If the four faces behind Chicago’s Namorado look familiar, you may have caught them onstage during their Urbana-Champaign college days as A Cool Hand. Although, now nearly two years into their new formation, the faces of lead guitarist/vocalist Mike Altergott, drummer Charlier McCarthy, guitarist/vocalist Jack Keating and bassist/vocalist Adam Howarter may be the only things to spark familiarity.
After moving to the city of Chicago, the four bandmates had a serious discussion about the evolution of their songs from standard indie rock to well-composed music built on guitar riffs and vocal harmonies. With a new EP in the works, set for release in early 2018, Altergott and Howarter gathered at their Avondale rehearsal space to share the ins and outs of their latest endeavors and what it’s like as a band maneuvering through the Chicago music scene.
Listen Live and Local: How’s the new EP coming?
Mike Altergott: We’re very far along. We’ve been recording at Minbal, a small studio in Humbolt Park. Doug Malone, the guy who owns it is an awesome dude. We’re coming along with an EP that is a little more true to what, I would say, our sound is. We have three people who can sing and two guitarists, so we’re very much guitar driven indie rock with vocal harmonies. I think this EP, at least for me, represents our understanding of our place in a changing world. We’re all kind of grasping what has been happening around us. It’s kind of like our way of processing it, which was very cathartic in the sense. [I’m] feeling good about these songs cause it means a lot more than anything we’ve done previously. We recorded an EP that’s up on Bandcamp. Basically, those are our initial demos. We needed some material and we had just moved to Chicago. Those are pretty old recordings at this point. We started recording right before the election happened. Then we all kind of lost motivation to do anything after that and [the recording process] just kind of stalled for a while. Now we’re refreshed, energized and motivated to get it done.
Adam Howarter: We don’t have a name [for the EP] yet. I think we’re looking at February for a release. Hopefully, be done with mixing and mastering everything by the end of fall. We’re tighter now and I think we’ve honed in even more on what our sound is becoming. We’re a little groovier, a little heavier with a few country vibes creeping in there.
LLL: What was the writing process like putting together this EP?
Altergott: We’re still exploring our songwriting. We have three people who write songs. It enables us to come from a wide range of perspectives. At the same time we also have so much stuff. Sometimes we’ll come up with fragments of songs. One person will have a riff and bring it and people will give their opinions on it and we develop it from there. Sometimes people will show up with fully developed songs and then it’s more about, “Does this work with us? How do we individually take ownership of parts and make them our own?” Other times, we give each other songwriting challenges. We try to intentionally come from a lot of different perspectives on songwriting so we don’t just write the same song over and over.
Howarter: I feel like, within the songs that we have, we have some diversity of styles and influences and things going on. That probably comes from us all disagreeing on certain things and having different backgrounds. I think all of us like different bands that have a wide range of sounds like Radiohead or My Morning Jacket. It’s not just like, “We are country rock or surf rock.” There’s a whole bunch of things that happen. We have punk songs. We have surf songs. We’ve got country songs. We’ve got garage rock songs.
LLL: What are some songs you’re excited to share from the new EP?
Howarter: There’s a lot of them that I like. There’s two that we actually tried recording near the end of last year and part of that recording [session] is going to be part of this [EP]. Those two [“Nevada” and “Headhunter”] I’m especially excited about because we’ve been playing those for a long time. They’re two of the whole group’s favorites.
Altergott: We have five that we’re really pumped about, which is great because previously we’ve done some stuff where it’s we have one or two songs that we’re really feeling strongly about, but the whole thing isn’t really complete. So far, we’re feeling good about this EP. I guess the song I would be most excited about would be “These Days”.
LLL: How would you describe your band dynamic?
Howarter: Mike is the band leader for sure. He’s the schemer, emailing everyone, organizing and figuring it out. Probably also the most prolific writer. Jack is the lead vocalist on the most songs. He’s our resident lovable asshole. He’s the harshest critic probably, but in a good way. Charlie is the silent, stoic machine. He’s super tight, works hard and is super nonconfrontational. I’m just a dude.
Altergott: Adam shouldn’t sell himself short. Adam actually learned bass to join this band. His bass lines are very unique and it’s something I appreciate when I listen back on our songs.
LLL: You guys seem to be playing a show every other week. How do you continuously gig without overwhelming your fans?
Howarter: It’s the constant struggle I guess. We’ve definitely gotten better at it. In the olden days, I think there was one 10-day period where we played five shows. That was back in Champaign. Definitely flooded the market for Champaign.
Altergott: We probably average a show every two to three weeks. One thing we’ve tried to, and I think we’ve done it so far for every show, is we try to have a new song at every single show. That’s pushed us to write a ton, which has been great. Sometimes the songs aren’t totally ready, and sometimes after we play for one or two shows, we don’t like it and we kill it. But, that has forced us to constantly be coming up with things and hustling to get it done. We have not [played outside of Chicago], and that’s part of our next steps. Now that we’re going to have an EP that we’re really pumped about, we’re going to try to do some mini extended weekend tours around the Midwest.
LLL: Playing so often does mean you guys have taken the stage of some iconic Chicago venues. Which shows have been some of your most memorable?
Altergott: The show that stuck out to me was the show at Double Door right before it closed. It was basically a soldout show. It was one of their final, I think seven or eight days before it finally had to close its doors.
Howarter: I was also going to say Double Door. That venue was just really awesome. The sound was really cool and it was one of the few places where I felt like you weren’t blinded by the lights so you could see out over the crowd and it’s just packed with people you know. And it’s historic, so that’s exciting. All these people I love have played there.
Altergott: At the same time, Schubas is an awesome venue. We would love to play there at some point.
Howarter: Empty Bottle, too.
Altergott: We’ve still got some work cut out for us.
LLL: What are your overall feeling about the Chicago music scene? It seems to have been treating you guys well.
Altergott: This is really the city to be in right now for indie rock. You’re seeing a lot of bands nationally pop up that are from Chicago. The thing about Chicago is there’s such a spectrum of venues, so that’s lots of opportunities for bands to play and I think it really encourages lots of people to just go for it. Other cities, you don’t have an option of four or five venues per night that are stocked with really talented bands. That’s just a cool thing about Chicago right now, at least for the indie rock portion of it.
Howarter: I feel like it’s very welcoming, too. I feel like it didn’t take very long for us to be like, “Hey we’re interested” and people took a chance on [us]. You find a bunch of people to play with and they know places to play and it spirals really quickly.
Altergott: It’s a very supportive community. It’s cool. It’s not competitive. Bands aren’t looking to like hoard their secrets from other people. We don’t necessarily fit in with the prevailing rock, garage, psych, surf vibes that are happening in a lot of the indie rock bands. So I think we are still trying to find truly like-minded bands if they exist. So maybe we are having a hard time in one sense, feeling like we do really fit in with what’s going on, but there’s just so many opportunities to play shows. It’s awesome.