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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Soulful Chicago musician Angelique Anderson bringing powerful vocals to new music project



By ERIC SCHELKOPF

For her latest project, soulful songstress Angelique Anderson teams up with fellow Chicago musician Michele Thomas to form Acoustic Blue.

Acoustic Blue will perform at 11 p.m. Jan. 30 at Uncommon Ground, 1401 W. Devon Ave., Chicago. Kelley Ahlstrom will perform at 10 a.m.

I had the chance to talk to Anderson about Acoustic Blue.

Q - Great talking to you. Your latest project is Acoustic Blu. How did that come about and what do you want to do with the project? How did you hook up with Michele Thomas? 

Acoustic Blu came from Michele and me wanting to do a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James. It seemed natural since Michele has primarily been a jazz singer and I do take a lot of influence from Etta James.

We are using it to branch out and try some music we've wanted to do but didn't have a platform to deliver. For her, it is some less jazz influenced music and originals.

For me, it's getting to deliver my music in a more acoustic setting and covering some more challenging artists. We'd also like to start having a different artists join the collective each time.

It's a good way build a music family. At our Jan. 30th show, we'll have Kelley Ahlstrom. 

I met Michele when I was looking for a vocal coach. Out of all of them, I thought she was the best fit for me because she doesn't just focus on classical training but prepared you to sing in the real world. 

Plus she is super supportive and patient which you need when you are laying all your cracks and horrible notes on the line. 

Q - You released your debut album, "No Ordinary," in 2013. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? Besides your Acoustic Blu project, are you working on new music? 

All of the music for "No Ordinary" comes from a tumultuous breakup. Isn't that the required response for any artist? It is true though.

At that time, I didn't have a clear long term goal. It was really people like Michele, drummer/producer Darren Scorza, DJ Caswell James and family and other friends propelling me to get my stuff out there. 


The album was much more cathartic than that for me. It helped me lick my wounds and start on another part of my life.

As for new music, I am tossing around some ideas now. I'm in the very early stages of an EP. 

My goal is to get a couple of tunes for this polished up and into my set list. If things go smoothly, maybe I can have the EP wrapped up later this year or early next year. 

Q - Who are your biggest musical influences and what kind of impact have they had on your music? 

Definitely Etta James. She's mainly known for her bluesy voice but the way she finessed that for "At Last" or "Sunday Kind of Love" made me want to sing.

Plus her whole "this is me attitude" is a great as well. She mainly encourages me to do things my way and trust that the right people will hear it.

Otherwise there is Nina Simone, U2, Otis Redding, Zero 7, and Led Zeppelin. I think they've all snuck onto the album in some form or fashion. 

Q - I understand that you stepped away from music for a while. What made you want to get back into music and are you happy with the decision? 

I am totally and utterly in love with music and singing. There are few things that bring me more joy, allow me to intimately connect with people, and provide excuses to hang out late and have a few whiskies. 

https://soundcloud.com/angeliqueamusic


So far the welcome has been amazing. I hope that it continues and that I am able to put some new music out there real soon. 

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and what do you think you add to it? 

Honestly, it's tough because its filled with so much diverse talent. There are some really good acts out there and while we have quite a few venues, there is a bit of vying for space. 

I think I have my own blend of soul, alt-rock, and jazz. I've covered anything from Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" to "At Last." 

I don't think you see many women doing that. "No Ordinary" does a similar thing starting with the rocked up "It Goes On" to ending with the very jazz influenced "In Between". 

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations? 

Other than currently working with Michele, Darren, and Neal Ager, I'd love to get together with Al Green, Chet Faker or Alt-J. 

I can dream, right?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chicago musician B. Forrest to perform new songs at Martyrs'


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

After performing the day after the terrorist attack in Paris, Chicago musician B. Forrest will play songs from his upcoming debut album, "Back to Bodhi," at Martyrs,' 3855 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, on Jan. 31.

The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and tickets are $8, available at www.martyrslive.com.

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

 
Q - Great to talk to you. You performed in Paris the day after the terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. What was the mood like that day and what were your thoughts that day?

