Monday, December 28, 2015

Chicago band Radio Free Honduras to ring in New Year at Chi-Town Rising

Blending Latin country music with jazz and rock, Chicago band Radio Free Honduras is helping add to the rich musical tapestry of the local music scene.

It's been a busy year for the band, which released its debut album earlier this year. Radio Free Honduras will ring in the New Year at the Chi-Town Rising New Year's Eve celebration.   

The band will perform at 8:35 p.m. on the Broadcast Boulevard stage at 151 E. Wacker Drive. Tickets are available by going to

I had the chance to talk to Radio Free Honduras guitarist and musical director Dan Abu-Absi about the band.

Q - Great talking to you. I understand that the band will be part of the Chi-Town Rising Music Series on New Year's Eve. How does it feel to be ringing in the new year with several Chicago bands?  

It feels really, really good to be part of Chi-Town Rising. They have some excellent talent lined up to perform and we are honored to be included.

Q - I know you released your debut album earlier this year. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you achieved them?

The primary goal in making our album was to capture the essence of what we were doing musically at that moment in time. We think that we did that pretty well and we're very happy with the result.

We were also lucky enough to have some amazing guests musicians like Howard Levy on the recording, and we couldn't be more pleased with how it all came together. Of course, now we have a new goal of trying to get our music heard by more folks, so that's one reason why we are thrilled to be at Chi-Town Rising for NYE.

Q - You funded the CD through Kickstarter. Was it gratifying that people wanted to give to the fundraising campaign to ensure the CD would be made?

Yes, we are so grateful to our Kickstarter backers for their generosity and their interest in the band. Albums cost money to make and they take time and effort to promote, but in this world full of worthy causes we weren't sure whether or not our cause would resonate with people.

Thanks to all of those who pitched in we were able to make a good quality recording and hire some help with promotion. I don't know where we would be without those beautiful people!

Q - I know the band revolves around legendary Honduran musician Charlie Baran. How did the band form? What do you think each band member brings to the table?

For many years I admired Charlie as a lead guitarist, and eventually I had a chance to meet him and play with him as part of a different project. We stayed in touch after that and then at some point we got together just to casually play some music.

I was immediately struck by his singing and songwriting, and I instantly became determined to do whatever I could to bring his important music to life. One of my roles in the group has been bringing together the various band members, and it has been very rewarding to play with some of finest musicians in Chicago as we support Charlie's artistry and talent.

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

I truly love the music scene in Chicago. There is an incredible variety of music and people in this city, and we try to let as much of it as possible wash over us and our music.

One of my favorite things about this band is the way we allow such a wide range of influences to be part of what we do, and I don't think that we could have developed our sound anywhere but in Chicago.

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

We gain new fans with every performance, and so one of our main goals is to play for as many people as possible. We can't wait to get back in to the recording studio to make another album as well, but for now, we are focused on promoting our debut album and reaching more people through meaningful live show experiences.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Chicago pop punk band On A High Wire ringing in holidays with Christmas song, shows


Just in time for the holiday season, Chicago pop punk band On A High Wire has released its first Christmas song, "All I Want For Christmas."

It's been a busy year for the band. In October, the band released its sophomore EP, "Caught Up In Everything."

The band will also provide some cheer this holiday season,  as it will perform Dec. 13 at Reggies, 2105 S. State St., Chicago with 7 Minutes In Heaven, Firestarter and The Fall Four.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets range from $13 to $15, available by going to 

On A High Wire will also perform Dec. 18 at Cobra Lounge, 235 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, in conjunction with a pop punk toy drive. The Linden Method, Guardrail, Rebuild & Rebound and Two Weeks Notice also are on the bill.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m.,and tickets range from $8 to $12, available at

I had the chance to talk to On A High Wire bassist/vocalist Cameron Jones about the band's current activities.

Q - Great talking to you. It looks like you guys are busy this holiday season. On A High Wire is among several bands that will play Dec. 18 at the Cobra Lounge as part of a toy drive. Do you guys do a lot of benefit shows and what made you want to be part of this show?

Unfortunately we have not had a lot of opportunities to play benefit shows but have seen an increase in their frequency in the local scene in the past year, which is great. With the holidays right around the corner, it just seemed like a fitting time to give back.

When we were approached about the show we were eager to jump on board and help out however we could.

