By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Music fans in Chicago know they can expect the unexpected on Halloween.
In that vein, Chicago band Diana & the Dishes will perform Michael Jackson's iconic album "Thriller" on Oct. 31 at Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, as part of a Halloween Flashback Party.
Chicago-based Terrible Spaceship, which will perform "Invaders 1938" and "Zontar, the Thing from Venus," and The Lincoln Squares, which will perform Nirvana’s "Nevermind," also are on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10, available by going to www.martyrslive.com.
I had the chance to talk to Diana & the Dishes frontwoman Diana Lawrence, www.dianalawrence.com/music/diana-and-the-dishes, about the upcoming show.
Q - Diana & the Dishes will perform "Thriller" at the upcoming show. What made you want to choose that album to perform and what should people expect?
All the members of Diana & the Dishes have played lots of covers in various other projects, but as a full band we haven't ever done a cover show and we've been thinking for some time about finding an opportunity to do one.
When we connected with Martyrs’ about doing a show on Halloween, we decided that night would be the perfect opportunity, and "Thriller" (aside from being one of the best albums every made) has obvious Halloween connotations, so we decided to go for it.
Our instrumentation is very different than what you hear on "Thriller" so we won't be making any attempts to sound just like the album but, in putting our own spin on the songs, audiences can still expect those amazingly danceable grooves, lots of humor and as much of the "soul of MJ" as the Spirit of Halloween can send me that night!
Q - The band formed in 2008. What were your goals in forming and do you think you achieved them?
I formed the Dishes to explore my own original songs in full band context with the best and most creative musicians I could find. In the last five years, we've really become a little family, and we have a great time together.
Every time I bring a new song to the band, they open the song up in a way that I never would have been able to find on my own. I feel so lucky to get to make music with them.
Q - Diana and the Dishes has garnered comparisons to Ben Folds and Fiona Apple. Do you consider those comparisons accurate? Who are your biggest influences?
Yes, both those artists have been huge influences on me personally. As all the members of the band have varied influences, the full band pulls in lots of different genres, from the rock and pop to soul, jazz and even cabaret.
We like to keep audiences on their toes.
Q - You also have a solo career and are a member of the band Balkano, whose music is in stark contrast to what Diana and the Dishes does. How do you juggle your different projects and do you feel you need each in your life?
I enjoy having lots of different projects in my life, though it's true, it can get hard to juggle them all sometimes. As I move forward, I find myself focusing more on songwriting and original music projects, but part of me feels that if my own music was all that I did, it would be like staring into a mirror all day, and that would just get weird.
So I definitely value being involved in other people's projects as well as my own.
Q - In addition, you are a music director and this year collaborated with eight Chicago playwrights to present "Next Stop: A New Chicago Musical." How was that experience and do you see yourself doing even more of that in the future?
I work often in the Chicago theatre community, and a excited to continue developing "Next Stop" with the Route 66 Theatre. I'm also excited that other musical theatre writing projects are starting to appear in my life; I definitely hope to keep writing music for theatre in Chicago and elsewhere.
Q - What's new on the horizon for Diana and the Dishes. Is the group working on new music?
We are! We're starting to collect and develop new songs for a new album, though I can't say yet when it would be released.
In the meantime, people are welcome to go to www.dianaandthedishes.com to check out our 2010 album, "Take A Picture."