photos and story by Sean Kelly
It was a leisurely weekday morning, I had the day off and Canadian art-rock three-piece Motherhood (Adam, Penny, Brydon) had a St. Louis date cancel. Coming from New Brunswick, the trio is currently making their way across the country on their first U.S. tour. We met at one of my favorite coffee shops, Star Lounge in Humboldt Park, to talk about the challenges of touring internationally over Dark Matter's finest.
Emulsion: What was it like getting across the border on your first US tour?
Brydon: Getting across the border was actually easy and very painless, I don't think it took more than a half an hour. It was more the process before that of getting the visas, which Penny did.
Penny: It cost a couple thousand dollars. You have to have written contracts with venues and promoters that can prove that you're going to play shows. And they'll only keep your visa open as long as you have contracts. The latest we could get someone to give us a contract is the end of September so thats when the visa closes. But from our start date 'til the end of September, we can come and go as much as we want so we're hoping to come in quite a few times. We'll be back a few more times to pop down through the... eastern seaboard?
Emulsion: Haha ooo "The Eastern Seaboard".
Penny: Haha ok in the movie Monsters, Inc. they talk about "The Eastern Seaboard" and i've always thought that was really cool for some reason and i've been saying it so much. "Yes, we'll be going down the eastern seaboard and then traveling west to California", haha it sounds so cool.
Emulsion: Hahaha you've gotta take advantage of it while you can. So you do have some planned dates after this tour already?
Penny: Yeah, after this there are a few festivals. New York is closer to us than Toronto, which is kind of flabbergasting, so it actually makes more sense to go to New York than drive to Toronto so we're hoping to get down a few times. I always thought Chicago was closer to the east coast...
Emulsion: Smack dab in the middle out here.
Penny: Actually when we decided to do this tour, it was because of the Tree Fort Festival in Idaho, the promoters saw us play an event in Halifax and asked us to play their festival. We were like "Oh yeah, Idaho! Sure we'd love to!", then we looked it up. Idaho is SOOO far away, I thought Idaho was Iowa.
Adam: I definitely thought it was more in the middle. Turns out it borders Oregon.
Emulsion: Haha I live here and I thought it was basically in the middle too...
Brydon: It's exciting though, because now we get to drive across the whole thing.
Emulsion: There's so much to see, it's honestly kinda worth the super long trek. I'm backtracking here a bit but going back to the cost of the visas... if you don't mind me asking, how do you guys fund something like that?
Penny: Well, usually we have some grant support. The Canadian grant system is pretty good for touring musicians. There's a lot of funding in place, provincially and federally. The way that it's structured though, it turns over in April and we're doing the tour in March so there's not a lot of money left in the pot for us basically. It's kinda poor timing on our part, so were doing this one mostly out of pocket. We're mostly a DIY band, we do get grants sometimes but we do pretty much everything ourselves so were used to sleeping on floors. We have a big cooler full of food instead of buying food at restaurants every night, we just keep it as low cost as possible.
Emulsion: Even if you're getting grants, I think the process of going through that remains very DIY in my opinion.
Penny: Well that's my job, i'm a professional grant writer so that's what I do for a day job. It definitely helps us.
Adam: Hahaha we're insanely fortunate.
Emulsion: That's amazing. That's a great situation, I honestly don't know how easy that sort of thing is to get out here.
Penny: It's really, really hard actually. I mean, every state has different arts councils and some of them have really small amounts of money, it's no where close to what we're able to access in Canada.
Adam: There's undoubtedly more bands here in the US too, and places to play.
Brydon: I think to a degree in Canada, the funding is more important because the cities are so far apart. You have to travel so far to be able to play, we're going from Maine to California and back but from New Brunswick to B.C. and back, which is the same distance, you can only play like eight cities.
Emulsion: Yeah that does actually make a lot of sense. You still got a long road ahead of you on this one but what are your plans for the future?
Penny: Part of the reason we're here is to try and find a U.S. label so we've been playing to different people in different cities. We have some contacts out west that we're going to meet, if we can find an American label that wants to put out the next record, which is basically done, our timeline will kind of depend on that. We've been sitting on the record for a while, it's not mastered yet but it's otherwise ready so we'd like to get it out as soon as possible. Probably late fall? When we do the album release we'll do a more extensive "North American Tour", which just involves more Canadian and American dates but sounds more badass hahaha.
Brydon: We'll be playing the Eastern Seaboard, the Western Seaboard, the Southern Seaboard...
Emulsion: Hahaha hopefully not the Northern Seaboard...
Motherhood's new album is somewhere on the horizon, in the meantime check out "Baby Teeth" and other goodies at www.motherhoodmusic.bandcamp.com. Fingers crossed they make their way back through Chicago sooner than later.
story by Remsy Atassi // photos by Kelly Fleming & Remsy Atassi
We caught up with WALKINGSHOE on a classic Chicago winter night starring alcohol and near blizzard conditions. His music blurs lines between more straight ahead pop melodies and denser production - often working behind the scenes for local hip hop artists.