Q - Of course, your new song, "All I Want For Christmas," was just released. Was it just the right time to do a holiday song?

The idea for a Christmas song actually started a year ago, but we just could never find the time to get into the studio to lay it down. We knew that we wanted to create something original as opposed to a cover.

There are only so many Christmas songs that are repeated year after year and we wanted to help break the monotony with something fresh.

Q - It's been a busy year for the band. In October, you released your sophomore album, "Caught Up In Everything." In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

It was important for us on this EP to really establish our sound. The band was still in its infancy while recording "A Comedy About Growing Up" and didn't even have our final lineup until midway through the recording process.

Mark and Cameron took over as co-lead vocalist well into recording and really had to hit the ground running. We idolize bands like Blink 182, The Starting Line and New Found Glory, and have always wanted to play music that hearkened back to the pop punk bands of our youth while still putting our own twist on it.

Everyone is extremely happy with how "Caught Up In Everything" turned out and would say we accomplished what we set out to do.

Q - You chose to release "Caught Up In Everything" on your own. Do you think there are more pros than cons to releasing music on your own than through a label?
There are definitely pros to both sides. Being on a label is like having extra members in the band doing work on your behalf and helping to accomplish task that you may not have been able to achieve with your resources.

You are able to focus more on the music with the extra hands working the business side with you. With that being said, having a bigger team can also add more complications with scheduling, differences of opinions, etc.

We have been very lucky to have people from the beginning helping to develop our band, but never really had the chance to get our hands dirty. We learned a lot from Chuck Macak (Pixelhead Records/Electrowerks) and he still continues to be a helping hand and a font of information.

Our decisions to release the new EP on our own was based on a readiness to build our business and brand by ourselves. Apart from having complete control, we wanted to be on the front lines, learn from our mistakes, and grow our band organically on our own.

Q - The album was produced by Macak, who also produced your first album. How did you hook up with him, and what do you think he brings to the table?

Chuck was highly recommended to us by another local band. It was important to us to find a studio with a great producer.

We wanted someone who genuinely took an interest in the music we were creating and to be able to help with the creative process. He has a great understanding of music and the industry and has been a great mentor  and friend to the band and we can never thank him enough.

Whether big or small, there is a piece of Chuck in every song we've recorded.

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

Nope, no deep meaning behind our name. On A High Wire came off of a quote from a movie poster that hangs in the house that 3/4 of the members still reside in.

We came up with a number of terrible band names and this one was literally hanging right in front of our faces.

Q - How did the band come together?

Cameron, Mark, and Chris all grew up in a small town in Iowa. Mark and Cameron have been childhood friends and playing in bands together since 2002-2003.

We met Chris in high school and joined forces there. The three of us moved to Chicago and opted to hold off on college to pursue a career in music.

We spent two years of creepy Craigslist auditions before we finally met our drummer, Adam Harrington. Adam originates from Australia but moved to the state in the same pursue of music.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Chicago musician Andy Metz releases first solo album in seven years, will perform at Quenchers


On his first solo album in seven years, Chicago singer-songwriter Andy Metz talks about many topics, including the always timely topic of guns.

Metz will celebrate the release of "Delusions" by performing Dec. 13 at Quenchers Saloon, 2401 N. Western Ave., Chicago.

Led Astray, Brad Brubaker & The Crowd Goes Wild and Laura Glyda also are on the bill. The show starts at 
8 p.m. and tickets are $7, available at

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

Q - Great talking to you. Your new song, "Guns," is getting a lot of attention these days. In sitting down and writing the song, did you ever imagine that it would be so timely? What would you like for people to take away from the song?

Thank you for having me. I've enjoyed "The Total Scene" for a while.

I don't tend to write many songs that are political in nature, but I do have strong opinions on the issue of gun control. The sad thing I realized with "Guns" is that it's almost always timely.

I hate that it's always timely. Lately, I've started to view gun ownership along similar lines as smoking or alcoholism. It's an addiction, and I think perhaps the most effective way of getting the next generation to not buy guns and kill people might be to make gun ownership seem uncool, for lack of a better word.

There's been an improvement in our generation with the number of people who don't smoke or drive drunk, and I believe we can do the same with guns.

