The new album by Ryley Walker, Primrose Green, out Tuesday on Dead Oceans, ebbs and flows effortlessly in all the right ways. It’s an album that’s easy to lose yourself in, one that helps you travel through time as it streams through your speakers. As a newcomer to the music of Ryley Walker, I was instantly captivated by his unique blend of jazz and folk. Learning that he had his hands involved in the noise and punk scene as a precursor to his current sound came as no surprise. His acoustic influences, paired with an affinity for improvisation make for an album that builds into a wonderful sonic landscape that is well beyond his 25 years and his songs have found their way on my playlist more times than I’d like to admit.
If you’ve have the pleasure to see him IRL (“in real life” grandpa!) you know that Walker’s live show is like a graceful, audio-enigma. No two shows are the same and you often times leave having bore witness to a genesis of new songs, songs in progress, and favorites that have been re-worked, stretching and expanding beautifully before your very ears. Walker plays alongside a rotating cast of some of the most talented Chicago jazz musicians, a collection of friends and colleagues developed over years of involvement in the underground Chicago music scene. From the first recordings to the photos on the covers, everything is Chicago-centric, showcasing the beauty of a city that collaborates and grows together.
I was fortunate enough to exchange some quick words with Ryley the day after his Chopin Theatre record release (and the day of his solo show at Permanent Records). When talking with Walker his intentions are unspoken but clear, and he intends on continuing to make music he likes, with people he likes. Lucky for us, the product of these collaborations continue to be damn good.
There are times when my life can feel like a fairy tale, and it all started Once Upon A Time in the sunshine filled, rolling hills of Athens, Ohio. Where the town is small, but house shows happen often, where nature reigns supreme and one of the most tight-knit communities finds a home. Athens is also the birthplace of DARK CIRCLES RECORDS, a label and collective devoted to producing and promoting independent music and art.
A few years has passed since the genesis of DCR and myself, along with what I will call a power team of friends that make up the masterminds of DCR and half of SODDY DAISY have since transplanted to the one and only Chicago, Illinois. What started as a group of my closest friends loosely putting out albums and throwing a lot of parties, has begun to grow into a driving force in the DIY scene, becoming more efficient and confident every step of the way. From the outside it’s easy to dismiss yet another DIY tape label emerging on the scene, but from the inside, knowing that a group of people you love is working towards bettering a community you love, well nothing can bring a tear to your eye more quickly.
Tonight DCR is celebrating the release of it’s first, of many, compilations and all the hard work it took to put it together. The track lists includes bands from varying genres and locations including some local legends like RABBLE RABBLE, THE LEMONS, NEGATIVE SCANNER, and new comers SODDY DAISY. To say that this compilation is unique is an understatement, from the tracks to the custom made packing, everything about this comp is special. I got to catch up with my good pal, Maureen Neer of SODDY DAISY to talk about life post-Ohio and the growing musical empire surrounding SODDY DAISY and DCR.
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I was first introduced to Mutual Benefit in late 2009 through some mutual friends Jordan Lee and I shared in a small town in Ohio – the cassette I bought that year has played constantly throughout my life during the last five years. The songs act as a time machine, slowly whisking me away, taking me on a winding voyage back in time to hiking trails and rooftop beers with large groups of friends.
For anyone who’s listened to Mutual Benefit it’s easy to see that it’s not the just musical mind space of the prolific Jordan Lee, but a living, breathing musical entity that grows and evolves with each new experience. What started as a group of recordings done in a spider-filled basement, has blossomed into a full-blown lazer-folk dreamscape. With wondrous cameos of both people and instruments sprinkled throughout each song, the discography acts as a map of Mutual Benefit’s past and future, tiny clues that shed some light on the journey that Lee has embarked on as Mutual Benefit. I caught up with Jordan before his show at the Bottle to talk about how Mutual Benefit has grown, sources of inspiration, and what being on a larger label means to him. Read More »
Big Dipper’s got a one track mind, and it’s headed full-force into the depths of his own success and happiness. Ever since releasing his first EP, 2013’s They Ain’t Ready, the Chicago-bred rapper has quickly become everyone’s favorite filth and slime-covered bear. With his inspiring confidence on stage, a personality that is wildly vivacious, his ability to stay true to himself and those around him, and a beats/flow comb that makes you want to shake your booty for the rest of eternity, it’s pretty damn easy to see why we fall so hard for Brooklyn’s next biggest thing. (He lives in Brooklyn now.)
Big Dipper came back to the Bottle last week for a show that started with a panel discussion, hosted by the Illinois Humanities Council, and transitioned – seamlessly, we might add – into celebrations of drag, performance, femininity, and self-expression. In between sets, Big Dipper and I had some sidewalk sausages and talked all things Big Dips. We also saws some really cute dogs and danced in the street.