Hoping to make the most of dirty conditions we sucked down a few drinks at Estelle's and moved into the tundra.
Emulsion: How did you end up in Chicago?
walkingshoe: I grew up close to the city and have been living here my whole life. It's a great place.
Emulsion: And how can you deal with these winters - given that it was a blizzard that night we hung out!
walkingshoe: I thought the weather was actually pretty nice that night! Thing with winter is that you just need to bundle up properly; I always have one of those hats that cover your full head. A Russian hat? That's what I call them.
Emulsion: Do you usually perform with a band?
walkingshoe: Up until pretty recently, I was 100% a producer and studio musician and would only play live shows if it was alongside one of my rap friends as a guitarist. But starting last year I've been playing solo as 'walkingshoe' (sometimes with some friends accompanying me) but now - yes - I've got a permanent band. We're a 3 piece (drums, bass, guitar) and we've been practicing a ton and will hopefully be playing a lot of shows this year.
Emulsion: You write the music yourself? What's the process usually like?
walkingshoe: Yes. I usually will start humming a melody while going about my day, then record on my phone so I don't forget it because I have a terrible memory. Then later on at the studio I'll extend it out into a full song with lyrics. But I also like jamming out with friends and making up stuff on the spot. I'm definitely an improv sort of songwriter where I'll make up words that usually don't make sense, and then write out the song into it's final form at a later time. I always let things flow out naturally and don't like to force anything.
Emulsion: How would you describe the sound? It's definitely got a pop feel with hooks but also kinda lo-fi. Not sure if that resonates...
walkingshoe: I think that's pretty accurate. It sounds lo-fi probably more so because I'm bad at mixing haha, but no - I do prefer that "vintage" sound (for lack of a better word) and do shoot for that in my songs. Also, yea - I like hooks, but I always try to be thoughtful with all my lyrics to maintain sincerity throughout the song. I think that's really important in a good song because if it's not convincing to the person listening there's no point in listening to it in the first place.
Emulsion: Are there any good acts in Chicago we should check out? What are you into locally?
walkingshoe: There are a lot of awesome Chicago shows you should check out. Emily Blue has a great live show and so does Ric Wilson. My friend Rich Jones - who I'm releasing an EP with this summer - also plays a lot live and kills it. Too many to name, honestly, and most shows are very inexpensive to go to. I also enjoy what they're doing over at Sofar Sounds.
Emulsion: Do you have any new music we should know about?
walkingshoe: Yes. I have so many solo songs I'm going to be releasing this year. Most recent though was this new hip hop track I produced for this great artist called Qari. It's called "4G Speeding" and can be found on my SC page.
photos & story by Sean Kelly
It was my first time at the Garfield Park Conservatory, a fact that I very quickly came to regret as I realized what I'd been missing out on all this time. There's seriously no ice breaker like a quickly walkable building that puts you into just about every ecosystem on the continental U.S. in the matter of an hour. It was here I met up with Chicago-based noisy/sludgy shoegazers, Not For You (Lindsey, Pasha, & Michael).
My knowledge of horticulture is pathetic at best, bassist Michael filled me in on all the wisdom the small black cards labeling the individual species could not. Knowledgeable or not, it's impossible not to be in awe of what the Conservatory has on display.
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday, Lindsey and Pasha navigated us through the turmoil and various ecosystems, taking extra care to avoid the young children's activity groups that were seeming to sprout up left and right.
We wrapped around to the Show House and sat down to talk about their new record "Drown", out this week via Sooper Records.
Emulsion: I know when we were setting this interview up you mentioned a new record nearing a release, where is that at?
Lindsey: It actually is done, it comes out March 8th and we have our release show that following Saturday. It's all ready to go, we're just waiting to hit that button.
Emulsion: That's so exciting!
Lindsey: It's honestly so great to not have to think about any of the other release stuff at this point. It's a ton of work getting it all set up and that part is done, all we have to do now is wait for the date. Everything came together super well though, the tapes all made it in time, we made a music video. The recording itself went really well too. Our really good friend Nate Amos, who lives in New York now, worked on our last album Flood while he still lived in Chicago. We weren't sure who to look to after he left, we felt like he really knew what we were doing so well. We found out he was going to be in Chicago for a few days in October and I asked him a little beforehand if we could try to find a space and do the record while he was here. He used to work at Pallet Sound and we were able to get back in there for this one. We recorded the whole thing in one day.
Michael: We were almost planning on driving all the way out to Vermont for him to meet us and do it. His parents live out there and his dad is a professional country music writer so he has an amazing studio out there.
Lindsey: All the logistics with getting the gear out, and the crazy long drive, when this option came up we made the decision to try and just do it in a day, which a lot of our friends said was nuts. We were like, "we don't really have more time so... were just gonna do this" hahaha.
Emulsion: That alone i'm sure informs a lot of how the record came out. Not even in a "we didn't have any time to get it right" bad outcome sorta way, i'm just sure you had to make decisions that allowed it to work within that construct. Is it a more "live" sounding record because of that?
Lindsey: It was definitely all recorded live.
