Tuesday, October 30, 2012

VH1 Classic to celebrate everything Who-related

Chicago area residents planning to see The Who when they come to Allstate Arena on Nov. 29 can get themselves in the mood by tuning into VH1 Classic on Halloween.
“Wholloween" is a day of celebrating all things The Who-related, including the U.S. television premiere of the 2012 The Who documentary “Quadrophenia: Can You See the Real Me?” at 7 p.m. Central Time.

The band - including founding members ROGER DALTREY and PETE TOWNSHEND, will be joined on tour by Zak Starkey (drums), Pino Palladino (bass), Simon Townshend (guitar/backing vocals), John Corey (keyboards/backing vocals) and Frank Simes (musical director, keyboards/backing vocals).
For more information on VH1 Classic and “Wholloween,” visit www.VH1Classic.com.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Duran Duran's John Taylor coming to Chicago

It's no trick - Duran Duran bassist John Taylor will show up in Chicago the day before Halloween to talk about his new book, "In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, and Duran Duran."

In the autobiography, Taylor recounts the highs - hanging out with icons like David Bowie, Andy Warhol and even James Bond; dating Vogue models and driving fast cars. He also openly discusses the lows– troubles like drug abuse and sex addiction that brought him to the brink of self-destruction, before turning his life around.

Taylor will appear at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St., Chicago, for a book signing, interview and Q&A with the audience.

More information is at www.citywinery.com.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Roadtrip Nation" takes Chicago band The Safes on musical trip

Photo by Sarah Cass


It would be hard to miss the music of Chicago band The Safes.

The band's music has been featured in a variety of shows over the years, including VH1's "The Cho Show" and MTV's "Real World."

With four songs featured on the current season of PBS series "Roadtrip Nation," The Safes, comprised of brothers Frankie and Patrick O'Malley and cousin Patrick Mangan, continues to be in the spotlight. The Safes will perform Nov. 21 at Township, 2200 N California Ave., Chicago.

Tickets are $8, available at www.ticketweb.com.

I had the chance to talk to the band about its new single, "Century of Saturdays," which includes the
songs "It's True" and "Simplicity," both featured on the show "Roadstrip Nation."

Q - "Century of Saturdays" is a musical departure from the power pop the band is known for. Do these songs represent the direction the band is going?

When we recorded our debut LP, "Family Jewels," in 2003, we made a point to include a diverse range of our early songs. The songs included on that record varied by genre, tempo, feel and instrumentation. 

We did a bit more of this on 2007’s "Well, Well, Well," as well; so we’ve hinted at this direction before. But, yes, there will be a full length of just this type of music after we release another full-on power pop record in 2013 that is ready to go. 

We also have a collection of demos for some country and folk music that we’ve written and plan to release in the future. So, The Safes are going in many directions.


Q - How did the band become a part of "Roadtrip Nation?"

I sent them some music, and they liked it and requested more recordings. After they listened to the additional songs, their music supervisor asked us to license four songs, including “Simplicity” and “It’s True” from "Century of Saturdays" that rolls over the credits for each episode. We happily worked out an agreement.

How do you think your songs fit in with the series?

Our songs fit Roadtrip Nation very well. I especially like how episode three ends with a shot of the Chicago skyline as our music plays!


Q - What do you think of the idea behind the series?

Roadtrip Nation is a very cool series! If you are not familiar, the premise of the show is to document a group of young people traversing the country with the purpose of interviewing people who inspired them by living lives that centered around what was meaningful to them. 

Since we are a touring band, we can relate to traveling this beautiful country, striving to grow and learn, gaining new experiences and making new friends!

Q -Has the series already brought more exposure to the band?

Absolutely! The team at Roadtrip Nation do an amazing job of getting the word out about not only the show but the musicians they feature on the show. 

Right now as the show is airing, they are in the middle of a 30-city tour promoting all things "Roadtrip Nation." A band couldn’t ask for more!

