Profile: The Flips

The “ah-ha” moment: for a band, it’s a time when everything comes together. It’s when all the struggles from nights of pouring over lyrics, drafting guitar riffs and the countless auditions are all justified. For The Flips, that “ah-ha” was the reaction from their 2015 album Better Days, a raw record exploring the struggles of mental health, depression and suicide. The songs are darkly beautiful conversation starters, drawing audiences to connect with the band on personal levels.

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Q&A: Matthäus

Forming an 8-person band with members in two states whose music blends pop, folk and contemporary concert music may not sound like the most logical road to successful, but so far, the nontraditional approach has been working in favor for Matthäus. The band, with members in both Chicago and St.Paul, started as a small project from composer Ben Montalbano, adding bold horn sections, piano lines and other intricate instrumentations to a variety of folk-rock tunes. The group has since grown into a collaborative chamber collective made up of Ben Montalbano, Joe Meland, Justin Peters, Lars-Erik Larson, Samuel Peters, Alex Blomarz, Hugo Seda and Chris Shuttleworth.

With a new music in the works and a December 14 show at Schubas just days away, Montalbano, Peters and Meland gathered in a cozy window seat at Wicker Park’s Wormhole to discuss the band’s plans for the rest of the winter and the new year.

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Premiere: The Inventors- “Fire”

The last couple of months have been a time of evolution for The Inventors. The Chicago rock band comprised of lead vocalist Joe Mango, bassist Nicholas Kieta and lead guitarist Ray Skamay have turned their trio into a foursome with the addition of drummer Tommy Mendoza, taking Mango off mandatory double duty. They’ve also been working on putting together new music and have recently released their first of three singles, “10’s and 9’s” via Amplify Music. The singles are part of their debut full-length LP Counting Backwards, set for release this coming winter. The album was recorded by Matt Cerritos at Shirk Studios in Chicago.

Their second single, “Fire” opens with a beautifully simplistic guitar line before being joined by light percussion and vocals. The energy takes off entering into each round of the chorus, looping the lines “You’re on fire baby/ You are/ You are”. The piece is an easy listen and look into the new direction of The Inventors.

 

Check out our profile on The Inventors from earlier this year to learn more about the band.

Album Review: Friends of the Bog- Lyra

Chicago’s indie folk rock band, Friends of the Bog is following up their 2016 EP with a debut album Lyra. The album, named after the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, explores many correlating themes such as love, loss, death, time and longing. It’s comprised of songs that instrumentally, feel optimistic and upbeat, but are filled with poetic lyrism touching on dark and slightly sinister topics.

A round of finger picking on guitar opens the album with the song “Darkness”. The piece tells a familiar story of losing love and the awkwardness of moving forward. While the lyrics fall well into the song’s title, the instrumentation builds in a lively manner with bright synth lines and an upbeat percussion section. It’s easy to get lost in the sounds but words such as “my darkness became your darkness and it filled you up with regret” bring a heaviness to the tune.

The melancholy subject matter continues with “Always”. The slower tempo of the piece makes it dreamy with a hint of mandoline underlining the female vocals. Again, the instrumental lines give the illusion of happiness, but the good-hearted feeling is sunken with lyrics like “I’m an empty vault and you cleared out the last few riddles inside”. This faux positivity is upheld in “Faith”, a song pushed by strong rhythmic lines and a catchy chorus of “Faith/Faith/ Faith, I am telling you to go/ Go/ Go/ My mind is not your home, no.”

There’s a shift in energy as the album’s title track approaches. Two female vocals take over underlined by finger-picked strings. A thudding bass drum comes in to close out the first verse as the vocals reach for a higher register. The sound is both dark and pretty as it transitions into the accordion opening of “Dead Friends”. Right away the rawness of the lyrics standout; “James’ mom died/ didn’t want to write a song about/ felt fucked up to cash in on somebody else’s pain.” The song goes on to explore the realm of death and how people stay in the minds of friends after they are gone. It’s a sweet song propelled by vocal harmonies into an instrumental buildup of mandoline, guitar and accordion.

 

The following track, “What Got You Here”, falls flat in comparison with the rest of the album, but things pick up again with the bass line leading into “Who Really Cares”. It’s a quick moving piece with a fun layering of vocal lines and an uppity rhythm section. Something in the drive of the song is reminiscent of Americana music, making a smart choice leading into “Hudson”. The vocals of “Hudson” are silvery with the slightest hint of twang as lyrics taper off at the end of each line. It’s bright and hopeful for a song about time, wondering if memories are all that is left.

The album falls back into despair with “Barton Springs”. The heavy moving bass line and single chord strums on guitar keep an eerie tone over the piece. Instrumental lines are added into the build-up of the chorus “You hold my hand when the telephone rings/ Sarah’s brother drowned in Barton Springs”. Even with its minor spookiness, it’s a catchy song with a good groove.

Closing out the band’s first complete record is “You Didn’t Deserve This”. It’s one of the more beautiful songs on the album as the male vocals calmly sing over drones and light instrumental pings. Guitar and percussion lines slowly come in with the second verse, really filling out the sound before it fades out to wrap up the record.

Friends of the Bog’s next show will be on Friday, November 17 at Quenchers Saloon. The night will also include performances from Laura Wolf, Lizdelise and Boo Baby.

Live Review: Two Sets of Eyes/ Gazebo Effect @ Tonic Room (11/13)

Monday nights in the middle of November are often dreary, but thanks to performances from Two Sets of Eyes and Gazebo Effect on Monday, November 13 at Tonic Room, this particular night was more than just tragic cold and rain.

The night kicked off with the progressive rock trio, Two Sets of Eyes. Having had their first performance only a month ago, it’s evident the band is new to playing live shows together as the three took some time before falling into the groove of the show. While the band may be young, the musicians are well-seasoned artists with a great sense of musicianship over their respective instruments. They ran through songs from their upcoming self-titled debut (out November 25). The vocals on a few of the songs were rough, but most of the pieces where instrumental heavy, creating dynamic arcs with guitars and synth. A standout tune was “Sunshine, You’re Standing in My Sunlight”; an eerie and almost psychedelic instrumental piece that builds around an ear-bending synth melody.

It’s rare to find a band with a kickass guitarist who understands the art of soloing. What’s even rarer is finding three such guitarists on a single stage as part of the same band. Each guitarist from the nights’ second band, Gazebo Effect, shared lead duties and did an amazing job coloring the songs with intricate riffs throughout. Not only did the band exhibit amazing guitar lines, the rhythm section, as well as the vocals, were superb. The band played the songs from the 2017 EP Turtle Rock, with a standout piece being “Laraway Drive” as it encompasses everything the band does right from killer guitar riffs, steady rhythms and catchy choruses. Aside from providing a rich sound, Gazebo Effect’s stage presence exhibit passion and energy without overdoing it.

Two Sets of Eye’s next performance will be on Saturday, November 25 at Quenchers Saloon.

Gazebo Effect’s next performance will be on Friday, January 26 at Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Q&A: Namorado

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.

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Album Review: Luke Underhill-The Left Side

Chicago-based singer songwriter Luke Underhill has partnered with producer Mikal Blue (known for his work with Colbie Callait and Jason Mraz) for his 7-song EP The Left Side, out August 18. The release follows two self-released projects from 2015, Atlas and Atlas Unplugged, along with a 2016 self-produced single, Too Good for Me”.

The Left Side explores a realm of young love and loss with the 21-one-year old musician delivering fairly simplistic lyrics, yet nonetheless catchy songs. Within each piece, there are moments of artistry embodied with potential that will undoubtedly blossom with age and experience.

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