The music of Chicago band Casimir Pulaski is as distinctive as its name.
The band's mix of folk and calypso music is in the spotlight on Casimir Pulaski's debut EP, "Heads and Tails." The band, comprised of Maximillian Nishida and Xavier Maldanado, will perform a free show March 6 at The Store, 2002 N. Halsted St., Chicago.
The Midwest and Leah Druzinsky also are on the bill. Doors open at 9 p.m.
I had the chance to talk to Nishida about the upcoming show.
Q - Great to talk to you. You recently released your debut EP, "Heads and Tails." In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?
Thank you, it’s great to talk to you. Sharing my music was the main goal for the album.
As funny as it may seem, it was more difficult for me to feel comfortable about putting the songs out there then reaching some kind of recognition or fandom.
I was scared of how people would react. I had been playing and writing songs for a long time now, more than eight years, and I was starting to forget some of them, so it was time to record.
When we started this project, it felt like now or never. For a long time, I just kept my music to myself.
I would play shows and open mics, which felt safe, but if I put something down on a record, then it’s permanent. I'm capturing that moment forever, which was scary for me at the time.
We have greatly surpassed the goals of the album. Xavier and I could not be more happy with it.
Q - You met each other in high school and have been collaborating since 2012. What makes your musical partnership so strong?
Xavier is above all else a great friend. The guy goes above and beyond for his friends. He’s also one of the nicest people I have ever known.
Every once in a while he will says the craziest shit - he’s wicked funny. When it comes to making music, it’s easy. How wouldn't I want to work with Xavier?
It all started off while we were chilling at a friend’s party and I played him one of my songs. Yeah, I was that guy at the party.
He loved them and from that point on, we have been working with each other. I will say Xavier’s knowledge of music, from bands to theory, helps us take our music to new heights.
Just listen for the bass and you'll get it.
Q - What made you want to change the band's name from Sound of the Silent Age to Casimir Pulaski? Do you think have such a distinctive name has helped draw more people to your music?
For starters, we picked the name Sound of the Silent Age because it was the best we could think of at the time. We figured, we will go with this for now.
The name was a reference to a David Bowie song about aborted fetuses. Now we feel really comfortable with the name Casimir Pulaski, it fits us well.
Our name has a strong connection to the school system of the inner city of Chicago, because all the Polish kids wouldn't come to school on Casimir Pulaski's birthday.
So CPS (Chicago Public Schools) just gave everybody the day off to save on the budget. The whole thing is treated as a snow day.
When I tell people about our name they always say, "I think I've heard of you guys before." Now, a couple things could be happening here, including that they might have heard of us before. That is slowly happening more, which I think is just insane.
They drive on Pulaski Road a lot (his name is literally all over the city). They might know who Casimir Pulaski actually was. Or lastly, they know the name from the Sufjan Stevens song, "Casimir Pulaski Day."
Sufjan Stevens in one of my favorites and I like that we can throw in that Easter egg in our name.
Q - How will the band observe Casimir Pulaski on March 2?
First we will be practicing and then will be celebrating. I think I will spend a little time that day also looking at paintings of wooden ships and the American revolution. The rest can not be discussed we like to keep March 2nd holy.
Q - Who would you say are the band's biggest influences and how have they influenced your music?
There are so many... a few that stand out are Miniature Tigers - their first album is crazy good, Harry Belafonte's record "Calypso," Sufjan Stevens, Willy Mason, and Luka Bloom.
To me that's what I hear when I listen to "Heads and Tails." It’s a rhythm over here or a chord struck over there.
I know where all the little pieces and ideas came from. They are big influences on this record.
Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think the band fits into it?
I think the Chicago music scene is strong. Chicago loves its music, we all know that every band comes to Chicago.
When I first realized that bands don't stop in every town it blew my mind. (I grew up in Chicago).
Right now, I feel the Chicago music scene is a lot about the Neo Soul. I don't know how it happened, but it did. Even with people doing hip hop or rap, Neo Soul is there, it’s everywhere.
On the other side of the map we have folk punk, cool stuff. Who doesn't love Andrew Jackson Jihad?
Chicago also has a strong indie scene. There are a lot of house shows, which is good and bad because at house shows bands figure their stuff out, work out kinks. Unfortunately I don’t think house shows are sustainable.
I think the Chicago music scene, more than any other, needs some love. Look at Chance the Rapper, He released his whole record for free on SoundCloud, that’s awesome, because who doesn't love free stuff especially when it really great free stuff.
But the problem I see isn't something Chance will have to deal with, but what do you do when you're in that middle ground? You haven't made it but you have had a lot of success and give everything out for free? It’s not sustainable.
For a lot of great music out there it will unfortunately just disappear, because everyone needs a day job and music isn’t paying. Anyway, thanks for listening to our ideas if you agree or disagree you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?
Well our first goal is to have an awesome show on March 6th at The Store 2002 N Halsted St. Outside of the show, writing, writing, writing!
Starting in March, we will be releasing a new song every month on www.soundcloud.com. We’ll do this through the year and at the end of the year, we’ll take the songs we love the most to the studio and put an album together.
That’s what we’re looking at for this year.