Q - The song is from your new album, "Delusions," which you crowd sourced in order to fund its release. You met your fundraising goal. Does it make you feel good knowing that people were willing to contribute to ensure the release of the record? Do you think crowd sourcing is a good way to strengthen the connection between the artist and his audience?

I am glad that we were able to meet the crowd funding goal and am happy and flattered that so many people decided to pre-order the album. With that said, I'm not sure how I feel about crowd sourcing in general.

I think it gives musicians without the financial means to fund an album an opportunity to still produce music, but I also feel that many people in the music-consuming public might be fatigued with how common crowd funding has become. I personally would likely not go that route again, but it definitely works well for some musicians.

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

"Delusions" comes from the idea that all musicians, unless you have a voice like Adele, need to be a little bit delusional in order to think they'll be successful. A good sort of delusional.

On a personal level, I've never been a supremely talented singer or instrumentalist, but my self-confidence has always been buoyed by my own high opinion of my songwriting ability. My own delusions of success, whether they come true or not, have kept me motoring in recorded music for the last 15 years, and I couldn't be happier that they have.

Q - "Delusions" is your first solo album in seven years. I know that last year you were busy with your other music projects, 8090 and Hero Monster Zero. Was it just time to release a solo album?

Definitely. I feel like "Delusions" was long overdue for me.

I like to write songs without a specific genre in mind, but after a song starts taking shape, it becomes obvious whether it will work as a hip hop track (8090) or Hero Monster Zero song (hard rock). The collection of songs that make up "Delusions" never worked well as either, but I knew they still needed to be heard and that I would have to find an outlet for them.

Q - It seems like you are comfortable in any music genre. 8090 is a hip hop/rap band, and Hero Monster Zero is more of a rock band, with influences of hip hop. How do you think those bands have influenced your solo music? Is there a musical genre you like the best?

Hip hop is probably still my favorite genre of music, though less definitively so than before. Writing hip hop tracks with 8090 and with other artists has definitely informed the way I write acoustic folk music as well.

I want each lyric to have meaning, but to also be tightly constructed, biting and clever. I hope to have brought that sensibility to "Delusions."

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

I would give my left arm to open for The Presidents of the United States of America next time they swing through Chicago. Their first two albums were the first CDs I owned and I listened to them to death.

Their songs are more energetic than mine, but my musical opinions were heavily informed by their hook-heavy, instrumentally-minimal, short and funny songs. I also attended the same high school that two of the original members graduated from (Bush School in Seattle).

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

I love the Chicago music scene. First of all, it's huge, so no matter what your interests are, I think you can find it well represented in Chicago.

I've found the songwriter community in the city to be incredibly supportive, even for someone like me who isn't very outgoing. I don't know how many different songwriter sessions I've been to at cool venues like Tonic Room, Uncommon Ground and Hungry Brain (RIP), but each time I go, I discover at least one or two incredibly talented individuals I had never heard before.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Chicago band Pinto & the Bean releases new EP, will perform at The Gallery Cabaret


It's been four years since Chicago band Pinto and the Bean has released any new music.

Thankfully, the wait is over. The band has a new EP, "Transit-Eons," and will perform Dec. 5 at The Gallery Cabaret, 2020 N. Oakley Ave., Chicago. The free show starts at 9 p.m.

I had the chance to talk to members Ivan Sosa and Paul Taneja about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you. Of course, you will be performing at The Gallery Cabaret on Dec. 5 to celebrate the release of your new EP, "Transit-Eons." In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? What would you like for people to get out of the album?

Ivan: Since our last album, we’ve been recording several songs but haven’t actually finished them, so one day, I thought, “Why don’t we make an EP?” We have some songs that are almost done. Let’s choose some and make an EP.

I think the only goal we had was a deadline; to get the EP done by the beginning of June.

I think what we would like people to get out of the EP is similar to what most other artists would want…to touch their senses through our music.

Paul: Yeah, the only goal was to just record an EP within two months. I think we both knew things would sort of fall into place from there, although we didn’t really know how.

The important thing was just to get up and make music.  I would love for people to connect to these songs in some way.

It means so much to me when someone is genuinely moved by anything we create. I mean, that’s the huge reward for being an artist.

Q - I understand you made the album in only two months. How much of a challenge was that? Do you think it helped to have such a strict deadline?

