By ERIC SCHELKOPF
For those who like their music to be a bit of a stew, Chicago band Antony & The Tramps fits the bill.
The band blends roots rock, acoustic folk and other genres to create a captivating sound. Antony & The Tramps continues to make intriguing music, as it demonstrates on its second full-length album "Digital Arms," set for release on May 5.
To celebrate the release of the album, Antony & The Tramps will perform April 17 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.
Brother George, Midnite on Pearl Beach and Maren Celest also are on the bill. The music starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door, available by going to www.lh-st.com.
I had the chance to talk to frontman Antony Ablan about the new album.
Our goal was to make a sexy album. Masculine grooves, feminine melody and harmony.
The title, "Digital Arms”, plays off that same relationship, its a reoccurring theme on the record, and in our lives as modern musicians/humans. The virtual world is more and more a reality, for better and worse.
Q - I understand you recorded the album in your own studio. What was that experience like compared to recording your first album?
We built a studio with engineer Chris Kress, in the Redlight building by the Metra tracks on Ashland. For a year, we had complete access to it, recording at any hour.
It allowed us to get to really new places through experimenting, total freedom. It also gave me plenty of rope to hang myself with…many times over.
That's the flip side. But I like creating from that place too.
Q - One of the songs, "Little Black Anxiety Box," is about your obsession with your phone. Describe your songwriting process and where you find inspiration for your songs.
Inspiration comes from anywhere, that's the nature of it. When you’re in the mindset of writing, you’re more open to being inspired, your antenna is up at all times.
It's like traveling, or wearing a camera around your neck: more stuff turns you on, things that normally wouldn’t. LBAB was written in minutes, it all happened at once, music, lyrics.
Even recording in one take — that's always convenient. My relationship with my phone is a perverse, constant power struggle with strange attractions.
Q - How did the group come together in the first place? What do you think are the strengths of the band?
I started working with different musicians years ago when I split from my last band to create otherwise. You have to find people you fall in love with musically.
So you date around for a while. In this case I had to find four mates, which is a little trickier and takes time, a couple of years.
The five of us have found our sound together, everyone shines in a different way. The three-part harmonies are uniquely us, Kej and Joe are absolutely amazing singers.
Chris and Ryan are such an invincible rhythm section, such a strong foundation we can build anything we want on that and it's always unshakable.
Q - Who would you say are the band's biggest musical influences and how have they impacted your music?
We all have very different backgrounds musically, there’s not one ‘big influence’ that's common to us all. That's what makes us Tramps.
Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think the band fits into it?
My relationship to Chicago is like my relationship to my phone, except I’m more proud of it. We’ve carved our own corner out in the huge sprawl of creativity.
It fills me with inspiration to take chances, and the anxiety to keep working without rest. Originality is appreciated in this city, that's not true of all great cities, and a lot of the so-called great music towns.
I like this town. This album wouldn’t be the same if we lived somewhere else.
Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?
We’re hungry to get better as a band, always, and with every new thing. "Great" is the goal, always.
That's the strongest force in this band. We don’t expect anything handed to us, we just keep creating better stuff.
And when our fans show up for shows, buy our records, and tell their friends about us, it's always a big reward. So, we keep working to be better.