Photo of J.R. Robinson by Katie Hovland
Meeting in a quiet diner in the heart of Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood was the perfect setup for an interview with J.R. Robinson. It’s here that the sound composer behind the experimental drone project known as Wrekmeister Harmonies has lived and worked for a number of years, often flitting under the radar and spending a lot of late nights creating the epically winding and dramatic opuses that have become his trademark.
His latest, and arguably best, is called “Night Of Your Ascension,” comprised of the 30-plus-minute title track and another shorter piece, “Run Priest Run,” that are respectively inspired by the lives of 16th century musician and murderer Don Carlo Gesualdo and disgraced priest Father John Geoghan, one of the most significant perpetrators in the sex abuse scandals that plagued the Catholic Church the last two decades. Musically, both characteristically feature a combination of peaceful choirs and graceful string sections that quickly degrade into guttural howls, crashing cymbals and assaultive guitars. An assembly of 30 musicians collectively helped Robinson bring the album to life—a list that includes members of Einstürzende Neubauten, The Body, Indian, Bloodiest, Cave and Come, as well as harpist Mary Lattimore and indie folk singer Marissa Nadler.
There’s reason why folks like these—and members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor who will be featured in an upcoming project as he explains below—flock to Robinson. He’s a musician’s musician, a guy who scouts for talent at choral concerts, blurs the line between classical symphonies and contemporary metal and records in crematoriums for effect. Yet he’s also multilateral, a visual thinker able to see the full picture (with short films that often accompany live performances) and a storyteller who makes you understand the narrative woven into his score without ever uttering a word (his music for the most part is lyric-less).
Though the first two Wrekmeister Harmonies releases—2013’s “You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me” and 2014’s “Then It All Came Down”—were impressive starts, it is perhaps “Night Of Your Ascension” where Robinson solidifies himself as an auteur. It was released though Thrill Jockey on November 13th, Friday the 13th to be exact, which is perhaps more coincidental for being the same day as the national release of the film “Spotlight,” which follows the Boston Globe’s exhaustive coverage of disgraced priests like Geoghan, and also the same the day Robinson finally checks out of Chicago and picks up the next part of his journey due West where everything eventually sets. Click here to view…
Photo by Katie Hovland
Last month, Dillinger Four played the Double Door as part of a brief tour commemorating their 21st anniversary as a band. After the string of shows wrapped up, we talked with singer/bassist Patrick “Paddy” Costello about how everything went. We also discussed the band’s history, including some of the more noteworthy shows they’ve played in Chicago over the years. In addition, we conversed about D4’s most recent album, Civil War, and Costello touched on some of what they have planned for next year, which involves releasing new material and more touring.
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In August of this year, The Bollweevils released a new 7” via Underground Communiqué, entitled Attack Scene. It marks the band’s first new material in 17 years. Containing two tracks in total, the 7” was recorded at Million Yen Studios by Jeff Dean and was mastered at Azimuth Mastering by Bill Henderson. The cover art was done by Wade Marks and the record is available on clear blue or black vinyl. When asked how it feels to be releasing new music for the first time in many years, singer Daryl Wilson explained “Damn it’s been too long! It’s exciting! Love the new songs and we are totally excited to get the other new songs recorded and released. We have gotten so much better with the passage of time and are having a blast doing what we do. It’s the best feeling seeing something we created come together and have the opportunity to share that creation with others. Especially if those people like it as much as we do.” Combining the melody of their Stick Your Neck Out! LP with the aggression and hardcore tendencies of Heavyweight, these songs find the band sounding invigorated and developing upon the sound in which they’re known for.
We’re streaming the record’s first song below, “Honesty Isn’t So Simple,” and asked Wilson what inspired its lyrics. He said, “Everyone has aspects of themselves that they never reveal. It’s really hard to be completely honest and show vulnerability to other people. If you show your hand you fear that it’s not always reciprocated. All we want in life is to trust others but it’s pretty hard to do that sometimes.” While the subject matter is fairly serious, the band definitely shows their humorous side on Attack Scene’s other track, “The Bollweevils Anthem.” Take a listen to “Honesty Isn’t So Simple” below and purchase the record here.
Also, this Thursday, 11/05, The Bollweevils are playing at 1st Ward, (2033 W. North Ave.) with Break Anchor, Union 13 and The Mizzerables. The show starts at 8:00 PM, is 18+ and costs $10. Tickets for the event can be obtained here.
Local band Ribbonhead is set to release its new EP Animals on 10/14 through Bandcamp and on cassette. The EP was engineered by Nick Biscardi at Flashpoint Studios, while the band handled mixing duties and Bill Henderson of Azimuth mastered the record. Writing and playing out since mid-2014, Ribbonhead consists of Josh Glass, (guitar/vocals) Lee Zickwolf, (bass/vocals) and John Sant, (drums). The Bandcamp release will be immediately available on 10/14, with the tape release that includes an exclusive track following shortly. They’ll be hitting Liar’s Club at 9:00 PM tonight, 10/12, alongside Honah Lee, Beat the Smart Kids, and Butchered.
