By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Chicago singer/songwriter Liz Chidester continues to expand her musical horizons.
Her latest project is the electronic folk group Liz and the Lovelies, which recently released its first EP, "Progress into Simplicity." To celebrate the release of the album, the group will perform at 8 p.m. April 4 at North Bar, 1637 W North Ave. Chicago.
I had the chance to talk to Liz about her latest musical project.
Q - Great talking to you again. You certainly are busy these days, with the upcoming release of "Progress into Simplicity" and your role as Laura in "High Fidelity: The Musical." I understand that the production has been extended three weeks. What made you want to be part of that production? How does the production differ from the movie starring John Cusack?
When I saw the audition notice for "High Fidelity," I thought it was a brilliant idea, bringing the movie back to Wicker Park in a storefront theatre format. I also heard great things about Refuge Theatre Project and wanted the opportunity to work with them.
This production is a remount, as we had a sold out run back in Jan-Feb of 2016, and I'm so happy to be with this cast and crew again. Everyone is giving it 100 percent, and they are so fun to be around.
I will be heartbroken all over again when its over. The main difference between the movie and the show is Rob's realization that he is the root cause of his problems.
This realization and resolution happens very quickly in the musical as pacing would be sacrificed to convey all of the inner workings of Rob in those moments as they are done in the book and movie. Stories change to best fit the format for which they are told.
Q - A few songs on "Progress into Simplicity" have a sweeping, theatrical feel to them, especially on songs like "The Same" and "The Sky Is Falling." Do you think your work as an actress has influenced your music? In sitting down to make the EP, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?
My musical roots are in folk music and musical theatre, so naturally those elements come out of my voice and are a part of my writing. I was concerned that some may be turned off by a more theatrical sound to some of my music, but I wouldn't be true to myself if I tried to suppress what is authentic to me.
My goals for the EP were to work with friends I trust (Matt Griffo, Nicholas Gunty, and Brian Powers) and to be able to make a concept EP. I set out to do this back in winter of 2015, and it took about two years for everything to come together.
I put out another EP in the meantime, "Otter Hill," that was very bare bones instrument/vocal. Electronic music is amazing and has endless possibilities, but it is also expensive to produce, and needs a lot of time and attention to make it right.
Q - I know the EP is also a concept album that tackles the issue of technology. As a musician, how have you tried to use technology to your advantage?
The advantages of technology are equally challenging and amazing, and there is something new every season to try to incorporate into your writing and performing. Again, the expense can sometimes prevent further exploration, but being able to use loop pedals and programs like Logic Pro add another layer and challenge the ear pallet.
I also LOVE to dance, and while my intimate folk music is closest to my heart, I wanted to create something that felt joyful, something I could dance to in my living room. Electronic beats definitely help.
Q - Tell me about the formation of Liz and the Lovelies. How did you meet your band mates and what was your vision for the band?
The band Liz and the Lovelies has slowly accumulated over the years from friendships I've made living in Chicago. My boyfriend, Zach Finch, was a punk drummer for 10 years, so he has gigged with me on his cajone for a long time, and now I can hopefully showcase his kit skills.
My brother, Alex Chidester, moved to Chicago a couple of years ago, and has a terrific voice and harmony instincts, so I added him to the mix. Mike Fletcher is an old friend of mine from high school and college and lives in my Chicago neighborhood, and happens to be a fantastic musician and bass player.
Lewis Rawlinson is an actor and cellist and wonderful soul who I met during "High Fidelity" last year, and I love the warmth he's added to our sound. Ivan Pyzow is a multi-instrumental musical genius and writes his own music, so I definitely wanted him to be a part of this project.
While I heard what these musicians could offer to what I had written, I also knew they would be able to improvise and play and have fun together for anything new in the future. At the core of what we do together, we are friends having fun.
Q - You are also a teaching artist at Old Town School of Folk Music and Chicago Children’s Theatre. In working with budding actors and musicians, what are some of the most important things that you try to convey to them?
I definitely want to instill a sense of play in the kids when it comes to music and theatre. While I think there is merit in excelling and having diligence be at the core of your artistic journey, you also want to keep coming back to the instrument or medium every day, and if it's not fun, you are less likely.
Make diligence into a game. I also want the kids to be able to laugh at themselves when they mess up. I want them to know they can fail and try again.
Q - What does the rest of the year hold for you along with your band?
We are applying to festivals in Chicago and the surrounding states and planning a two week summer tour at the end of August that would travel through the eastern Mid-west, down the East Coast, and back up to sweet home Chicago.