Thanks for having me.

It’s not easy to sum up the mood in brief, but that day was tragic in many ways. As an artist, it was upsetting.

The cartoonists were artists expressing themselves (provocatively or not), and they and innocent others were killed for it. That day the streets were eerie, because the gunmen were still at large.

As the weekend progressed, the mood shifted from sadness and shock to unity and resilience.

My thoughts were not unlike a lot of peoples. Paris is a cultural capital of the world and the people who have come to call it home are from all walks of life.

A common sentiment was/is sadness at the potential polarizing of a diverse culture that promotes tolerance.

Q - How did the audience react that night to your performance? Did you feel your music gave some peace to the week's events?

The first night I played was that Thursday, and the second was on Sunday (the day of the unity walk). The cafĂ© culture of Paris is a way of life, so the first gig people were unwinding from the day's events. 

Friends came out to see me, which helped me relate to the listener, otherwise I can see I may have felt a little more foreign then I already was. I had just got in that morning, so I focused on playing with honesty and kept in mind that I was free to do so.

Sunday was a bit more wholesome. Everyone in Paris, (and therefore the venue), had been at the walk, so there was a shared energy of the day with us. 

I performed the songs with that experience fresh in mind. I usually never play a song twice in a night but I book-ended the two sets with “One By One”, which has become more relevant to me every time I play it live.

Q - Your debut album, "Back to Bodhi," is set to be released in the spring. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? What is the meaning behind the album's title?

My main goal for the album was to give the songs the light of day they deserved, and I think we achieved that. There was a time I focused on guitar playing and neglected songwriting… but songs I’d written never left and new ones came and grew.

I want to be able to focus on different things and finishing this album gave those songs a life of their own. I reared them, now I can move forward a ways.




The processes helped me get more comfortable with taking ownership as well.

The meaning of the album’s title is a personal reference to a few things but I hope the listener uses their imagination and comes up with their own impression. Literally speaking, the Bodhi tree was the tree that the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) meditated under when he attained nirvana.

Figuratively, it’s a bit of an essay in song on the common search for peace. I could mention more about what the title means to me but I would ramble a bit and would rather the songs do the talking.

Q - Do you practice Buddhism? How has it impacted your music?

No, I am not a practicing Buddhist, but I will say I have explored it and a lot of the principles have changed the way I look at the world (including music). One of the main foundations of Buddhism is meditation, which I’m not good at… but music is a form of meditation in some ways.

https://soundcloud.com/bforrestmusic

Approaching anything with mindfulness allows a renewed sense of appreciation of being and that act in which we are engaged in. 

In terms of songwriting though, some of my influences are other western cultural works that were influenced by eastern philosophy. Two novelists that come to mind are Hesse and Kerouac, both of whom I read quite a bit of a few years back.

Q - Who are the other musicians on the album and how did you hook up with them? What do they bring to the table?

The album has 13 players on it (14 including Doug) and I’m glad to say they are mostly all good friends of mine… people that inspire me. Four of us make up the rhythm section and the rest are featured throughout the record.

Tyler (drums), Garrett (bass) and I met when I was a freshman at Columbia. They went on to form Sidewalk Chalk with Maggie (background vocals), Sam (vocals and Trumpet) and David (trombone).

The rest of the players I met gradually on the younger Chicago scene. They are all extremely talented players who helped breath life into the music.

What they bring to the table most, aside from their caliber musicianship, is their personalities. They’re beautiful people and it comes out in their playing.

Q - I understand that some of the post-production took place in South Africa. What was that experience like? Do you think it helped add to the worldly nature of the album?

Post-production took place in a raw sense at the hands of the other producer (Doug Saltzman) at a home studio called The Coach House in Chicago. The ideas on my end were manifesting while I was abroad, and the bulk of that time was in Cape Town.

I left for five months days after we finished 90 percent of the tracking. Doug would send me mixes and I would listen down and send my notes back.

