Vocalist Sadie Rogers, of Sadie and the Stark, admits the name and concept behind her experimental fantasy band may seem like a joke, but promises the music created by herself, guitarist John Tweedie, drummer Tom Stukel and bassist Anthony Johnson, is anything but. Their dedication to each others’ creative visions in their 2017 EP Ghosts proves commitment and seriousness. The songs may be full of sci-fi lyrics and mystical themes, but there’s an artistic energy within each melodic and instrumental line.
In preparation for their upcoming show on Sunday, July 16 at Quenchers Saloon, the foursome gathers in their rehearsal space to discuss new music, dream venues and live show expectations.
Listen Live and Local: How does the newest EP, Ghosts, compare to past works?
Sadie Rogers: I think what I’m getting feedback wise that I agree with is that it’s just a tiny bit less melodic and a tiny bit more punk than the previous stuff. Also, we all sound a little bit more integrated, to my ear, with each other. We all kind of know each other and flow around each other more so now. I think it’s a little bit less whimsical and fantasy themed. Our music has a tendency to be based on sci-fi and fantasy, as far as the lyrics go. I feel like this one is little more haunted, horror-focused rather than fantasy, sci-fi-focused.
John Tweedie: I’d say it has a better live feel and part of that is that we’ve played together so much longer. The first [EP] we did, we literally brought Anthony in within a few rehearsals to start recording, so there really wasn’t the Anthony component to it. Our wonderful engineer, Eugene [Hong], did an amazing job of reintegrating the pieces to speak better to how we actually sound live.
LLL: Ghosts was recorded at Music Garage with Eugene Hong. What was that experience like?
Rogers: Chill. Wouldn’t you guys say it was pretty chill?
Anthony Johnson: I knew Eugene already from other projects and knew he was pretty good at recording. Side note on him, this is an extremely different project from what he’s used to. I know him from ska bands and he did very [well] with us, especially considering that. I’m relaxed recording anyway,[but] I’m more relaxed in this project. I did know Eugene well, but also, as long as my end sounded okay, I was kind of okay about it.
Tom Stukel: I would call us a live band. That’s what we do. The previous EP that we did, we were in a studio that was enclosed and we did it much more in pieces whereas with this one, we still did in pieces but it was initially the whole band. So I think it was more comfortable in that way. I think it was really great that Eugene was able to capture that live sound that we’re used to creating all the time. I think it turned out really great in that matter.
LLL: How did you guys decide on the songs for Ghosts?
Johnson: A lot of our favorite songs to either play or hear are on this [EP]. I didn’t even know all of the band’s songs when I played the first recording. I only knew the songs I did, but now I know everything we have. Some of the songs [we chose for the EP] are older and some of them are newer, but we literally just picked the favorite ones of what we don’t have recorded just to get them out.
Rogers: Yep, if I had to pick my favorite, it’s probably “Crawl”, which sounds like an Appalachian folk singer trying to sound punk, which is kind what I am cause I’m from East Tennesse. It’s totally an accident that it sounds like that but it has opened my mind to a whole endless world of possibilities. My background is bluegrass and I’m singing in a rock band with these guys, two of [whom are] jazz musicians. [There’s] all this stuff happening in this one song, and it’s crazy. “Crawl” is a brand new song [and it’s] a song that is a little less specific in its format. Where some of the songs are about actual stories and things, “Crawl” is a little bit more ambiguous. Anybody who has ever been angry at anyone could relate to “Crawl”. Or anybody who has ever wanted someone they can’t have.
Tweedie: There’s a song called “Vampire Love Song” that we’ve played a lot, but it was nice to ration it down for the recording. I was always making it up live and was never really happy with it so it was nice to just come up with some lead lines and things. It’s a great song too cause it kind of [shows] our stretch. We can be punk, but it also has this sort of country tinge kind of feel to it.
LLL: Sadie and the Stark has played a number of venues throughout Chicago. Are there any iconic places you’d still like to play?
Tweedie: I’ve played in a lot of bands along the way and I’ve always thought there was the goal of playing at Double Door or Empty Bottle, and we’ve been there and that’s great. I’ve never played at Metro so that’s one goal I really kind of love. Thalia Hall seems like a really great place, too.
Johnson: Thalia Hall, that’s a possibility. Metro can be a goal. It just depends on the situation. Sometimes along the way, you’ll get the opportunity to play at a dope room to not a great bill. A long time ago I was offered the Metro, but they wanted us to play there Riot Fest weekend. You don’t even need to know what band I’m in and you know nobody was coming. If you’re a music person, you are not going to spend any money on your friend’s show when it can go toward seeing some dream lineup you’ve been wanting to see forever. The crazy thing is, sometimes you can end up with a dream to play a certain venue, but the venue won’t be all it’s cracked up to be after you play it. A lot of the best rooms are sometimes just places you want to go for the atmosphere. Metro is cool. Thalia Hall is amazing. Beat Kitchen, I’ve played there a bunch of times over the years. Especially out of smaller clubs, that’s a really good club.
Rogers: I have a little fantasy of playing at Schubas. We’ve almost gotten in there a couple of times and I’ve always loved going to Schubas.
Johnson: You know what one of the best places to play is? Lincoln Hall. It’s a really dope room, but they also book very well there.
LLL: What can audiences expect from a Sadie and the Stark show?
Rogers: They can expect me to not be good at talking to the audience and sing really loud. I usually try to dress slightly cooler, maybe a little bit different. Sometimes I have white hair or blue hair. When I first started this band my dream was to be in a band and paint my face like The Crow. I wanted to do something every time I sang. I didn’t want to be Sadie. But that didn’t happen because I didn’t have any balls, but I have a lot of balls now, so I’m still interested in doing something like that. Everybody does cool stuff. Anthony is all over his six string [bass], John plays the EBow, I sometimes might pelvic thrust and Tom crosses his arms when he plays.
Johnson: It’s very unorthodox, but you have to keep looking around. You look at Sadie and it’s like, “All right”. You look at Tom and you know, EBow. You got this mother fucker back there crossing his arms and then you’re like, “Where’s that ass-kicking bass coming from?”, so you got to look back at me.
Rogers: I’ve been told that we’re kind of captivating and I think that’s because the sound that comes out isn’t quite what people are expecting. I think because of the name of the band and the concept behind the band, I think people think it’s going to be kind of a joke band and maybe a little absurd, but it’s not. Especially when live, it’s completely committed 100 percent. I think with this, we are all in and it works and people love it.
Sadie and the Stark’s next performance will be on Sunday, July 16 at Quenchers Saloon. The night will also include performances by The Just Luckies, Little Yellow Dog and Beams.
Photo Credit: Karin Tweedie