Michael: No metronomes. It's raw in that sense but we were still able to really build up the production quality with preparation.
Pasha: Yeah, there was a ton of rehearsal leading up to it. We'd been playing these songs for like a year.
Lindsey: We were able to do some really cool things with vocal production too. Nate was visiting in January and we sat down and went through every single line that I sang and decided what the right effect was for each line. That really expanded the level of what the production ended up being. It's definitely dirtier sounding than our last album but the production is still crisp.
Emulsion: You're working with Sooper Records on this release, correct? How did that come about and how has that collaboration been with them?
Lindsey: We've just known Glenn and Nnamdi for a while, they've both been really supportive of us since we put out our last record, Flood. Around that time, they were coming out to our shows and giving us a lot of really awesome feedback on our music. We bridged the friendship that we already had and Michael had already been working with them with his other band Nouveau. I can't even remember the specific conversation honestly...
Michael: I remember it was a week or two after Nouveau reached out them about a release, Lindsey was talking with them in passing about that record and it just kind of stumbled into a collaboration.
Lindsey: By the time we had concrete plans for making the record we reached back out to Glenn and it was all able to come together. It's been a really awesome experience with them already and the record isn't even out yet. It's a great thing to be associated with honestly.
Emulsion: Yes, agreed. I'm constantly in awe of the collection of artists on that roster.
Michael: I feel like they're always able to find originality in the community. There's something about each project that you can't perfectly describe. Bands like Options and Great Deceivers, they're rock bands but they're not just rock bands, they're emo bands but they're not just emo bands. They each have their own flare. And it's the same with the hop hip projects, Nnamdi's stuff and Dan K.'s stuff, it's totally weirdo hip hop. They have a knack for spotting original composition and unique voices.
Emulsion: Well congratulations on the release and on making an awesome record. To close things out, as you drop this one and others to come, what's your concept of success for this band?
Pasha: To play with awesome bands.
Lindsey: I want to tour and have it not be super stressful because people in different towns know us and want to come out and see us. Haha I don't want to have to convince people to like us. Just give us a chance!
Drown by Not For You is out for the world to hear at notforyouchicago.bandcamp.com
Catch their record release show at Archer Ballroom March 10th
photos & story by Jeff Perlman
Our night started at a house in North Center. Squid (Luke, Keifer, Nick, & Max) were gathered around the TV watching Youtube. The coffee table was littered with beer bottles, cigarette butts, and a dabbing bong - what do you call those? The gods of the Guitar World Magazine pantheon played on Youtube in rapidfire succession while we looked on and laughed.
Steve Vai whirled enthusiastically around Ralph Maccio at the end of Crossroads. Max asked “What is this movie? I hope I never see it.” After a brief detour with Scott Stapp playing and acoustic set in a Hallmark store, the videos devolved into a “bet you can’t play this” compilation.
We all agreed we'd heard enough notes for one night. They decided to head to the gas station for Soda, and CVS for more beer. At CVS the guy working behind the counter called out - “Oh hey, what’s up guys! Plenty of Hamms and Old Style in for you.” They must be regulars. We walked back to the house with Squirt, Fantas and Hamms in hand.
The band talked about touring and their upcoming record - aptly named “Soda Pop.”
Emulsion: You just went on tour, right?
Luke: Yeah, it was awesome. We played this small, middle of nowhere town out in Pennsylvania. People were so cool and they have these crazy DIY shows out in this little cabin where they pack like, 30 people in. Everyone that lives in the town - this is what they do. It's like, entirely all you can do.
Emulsion: Like an entire DIY town?
Luke: It is! A town based off DIY cuz there's nothing else to do.
Keifer: They made beer in the bathtub.
Luke: Oh! And then...hold up...this is some paranormal shit. This white dude with dreads, of course, goes "you guys want something? And we go "yeah, what you got?" and he goes "I got these pringles." And he puts them out. Ramen flavored pringles. We taste it, and it was fucking out-of-control, best snack I ever had in my life.
Nick: Yeah it was a dream come true.
Keifer: We went to like 4 different stores the next day.
Luke: We looked everywhere! Just to find that this shit doesn't exist. It's a myth.
Emulsion: So maybe it’s just some wookie-made DIY chips?
Max: They make beer and pringles in the bathtub haha.
Emulsion: Do you guys have any tour rituals?
Luke: A big thing for us is blasting really really bad Phish. We played in New York with this really strange dude and it was all these bros, and the band before us played for an hour and a half and their closing song was The Killers "I've Got Soul."
Max: They did an Encore.
Luke: People were losing their minds though! The bar was packed. The minute we started sound checking, the whole bar just leaves. It was just our friends at that point, so we still had a decent crowd...not really. It was like six people haha. The point is, we were on our way home and this Phish song started playing double speed for some reason. There was an error in the computer system of the Yukon that we rented...so that was a delight.
Emulsion: I'm sensing a sort of “anti-granola” vibe in the band?
Luke: You know what? Deep down...when I was like nineteen, I had a giant Wookie phase. I think it's just me hating on that side of myself. I was into the Disco Biscuits man. I don't wanna talk about it. It was so fuckin bad. Right after that I met you, Max.