Q - The band has licensed many songs in the past. How does the band determine what projects to be involved in?

We’re pretty open to most licensing projects. Luckily for us, we haven’t had to turn any down any agreements as a result of our beliefs and convictions.

Q - Does the band view the licensing deals as just another way to get out its music, and something that is especially important in this ever-changing music business?

Totally! It’s all about the music finding more ears. Anyone that makes music wants people to listen. 

So we can attest that licensing is a great way of being heard, gaining new fans and making money!

Q - Your band has gained much critical acclaim over the years. How important is that to the band?

It’s important. Especially if you plan on sticking around! 

Getting press coverage and radio airplay is similar to licensing in that it’s a great form of exposure. We’ve enjoyed the success that press and radio coverage has helped bring The Safes. 

When we are on tour and show up in cities all over America people definitely come out to our shows because they read in the daily paper, blog, or music magazine about our band. This coverage helps us have good turnouts, sell merchandise and make new fans and friends. 

Through touring, word has spread even more when people share our music and make recommendations about The Safes to their friends… It’s a vital component of a band’s longevity!

Q - What are the challenges of being in a band with your siblings? Do the benefits outweigh the negatives?

In regards to challenges, there is a much more readily available system of buttons to push; on the other hand, there is the guarantee to forgive, forget, and move forward. 

Making music with people who you grew up with and that have the same record collection makes creating, performing, and recording music much easier because we all have the same points of reference. So yeah, the benefits outweigh the negatives for sure!

Q - Where do you see the band fitting into the Chicago music scene?

As a welcome fixture.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ruth Moody bringing award-winning sound to Chicago

When she is not captivating audiences as part of renowned folk group The Wailin' Jennys, Ruth Moody is making beautiful music on her own.

Moody and her band will perform at  8 p.m. Oct. 19 at Northeastern Illinois University's Fine Arts Center Recital Hall, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago. Complimentary parking is available in Lot F and on levels 4 & 5 of the parking facility.

Tickets range from $10 to $25, available by calling (773) 442-4636 or at www.boxoffice.neiu.edu.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Moody earlier this year:


Dan Mangan bringing intelligent folk-rock to Chicago


Canadian artist Dan Mangan's introspective songs continue to win him critical acclaim.

This week, Mangan released the 7-inch vinyl release "Radicals," which contains the song "We Want To Be Pleasantly Surprised, Not Expectedly Let Down," a song left over from last year's "Oh Fortune," as well as a cover of Yukon Blonde's song, "Stairway."

Mangan, www.danmanganmusic.com, will open for fellow Canadian band The Rural Alberta Advantage Oct. 29 in a sold-out show at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago.

I had the chance to talk to Mangan about his latest activities.

Q- Congratulations on your recent wedding. I understand that Yukon Blonde was your wedding band. What did they think of your cover of their song, "Stairway?" What inspired you to cover the song? 

I was up late one night and had the song in my head. I think because I was tired I started hearing it really, really slow, and thought - that might be cool.

I was happy to hear that they really liked the cover, actually. They've been tweeting about it. 

They were incredible at the wedding. Their cover of Bowie's "Let's Dance" basically made my head explode.

Q - You collaborated with many musicians on "Oh Fortune." How did you go about choosing who you wanted to work with on the album?

Well I've been lucky to have been surrounded by incredibly creative people. Vancouver has this underground avant-garde music scene that lots of folks don't know about. It all started with my drummer, Kenton Loewen, who brought in Gord Grdina on guitar. 

Those guys have been blowing minds in the free-jazz world for years. Once I had Kenton and Gord in my band, I could basically ask anyone in town to jump on board. 

Eyvind Kang was the wild card - we pulled him up from Seattle. He's a total genius, and has worked with Laurie Anderson, Beck, Bill Frisell, etc. He played viola and wrote a lot of the orchestral arrangements.