We would vigorously go back and fourth for months sculpting the tones and textures. Cape Town has a different energy to it and it was while I was there that I settled on the album title, reached out to Javier Pinon about the art, and recorded and produced the last track.

It was difficult at times with the time difference and different set ups, but in other senses it let the music and the collaboration breath. It was also a special experience to play the mixes to the friends I made there and feel their support and enthusiasm in a totally different culture.

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

What do I think of the Chicago music scene? That’s a tough question. My first answer would say its great. The scene is welcoming and there is a lot of love to go around.

In terms of it being a national stage though, I think it can compete but doesn’t have the glowing recognition that NYC, L.A., and Nashville have.



That’s the whole Second City syndrome, though. There are movements of people who are making known and championing the Chicago music scene. 

The lovely people over at the Gala have created their own world where many people have been drawn to and thrive in.

I don’t know just yet how my music fits into it. I am a proud Chicagoan, but I’m attracted by a lot of other places and would rather my music be defined by those who relate to it rather than the city it comes from.

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

I have my dream projects like anyone else (idk if I can say them with out feeling vulnerable.) All of us grow up listening to our heroes and it’d be surreal to make music with them.

For now, I’m grateful and blessed to have the peers that I do, and I’d like to keep collaborating with them before they become too in demand and don’t have the time for me anymore.

In the meanwhile, I look forward to performing this album and recording the next one.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chicago-based jazz vocalist Alyssa Allgood shows innovation, maturity on new EP




By ERIC SCHELKOPF

The maturity that Chicago-based jazz vocalist Alyssa Allgood shows on her debut EP, "Lady Bird," belies her young age.

Allgood, who recently graduated from North Central College in Naperville, will celebrate the release of "Lady Bird" by performing Jan. 23 at The High Hat Club, 1920 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago.

The show starts at 9 p.m. and there is a $10 cover charge.

I had the chance to talk to Allgood about the new EP.


Q - Great talking to you again. "Lady Bird" is your debut recording. In sitting down to make the record, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

Thanks, Eric. It is great talking to you again, too!

My main goal with "Lady Bird" was to create a nice representation of my sound and my artistic approach to the music. Since I am new to the professional jazz scene .I thought it would be smart to create a recording that other artists and people could listen to in order to get a better understanding of who I am musically and to help legitimize me as an artist.

I think I accomplished this with my EP by including original writing, arranging and lyrics. My next goal is to use this album to get my sound out into the world and help land other performance opportunities. 

I have already gotten some great feedback about the recording and I imagine that I will continue working on this second goal for a while.  

Q - Is there a meaning behind the album's name?

There is a special meaning behind the album's name. "Lady Bird" is an old standard written by Tadd Dameron that I wrote lyrics to about finding freedom in music once you've learned to trust in yourself and be in the moment. This is always one of my performance goals and it is something I think I have become more comfortable with recently.

I know I will continue to develop this as well. So, the album name and product are symbolic of my own personal growth and freedom in my music.

I have some of the lyrics written on the inside of the album cover - "trust in your wings, just let yourself sing and your story will soar."

Q - I understand that the first sale of "Lady Bird" on CD Baby came from Japan. Does it surprise you of the impact and reach of your music?
 

Yes, it certainly does! I was pretty blown away that someone in Japan purchased my CD. I think it shows how easy it is to connect globally in our world. 

It excites me about the potential of connecting with a diverse and wide-ranging audience. It also excites me to think that people around the world may be interested in my music.

Q - You were named the Best Collegiate Vocal Jazz Soloist of 2014 in DownBeat Magazine’s Student Music Awards. What did that honor mean to you?
 

I think you nailed that question with the use of the word 'honor.' I was so incredibly honored and humbled to have won that award and receive that kind of prestigious recognition for my music. 

Winning that award was a wonderful way to end my collegiate educational experience and it helped me feel reassured in my abilities and my desire to pursue music professionally. It also helped me believe that dreaming big with my music is possible and it is absolutely what I should do.
 

Q - Who are your major influences and what kind of impact did they have on your music?