Max: Oh yeah. I just like...beat it out of you.
Luke: I had convinced myself it was good music, and now I'm awakening out of that drug haze and I'm like "wow, what the fuck was I thinking?"
Emulsion: So you guys are working on new material. EP or a full-length?
Keifer: Yeah, we're working on the follow up to Watersports. It'll be a full-length.
Emulsion: How will it be different from Watersports?
Keifer: Well we're writing the new one together. Luke kinda generates the majority of the material that we end up shaping, and with Watersports it was just kinda me and Luke playing together and we kinda shaped out these songs. We had this goofy idea to make it about Watersports. Then we got Max and Nick to make the rest of it with us. So that was all kinda...I don't wanna say predetermined or anything, by the time we got to a full band. This one's more collaborative. Everything's coming together more organically and it's more fluid.
Luke: After we got together, I was just like, everyone's learning how I play. Let's see how they do what I play. Keifer's new one is his pop writing, but with a lot of different time signatures and shoegazy elements to it.
Keifer: Yeah we've all kinda learned how to write for each other.
Luke: Two of the songs on this album Nick did and they're some of the best writing on the album. When I talk to people after we play shows, Nick's song “Slush Puppy”...everyone just fucking loves that one song. And Max wrote probably the best melody out of the whole album. It's become a lot more collaborative.
Emulsion: So what are your goals as a band? What does "success" look like to you?
Luke: With Squid the success comes from ourselves. Looking at each other highly and wanting to impress each other with songs and good material. Everyone chipping in in equal ways to craft the perfect song. Our success is just us looking at our own songs and feeling good about them. I mean if people like it that fucking rules, go ahead, we're here for you, we love that...but if it doesn't work out, that's whatever. We're just focused on us. I'm influenced by Nick, I'm influenced by Max, I'm influenced by Keifer in so many more ways than other people in the scene.
Nick: There's always room to get bigger as a band, but I felt successful just being on tour. Driving around, playing our songs to people. That's a huge sense of success in my opinion.
Keifer: Personally for me it's like, after we're gone, having albums and stuff.
Emulsion: So what's the deal with drinks? There's a strong beverage motiff going on.
Max: Yeah, we drink a lot of soda.
Luke: The new record is gonna be called Soda Pop. It was this crazy idea Keifer and I had. What if we did this jokey half-watersports, half soda-pop thing...
Keifer: A couple of songs from Watersports were with our old band, and they were called Jetski and Sailboat. Then when we were recollecting after that band dissolved and working on songs that Luke wrote, it was like "yeah we should take those and make my weird songs be Watersports, and we'll have your pop-oriented songs be Soda Pop."
Luke: What happened was, we wrote these two batches of songs. Now looking back, Watersports was way more of a pop record, but Soda Pop is way more accessible.
Nick: Soda Pop's got some really poppy songs, but also some really dark ones. It's almost metal haha.
Luke: I think there's actually some pure moments when it's like "that's a fucking metal band." But then there's some really light elements to it.
Emulsion: You guys do seem to skirt a lot of genre lines. How have people tried to “classify” you?
Luke: We get a lot of Slint comparisons.
Max: I think we're gotten more Hum.
Luke: Duster. Especially on this new one. We've got this song “Moxy” that's got that Duster like...just straight repeating notes. They made it so memorable with this gloomy haunting melody going on that was so comforting at the same time. That hypnotic wave that Duster puts you in is how Moxy hits. It's almost the same chord progression, but you just get entranced.
Nick: Duster is definitely a huge influence on all of us.
Luke: I've been drawing a lot of influence from Armenian music I was raised on. The first music I was shown as a kid was Armenian music from my Mom's side. I've been going back and getting into stuff I was first exposed to. This really beautiful Oud music with these really evil sounding phrases, that are beautiful played in such a dynamic way. It's just really been influencing the note values. How the notes sound.
Emulsion: And that comes through on Soda Pop?
Keifer: One song in particular. “Tahn” is kinda the Armenian poster child.
Luke: Yeah, we named it “Tahn,” which is a yogurt drink from Armenia.
Emulsion: Does being a Chicago band influence you in any way?
Luke: The thing is, we're a bunch of weirdo cities that met here Chicago. We're Boston, we're Memphis, we're South Bend...You can hear so much of that.
Max: I think in another scene, we would just be angry at different stuff, but we'd still probably create generally the same type of music. Like if we were in LA it would just be like "arg...different douchebags."
Luke: I think Chicago just brings all the weirdos. We all came here. Our sound is definitely influenced by place though. Keifer's guitar is definitely the most Memphis, bluesy-influenced shit. He's got the Strat with the Twin Reverb. It sounds like Big Star or something. And our backgrounds work really weird together. Like, I'm so influenced by New England hardcore growing up. Max was really influenced by Dinosaur Jr and that sort of drumming.
Keifer: And Max has a lot of jazz background.
Max: Yeah I get to apply some of the fusion drumming with some of the strange time signature changes that we have.
