Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Adventurous Chicago band The Phantom Broadcast releases new vinyl record, will perform free show at Emporium


With the vinyl release of "Antiquities," Chicago band The Phantom Broadcast is proving that it is one of the most adventurous bands around.

To celebrate its release, The Phantom Broadcast will perform a free show Nov. 5 at Emporium, 1366 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. The show starts at 8 p.m.

I had the chance to talk to The Phantom Broadcast frontman Evan Opitz about the project.

Q – Great talking to you. Of course, you will be celebrating the release of "Antiquities (Vol I)” and "Antiquities Vol II" on a vinyl LP with a show at Emporium in Wicker Park on Nov. 5. In sitting down to make the albums, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

Thanks for chatting with us! We are so excited to finally put this release out into the world.

As far as the writing and recording processes go for the record, we spent a lot of time with details and each individual song rather than viewing the project as a whole. We went into writing without a full concept and without thinking about a fixed number of tracks.

Everything sort of grew organically, with a lot of writing sessions taking place between guitarist/vocalist Dave Hollis and me (and sometimes violinist/vocalist Lucy Little) on acoustic guitars in my living room. 

We would workshop ideas and bring them to our practice space to further expand on with bassist Nick Soria and drummer Colin Rambert.

One thing Dave and I wanted to be mindful of when writing was only creating lyric/vocal sections when deemed natural and appropriate with the music. There are some extended instrumental sections of certain songs (i.e., “Mast” and "Leaving Appleton").

Instead of trying to write more or squeeze more words into a song, we decided to let those sections breathe as they are and make the purpose and thought behind the lyrics stand more deliberately.

By the end of the writing for the record, we started to realize a lot of subconscious themes and concepts throughout, such as a plethora of nautical and existential metaphors in lyrics written by Dave and I individually. We would both contribute to lyrics for songs, sometimes more heavily on one’s individual concept rather than a collective concept.

Oddly enough, a lot of times we found ourselves writing about the same or similar things but from different angles.

It is difficult to get all of us in a room together so the writing process was really drawn out. I do feel like we could have had more time to elaborate on certain things, but due to scheduling and availability, some things were streamlined.

I think moving forward we want to try and keep our writing sessions more consistent and have it be a constant staple in how we rehearse. 

Q – It seems like there should be a meaning behind the band's name. Is it a nod to the 1933 movie, "The Phantom Broadcast"? 

To be honest, there isn’t as much of a connection to the film as there probably should be (ha ha ha). I spent days going through lists of old films in search of something fairly obscure and cryptic.

I thought it was interesting how a movie from that time period had such a mysterious title. Musically, the band has always had a foot in the experimental and enigmatic. The title seemed to fit the imagery. 

Q – How did the band come together?

The group, as it exists now, consists of friends that I have made over the last decade. Nick and I went to the University of Illinois together and have played in a ton of bands over the last 8 or so years.

Colin also was at the university with us getting his masters; he and I both played in a group called The Martian Mellows based out of Decatur, IL (Millikin University). It gets weirder as Dave and I met while working together in a call center when we both first moved to Chicago but Dave, unrelated, went to college with Colin at Millikin.

Lucy and I met when we both played with L.A.-based pop artist Fiona Grey. I’d say the short answer of how we came together is the Law of Attraction. 

Q – How do you think the band's sound has evolved over the years? Do you think the sound will continue to evolve? 

I’d say the sound has 100% evolved over the years in all aspects: our brand and content, our style and genre(s), our lyrics and themes, and our compositional and arranging abilities. The band started as a theatrical, emo, post-hardcore band and became more of a folky, orchestral, fusion indie band.

The magnitude of our life experiences has always been the cornerstone for inspiration and development. Already our sound is evolving again from this most recent release as we move forward in writing new material and reimagining our songs for our upcoming tour. 

Q – You are also part of several other bands. How do you find the time to be involved in so many projects? Do you consider The Phantom Broadcast as your main project? 

I would consider The Phantom Broadcast to be my creation and primary vehicle for musical expression. I’ve made it my life goal to be a professional artist and I’ve found that I can make time and schedule rehearsals and tours around all the projects I commit to as long as I stay organized. 

Thankfully, right now, there isn’t a ton of overlap, but each project is always looking to rehearse, play shows, or write. I love switching gears and playing different styles of music and getting to play with some of my best friends (and some of the best musicians) on this planet.

November is busy as I have tours with The Phantom Broadcast in the Midwest, then Catherine Campbell in the Southeast, and finally Emily Blue on the East Coast and Canada.

I am very thankful to be able to be a part of all these amazing original projects.

Q – I also see that you are a guitar/bass instructor at School of Rock in Oak Park. What are some key things that you try to convey to your students? 

I love teaching and being able to have these connections with young, inspired artists. I try and teach all of my students to be honest, to be confident, and how to work through discouragement.

Each student has the potential to be one of the greatest musicians of all time and it’s my job to instill that. When I was growing up there weren’t many places like School of Rock that were so inclusive; so encouraging to learning how to play music.

I am constantly trying to demonstrate to my students how I go about learning new music or how to practice something I may not be the best at. I also want my students to see that no matter what age and what accolades one artist might hold, professional musicians are always trying to be their best and never stop practicing or learning something new. 

Q – What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think The Phantom Broadcast fits into it?

Personally, I have had quite an auspicious time here in Chicago and I’m very thankful for it. It is hard as an upcoming artist to find relevance and to find success.

A lot of developing a project like this comes from paying your dues and learning from what’s happening around you (a lot of times, the hard way). All of the projects I am a part of or that I’m friends with are working together and trying to grow together.

Having such an inclusive and supportive community is not something to take for granted. I would say The Phantom Broadcast has had a slow burn to fit in to the Chicago scene, but I feel we fit in more and more with every release and with every year we are active.