My two major influences are Janice Borla and Jack Mouse. I've known Janice and Jack since I was 12 years old, when I first attended Janice's vocal jazz camp at North Central College.

This camp exposed me to high quality musicians and the language of jazz at an early age. I went on to study jazz at NCC because of them and I received a great education working with them there.

The two of them helped me develop an understanding and love of jazz, which I always hope shines through in my music. Janice and Jack have significantly influenced my music because they have instilled a strong work ethic in me as well as a desire to never stop learning and growing musically. 

They are also incredible musicians themselves and have served as wonderful role models for me.
 

Q - What do you think of the Chicago area jazz scene and how do you think you fit into it? Do you have any favorite venues in the area?

I think the Chicago area jazz scene is a diverse musical setting that allows for creativity and making a living. I've found nothing but positivity and support from other musicians and that has made me think very highly of the community.


Although I am new to the scene, I think I fit into it by bringing in my own creative interpretation of the music and also showing my own support of other musicians. I am often trying to go out and see other people and support their individual music and approach to jazz.



Although I've never performed there, I think that The Green Mill is one of my favorite venues in Chicago. That jazz club is unique in that it enforces a strict no-speaking policy during performances, which I love!

I've also seen a few of my favorite performers there. I'll be doing my album release at The High-Hat Club and I had the privilege of singing there this fall. I think that's a great listening room and it's my favorite venue that I've performed at in Chicago. 

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations? 

One of my dreams is to do a big European tour. I've always thought it would be incredible to connect with people around the world through my music and I would love to travel throughout Europe to do so.

I think it would be great to have my music receive enough attention one day for that to be possible. I would also love to perform at a few of the big jazz clubs in the United States.

Collaboration-wise, I would love to work with jazz vocalist Cyrille Aimee on some kind of duo project. She is one of my favorite singers and I would be thrilled to work with her!

She is a great improviser, so it would be a lot of fun to do some soloing with her.

Singer-songwriter Misty Boyce coming to Chicago with new album in tow

By ERIC SCHELK0PF

Los Angeles singer-songer Misty Boyce likes to keep busy.

After spending most of 2013-14 touring with Sara Bareilles, Boyce has released a new album, "The Life."  Fans of her music will get two chances to see her, as she will perform at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Levere Memorial Temple, 1856 Sheridan Road, Evanston.

At 9 p.m. Jan. 22, Boyce will perform at Uncommon Ground, 3800 N. Clark St., Chicago. There is a $5 cover charge.

I had the chance to talk to Boyce about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you. Your second album, "The Life," will be released soon. In sitting down and making the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?


Stylistically, I really wanted to make an album that bridged the gap between my interest in pure, Americana-ish acoustic songwriting, and electronic, synth-pop. Emotionally, I wanted to make an album that was honest and felt like a pure expression of myself and my voice and my experience.

I think I came as close as ever to reaching those goals with this album.

Q - Is there a story behind the album's name? Filipe Bessa made the video for the title track off the new album. What was your concept for the video and what did he bring to the project? 
"The Life" is the third song on the album, and most of the other songs also deal with life and death and existence in some way or another, so it seemed like a title that would wrap up the sentiment of the whole record in a nice little package.



Filipe's idea was to make something inspired by the portrait-like shots of Grimes's "Oblivion" video. Thankfully, Los Angeles offers a lot of beautiful and diverse scenery within a couple hours drive in any direction, so we just picked a few of our favorite spots and I loosely built some characters, or different sides of one character, inspired by the scenery and the lyrics. 

Q - You recently toured with Sara Bareilles. What was that experience like and what did you learn from the experience?

Touring with Sara was incredible. I loved every minute of it, even the challenging moments. 
I was pushed to the brink of my musical capabilities and surprised myself by rising to the occasion, and I learned so much watching her gracefully maneuver the terrain of pop-stardom while maintaining her integrity and treating people so very well. 
She showed me how to be a boss without being a jerk and how to incite loyalty and professionalism by leading the way.

Q - How do you think you have grown as a musician since you were the keyboard player for The Naked Brothers band? Who are your biggest influences? 