Emulsion: How does being in this band fit into your lives? Any sacrifices?
Max: I play in a bunch of bands, so this is just sorta what I do. I wouldn't be doing anything else. This would be what I was sacrificing.
Keifer: I don't really have anything that I do besides this...that I care about. This is my favorite thing and I just wanna do it while we can. Luke's gonna move and go to school and Squid's gonna dissolve or whatever, and I'm gonna manage a Chick-fil-A haha. At that point sacrifices might be made...
Max: Manage a Chick-fil-A? Free sauce, baby.
Emulsion: Okay, between Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Michael Angelo Batio...who's best, who's worst?
Keifer: Steve Vai tried to spit on my Mom once.
Nick: Fuck him dude!
Emulsion: Wait, what?
Keifer: You know what kids do, where like, it drops and you can suck it back up? He was doing that like he thought she would be into it and she was like "ugh no!" and he sucked it back up while he was playing guitar.
Emulsion: Was your mom front row at a Steve Vai show? Is she a Vai fan?
Keifer: I don't know, she was probably with my dad or something. He was in a touring band in the 80’s.
Luke: Yngwie sat next to my dad on a plane and was a total dick, and elbowed him and shit. Then he told him to watch it.
Emulsion: So the Guitar World Magazine legends have been dicks to multiple Squid parents??
Luke: Haha they're the worst people!
Max: Hey, Michael Angelo is a good fella.
Keifer: I like the ambidexterity.
Luke: Michael Angelo...incredible, just unbelievable human being. If we'll ever be ten percent of that dude… fuck Duster, fuck Hum, fuck Big Star. The gold standard of Squid is Michael Angelo Batio.
Max: Plus he licks the middle of his guitar. Provocateur.
On one of 2017's final evenings of t-shirt friendly weather, we met up with CALEY CONWAY and band at Spinning J in Humboldt Park to talk recording, performing, and just the right balance of creative isolation.
Emulsion: What are you working on right now? Writing, recording, touring?
Caley: I just got done feverishly recording a Christmas album. It was my first foray into engineering a work by myself, and it was a really fun challenge for me. I wanted the project to help fund the rest of a studio album that is (shocking!) quickly exceeding what I had budgeted for it. As far as writing goes, I find myself in the unprecedented position (for me) of actively trying not to write any new music. I have almost a full album's worth of stuff written for the next recording, but I need to focus on nurturing the album that I'm almost done with, before moving on from it.
Emulsion: What was your recording process like for this one?
Caley: The recording process for the "Heart Be Light (my Christmas album)," was painstaking, since it was my first time and I was very new to the DAW. I spent a lot of time experimenting with mic placement, amp, and pedal settings to find just the right tone. As I got further along, I got a lot more intuitive about my guitar tone and was able to be more fluid with it, which was rewarding because I've always felt like I've had to consult with someone who "knows better" than me (always ends up being a dude) about my own guitar tone. I started each song by laying down a scratch guitar track, then would arrange and build the vocals, then bass, keys, or more guitars, and lastly drums and percussion (performed by my partner, John). It's not the most conventional system, but it was cool to build the arrangements around what was, for me, at the heart of each song.
Emulsion: Where are you from and where are you making music these days?
Caley: I'm from Milwaukee. I've pretty much always made music there, and it's still my musical home base, though I recently relocated to Oostburg (45 mins north of MKE) with my partner, John. We live in a tiny cabin in the woods which is also quite conducive to music making. We have a recording setup here, which I tracked the Christmas songs in, and John has been recording an album of his own. It's ideal for everything except practicing with band mates. And playing shows.
Emulsion: Oh wow! That's very cool, I can see how band practice would be tricky though. What are your shows like and how many people do you usually play with?
Caley: My performances tend to vary based on who's available to play with me, whether the gig will bring in enough money to support a band, what the venue and setting is like, and what I feel like doing. It's really nice having that versatility, though it can be lonely and sometimes I'm like gah what am I doing this is so unorganized and inconsistent. Hah. But I can encompass a very wide range from the chillest, quietest, tenderest of shows to the fairly noisy ones.
Emulsion: Tell me a little about the roots of your current project and the bandmates you're currently working with.
Caley: The current band formed a little over a year ago. I met Luke (the drummer) at a friend's wedding last fall. After talking briefly, we discovered that we lived just a few houses down from each other, and I wasted no time in asking him to join me for this show I had coming up. I was sick of playing solo and had a hunch about him, I guess. Having John play bass was a no-brainer-- he's my partner, for one, and he can play anything. He's good at everything he touches and has great instincts. And I like him, which doesn't hurt. Since I had all this momentum going, I asked my best friend, D'amato, to join on backup vocals. D'amato and I have been singing together for a very long time, and he sang in my last band-- Caley Conway and the Lucy Cukes-- as well. His girlfriend, Treccy, also has an amazing voice, so when they're both able, we play full band shows and I have the distinct pleasure of singing over a background vocal section. It's one of my all-time favorite things to do.
