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.