I think, after a certain point, you become a better musician simply with time and life experience. I'm a much better singer than I used to be, thanks to some coaching, and I know a lot more about synthesizing sounds and gear, but I'm essentially the same musician, I've just been doing it longer.

My biggest influence keyboard-wise is Daniel Mintseris, who plays with St. Vincent. She's also a big inspiration for sounds... 

Q - Do you have any dream collaborations or dream projects?

I would love to work with Blake Mills or Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes or Emily Haines from Metric. Singing and playing and writing with any of them would be a dream come true!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Blues sensation Shemekia Copeland re-signs to Chicago-based Alligator Records


Chicago-based Alligator Records has announced the re-signing of blues/soul/Americana singing sensation Shemekia Copeland to the label she called home from 1998 through 2005. She is currently recording new material for a fall 2015 release, with musician Oliver Wood, of The Wood Brothers, producing.

Copeland, a two-time Grammy nominee and daughter of late Texas blues legend Johnny Clyde Copeland, is excited to be back on Alligator. 

 "Historically, Alligator has consistently put out the world's best blues music," Copeland said in a press release from Alligator. "Now I'm back to make a little history myself."


Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer couldn't be happier. 

"I’m thrilled to welcome Shemekia back into the Alligator family," Iglauer  said in the release. "When we first signed her in 1997, she was already a mature and extremely soulful blues singer. Now, with the experience of 13 more years of live performances, she has blossomed into a charismatic artist who can deliver roots rock, Americana and blues with equal power and authority, and with wonderful subtlety, shading and nuance. Oliver Wood has proven to be a terrific producer for her. We’re very much looking forward to her next album, and proud to have it coming on Alligator." 

Like always, Copeland has her eyes fixed firmly on the future, prepared to continue to break new musical ground. "I want to keep growing, to be innovative," she said. "So it's not that I'm going back to Alligator. I'm moving ahead with Alligator. Together we are going to make the most exciting music of my career."

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Music world mourning death of The Holmes Brothers drummer Willie "Popsy" Dixon





Willie "Popsy" Dixon, drummer and vocalist of the critically acclaimed soul/blues band The Holmes Brothers, died in Richmond, Virginia, on Jan. 9. He had recently been diagnosed with stage four bladder cancer. He was 72 years old.

Dixon, born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on July 26, 1942, was celebrated for his soaring, soulful multi-octave vocals and his driving, in-the-pocket drumming, according to a press release from Chicago-based label Alligator Records.

He first met brothers Sherman and Wendell Holmes at a New York gig in 1967. Dixon sat in with the brothers and sang two songs. "After that second song," recalled Wendell, "Popsy was a brother."



They played in a variety of Top 40 bar bands until 1979, when the three officially joined forces and formed The Holmes Brothers, which The New York Times described as "deeply soulful, uplifting and timeless." They toured the world, releasing 12 albums starting with 1990's In The Spirit on Rounder.

Their most recent release is 2014's "Brotherhood" on Alligator.


Dixon first played the drums when he was 7 years old. In an interview in "Blues On Stage," Dixon said, "My mom and dad took me to the store and told me to get anything I liked. There was this tiny red drum set, with a tiny little kick drum and snare...little cymbals. Now, that's what I wanted! By the next morning, the thing was in the trash can. I beat it all to death. But, I tell you what...I knew how to play after that. I just knew. I had the rhythm down pat and had timing too. Just that fast. I been playing ever since."

In September 2014, The Holmes Brothers were honored with a National Endowment For The Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor the United States bestows upon its folk and traditional artists.  

Dixon is survived by daughter Desiree Berry and longtime partner Isobel Prideaux.

Funeral service information is pending. Interment will be at the Holmes' family plot in Saluda, Virginia.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chicago musician Rebecca Francescatti harnesses spirit of Patsy Cline on new EP, "The Kitchen"


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

If you're tired of what passes for country music these days, you would do well to get a hold of Rebecca Francescatti's new EP, "The Kitchen," which harnesses the spirit of Patsy Cline and others.

