By ERIC SCHELKOPF
You should believe the hype when it comes to Chicago band Midwest Hype.
With the release of its fourth album, "The Time," Midwest Hype continues to bring a fresh sound to the local music scene. To celebrate the release of the new CD, the band will bring its urban garage jazz to Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, on April 4.
The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10, available at www.ticketfly.com.
I had the chance to interview Midwest Hype drummer Max Kepler about the new album and the band's latest activities.
Q - In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?
For this record we really wanted to make sure to do the record WE wanted. We didn’t really have outside opinions and we didn’t have a lot of time to mess around with arrangements and re-writing because we only had 72 hours.
We wanted to try new things on this album for sure, and get down a lot of songs that we have loved for a long time but had never made it to the soundboard. We were all very pleased with what we were able to accomplish in three days.
It’s not easy doing that much in that time, but we are all very happy with it.
Q - You worked with Willie Waldman on the album, who has collaborated with everyone from Tupac to Prince. What do you think he brought to the project?
Willie is a character. We met him in our hometown in Indiana where he grew up and we had always talked about getting out to California to do some recording.
Finally, we were able to get it together at the right time and it was great. He introduced us to Dave Aron who owns the studio and it was a really great fit.
We wanted to make sure to have a little bit more of a hip-hop vibe on this record and Dave’s studio is perfect for that. Thanks Willie!
Q - It seems like there should be a story behind the album's title. Is there?
Well, it might seem like it, but it’s not that much of a story. George had this song we had been trying to get done for a while and just before we headed out to California we had it pretty well laced so when we went into the studio we made sure to record it because it has a distinct funk sound that we wanted to make sure was on the record.
That song was of course “The Time” and we just felt like that song kind of set the tone, not only for the album, but for where we feel we are professionally now as well.
Q - I understand that you are self-releasing the album after a deal with Sony fell through. Do you think that it is better that the band will be self-releasing the album?
Yes we are. We had partially chosen our studio because of that opportunity, so we were all very upset when it didn’t work out, but with things like that you really don’t know what the actual benefits are going to be.
We have done releases independently in the past and when we found out it wasn’t going to happen we immediately said, “Okay, let’s get this music out.”
Our management team has been a big help and we are excited about what is to come.
Q - It seems as though you are trying to reach out to the nation's youth through songs like "Generation Why" and "Youth Rise." You talk a lot about empowerment on the songs. What messages were you trying to convey on those songs and on the album overall?
We are all about awareness, but we always try to frame it in what we hope isn’t an obvious way. We aren’t a political band per say, but we all do feel strongly about what is going on culturally and politically.
I think as a band we are really mostly about making sure that culturally everyone is thinking, and finding information for themselves.
Q - I am sure you have heard the band's music described in different ways. How would you describe the band's music?
This is a question that we get asked a lot because we do blend so many styles, and the best way I think we can say it is “Reggae, funk, hip-hop, rock."
We have called it “Urban Garage Jazz” in the past as well. A longer answer is that we are fans of so many types of music that we never set out to write one kind of song or style of songs.
We always listened to everything and if we liked it we listened extra hard. When George comes to us with songs it's usually a combination of a lot of our favorite styles of music because that’s what we think is fun to play and that’s how he writes material.
Mixing up genres is a lot of the fun for us and it seems natural when we are writing new material. I think “The Time” as an album is an excellent reflection of that.
Q - Are you happy with how the band has evolved since forming? What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?
Watching the band evolve into what it is now has been the most rewarding and interesting thing I could have asked for. We have transformed from a quartet of high school Sublime fans (and beginner musicians) into something that I think is challenging, interesting, and unique.
We are more excited about our new album than we ever have been and I think after listening it’s easy to understand why. As far as goals: we are currently working with our new management team to figure out our next moves, but tours, videos, and more music are all on the horizon and everyone is very excited about it.
Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you see the band fitting into it?
The Chicago music scene looks very exciting now. A lot of creative new music has been catching national attention from here for the past few years and I think it’s a great time to be doing something new in this city because people seem to be looking for what will be the next hot thing out of the Midwest.
Our band has always had the ability to chameleon into several different sounds, but still be very distinctive so I think we are in a good place. It’s going to be a great year.