Ivan: We are constantly writing new songs. We had several songs recorded, so we chose some songs we thought would be good for an EP and we “polished” them up.

It was hard work because, as most musicians know, the hardest part of making a song is not recording it, but mixing it. Yeah, it helped to have a deadline.

It seems we are more productive working under pressure.

Paul: I agree that when we set deadlines, we get SO much more accomplished. It was a challenge to record and mix this EP. 

As Ivan said, mixing is tough. Especially for us, it was brand new territory, because we had always had a sound engineer/producer in the past, so we had to trust our own ears and listen to these songs over and over and over again until we thought they were good enough to put onto a record.
Q - Before making the EP, the band had been on hiatus. Did the EP provide the inspiration for the band to continue on?

Ivan: Definitely. It’s like a glass of fresh water in the middle of the Sahara. It renews yourself and gives you energy to keep walking forward.

Paul:  Yes, the creation of this EP definitely gave us direction again. We had been on hiatus for so long, we became hermits writing songs in our little studio.

Completing the EP was the first step to whatever was to come next. I think all that mattered at first was that we created an EP.

And I figured the pieces would start to fall into place after that.

Q - What is the meaning of the EP's title? Is there a story behind the band's name?

Ivan: We  were experimenting with changes not only on a personal level, but also as a musicians, so I suggested the idea of “transitions.” Then Paul came up with the idea of “transit-eons,” which added another meaning to the EP.

Paul: I’m not even sure why I added “eons” to it. I guess it was a play on words, and it feels like eons since we’ve been out in the scene. Our band name actually came from a contest we had when we started this project. We asked people for band names they liked and people voted, and Pinto and the Bean became our name.

Q - Your music touches on several genres of music. Who or what are your biggest music influences and how do you think they have affected your music?

Ivan: Personally, I’m a song guy. Rarely, can I say this band or that band is my biggest influence.

I’m constantly looking for new music and that’s a big influence for me. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like The Smiths, Led Zeppelin, the Police, Jane’s Addiction and Depeche Mode among many others.

Paul: I used to be able to answer this question more appropriately. I feel that I’ve been affected by various bands in different ways, and there is no one particular band that I can think of that has affected these songs in particular.

There are songs or bands we’ll listen to and we’ll find something within a song that we really like and try to find some kind of inspiration within it.  
Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you see the band fitting into it?

Ivan: To be honest, sometimes I feel it’s hard for us to fit in with some of the bands in Chicago. Sometimes I feel like we are the “black sheep,” but for some reason, I like that.

It makes me feel different and special. In the end, what matters is attitude, no matter what genre of music you play, do it well, and respect and appreciate other musicians’ efforts.

Paul: Yeah, I have never really understood where we fit into the Chicago scene, even when we were performing a lot. It’s hard to know exactly what the Chicago scene is like right now since we’re still emerging back into it, but we met some really cool bands recently. 

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

Ivan: Our short-term goal is to make another EP by spring 2016. My long-term goal is to be able to pay my bills and make music for living.

Paul: Those goals are exactly what I’d have said too.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Chicago musican Jared Rabin one-man show on solo debut album, will perform at Martyrs'


The versatile Jared Rabin is a one-man show on his solo debut "Something Left To Say," which was released in September.

Rabin wrote, arranged and played all of the instruments on the album,  with the exception of drums. There will be a record release party on Dec. 4 for the album at Martyrs,' 3855 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

Glass Mountain and Mad Bread also are on the bill. The music starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $8, available at Martyrs' website at

I had the chance to talk to Rabin about the album.

Q - You've been in so many different bands spanning so many different genres. Was it just the right time to release a solo album?

It was the right time to do it for a lot of different reasons. Being in so many bands over the years that have frankly not lasted and my continuing to want to play original music was part of it.

It is something I always knew I could do and I was about to turn 30 so I finally had enough experience, resources and skills to make the record the right way.

I decided that it was the right time to go all out.

Q - You play all of the instruments except for drums on the album. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

My main goal was less about playing all of the instruments, which seems like it should be the thing to talk about and be proud of. I wasn't trying to prove a point in doing it though.

I knew I would be able to produce the songs myself in the way I envisioned them. Bringing in other people, aside from the few people that I did have play on it, could have been fun and taken the sound to other cool places.