Her band, Rebecca F. & The Memes, will celebrate the release of "The Kitchen" with a show Jan. 9 at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets are $8, available at www.schubas.com.

I had the chance to talk to the Chicago musician about the upcoming show.


Q - Great talking to you. Of course, your new EP, "The Kitchen," will be released in January. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? How did you go about choosing the musicians on the album, which I understand include drummer Joe Adamik, known for his work with the band Iron & Wine?

We wanted to make a true-­blue, old­-fashioned country album. Fit with the kind of beautiful, melancholy, meaningful songs for which classic country cats like Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson are known.

Basically, we wanted to bring country back. Strobe Recordings Studio owner James Frederick Wagner selected the musicians, recorded and produced the album.


His production style is truly singular, and Strobe is such a beautiful, private place to work. A real Chicago gem.

Jamie also played bass on the album.  

Q - You had a development deal with R. Kelly's Rockland Records. What were the biggest lessons that you learned from the experience and R. Kelly?

Those lessons were a hard time coming. When you score a development deal with the biggest hit writer of the '90s at the age of 25, you expect fame and fortune.

That didn’t happen. After being tossed back into the sea of Real Life, it took me a bit of time to shake off the delusion.

The biggest lesson I learned was something I heard that Elliott Smith said years ago, and I paraphrase: “No one cares about your music as much as you do.” No one can make your career: only you can.

I can write songs til I’m blue in the face, but if I’m not out there recording them professionally and promoting them, they will disappear into the ether. It’s not good enough to be in your bedroom creating a huge catalog of songs with ProTools, it’s not enough.

As Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again.”

Q - The judge ruled against you in your lawsuit against Lady Gaga. Were you surprised at the verdict? Do you think that your experience provided lessons for other musicians?

I was surprised we didn’t get a trial by jury, because I was raised that in America, you get to have a trial by your peers. That was a learning lesson.

Loopholes.  Unfortunately I think my case shows that copyright doesn’t matter, that our rights as solo songwriters aren’t protected in today’s climate of “digital barbarism,” as writer Mark Helprin puts it.  

My essay, “Why You Should Care That Lady Gaga is Suing Me for $1.4 Million Dollars” still exists online, though my lawyers strongly advised me to remove it from my personal website – which I did.  

Basically the powers that be want us to be afraid, so afraid they’re willing to sue a penniless artist for a million dollars. Their shot across the bow is: “If stand up to the corporate infrastructure, even if you’re a nobody, we’ll ruin you.” 

Q - Now Lady Gaga is suing you for legal costs that total $1.4 million. What is your next move?

We’re working on an appeal.  At this point, and throughout the case, I’ve followed the advice of my lawyers. 

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

Chicago’s awash in untapped talent. L.A. and NYC are commercial hubs, but in Chicago, we’re still making music just because we love it.



If New York and L.A. ever noticed, great music might make a comeback. Sure commercialization of the scene would change Chicago’s innocence…but at least artists would start getting paid.

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

Fingerpick and sing “Don’t Think Twice” with Bob Dylan on the Grammy stage; co-­lead a revolution w/ Russell Brand, be his queen; co­-write a film called "Digital Meltdown" with two of the funniest men I know, Matthew Stabley and Luke Matheny, produce it, and win an Oscar.  Yeah, I do!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Chicago band Low Swans bringing captivating sound to House of Blues



By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago electronic rock duo Low Swans has a captivating sound that demands attention, as it proves on its latest album, "The World Has No Clothes." 

Low Swans will perform Jan. 9 at the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. King By Friday, Justin Sumler and White Radio also are on the bill.

The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $13.15, available at www.livenation.com.  

I had the chance to talk to frontman Jon Scarpelli about the upcoming show.


Q - Great talking to you. Your latest release, "The World Has No Clothes," was released in November. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

I think the first goal was to make something that pushed the electronic aspect of our sound without sacrificing the dynamic impact of the songs I was writing or a feeling of the music being live. I think the vibraphone, guitars and vocals take the electronic tracks to a place that comes off like a band more than a fully programmed arrangement... so in that regard I think we were mostly successful.  

