Whether you call them rap-rock or rock-hop, Chicago band Freaks for Geeks is helping add to the vibrancy of the Chicago music scene.
The band will release its third EP, "TIN," on Feb. 9, and will celebrate the release of the album with a show on Feb. 13 at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago.
Lionize and Roger This also are on the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $10 to $12, available at www.ticketfly.com.
I had the chance to talk to Freaks for Geeks lead singer Eric Slager about the new EP.
Q - In sitting down to make "TIN," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? Is there a meaning behind the EP's title?
I think the main goal that we had for this EP was simply to give these four tracks a permanent home and in doing so, further craft the style and voice that we have been working towards since day one. I think that TIN will be a sort of a milestone for us going forward as this EP represents the last batch of songs that have been kicking around for some time.
If you’ve seen us live any time in the past year or so, chances are you’ve heard one, two, three, or even all four of these songs. These are tracks that we feel very strongly about and are thrilled will finally have a permanent home.
The EP gets its name from Tin Nguyen, a fantastic filmmaker and friend of the band who also graces the cover. On the day that we were scheduled to shoot the cover art in the city, I was stuck in a downpour in the south suburbs.
The rest of the crew went out to location scout and this photo came from that session. Since we were already up in the air on a name for the EP, we thought that it was a fitting way to pay homage to the friends that come out and support us show after show. And we’re not done yet…
Q - Is the band's name a reference to the TV show "Freaks and Geeks?”
It most definitely is! As a band, we are rabid consumers of popular culture. The movies, books and TV shows that we experience definitely help to shape the way that we interact with the world.
Every song that we’ve written is rooted in pop culture and naming the band Freaks for Geeks is our way to carry on the legacy of one of the greatest unfairly cancelled shows of all time.
Q - I know Freaks for Geeks formed following the demise of your band May Queen, which was more of a funk-rock band. What made you want to switch musical directions?
I think that the idea of hip-hop influenced vocals has always been present when we are writing music. With May Queen, we were taking a lot of inspiration from Red Hot Chili Peppers and Anthony Kiedis’ unique rap-talk vocals are obviously a major part of that sound.
When Ryan and I first got together to start writing music for this project it was 2008, the same year that Flobots’ “Fight With Tools” got its national release. That’s no coincidence.
While we’ve always been fans of hip-hop, we were heavily inspired by that record and the way that it so seamlessly blends rap and rock. It doesn’t feel like an emcee rapping over a live band, it just feels natural. And that’s what we strive to accomplish.
Q - I am sure you've heard your music described in several ways. How would you describe your music and who/what are your biggest musical influences?
Genre tags have always been a bit of a sticking point for us. It’s very easy to throw out "rap-rock" when describing our sound, but for anyone that lived through the early '00s, that term can conjure up some less than ideal comparisons.
We generally like to describe ourselves as a rock band with hip-hop influenced vocals. We’ve recently started throwing around the term “rock-hop” as a friendlier alternative to “rap-rock”… I guess we’ll see if it sticks.
As for musical influences, we are all over the board. Between the five of us, there probably isn’t a record out there that at least one of us wouldn’t get into.
I think as a band some of our main musical inspirations come from groups like Rage Against The Machine, Sublime, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Twenty One Pilots.
Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think Freaks for Geeks fits into it?
As someone who has spent time both playing music in Chicago as well as writing about the local scene, it’s hard for me to form a cohesive opinion about it. There are days where I’m intimidated by the saturation of the scene and others where I’m thrilled by its variety.
It’s always been a bit of a struggle for us to find our niche here. We’ve had a wonderful time sharing the stage with bands from just about every genre, and we like to think that our sound can fit in almost anywhere that there’s a distorted guitar.
Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?
Short-term, we’re really looking forward to getting TIN out into the world and starting work on our next release. As I mentioned before, the tracks on TIN represent a few of the last tracks that we’ve been sitting on.
We’re really excited to, for the first time, be writing new songs for a specific release. Long-term, we’d love to plan a short Midwestern tour and take our tunes outside of the city limits.
There’s a full-length record on the road map as well as some vinyl way out there down the line. The support that we’ve gotten from our first two releases has been wonderful and we’re really excited to see where we can go from here.