If you ever want to feel like there are rays of sunshine bursting through your eyeballs and have a smile so wide it hurts, than look no further, because The Lemons are here for you. The bubblegum pop sensation is just over a year old, but has quickly become a Chicago staple. Armed with some of the catchiest songs ever written and a carefree attitude, The Lemons are always a good time. I caught up with three out of six Lemons and talked about the secret to Lemon success, the song they can never play again, and even gave them a little lesson on ICP culture. Plus, after the interview get a sneak peak at a never-heard-before-brand-spanking-new Lemon’s song!
File this post under ‘people to remember.’ I’m sitting in the dimly lit store front of Shake Shop, drummer Tom Cassling’s guitar/amp repair shop and I don’t know if it’s the fact that it feels like October in July, or the giant, docile rottweiler named Gucci Mane we’ve just befriended outside, but being with the humans that comprise NEGATIVE SCANNER give me a pleasant sense of calm. The group emanates a refreshing sense of ease being together, and their talk of collaborative song writing tells me they work remarkably well together, a trait that’s not always easy to come by in bands.
The conversation flows seamlessly between us as we talk of the wonder of Athens, Ohio and local music communities, and how NEGATIVE SCANNER has been going so far. From the looks of it, things have been going pretty well. The quartet has been taking Chicago by storm. With it’s compelling lyricism paired with dark, haunting vocals, and throbbing beats laced with fierce, fast guitar lines, it’s no wonder people are paying attention. Read on to catch up on the deep origins of NEGATIVE SCANNER, what’s important to them while on tour, and underage drinkers.
It’s no secret that the members of CIRCLES have been around the Chicago music block a few times. Featuring members of THE PONYS, FOOTBALL, RADAR EYES, THE HOLY GHOSTS, and and even one of our own talent buyers, the band just released their first LP, Shadowgraph, out on the band’s own label, Diminished Arc. The group has all but perfected that careless, jangly power-pop sound. With upbeat anthems about dead friends, sweet lullabies to newborns, and a report on Marcus Gravey, Shadowgraph takes the listener on a roller coaster ride through self-aware ironies and tender moments, threading them with foot tappin’, hip shakin’ guitar and organ-driven pop, complete with vocal harmonies. Tomorrow CIRCLES will be celebrating their release that was three years in the making, alongside BARE MUTANTS and OUTER MINDS.
In a land deep below the Earth’s core, where homes are built from the bones of your enemies and acid drips from cave ceilings, where the Bog of Eternal Stench is a reality and The Humungus reigns, there exists RABBLE RABBLE. The quartet emerged from the slime of the underworld to join me in an exchange of words over the obnoxious hum of a home tattoo gun and a lot of laughter. Read on and find out whose farts belong to who, why you should definitely get in a van with a stranger who’s just shit on the street, and what the more mature Rabble Rabble has to say about life in the internet age. Do your research now and prepare yourselves, for RABBLE RABBLE will be summoning a vortex of demons, farts, and out of this world sonic creations that will tear through the Empty Bottle and all of our souls on the eve of Friday the 13th. It’s all in celebration of the release of their new album, BRAIN HOLE, and to start their tour of the underworld off right. RSVP here for free entrance to that live music engagement.
If you were to step briefly inside the brain of CHAD VANGAALEN it would no doubt be filled to the brim with unimaginable creatures, piss drawings, incredible home-made instruments, and god knows what else. From animator to sci-fi folk musician to instrument creator to movie maker to father of two, it’s no secret that Chad Vangaalen is a man of many weird hats. I got to sit down with him and talk about discovering music, reed instruments, Moebius, and the super-power kids have.
Walking down the winding halls of an Avondale warehouse, I am being led by the sound of someone wailing on their drum set. Past the snack machines and the arcade and the questionable pyrotechnic equipment, the sound gets louder as I turn my final corner, open a door, and voilá: VELOCICOPTER. I had the privilege to crash their practice, which was, I must say, the most productive, teamwork-centered, smiley band practice I’ve had the opportunity to photograph. Just a week away from releasing their latest album, VELOCICOPTER has hit their stride. With a sound that is becoming more electrifying and maturely structured with each day, it’s easy to see what all the smiling is about. Throughout the practice we talked all things hot dogs, taught Matt what Burger Time was, discovered some major realizations about their new found success in collaborative songwriting, and left sometime for some good, old fashioned arts and crafts.
If a band that cranks out the good vibes while melting your face with their shredtastic set is what you’re looking for, than look no further. I can honestly say that missing VELOCICOPTER next week at the Notes & Bolts 2nd Anniversary Party will be the dumbest thing you do all year. We’re only four months in people – don’t blow it already.