Another thing was more about production and sonic quality. I have generally taken a somewhat off the cuff approach to producing the songs.

Tons of first take stuff, rough around the edges and spontaneous. This record was intentionally poured over and cleaned up over the course of the year it took to produce.

Not to suck the life out of it, but to me it was a matter of the songs translating the best they could to the audience. We had a lot to say lyrically and musically and made sure that no technical short comings would get in the way of what we wanted to get across.

In that regard, I'm definitely happy with the outcome.


Q - What is the meaning behind the album's name?

It's a pretty obvious reference to the story "The Emperor's New Clothes." It's kind of an assertion that despite all of the arguing and debating that goes on in the world about pretty much any issue, it seems to me that everyone is choosing to ignore the core problem that is at the root of all problems. 

Not sure I need to get into the specifics of that, except to say, I feel that our society is set up in a way that we have to collectively have faith in a system that no longer serves its purpose in order to maintain the status quo.

The songs on the album, one way or another, address this idea from difference perspectives.


Q - What was your vision for the band when you put it together? How do you think the band's sound has evolved since its inception?

I'm not sure we had a specific vision other than just making the music we wanted to make. I think in the past, the bands we had been working in created their own sort of limitations.

This is not to say that the groups lacked anything, but because of how specific the sound of the groups were, moving forward and growing was somewhat confining. At this point Low Swans feels like a synthesis of so many influences that it will be fertile ground for a long time.


Q - I imagine you have heard the band's sound described in many ways. How would you describe the band's sound?

This is always a tough question to answer, not out of hubris, but just because I think of the music in terms of my main songwriting influences, yet I always hear back from people that it sounds like stuff that has nothing to do with where I think I'm coming from.

By definition we're an indie band, but I don't think the music really reflects that. I think we're a little bit more broad, for better or for worse. 

Let's say, electronic singer/songwriter rock. That's a lame description...

Q - Who or what are the band's biggest influences and how have they influenced the band's music?


Dead Can Dance is a huge influence. There's a song on the record that I feel is essentially an homage to them... I just can't say enough good things about that group. Truly unique.

Their music is almost always setup on a rhythm and a chord progression that gets built up on as the piece progresses. Rarely do they shift tempos or feels or make drastic changes to the harmony.

It's a trance like approach to songwriting, which I think very much applies to what we're doing. In a way it relates to a lot of EDM stuff, which was definitely an influence in the production sense.

But beyond that there is a ton of 80's stuff that is an obvious influence... Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears a little bit of Depeche Mode. Then there is a huge contingent of singer/songwriters who are a major influence as well.

Ryan Adams, Jeff Buckley, Thom Yorke stuff like that. And also stuff like James Blake, Chet Faker, Modeselektor.

I think the result in our music tends to be more in spirit of many of those influences, rather than in specific techniques or ideas.  


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

From what I can tell, there is a ton of talent and variety out there. I think in general Chicago has always had variety as a strength when it comes to music. 


I'd like to think that we're filling a place between something potentially mainstream and the more eclectic interesting stuff that happens on the fringes. That's not to say that I think we have anything fringe-y about us.

I just think our sensibility might be more interesting to audiences who like unique stuff and variety more than those who like the status quo, yet somehow scratching a kind of mainstream itch.


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

The goal, like the vision, is just to be in a position to keep doing it. To be able to get across to people in a way that gives momentum for us to continue.

I would hate to get to a point where its just a narcissistic thing for us to go out and play a show. I know pure art can sometimes be seen as being for the sake of itself or uncompromising to the public opinion.

But frankly, I'm not about to ask my friends to come to my show and not try and entertain them.  People have to put effort into being a fan and I really want to respect that.

I see no point in putting out music and putting on shows that are just for us. I feel like if an artist has something to say that they should make every effort, short of being phony, to get those ideas across.  

What I'm most happy with in Low Swans is that it's both authentically us, but it also can speak to others. That's really the goal at all times.