always had songs that were very low volume and intimate that we really liked playing in concert as sort of a "take a breath moment" between higher energy songs. 

Our fans have always really enjoyed those songs, and while our full band sound has gone more and more in a rock direction, we've still found ourselves writing those songs and wanting to use them here and there. 

So what better way than to just make a whole album of those songs, and it's just a fact that making an album of those songs is going to be far less expensive. So it was actually while recording Before They Sold Out (Part I), that the idea of creating a companion album that gives the rock "yang" to our folksy "yin" was born.


Q - The band has a unique name. Any meaning behind the name?

We liked the name because it can mean a variety of different things to different people. A usual interpretation is that it's a standard black eye, which made me feel like a real tough rock star until my relentless neurotic thoughts kicked back in and then I just went back to feeling like me.

I've always enjoyed the idea of the "shining" of the "common" experience, but truth be told it's the name of a fish, and I thought it sounded kinda cool.  :)

Q - How do you think the band has fit into the Chicago music scene since moving here from Grand Rapids, Mich.? What made the band want to move to Chicago?

When we moved to Chicago together, I think we were all really in need of a change. There wasn't necessarily anything wrong with where we were, but we had been there for a while and we needed a new adventure. 

Chicago was a great fit because we had always felt a certain kinship with it (since we're all Midwesterners), and it also wasn't too far away from our base in Michigan, which was nice too. 

I think where we really found our home here was with all the songwriters in town, as we started bumping into all of them at open mic nights and even started hosting our own get-togethers where we could all share songs, talk about songwriting, and create together. 

That's really what being a musician is all about, and we'll be forever grateful to that wonderful community of songwriters that exists in Chicago.

Q - It seems like folk and roots music is popular again. Why do you think that is and what do you think the band adds to the scene?

Well, I think folk and roots music will always come back and be popular because it isn't a fad; it's really at the center of all music. And I think that's because it's always so focused on the song itself, not the sound, and that's what will never die. 

I think what we add to that is that we have a focus on songwriting and making songs that really speak to people, which is what we have in common with folk and roots music. What our new album adds to that is a little bit of an edge or epic-ness to those songs.

Q - How do you think the band has evolved since first forming? Where do you see the band going from here?

Well the band first started as a two acoustic guitarists with an almost jam-band kind of quality, so we certainly have evolved quite a lot since then. I think we've evolved more and more in the sense of the drive and passion that we play with live. 

We've always had a pretty passionate type of stage presence, and so our music continues to evolve to match that drive. As far as where we go from here, I think we'll probably just keep adding to the depth of our songs while striving to find ways to move people. 

I can't claim to know where that means we'll go, but the ride seems to be getting more and more exciting.

Q - What goals does Common Shiner have this year?

This year I think one of our biggest goals is to tour again. We toured the East Coast a few years ago, and we really haven't hit the road for any length of time since then. 

There's a certain freedom and energy to going on the road, and we definitely would like to do that with this album. Beyond that, I think we'd just love to really get out there regionally and just spread the love that we poured into this album. 

And if we're dreaming big, I think we'd like to be the first rock band to play on the space station, so if you know anyone that can make that happen, that would be pretty rad.