But my main goal was to have something that I am OK with sharing with people.

Q - Is there a meaning behind the album's name? What would you like people to come away with from the album?

The meaning is literal I guess; like I feel like I have something to contribute. It's the title of the first song on the album, so in context it's kind of like what I said in a previous answer: now is the time to make it happen if you feel like there is something that you can do.

People seem to be connecting in all different ways to the record. I have had a diverse array of comparisons made as to what people think certain tracks sound like, which I think is cool.

I want people to come away thinking that the record sounds good and they'd like to see me play live and check out the next record. That would be great. I'm not expecting it to change the world.

Q - You started learning violin at age 5 with the help of your grandfather, who was then concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Was it good for you to learn a musical instrument at such a young age?

I would definitely not be here talking to you if I hadn't started as young as I did. I think learning music as a kid must be like learning a second language as a kid. My whole brain is wired in whatever way it is because of my exposure to music at that young age, as well as being raised in a very musical environment. All of that affects every thought process I have to this day.

Q - You have dipped into many different genres of music in your career. Do you have a favorite genre and do you continue to need musical variety in your life?

One way I have been fortunate in the music biz is to have a diverse lineup of gigs going on at all times. In any given week I might be playing with a jazz trio, or a bluegrass band, or with a 12-piece cover band, or with another singer/songwriter, or doing my own original stuff.

I was never trying to do all that out of a need for diversity, but I do it all because I can. A lot of people are more focused and really serious about one type of music, which I can definitely respect, but I like playing rock and roll just as much as I like playing jazz so I don't feel the need to discriminate genres.

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

Sort of related to my previous answer, there is not really just one Chicago music scene. Because I am versatile, I drop in and out of different scenes quite often.

There is a really strong jazz community who I wish I could play with more often. I used to be really involved in the "jam band" scene here in town. There's a whole new sort of funk/neo-soul thing going on lately.

Chicago is famous for its underground music scene and house parties and all of that, as well as the blues scene, church music, etc. I fit into some places; I don't fit into others.

There are places I wished I fit in better. I know a lot of talented people in Chicago and enjoy migrating between the different scenes and getting to know different people and styles of playing. It has taught me a lot!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Chicago band The Roalde Dahls adding vibrancy to scene, releases new EP


Chicago band The Roalde Dahls' music is as unique as its name.

The electro-pop trio will perform Nov. 13 at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, to mark the release of its new EP, "MKIII."

Spaces of Disappearance and Dudley Noo also are part of the bill. The show starts at 10:30 p.m. and tickets are $8, available at 

I had the chance to talk to synth player Nikko Paoulos about the new EP.

Q - Great talking to you. You have a new EP coming out. In sitting down to make the EP, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

When we sat down to discuss the new project that is now known as “MKIII," we ultimately just wanted to make a better sounding record then our previous attempts. I remember thinking more drama, more dance, but beyond the composition, we wanted it production wise to sound better.

Gravity Studios did a great job in helping us achieve the results we were working towards. I believe this release stands taller then our self recorded releases. 

Q - I understand that people will only be able to buy the physical copy of the EP at the merchandise table at your  shows. Is that your way to thank the fans?

Of course it’s a way to thank our local fans. You can still purchase the EP digitally, but we wanted to make a trip to our merch table a magical experience for everyone.

The physical edition of "MKIII" is just one small part of it, we hope to be offering all types of exclusive content and art made by the band. But more importantly, it should be place where you can transcend the bullshit of fan and musician and just be people. 

Q - Is the band named after the author Roald Dahl? He of course is known for such books as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach." If so, what made you want to name yourself after him? 

There isn’t a person alive who grew up as kid in the '90s that doesn’t know Roald Dahl. When we were trying to figure out what to name ourselves nothing seemed to fit, then Dylan came up with The Roalde Dahls.

It felt nostalgic, it was original, and was also a satirical take on conventional band names - if there is such a thing. To me that was a perfect combination.

Roald Dahl had taught me through his books that there can be humor in the dark and morbid, which is important for children to learn. What better way for us to pay tribute then to name our band after him.  

Q - How did the band form? 

Originally there were five of us. But every band goes through growing pains before finding the right pieces, or in our case, cutting off the right pieces.
I guess we started like every other band. You take a couple of bored friends, a Craigslist ad, mix it together with a basement and some instruments and boom, now you have a band. 

