Q&A: Railway Gamblers

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Hailing from the Southside of Chicago, Railway Gamblers is a predominantly Americana four-piece consisting of vocalist and guitarist Brendan Folliard, guitarist Matt Fricks, bassist Joe Sexton and drummer Sean Wilmsen. After the success of their first album Heart of the Sun the boys have once again partnered with engineer Mike Hagler of Kingsize Sound Labs to record their second full length album Shadow of the Moon, which is set for release in early January 2016.

Listen Live and Local: You guys just released your first single “World on Fire”. How is this single, and the second album, different from pervious releases?

Matt Fricks: The first album was more melodic, focusing on the vocalist side of it. We wanted to maintain that similar sound with more of a bite. It is a bit more of a rock and roll influenced album. We still have a bit of bluegrass and folk influences, but [with] a harder edge. That is where you get that sort of distorted guitar and the additional percussion.

Sean Wilmsen: It’s insane how this album kind of progressed so much from the first of like, “okay let’s do something that we’ve never done, but still keep that same sound.” We go from that kind of folky almost Mumford and Sons-y sound to a song that sounds like a fricking string quartet is behind it. [Or] a super hard rock song to a country song.

LLL: You guys have a unique sound that doesn’t quite fit into a specific genre. How do you classify your sound?

Brendan Folliard: You don’t just want to put yourself under one name,or anything. You kind of just want to play the music you want [whether that be] rock and roll, or like a ballad, or folky song. Americana is what we are formally titled as, but we want to be able to put out a country song, or have a bluesy kind of feel to a song. You never want to put yourself in one category. You want to just keep moving and doing different things. And you always want to see different shows because [it allows] you to see a different side of music. Like my favorite shows are punk rock shows in somebody’s house. 

LLL: Chicago is known for being jazz and punk oriented. Have you ever had trouble finding an audience? 

Fricks: We’ve got a pretty good home base [and] support system on the Southside of Chicago. As far as the Southside goes, people recognize the music. People actually know some of the original songs. When we kind of explored downtown, a lot of clubs were focusing on that jazz guitar and a lot of underground [venues] were focusing on punk. Luckily we were able to play alongside some really great bands that were already in that Americana and folk scene. We got to play in front of their fans and gain followers from there. 

LLL: The band has had some big milestones such as playing alongside national acts like American Babies and Head for the Hills. Are there any moments that stick out to you?

Wilmsen: Some of the bands around [Chicago] are like our favorite bands. Just to see those guys and to see all the locals enjoying the music we’re making, it just feels nice to know that people you really respect have that same respect for you.

Folliard- Every moment from when we started till now has been special. It’s been almost two years we’ve been a band and what we’ve accomplished in that time has been amazing. We’re lucky. And like what Sean said when you’ve grown up with these great [Chicago] musicians, [who] become your favorite musicians, it’s unreal that they’re talking about music we’re making when we’ve looked up to these people for so long and they’ve influenced us and the music we’re making right now. 

Fricks: For me, it was when we played our album release show for the first album. Brendan writes pretty much all the songs with the music, but one of the songs he wrote from the first album, “Diamond Road” [was] a song that people really gravitated to[ward]. And to see people singing those lyrics of ours, and not singing along to cover songs we played or requesting cover songs,  [it] was pretty incredible. That’s the kind of the moment when you say, “okay you’ve got something here. Something that people really like.” 

Railway Gamblers’ next performance will be on January 9th at Martyrs’ with The Way Down Wanderers and Charlie Hirsch

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