A little bit funk, a little bit soul, a little bit rock and roll; Woo Park embodies everything that makes Chicago’s music scene great. The talented band composed of vocalist Emily Nichols, bassist Parker Grogan, keyboardist Christian Zwit, drummer Luke Sangerman, and guitarist Brian Sanborn can be described as nothing other than a choir of rhythmic chaos. Their sound is undeniably composed of practice, passion and true musicianship. An eccentric ascetic combined with undeniable chemistry, it’s no surprise Woo Park has become beloved to so many dedicated fans.
With their last show (for the time being) right around the corner (Feb 20th @ Subterranean) Listen Live and Local spoke with Nichols for the low down on their drive, their passion and what their futures hold.
Listen Live and Local: Woo Park started playing big gigs in Chicago and gained name recognition pretty quickly. What do you owe to your success? What draws audiences to your shows?
Emily Nichols: Our chemistry is seriously electric. We’re such close friends and generally passionate people. When we get on stage together it’s this sort of energetic explosion. Bleeding hearts, you know? And quite frankly, we have an incredible support system. Our friends are a built-in street team, willing to do whatever it takes to help us. It’s truly unheard of and we would be nothing without them.
LLL: Your music has a unique sound that doesn’t quite fit into any one genre. How would you describe it?
EN: We’ve been using the term “psychedelic soul”, but I think that’s an over-simplification. In our earlier songs, we capture the spirit of neo-soul with elements of hip-hop, a steady groove. But as time went on the psychedelic aspects moved to the forefront of our sound. We’ll play a 15 minute noise jam then drop into an incredibly catchy hook. Our sound is confused, but we’re okay with that. The simplest answer I could give is to come to a show. There should be little explanation necessary after experiencing us live.
LLL: What is the creative process like when writing music?
EN: It began with individuals or small groups bringing ideas to rehearsal. We would all expand upon the original idea and each write our own part for it. Eventually it developed into an incredibly collaborative process. We’ll jam, follow any ideas that resonate with us and build upon them as a group. I think that’s part of the reason our sound is so unique. It’s the collective expression of five very opinionated individuals. There isn’t one replaceable or expendable member in the group because we all bring something very unique to the writing process, and as a result, the sound.
LLL: What have been some career highlights over the last year?
EN: Definitely our SXSW and Colorado tours. We got to spend time bonding outside of our rehearsal space [and] outside of our comfort zone. At SXSW, we played to rooms filled with brand new faces, something we rarely get the opportunity to do. In Colorado, we got to climb a mountain together. [It was] the kind of experience that left us speechless; connected. Recording the Rax Trax videos was also a blast. Those guys are like family to us. It’s always an incredibly smooth process going in there.
LLL: What’s special about the Chicago music scene compared to other places you guys have played?
EN: Soul. I believe Chicago has a soul you can’t find in many other places. Musicians and listeners alike are looking for a truly heartfelt musical experience. There’s a lot of room for interpretation, allowing almost any kind of music to thrive as long as it encompasses that realness, that heartbeat. It’s something truly exceptional.
LLL: The Subterranean show on February 20th will be your last show for the time being. What’s behind the break?
EN: We are young. Both as a band and as individuals. [We’re] all looking to explore our creativity, musicianship and expression through as many outlets as we can. Undeniably exceptional opportunities have arisen and will require full attention for the time being. We expect to rejoin forces with a boat load of experience and knowledge; inevitably making the work Woo Park does even more meaningful. It’s quite exciting really.
LLL: So what will you guys be up to?
EN: We’re all working on new stuff. Brian is slowly sneaking into about every project in Chicago while continuing his band From Tha 99, Christian has a new experimental project called SKANK. Luke is releasing a solo project under the name TITUS and will be traveling with the Blue Man Group. Parker is exploring drums and guitar in a few new projects (Elli Elli’s Byzmuti, MUFGA). I’m working on a solo album and dance EP. Lots to look forward to!
LLL: What can fans do to hold them over until you guys come back? Are there any other Rax-Trax video releases coming out?
EN: No more Rax videos, but we have loads of archives we will be releasing periodically, in addition to all of our individual projects. We’re fairly active on Facebook, so anybody looking to keep up with us can tune in there.
Woo Park’s next performance will be during Dunn Dunn Fest on Saturday, February 20th at Subterranean with Low Spark and Calliope Musicals.
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