Q - Of course, you picked up two JUNO awards this year, with "Oh Fortune" being named "Alternative Album of the Year" and you receiving an award for "New Artist of the Year." Is it humbling every time you receive an award?

Yeah it's crazy. I'm programmed to assume we'll win nothing, so it always feels awesome. But then you have to forget about it a few days later.

If you think of yourself as an "award winning artist", then it changes your creative process. All that industry masturbation has to be a consequence of your music, not a muse for it.

Q - You received the "New Artist of the Year" award even though you've been on the music scene for several years. Is that frustrating?

Not really. To be honest, I do actually feel like I'm just beginning to get a hold on what it means to make music.

I've played thousands of gigs and made a bunch of recordings, but most of that time I had no idea what I was doing - it still might be that way. 

Q - How do you think your music has changed and evolved since making "All At Once?" 

Oh god. I'm sorry you know about that. I got that demo in the hands of Ed O'Brien of Radiohead many, many years ago. 

I then got a very honest and constructive note of feedback basically saying it was a pile of crap. But he was totally right, and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

I'd tricked myself into thinking it wasn't a pile of crap, but deep down I knew there was so much more that was possible. Sometimes a tasteful bit of tough love can make you work harder. 

Q - You've been called one of the most thought-provoking artists of your generation. How do you take such a compliment and does that put a lot of pressure on you?

By not really believing it. If you define yourself by what people say, then you have to believe the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. 

It has to come from inside, not outside. That's a kind quote, though.

Q - Your music is very reflective and introspective. Is it refreshing to you that there is an audience for your music, especially when the music industry at large is so hits driven?

Yeah it blows my mind. Our crowds are getting bigger all the time everywhere we tour, and musically we're getting more chaotic and strange all the time. 

We could get more or less popular, but I'll still sleep at night so long as I know we're doing our best to grow and evolve as people/musicians.

I want to have a long and weird enough career that people can describe their favourite "era" of it. That's right, in Canada we spell favoUrite with a "U".

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jet W. Lee injecting new energy into Chicago music scene


Rock's future is safe in the hands of Chicago band Jet W. Lee.

The band's latest album, "Western Nightmare," barrels out of the gate with full force, ignoring any stop signs ahead.
The record provides a taste of the relentless energy Jet W. Lee, www.jetwleeband.com, creates on stage. The next hometown gig the band plays is on Nov. 24, when Jet W. Lee performs at Ace Bar, 1505 W. Fullerton Ave., Chicago.

I had the chance to talk to guitarist Jesse W. Johnson about the new album.

Q - In sitting down to make "Western Nightmare," what were your goals? Do you think you achieved them?

As far as sound goes we wanted to make a rockin',catchy, and high quality representation of our live performances. I definitely think we achieved that.

We're all about doing a high-energy, seamless show and if you listen to "Western Nightmare," it's pretty much like a standard set we play on tour with quick song transitions and a few slower, reflective songs mixed in with rockin' tunes. 

That's our favorite formula with other bands so we definitely wanted that for us.

Q - Any meaning behind the album's name? How does the band go about writing songs? Is it a collaborative effort?

"Western Nightmare" is the name of a song I wrote in high school. At that time I had a whole tracklist for an album and it's still up on the bedroom wall at my parents'house.  

That song doesn't really hold up to newer songs,but when I was thinking about a bunch of the songs on the album,I remembered the name and thought it fit really well.

A number of the songs deal with disillusionment and some nightmarish stories so it works!

I usually write the core of the songs and then we work on arrangements and everything else together. It's definitely a collaborative effort, and I love seeing what the song evolves into after we've worked on it. 

A great example of that is the song "Down for the Bounty." I had the lyrics and chord changes written, but Patrick and Pierre came up with the idea of starting with the bass line. 

Then Patrick thought of the little riff that comes in between the chorus and verse and we all worked on getting the transitions in the solo and song ending right. 