On Sunday, October 11th, Chicago’s Dog & Wolf will self-release their debut album, called Filler for the Vacancies. Formed in 2012, the band consists of Kyle Geib, (guitar/vocals) Nick Arvanitis, (bass/vocals) and Dan Tinkler, (drums). The LP was recorded at Atlas Studios by Matt Jordan and mastered at Boiler Room Mastering by Collin Jordan. Coinciding with the record’s release, Dog & Wolf is playing a show at Fireside Bowl on the same day. The event is part of Phantom Note Production’s Phantom Fest and the lineup that evening includes Sincere Engineer, Turnspit, Mean Sean and Dowsing. Filler for the Vacancies will be available on CD at the show or it can be obtained digitally via the band’s Bandcamp page. Dog & Wolf will also be touring later this month in support of the album, including a stop at The Fest in Gainesville, FL. Check out an exclusive stream of the entire record below.
Photo by Katie Hovland
After forming in early 2014, New Orleans’ PEARS wasted little time writing and recording their debut LP, Go to Prison. Soon after, they caught the attention of Off With Their Heads singer/guitarist Ryan Young, who subsequently released the album on vinyl via his label, Anxious and Angry. Extensive touring followed and in July of this year, Fat Wreck Chords re-released Go to Prison. We caught up with guitarist/singer Brian Pretus after the band’s recent performance at Riot Fest Chicago at talked about how PEARS got its start. We also discussed their unique sound, which combines aggressive hardcore/punk, chaotic yet detailed songwriting and a hint of melody. Our conversation also touched on the band’s forthcoming second album, which is due out early next year, and more. Click here to view…
Photo by Katie Hovland
I’ve been Jaded in Chicago for several years now but I was born in Detroit and raised on its music, so I was stoked to see the city that first brought you punk rock represented so prominently on this year’s Riot Fest bill with proto-punk trio Death taking the Riot Stage on Friday afternoon and the indefatigable Iggy Pop headlining the Rock Stage on Saturday night (plus a performance from Bootsy Collins, if we want to discuss his Parliament-Funkadelic years, which we most certainly do).
If you’re still unfamiliar with Death, not only are they an incredible band, they have one of the most incredible back stories in the history of rock music too. You can watch the award-winning documentary, A Band Called Death (here’s the trailer) to learn more, but here’s the short of it: Death was formed by brothers David, Dannis, and Bobby Hackney in Detroit in the mid-70s. As black teens playing raw, unbridled rock ‘n’ roll, the group was marginalized, overlooked, and misunderstood (they even turned down the chance for a recording deal with Clive Davis, who wanted them to change their name), before they finally disbanded out of frustration in 1977. David passed away due to illness in 2000 but not before giving his brothers Death’s master tapes and promising that someday the world would come looking for them. It may sound like something out of a fairytale, but a couple of years later that’s exactly what happened (seriously, watch the documentary). Bobby and Dannis reformed Death with guitarist Bobbie Duncan in 2009, and the trio has been going strong ever since. They’ve continued to celebrate David’s memory with a series of archival recordings and frequent touring and in April, 2015, they revealed the latest chapter of the Death story with an album of all new material, appropriately titled N.E.W.. Click here to view…
Photo by Katie Hovland
This past June, Bad Cop/Bad Cop released their debut album on Fat Wreck Chords, called Not Sorry. We caught up with the band last month when they played House of Blues Chicago as part of the Fat Wrecked for 25 Years tour. We spoke with singer/guitarist Jennie Cotterill and talked about how the group got its start, as well as what it was like recording their new record. We also discussed Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s unique sound, which combines three-part vocal harmonies, West Coast ‘90s punk and a relentless supply of energy. Additionally, we conversed about the lack of female musicians in punk rock today, the band’s plans for this fall/winter and more. Click here to view…
Photo by Katie Hovland
Last month, the second full-length from Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room was released by Asian Man Records. Entitled Party Adjacent, the album is much more of a collaborative, full-band effort than the first Emergency Room record. We spoke with Dan about how he brought together this group of musicians and what it was like working with producer Jeff Rosenstock. We also talked about how this project compares to Dan’s principal gig as the singer/bassist for Alkaline Trio. Also discussed was the album’s writing and recording process, the meaning behind some of its songs, future touring plans and more. Click here to view…
Fat Wreck Chords really doesn’t require much of an introduction. It was founded in 1990 by NOFX singer/bassist Fat Mike and his then-girlfriend Erin Burkett, and quickly rose to become one of the most popular and influential punk rock record labels in the world. They helped launch the careers of bands like Lagwagon, Propagandhi, No Use for a Name, Strung Out, Good Riddance and many others. They continue to develop emerging and dynamic bands to this day, and do so while maintaining the standards of quality they’ve displayed since their inception. Fat recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and we spoke with co-founder Erin Burkett about the label’s history. We talked about its humble beginnings, how the label grew and some of the challenges they faced along the way. We also discussed the current Fat tour, the label’s future and more.
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