Though the Christmas season has passed, it's not too late to check out Caley's awesome holiday album on her bandcamp: https://caleyconway.bandcamp.com/album/heart-be-light
MALCI is an emcee / producer running a one man hip-hop show that he performs live . We caught up with him on one of the last nice days in Chicago to talk about the end of his summer tour.
Emulsion: So you just wrapped up a tour?
Malci: Yeah, I was out for about two and a half weeks. I went to Charlotte, Portland, San Francisco, LA, San Diego, San Juan, Seattle - I think that was it.
Emulsion: Sounds like a flying tour.
Malci: Yeah, it was hectic. My dad was a pilot so I fly standby! it’s cool because I can go some distant places. I was touring on a record that I put out this summer.
Emulsion: Are you from Chicago?
Malci: I was born in Fairfield, CA then moved to Indianapolis then here. Now I kind of switch between different parts of Chicago. I just moved to Bridgeport.
Emulsion: How do you find the beats for your music?
I make everything. made the beats, mixed it, rapped on it. everything. I'm self taught so I’m looking at youtube videos everyday. I was just making beats every day in my spare time for… six months I guess.
Emulsion: It has to be difficult to stay inspired though.
I listen to a lot of music - new and old stuff. I was listening to a lot of Flying Lotus and Milo when I was making this album. I was like, man, I really enjoy what they’re doing there - I always crate dig too thats just a part of hip hop for me. But I have to listen to a lot of stuff because I wanna stay relevant. To me it gets real stagnant when rappers have the same flow every time. I like to change it up.
Emulsion: And you perform a lot of the beats live?
Malci: Oh yeah, all of them. I used to have a dj but I hate the idea of a rapper not being a musician. When you’re performing the beat live, all the intricate stuff slowing samples down and setting off triggers, it’s a performance. Lately I just love to do it.
Emulsion: Tell me about the record? You produced it all yourself which is pretty wild.
It was really fun to make. Everything is a sample, just taking it from vinyl - and I’m like yeah, this is real hip hop! And I've been learning and teaching myself as I go throughout this whole music career. But then there’s the legal aspect of it. My approach is to make a sample so unrecognizable and a weird chop - speed it up, slow it down - if you find it I guess you deserve something from me. Probably it won’t always be like that but it was fun for this record.
Emulsion: Have you considered just making your own samples then?
Malci: Now I’m working with some musicians to help create some cool loops - it will get there but I’m working on it, it’s a process.
Emulsion: How long have you been making music?
Sacha: I moved here in 2011 and I guess I stopped making music for a long time. I had some weird experiences making music in high school and then in college, and when I moved to chicago I felt like I needed a break from this. Then I got roped into doing music again by someone I knew from a previous lifetime.
Right now I'm also in Cheer Accident, that collaboration is still going on in a way. As a collective we’ve just released a record on Cuneiform Records, and the core band is actually gone in France right now.
Emulsion: So you’ve been involved in the scene for a while?
Sacha: Yeah absolutely.
Emulsion: There’s a lot of out front production on this. Did you work with a producer?
Sacha: I know enough about production to do it myself but I felt that I needed somebody to be objective so I worked with Todd Rittmann. He’s known around here for being a member of U.S. Maple. I put the record out in July.
Emulsion: This album Duplex, that’s the main thing you’re working on right now, promoting and playing it out?
That’s the record.
Emulsion: How long did it take for you to make?
Sacha: It’s unusual because all my other projects it’s been a really deliberate thing, but with DUPLEX I decided that if I was going to do it I was going to make the record on my own terms. So it’s actually been about 4 years of sporadically working on things, and I guess that I was working through the style I wanted. I wasn’t super happy with how my first record turned out in some ways, so how can I fix that and then another part of me was like "Oh, I want to be a jazz musician…"
Emulsion: Did you play with a backing band?
Sacha: Well I consider them more of a supporting band, because I do direct it and it’s my show but you surround yourself with people who bring out the best in each other and contribute in there own way.
Emulsion: I hear a theatrical element there. Would you agree with that?
Sacha: I don’t know that was my intent but I do recognize it’s there. I’m kind of animated as a person, but in music I’m also really interested in the musical dynamics, which in a pop setting is a little unusual. And all the lyrics are really dramatic so it accidentally becomes theatrical .
Emulsion: Do you have a theater background.
Sacha: No, absolutely none. I’m a terrible actor. Soap opera levels of acting. No.
Check out DUPLEX and the rest of Sacha's music at https://sachamullin.com/
Absolutely Not is a garage-y glam punk band fronted by Orlando native Donnie Moore. We spent the afternoon with Donnie at the Empty Bottle, talking new releases, public radio wisdom, and refusing to slow down.
Emulsion: Tell me about the roots of Absolutely Not. Where are you all from and how long have you been in Chicago?
Donnie: I personally have been in Chicago for, I wanna say about a decade now? I’m always sure to hold onto at least one piece of everything we make that’s Absolutely Not related but I can't seem to remember things like when I moved to Chicago. Haha I'm sentimental only to a certain point, I guess. Madison moved here about 4 years after me.
Emulsion: You two are siblings if I’m not mistaken?