We also wanted to make an album that would enable us to tour the country, get a lot of album reviews, and resonate with as wide of an audience as possible. So far that's going great, though I really want to get a ton more album reviews. 

On tour, we play coffee shops during the day and bars/clubs at night. We've been really pleased with the response to the acoustic sets and sometimes the coffee shop shows are the best!

Q - Any meaning behind the band's name?

Yeah, the name is a mixture of a few things that a friend of ours said as a joke when we were trying to name the band. It's my middle initial, Jet Li, Robert E. Lee, anything else, ha ha. We liked it cause it was unique and sounded fun. One reviewer said it sounded like "a mode of travel for Civil War generals" and we dig that.

Q - In forming the band in 2009, what were your goals? How do you think the band's sound has evolved since you first formed?

Well, when we started the band, Patrick and I definitely wanted to make a living playing music. That's something we both have wanted to do for awhile and it made sense to work together towards it. 

With "Western Nightmare" and the tour, this is the first time we have been playing music full time without working or school. It's awesome and I'm super glad we are taking the risk and going for it. 

It's great to wake up and know exactly what you're working for and why. Now we're still doing everything ourselves and definitely don't have any illusions of grandeur. 

After this tour, we will probably have to work again for awhile, but we're fine with that. The point for us is that we're taking the leap and know that it is what we want to do.

Our sound has definitely changed since we formed. First of all, I think we're all better players than we were and are able to play faster, more rocking songs with the finesse that they deserve.

Then with the new album, we've mixed a little bit more story-telling songs into our sound and I'm loving that. Patrick said something recently like "we're a rock 'n roll band that listens to a lot of singer-songwriters," and I really like that. 

All my favorite bands can rock out and get serious within the same album and I'm happy that we're going for that territory.

Q - I'm sure that you've seen many labels put on the band by people trying to put you in a certain category. How would you describe the band's sound?

Yeah that's a hard one! Or at least weird, cause labels like "indie" or "alternative" are so widely used. We've got leg in both of those for sure but we're a rock band first and foremost. Usually we say we sound like Neil Young mixed with punk rock. 

Q - Would you say the band fits comfortably in the Americana genre? It seems like there has been renewed interest in Americana bands in the past few years. Why do you think that is?

I really want to say yes to this, ha ha! Definitely yes in regards to song themes. We actually played a cover set as the Avett Brothers a few years back and it was AMAZING! 

We did find a lot of ourselves in that music and I think one of the things that fits us in that category is the way Patrick and I sing together. We've been working on it a lot and are really happy with how it's going. 

In general, I think some people find a more straight-forward musical and lyrical style in Americana music and that can be very attractive. 

When I listen to Avett Brothers or something like that, I love how easy it is to connect to the words. That's not to say that these people are writing "simple" songs though. 

There's some of the best lyrics out there in country/americana stuff!! Some real screwed up stuff, which I love. Check out Jessica Lea Mayfield. She's the BEST!! I saw here recently at a Chicago street fest and she absolutely rules. 

Q - Do you think the band's strengths are in a live setting? Did you try to bring some of that energy into this record?

YESSS!!! It's super important to us that we sound as close to the record as possible live. Right now, we're picking up most of our fans at live shows, so we want our albums to deliver the same things that interested people enough to buy them in the first place. 

You're not going to find a french horn on a JWL record anytime soon!

Q - Where do you see the band fitting into the Chicago music scene?

We love Chicago and have had a wonderful time growing up as a band there. At this point we feel right at home anywhere except for a dance club, ha ha. 

We often have the best times at bars like Cole's and Ace Bar, but also have had a great time playing at places like Reggies and Double Door. 

I think we're a band, along with our buds Hospital Garden, Mutts, The Safes, The Noise FM, The Blackbelts, Panoramic & True, Hemmingbirds, The Canoes, The Dyes, and many more that are injecting new rock into the Chicago scene. 

That's important to us. Chicago MUST rock!