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Monday, November 10, 2014

Chicago band Smidgen bringing muscular sound to Reggies


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago band Smidgen is a band built upon years of friendship. 

Three of the band's members - bassist Steve Strauss, guitarist Fred Ephrem and drummer/keyboardist/vocalist Alex Beblis, have known each other since the '80s, which helps contribute to Smidgen's muscular sound.

Smidgen will perform Nov. 14 at Reggies' Music Joint, 2105 S. State St., Chicago.  Circleswitch and Skyway Stereo also are on the bill.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $8, available at www.ticketfly.com.

I had the chance to talk to Strauss about the upcoming show.


Q - Great to talk to you. You, Fred and Alex - have known each other since the early '80s. Why do you think the three of you connect so well musically? 

It's just years of fighting like brothers where you sonically have a trust and a respect for each other. We know our faults and our strengths in putting together music. 


Most importantly we can talk honestly and direct with each other. And it will not bruise egos. We write for the song.

Q - In sitting down to make your self-titled EP, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 


The album is on iTunes and Spotify, plus a host of other Internet music outlets thanks to Tunecore and songs are playing on Internet radio. Still need to put EP to college radio. 

We plan to do that in February. We still need to generate more revenue to finance studio time for our next songs.
 

Q - Tell me a little about the making of your song "Bring to Life" off the EP. I understand that your lead singer, Nick Chirikos, had not finished writing the lyrics to the song before you sat down to record it.
 

http://smidgen.bandcamp.com/releases

We recorded the track in L.A. when we attended the NAMM convention. Danny Naim is a great producer and engineer in LA, that we hang out with at NAMM. He suggested recording in his studio the Cave than fighting LA traffic going back to convention. Musically we had finished the song three weeks before. When the tracks and recording started to lay down easily Nick rushed upstairs with me and penned the lyrics. 

Q - Nick really stretches his vocals on that song and he reminds me of Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) in his vocal range. How did you get together with him and what do you think he brings to the table?

Nick was found by the bassist in Alex and Fred's other musical project at a block party. He was singing covers. 

What he brings to the table is a gifted voice. We can write decent songs but if you do not have a decent singer, you have squat. Nick's voice defines Smidgen.
 

Q - Another song, "Take My Throne," is featured in a short film, "iDig," which you act in. Do you think the song works well in the movie? How long have you been acting and do you need both acting and music in your life?
 

Speaking with the directors, it strangely does fit perfectly. We did not write "Take My Throne" for the film, but the song addresses a sense of regret to redo one's life go back in time. Those elements were in the film as the main character tries to reconnects with his old classmates to pull his life out of a downward spiral.

I always have acted. I started in junior high, and had lead roles throughout high school, then college. 



After college, I was in the Second City classes and was invited to become part of the troupe. When I heard the pitch for "iDig," I loved the role for Eric and tried out. 

With improv, live stage, and film you have to listen and work with the other players just like music. If you grandstand the vibe goes bad. 

I will do spot roles for Motion Source, which is also producing the video for "Bring to Life." But because of time constraints, I am focusing on music. 

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think the band fits into it? 

We see a lot of bands and players from our generation still being a factor in the music scene. Wilco is Chicago's house band.

With Chicago's great original music venues and music fests it's a very vibrant scene. We are making some of our best music now and getting very positive response with great crowd turn out and website activity is up 600 percent from last year. 

Our sound fits in that straight ahead, hooks, kinda grunge post modern groove.

Q - The music industry has changed a lot since you first started playing music. Is it easier or harder to be a musician these days? How are you using today's technology to get your music out to more people? 


Great question. What is really great about present time is you do not need a record deal to make your music.

With Pro Tools, social media and the Internet, you can self-produce a high quality product. With Internet radio, we are getting plays over 45 countries globally. And our costs are manageable. 

So in that respect, it's easier. Getting sustainable revenue for the music is an issue and labels help a lot in distribution.

We use Instagram, Facebook, and other social media. We use Tunecore for distribution. We are on Jango Internet radio. Bandzoogle is our vendor for maintaining our website.

All these technological advances really help bands like ours.
 

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

We want to play out at all great venues and music fests locally about eight to 10 times a year. We plan to send 300 copies of the EP to college radio stations next spring. We want 10k-20k downloads.


We want to hook up with a local studio and producer to produce our next eight songs. With "iDig," we want to play South by Southwest in March. We know a booking agent in Austin, who is a Smidgen fan.

Long term is maybe get signed to an indie label.