Donnie: Yeah, Madison's my sister. We grew up in Orlando together.
Emulsion: Did Absolutely Not exist before she came out here?
Donnie: Yeah it actually started even a little before I left for Chicago. I was doing it in Orlando for a couple years, mostly just writing songs and playing small shows with friends who were available to play the songs with me. It continued that way up until somewhat recently where it initially fell into place with Madison and this girl Jenna, and is now locked back in with Madison and Chago.
Emulsion: So you'd consider this group somewhat of your solo project? Or is it a bit more collaborative at this point?
Donnie: It's not that it isn't collaborative? It is at its’ core my solo project though. I'll demo out all the songs and parts alone at home and bring them to everyone else at practice, at which point my drummer will elaborate on my original percussion ideas.
Emulsion: What've you been up to this summer?
Donnie: Our new record “Errors” came out July 28th. It was all demoed out about a year ago, the record itself was recorded with the three of us in January and February, and it was mixed/mastered in March. We tried to take a little break; we knew when July happened, there would be a lot happening around the release. Basically since then, we've just been super busy supporting the record.
Emulsion: Finding the time to re-center when you have a chance is crucial; it's not easy to find stillness when there's so much going on.
Donnie: It was honestly pretty hard for me to be at a stand still with it for 2 months. I ended up writing like 10 more songs in that time and demoing out shit, so I actually almost have another record already. Most of the nights I’d be playing guitar parts and thinking "oh yeah, this is kind of cool", to the point where I’d be telling myself "God dammit Donnie, just stop doing it!”
Emulsion: Hahaha so much for stillness...
Donnie: I know right? It's just me when I’m writing so I think at least there is a stillness to that. There's no one else around me, there's no timeline for it. It is almost stillness for me because it's just stuff coming out of the silence.
Emulsion: Yeah I feel ya. It's hard to slow it down sometimes, especially when it's fun and cool things are popping up around you.
Donnie: You just do it because you want to. For me, it's what I want to be doing with my time more than anything else. I've lost so many jobs for the band; going in to wait tables is just way less interesting to me than being able to go out and play a show.
Emulsion: You put out a music video recently if I’m not mistaken?
Donnie: Yes, it came out in July with the record. Since November, we've put out three videos. The Strictly Top one came out in May and NPR premiered it. I just remember thinking, "They like it?! What?!"
The writer nailed it so hard on the head too. I was actually sweating it waiting to read the article but it was very complimentary. He was so dead on and tuned in to what we're trying to do, to the point where I was telling myself, "Fuck you! How do you even like… WHAT?!"
He equated it to The Blood Brothers playing on Devo and that is EXACTLY what it is hahaha.
Emulsion: To the point that that is specifically what you've been going for all along?
Donnie: In a way? As corny as this sounds, when I’m messing around on guitar I’m not necessarily thinking about any one thing, but sometimes that guitar part will make me think of a keyboard part that will remind me of some 80's new wave song or something. Eventually specific bands will even pop into my head but it takes a little time to get to that point. It eventually does influence me but the initial stages are very much subconscious. Almost to the point where I’ll accidentally start ripping off something like 90's Radiohead, which I like Radiohead a lot but that's definitely not something I would be trying to intentionally imitate.
Emulsion: Hahaha it's frightening how easy a thing that is to do. Well where can we find your music and when can we see your next show?
Donnie: We're playing a free show with Speed Babes at Emporium on Nov. 13! And you can get our new record "Errors" at https://notrendrecords.com/
We spent the day with Julia and Dave of Ratboys, walking through Palmer Square and eating Italian Ice. They talked talking about being on tour and the challenges of expressing love.
Emulsion: How did you guys get started? Where did the name come from?
Julia: Freshman year in high school at lunch my friends were going around the table just giving each other just disgusting, very crude nicknames. Ratboy was the one that they gave me and it stuck. It was prolly the least offensive nickname that came out that day. I kinda like developed this weird little character I would do named Ratboy, and anyways, my friends started calling me that.. Dave and I met in college very soon into our freshman year and just kinda bonded over the fact that we both liked to play music and had similar taste I guess. Back then it was just Ratboy with no "S."
Dave: I got one of those Snowball mics for Christmas, the USB ones, and just started recording random stuff. I recorded on top of a bunch of Julia's songs.
Julia: But we didn't really get started playing shows often or touring until 2015 when Dave graduated. So we had like a 5 year incubation period where we lived in South Bend and would play shows in South Bend and sometimes go to Chicago and play shows.
Emulsion: That's cool that you guys had that incubation period. Probably had a lot of material to go at it with when you finally started hitting it harder?
Julia: Dave taught me a lot about jamming together and I got better at guitar. He introduced the idea of me maybe playing electric guitar instead of acoustic guitar live, which I had never even contemplated before.
Emulsion: I remember listening to you guys for the first time and being like "woah, this isn't what I thought Ratboys was gonna sound like."
Julia: It's pretty misleading
Dave: We've had shows where there's a harsh noise artist and then like a street punk band after that...And then us.