Q - Who are the band's biggest influences?

It's hard to pinpoint what influenced you to write what. With the Internet making everything more  accessible, it's all just become a hot pot of pop culture stimuli.

I find inspiration more so in my favorite authors, comic/manga artists, and especially Nintendo games. It stimulates my imagination more then someone else’s music ever could.  

Q - Do you personally have any favorite tracks on the album? 

To quote the great Dylan Flynn, “A good mother doesn’t pick their favorite child.”

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

Hmmm, how do we fit into the Chicago scene? Well, I guess the correct answer would be we don’t.

From what I have experienced in Chicago, it's more punk, noise rock and metal bands. You can find rap, jam and other genre shows, but the Chicago scene at it core is very heavy.

Of course, the influx of EDM popularity has created a niche for DJs and other electronic acts, but it really has done nothing for bands like ours who are neither EDM or a jam band.

We have thought of relocating to another city more catered to our style, but we don’t accept defeat that easily. We are determined to carve out a path for our sound on Chicago's mountain.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Chicago actor/musician Michael Monroe Goodman celebrating release of new album, will perform at Schubas

Michael Monroe Goodman has earned rave reviews for his portrayal of a young Johnny Cash in the Chicago run of "Ring Of Fire."

He also is a musician off stage, and will perform Nov. 10 at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, to celebrate the release of his second album, "The Flag, the Bible and Bill Monroe."
Adam Lee and Tiny Miles also are part of the bill. The music starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10, available by going to Schubas' website at
I had the chance to talk to Goodman about the new album.
Q - Great talking to you. I recently interviewed Cory Goodrich, your co-star in "Ring Of Fire." What has it been like being part of the cast of "Ring Of Fire?" Has being a part of "Ring Of Fire" and "Million Dollar Quartet" given you new insight into the lives of the musicians depicted in those productions?

I wouldn’t trade my time with "Ring Of Fire" for anything in the world. We were a great big beautiful family and the show is one the most heartfelt shows I will ever do, I’m sure.

I already knew most of the history of Elvis, Cash and Sun records, but I knew little about Carl Perkins before joining "Million Dollar Quartet." Since then, I have read more about him than all of them and I feel a deep connection to him musically and personally.

In my opinion, he is the most underappreciated artist to ever come out of Memphis.

Q - What have you tried to bring to those roles? What do you think Johnny Cash would think of your performance in both productions?
I try my best with every acting role to be earnest. I don’t want to “put on” or embellish for flair.
I take my musical heritage very seriously, same as I take the art of acting very seriously. To impersonate someone as a tribute show is one thing, but for theater, you never want to do that.

It’s my job as an actor to keep it real and put myself in the role. I’m not sure what Cash would think of my portrayal, but I know he would be flattered by the quality of the entire show. 

Q - You've released your second album, "The Flag, the Bible and Bill Monroe." What is the meaning of the album's title? In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

I thought one day, “I want to write a song that unapologetically stands up for the things I most believe in." In today’s culture everyone is offended by everything and people change their stance more than the wind blows.

The title track was my statement that these are the three beliefs I will never back down from or apologize for. Anyone who has a problem with that can kiss my ass.
My goal was, and always is, to make great music that everyone can connect with. I hope that is true with this new album.
Q - It seems like much of the album is autobiographical, such as the song "She Was Mine," which was written on the first anniversary of your mother's death. Do you consider this album more personal than your first one?

The album, as a whole, is very biographical. Although a couple of the songs on the album aren’t true stories (the rest of them are 100 percent true), all of the songs are very personal to me.
My last album was a little more concept, but this album is me being completely vulnerable.

“She Was Mine” was a very hard song to write. Everyone wants to write a tribute to their mother, but I couldn’t honestly put her on a pedestal like some songwriters might.

She was a flawed woman who, with a big heart, lived in pain. I dealt with that, my family dealt with that, but at the end of the day, she was the only mother I’ll ever have.
I think a lot of people can identify with that conflict. So, it was hard to be completely open about my mother in a song, but when I finished it I realized it might be more honest and heartfelt than any other tribute I’ve heard before.
I didn’t hide anything from the story. I didn’t say,“My mom was perfect, how could I not love her.” I expressed what most people can relate to by saying, “My mom wasn’t perfect, she was human, but she was mine. I will always love her”
Q - I understand your parents knew Bill Monroe, and you are named after him. How do you think he has influenced your music?
Bill was family to me. Being backstage at the Grand Ole Opry on the weekends was just routine.
It seems so surreal now and I’d give anything if I could remember everything I witnessed as a child. It was impossible to realize then how legendary Bill was.

