What happens when a few metal heads, an R&B singer, an indie god and a closet Paramore fanatic join forces and start a band?
No worries, this isn’t the start to a bad hipster joke. Actually, it’s the foundation of Chicago-based band, The Pact. It may have taken nearly four years of reformations and sound searching, but the alternative pop group has finally established themselves with the perfect blend of unlike genre gurus.
With less than a year behind their current formation, The Pact has already played a number of icon Chicago venues (House of Blues, Bottom Lounge) and shared the stage with national touring acts (HalfNoise, Spirit Animal). Combine this with the success of a recent EP release and an upcoming January 28th show with Tribe Society and The Karma Killers, and one might think The Pact has had a pretty easy ride.
But with any great story of success, there must first be failure.
The band’s first formation attempt was made in 2012 by current guitarist Julio Bonfante. Looking for an outlet to showcase his musical works, Bonfante partnered with a close friend and a few select musicians. Their potential seem solid, but within a year, following the release of an EP, the bandmates split. All that remained was Bonfante and the group’s former singer.
Without discouragement, the two continued to make music, eventually bringing on Caleb Harris to produce. In 2014, pleased by Harris’ work, Bonfante invited Harris to join The Pact as a second guitarist. Things began to fall into place once agin as The Pact slowly regained their key elements. However, almost as fast as it had started, the second formation fell apart. But at least this time Bonfante still had Harris, and the two were determined to form a solid pact.
“[After the rest of the bandmates left], Julio and I just kind of sat down and really thought like ‘what do we want to do with this now?’ Basically we [had] a clean slate. Like ‘where do we want to go with this? What kind of music do we want to play and write and perform?'” says Harris.
Like any band wanting to make a name for themselves, Bonfante and Harris worked to craft a sound different from the typical alternative music that filled the airwaves. This new direction is what’s heard on their 2015 EP, Reaching in the Dark. It is a balanced blend of alternative and pop with the heavy beats of drummer Isaac Bueno, steady riffs of alternative bassist Justin Casas and the smooth vocals of R&B singer Josh Arce.
“We brought all these genres to the table and [our] last record was kind of everything; all the ideas we had from the genres we were into. I think that that record reflects a little bit of all of our different tastes and influences,” says Arce.
The bandmates say that although they are satisfied with their current sound, it’s still developing and they want to continue to push the genre barriers.
“Stylistically [and] sound wise, we don’t put too many eggs in one basket with our sound. It allows us room for all sorts of different songs,” says Casas. “The beauty is that no matter what song we write, whatever ends up happening, whatever we play, it’s always going to still sound like we do.”
Having a specific sound is something a lot of bands depend on to work around. There is a fear that the lack of consistency can be disastrous as fans become accustom to hearing a band in a certain way (think of the backlash Bob Dylan got for switching from folk to electric rock and roll). Although sometimes the ability to cross between genre elements proves to be beneficial in appealing to a larger fanbase (think of Taylor Swift’s career as a success in both country and pop).
“[Consistency] is not the goal for us. Everybody wants to be consistent, but I don’t want to be consistent. We can be outside of the box sometimes and write what we write because it’s not going to be not us writing the music,” says Harris.
Although each member comes from a different place musically, it’s evident the bandmates are close as the boys endlessly chatter while comfortably sprawled across two couches in the basement of Harris’ home studio. Their presence is laid back and inviting, like hanging out with a group of childhood friends, which makes senses considering most of the bandmates have a history despite the lineup only being a few months old.
Perhaps it’s this closeness to each other, and to their music, that’s pushing The Pact to their accomplishments. While not exactly a DIY band, every aspect of the band is homegrown. All the music is written by the band. Similarly, all production is done by and at the home of Harris. But for a self-produced band, the group holds itself to putting out a professional product.
“We all hold ourselves to a high standard as musicians and as writers. We want to do the best that we can with our abilities and we want to keep working hard at what we do,” says Harris.
The Pact places emphasis on hard work; but observing them, seeing the enthusiasm that radiates from these boys as they discuss their journey, it’s obvious they’re fueled by passion. They animatedly speak of their thoughts on Lorde’s band, local acts they enjoy and experiences at local venues. Casas also went off on why Paramore’s Riot was such a spectacular album. And the energy is just as high when discussing their own music as Harris practically jumps from his seat to play their latest track, “Runaway”, before he’s finished asking if its want to be heard.
The group agrees that the highlight of their career so far has been playing House of Blues (although for Casas, performing alongside HalfNoise and being recommended vodkas by former Paramore drummer Zac Farro runs a close second. Casas later claimed he’s really not obsessed with Paramore. It’s up for debate). But even with a full house at such an iconic venue, the boys feel they’ll always have something to strive for.
“We’re never satisfied. If we accomplish something, we’re not satisfied. We just want more,” says Bonfante.
And what does ‘more’ look like? For now the band is planning a few single releases in the upcoming months followed by a full-length album. As for the future? Hopefully a continuation on their current path.
“We have all the right elements. It’s all up and up,”says Harris. “We play shows, we have hella people come out to all of our shows and support us. They love it and we just want to keep doing what we’re doing.”