American Grizzly bassist Marty Funk and guitarists Jack Doyle and Dennis Wilson rumble about their Pilsen rehearsal space with their friend and photographer Tim Nagle. With only a few weeks until the release of their third EP, a self-titled folk-rock compilation out on February 14, the Chicago-based rock band works to finish their album photo shoot.
They’ve hung a tapestry along one of the ways directly over a wooden piano. To the left are two amplifiers. To the right, a white electric guitar. The scene feels vintage; a perfect old southern rock setting, but what really sets the vibe is what’s front and center: a lamp with a cowboy boot base. The look is laid back and in a way may seem out of character for American Grizzly, but Funk, Doyle and Wilson explain, the music found on their new EP American Grizzly is as genuine as the rock-infused tunes fans are used to.
Listen Live and Local: American Grizzly is about to release their third record. Can you guys talk a bit about this upcoming EP and how it differs from previously released works?
Jack Doyle: It’s a very different EP for us. Our first one was kind of a retro rock thing. Our next one was more like a pop alternative rock thing. This one was more folk-influenced; psychedelic folk or something like that. We’ve always had this type of music, but we’ve never compiled together a cohesive thing. We play mostly on the weekends and we want an upbeat rock show [beccuase] that’s typically the mood we’re in. But [sometimes] you don’t want to put on a hard rock album. Sometimes you want more chill music that you can listen to by yourself. [This new EP] is kind of that side of our music.
LLL: This new EP was recorded at Shirk Studios. How involved was the band in the recording and production process?
Doyle: In some ways, there was production outside the studio, but more and more so, with the second one and now with this one, [there’s] definitely a lot of production influence on the final product. One thing I like about our band is we love working with other people, so we put a lot of thought into who we ask to record and produce. We’ll let somebody with an outside influence have the final say just to get another creative force on it. We’re very easy, I think, to work with because we want help and [want] to learn things from people who do something that we don’t do. I hear of some bands going in there and writing stuff on the spot. We never do that. Most of our songs have been recorded how we practiced them. We’ve been playing for a long time so when we get together, sometimes we’re just jamming for fun, sometimes we’re prepping for a gig, but we’ve been playing so long that everything is pretty close once we start jamming.
Dennis Wilson: [We like] working with talented people. That’s part of what makes it easy. You trust them because they’re good and they can all say why [thay want to do something a certain way]. “We’ll do it the second way because” and then they’ll provide a good answer.
LLL: Will there be any tours or music videos coinciding with the new release?
Marty Funk: We’re going to release this and see what we can do. Mainly Chicago shows, [but] we’ll probably do some Midwest [preformances in] like Indiana or Milwaukee or something. Music videos? Maybe. We’ve kind of done some in the past. They’re hard. We’re not actors by any means and if we did, we’d probably be completely out of it. We’re just really awkward on camera.
Wilson: They’re hard. You have this idea and you’re like, “This is going to be awesome”, but then to get what’s in your head in a video form is expensive and time-consuming. With the equipment involved and all the people, it’s hard to just do it as a side project.
Doyle: Believe it or not, we’re on a limited budget. We always exceed the amounted budget for the music, so then at the end, if we’re going to do a music video, we’d have to find somebody who’d either do it for free or really cheap. Sometimes it’s just better to avoid that for us and take a picture or something.
LLL: What are some unique qualities about American Grizzly?
Funk: There’s kind of like the Chicago rock and roll scene, and we’re not really like in that. A lot of bands think we’re from Denver. We kind of have a different sound. We have a different style.
Wilson: Also, after the first album we were looking for other bands to play with and there’s a ton of bands that have original recordings and are playing shows at these venues, [but] we weren’t even aware of it until we were like a year into playing music with an album.
Doyle: I would agree with that. We didn’t start our band because we were enjoying the local rock music scene. We were more in the southside cover band scene and decided to veer away from that and do original music. Then like Dennis said, stumbled upon, “Oh there are other original bands.” I feel like some bands form from going to Schubas and Coles and being like, “Oh this is sweet,” and they aspire to be in a band. Like Dennis said, I think we just kind of happened upon it from ditching the cover scene.
LLL: What’s the band’s dynamic?
Wilson: We’re all friends.
Wilson: Well, I am friends with everyone in the band. I have lots and lots of friends.
Doyle: Most of us are friends. Dennis is an acquaintance with every guy in the band.
Wilson: I will never leave.
Funk: There are two other guys in the band, too. Our drummer Anthony [Perez] and our other singer Matt Ladd. We’ve all been friends for awhile.
Doyle: The lead singer Matt, I think he has ADD. He can’t sit long enough to wait around. If you happened to show up while he was here, you’d probably get a couple answers out of him but he’d gotten up awhile ago.
Funk: You’d catch a few Civil War facts out of him. He’s a big history buff. He’ll tell you who his favorite Civil War general was and why. But, like what Jack said. We kind of like each other sometimes. It’s just fun. We all have similar tastes in music.
Wilson: Yeah, it’s really fun and it’s worth doing the hard parts [and] putting in all the work and effort because like, what else are you going to do?
LLL: With your third EP set for release this Valentine’s Day, what are some other future goals for the band?
Doyle: We’d like to play Tahlia Hall and we’ve told them a million times. We’re neighbors. We’re right for it. We can do it. [But] future goals is [Dennis’] department.
Funk: He’s the dreamer.
Wilson: Future goals? We’ve got future goals! We could have a vinyl of either our new music or a reprint of something we’ve done before. We’ve never had a vinyl made. It’s a very real possibility in the near future.
Doyle: So you’re saying there is a serious possibility we could be hitting one of our future goals?
Doyle: His department is really cooking.
American Grizzly’s next performance will be on Thursday, February 15 at Schubas. The night will also include performances by Blank Range and V.V. Lightbody.
PC: Tim Nagle