It wasn’t until his funeral that I first started to realize his impact on music and the world. Bill was so warm and parental to me.
To this day whenever I hear his voice on a recording, it’s hard not to cry. His voice was resonating through me while I was still in the womb.
It could be a total coincidence, but the first time I felt the need to write a song was when he died and “Rosine, I Cry” was that first song. I have been songwriting ever since.
Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it? Are there other Chicago musicians that you particularly admire what they are doing?
I personally would love to see more allegiance to original music in Chicago. No offense, but I think it’s sad that party style cover bands draw more people than original music.
Granted, Chicagoans are very supportive of established touring bands, but there are a lot of great original artists in town that people should break their necks to see as well. Just saying.

I admire the Fat Babies and the Uptown Savages a lot. Not only are they amazing musicians but they are keeping big band music alive.
It warms my heart to see the young people that support them and their artistry. 
Q - Do you have any dream roles or collaborations? Do you need both acting and music in your life?
Well, nothing would bring me greater joy than to play Bill Monroe in a big budget Hollywood biopic. I think a well written story of his life would be a masterpiece that even those unaware of who he is could appreciate.
I hope to collaborate with Matt Woods and Adam Lee on a “Highwaymen” type concept album one day. As an actor, I would gladly star in anything directed by Mel Brooks, Tarantino, Scorsese, or Wes Anderson.

First and foremost I have realized at my core, I’m a storyteller. Whether that’s singing, songwriting, screenwriting or acting, I will always be telling stories. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Chicago band Mary & The Immaculate Rejections show punk fervor, releasing new EP


After hearing the music of Ramones at the age of 12, Mary Lemanski wanted to form an all girl punk band that sounded just like them.
Years later, Lemanski ended up opening for Marky Ramone & the Speed Kings. And the spirit of the Ramones is quite evident in Lemanski's current band, Mary & The Immaculate Rejections.
Mary & The Immaculate Rejections will perform Nov. 14 at The Black Sheep Cafe, 1320 S. 11th St., Springfield, to celebrate the release of its new EP. SAP, Los Injectors and Rotten Monster also are on the bill.
Lemanski will then perform a solo set on Nov. 15 at the Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. James Rawson also is on the bill.
The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $9.
I had the chance to talk to Lemanski about her current activities.

Q - Great talking to you. In sitting down to make your new EP, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

The main goal for the new EP was to introduce Mary & The Immaculate Rejections to the world, to get our general sound out there, and to build some excitement in preparation for a full length CD to be released, hopefully, next year. So far, the initial feedback we've received has been highly favorable, so I think we are on target to accomplish our goals.
In fact, I was on ReverbNation this morning, and Mary & The Immaculate Rejections are #2 on the local punk charts, #59 on the U.S. punk charts, and #152 in the world! Not too shabby for only having set up the profile a week ago!

Q - I understand you have been playing together since last December. How did you hook up with Andrew and Harold and what do you think they bring to the table? How has the chemistry been between all of you?

I've known Andrew and Harold since I was 19 years old. We're all originally from the Springfield area. I was familiar with their playing from seeing them perform in The Stifs and other bands.
They are both solid musicians. Together they are a rhythm powerhouse, so I invited them to be a part of The Rejections.
We all get along well, and we knew we were all a good fit musically from our very first practice together. 

Q - You once opened for Marky Ramone & the Speed Kings. What was that experience like and what did you learn from the experience? Do you consider The Ramones to be a big musical influence?

The Ramones are a huge influence on me. I can remember the first time I ever heard them and was cognizant of them. I was 12, and it was two for Tuesday on the local radio station, and they played "Beat on the Brat" and "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" back to back.
I immediately wanted to form an all girl punk band that sounded like them. So it was an honor to open for Marky Ramone & the Speed Kings. I was very excited about the show.
Unfortunately, there was a falling out with my backing band at the time, so I formed a new band, Mary Lemanski & The Arrangements, and they learned all my songs in about six weeks time.
We pulled it off, and people said we stood out from all the other bands that played the show that night, but the one thing I did learn from the experience was never break up with your band six weeks before a gig where you are opening for a national headliner. It was stressful!