Emulsion: Your lyrics seem to be a mix between these idiosyncratic personal stories mixed with stories of other people and characters. What is writing lyrics like in terms of your process and deciding what to write about?
Julia: It's kinda a situation where I write the lyrics and then as we're sussing out the songs together, Dave will say like "well this doesn't really make sense" or "it doesn't sound good," or whatever.
Dave: I feel like lately when you happen upon a cool phrase or string of words you kinda delve into it and find all the Wikipedia articles that could relate to it. Like "old transistor radio," and then you're like "I'm gonna read about transistors, and radios, and who invented them..."
Emulsion: Is it something where you're setting out to make things relatable, or is it just that what's personal to you is relatable to others?
Julia: I think for me, writing songs that are really personal comes from a point of wanting to connect with people that I care about. Growing up it took me a long time to become comfortable in showing love and affection to my family members. I always was kinda cold, and I was embarrassed by that. I felt ashamed that I didn't know how to express myself in a positive way toward my family. So now as I'm getting older and I want to, it's ironic and sad because we all live very far apart and I don't get to see them very much. So singing and dedicating a lot of these stories to them, and putting them in my art, is a way for me to feel really close to them and and show my love. I'm trying to make up for lost time. But I think a lot of people have a similar struggle, and it's not something we really talk about.
Dave: You always feel like you could be a better friend or family member, you know?
Julia: I think that's something a lot of people can relate to. Just kind of struggling to show your love a good way.
Emulsion: Sounds like a fairly universal experience.
Julia: Yeah. And memory. Just trying to understand your life and figure out what you're doing. I think that's something we all share, and that's what I'm trying to do.
Emulsion: I think I read something that said there's a song on "GN" that was written in 2011 or something?
Julia: The song "Molly" was a demo that I had done just on my own back in December of 2011. And then "Control" is like, really old. Like, I was 17. So that would have been 7 years ago. I changed the lyrics cuz back then they were just nonsense about my bullshit highschool life, and now I made it way more focused about an actual story and memory. But yeah, I'm a real sucker for letting something sit for a long time and then revisiting it later and looking at it with some new perspective I guess.
Dave: Like a fine beer or kombucha that's been sitting awhile.
Julia: Yes! Aged songwriting.
Emulsion: I mean, if it stands the test of time with yourself.
Julia: If I'm not sick of it after all these years, then hopefully other people will be down to listen for awhile.
Emulsion: So you guys are kinda from other places and kinda from here. Do you identify as a Chicago band?
Julia: At this point yeah. And I'm proud to.
Dave: We've been here for like...
Julia: I've lived in the city for over 3 years. It's great.
Emulsion: What do you like about the scene and the city? What sets Chicago apart?
Julia: It's hard for me to really know what sets it apart from other scenes, just because I've never lived anywhere else that had a scene to speak of.
Dave: Well, you're in a good one right now.
Julia: Living here in Chicago...it checks off all the boxes for me personally, just because it feels really intimate and nurturing. Socially it's really vibrant. There's lots of life.
Emulsion: Who are some local Chicago bands you're into right now?
Julia: Grandkids is awesome. I'm so glad that they're around cuz they used to be in Champaign. Really love OHMME. They're insane.
Dave: Nnamdi, of course haha. Everyone loves Nnamdi. We keep seeing his posters at venues whenever we go on tour. And then he keeps seeing our posters. It's like back and forth haha.
Julia: It's just really exciting because he's been in Chicago for so long and I'm psyched for the world to hear his shit. But we also really love Melkbelly. I'm really really excited for their new album and the release show. I'm just thinking of the "Better Yet" live podcast. Miranda from Melkbelly played, Chris from Meat Wave played, and Deanna from Sinceer Engineer played. All three of those projects...I'm really excited about right now.
Dave: Yeah, we could go on all day. Nervous Passenger.
Emulsion: Touring seems like it's become a really big part of your guys' lives. How much of a life adjustment is that?
Dave: Pretty used to it right now, and I think we’ve kinda developed a circadian rhythm that goes along with being on tour and being home. Just adjusting between those two modes.
Julia: Being on the road feels really right to me. Especially because the people in the band are some of my closest friends. So we get to spend time together. We get to play all over and I love traveling. I also really enjoy the routine of tour and the kinda...predictable chaos I guess?
Emulsion: What is your guy's' version of success or "making it?" What's the end goal?
Dave: I think it's getting to the point where we can keep doing what we love to do, and just make music and make new things. We could do that everyday and that people will pay attention to it... and we get the opportunity to tour once a year.
Julia: Once a year?
Dave: At least once a year. I'm saying, you know, when we're 70 years old and doing this.
Julia: Right. So we'll be 70 when we make it?
Dave: We're aiming for Deerhoof status.
Julia: That would be the dream. Absolutely.
Emulsion: Any releases coming up?
Julia: We recorded a "GN" B-sides EP back in May. It'll be out sometime next year.
Dave: Definitely by the summer.
Julia: Probably as a one-year celebration of "GN" or something. Kinda like the way Carly Rae Jepsen did it.