Q - You also have a solo career. Is it hard to juggle both? Do you need both in your life?

My solo career has always been a constant. This is the fourth band I've played in, and the third band I formed.
Bands seem to come and go, but I still want to be fruitful as a musician. I write in many different genres and styles, so I need an outlet for that musical creativity, which is my solo career.
I use a booking agent to get a lot of my gigs, and since Andrew and Harold have their own lives and other bands outside of The Rejections, sometimes they cannot play all the shows that I can. I actually have five different sets under which I can book gigs.
I have the band. I have a solo acoustic guitar set, a solo piano set, an electric guitar and me/Billy Bragg-style set, and an alternative/pop-rock, electronic set on the keyboard, where I sing and play along with a drum machine. I think of it as product diversification.

Q - You are the director of operations and the Chicago/Springfield coordinator for Songsalive!, an international songwriting organization. What is the group's mission and what do you do to try and further that mission?

Songsalive! is a grassroots songwriters organization run by songwriters for songwriters. We have various programs to help nurture, support, and promote songwriters, and educate them on the craft and business of songwriting.
I run the day-to-day business of the organization, help maintain the website, social media, and facilitate internal & external communication. With the Chicago chapter, we currently have a bi-monthly showcase & open mic at Borelli Pizza.
We did host a songwriting workshop for 5 years, where songwriters could bring in their songs for critique, and we would often have a music industry guest speaker talk about a topic of interest to songwriters. We are currently looking for a new venue to host the monthly workshops.

Q - What do you think of the state of the music industry these days? What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the music business?

The music industry is a tough industry, but it always has been though. Since the beginning of time, musicians have always had to hustle.
Musicians have also always been DIY, booking their own shows, touring, promoting themselves, handling their own business. They've always had people around trying to take advantage of them. 
Club owners not wanting to pay them. Kings not wanting to pay them. Remember the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin?
The townspeople and the king did not want to pay the piper for services rendered. The earliest account of that story is around 1300, so that tells you how long people have been ripping off musicians.
It's also very much a boy's club, but that goes without saying.

I think the difference now is that music itself has become such a disposable commodity and has become devalued to the point that people just plain want it for free. Nobody would demand that an author write a novel and give it away for free.

Nobody would expect a painter to paint them a portrait for free. I cannot think of a single art form, except music, where people expect the artist to give away their work for free. I think certain organizations, like the RIAA, over the past several years have done a lot to damage musician and consumer relations...and the RIAA doesn't have to suffer for the damage they've done.
The musicians and songwriters are the ones that are hurting.

I guess the best advice I can give for someone wanting to break into the industry is learn as much about the business as you can. Learn about copyright, licensing, marketing, royalties, distribution, etc.
Be consistent and persistent. Rarely does a music career happen overnight, and when it does, it's usually just a flash in the pan.
Be in it for the long haul. Hone your skills and your craft. Practice everyday. Write everyday. Be yourself.

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

When I first moved to Chicagoland, I read an article about how the Chicago Music Commission had done a study and found that in money generated by music, Chicago was third behind New York and Los Angeles. I found that surprising because everyone always mentions Nashville as one of the big three, and it's really Chicago.
Over the past several months, I have been writing live music reviews for a national music industry publication, and I have found so many great bands and good musicians, and maybe it's because I usually go to these shows on Wednesday nights, but there is hardly anyone there to see these people perform! 
The city of Chicago has this wonderful, diverse, talented pool of musicians performing every night of the week, and nobody goes out to enjoy least that has been my experience so far. So as far as the Chicago music scene goes, people need to go out to shows and show support. 
Don't be afraid to try something new. You might like it, and if you don't, you'll still be richer for having experienced it!
Q - Where does Mary & The Immaculate Rejections fit into the scene?
We are a female-fronted punk rock band. We like to play loud, and we mostly like to play fast. Any time I think of our music, I picture myself with my guitar held high above my head.
I'm smashing it into a glass ceiling, and shattering the ceiling to pieces.
I think that's where our music fits into the scene!