Words and Photos By Alicia Maciel
Good ole’ fashioned rock n roll band American Grizzly performed in-store Friday, October 6. From sharing a few beers together to talking about shows going on the same night, the Southsiders put on a cozy show that drew a lot of people in. With Matt Ladd on vocals, Jack Doyle and Dennis Wilson on guitars, Marty Funk on bass, and Anthony Perez on drums, American Grizzly is a fantastic local act worth listening to.
While “Love Somebody Else” is my pick from their noise rock twist on American folk music, I chatted with Dennis, Marty, and Jack to learn some more about the band.
How did you choose your band name?
Marty: I was listening to a My Morning Jacket album I just picked up called It Still Moves right around the time we first started playing together 3 or 4 years ago. I was listening to the record and admiring the album art, which has this really groovy bear wrapped in tinsel with geometric patterns all around the front and back covers and the name “American Grizzly” came to mind. We were throwing around band names at that time and I suggested American Grizzly and it kinda just stuck.
Are you guys actually local? If so, what neighborhood are you from?
Dennis: We’re all local. We’re all originally from the Southwest Side and have been living in different neighborhoods throughout the city for a while. Our studio’s in Pilsen.
How did you guys get to know one another?
Dennis: We all met through a mutual friend group. Marty and I grew up down the street from each other and have been playing music together since 7th or 8th grade. Jack and I kind of knew each other from mutual friends then I saw him play some Black Keys songs at an open mic and called him up to jam a few days later (7 or so years ago). Jack knew Matt and Anthony from some other bands they played in. Once we all got together, we realized how many friends we all had in common. It felt very natural for us all to hang out.
What gear do you have? If any of you are gear heads, what does your gear mean to you?
Dennis: Marty plays an Epiphone Thunderbird bass that looks super cool and always gets compliments on how it sounds. He’s currently in the market for a Fender Mustang bass. Jack plays a Fender Stratocaster and, on special occasions, Telecaster and has a few different Fender amps he plays (shoutout to his Fender Champion 600 which is a small tube amp that’s too small to gig with but sounds amazing). He also has a Waterloo acoustic that you’ll hear a lot on the next EP. I play a Gibson ES 390 hollow body electric guitar through a Vox amp. I also have a Musicvox Space Cadet 12 string electric guitar that’s made its way onto a few recordings and a Gretsch lap steel for when a bit of twang is required. Anthony will use anything he can get his hands on for drums/percussion. He once recorded a steak knife on a metal mesh screen and it was exactly the sound we were looking for. Matt has the good fortune of his instrument being his voice – pure and simple. I look at a nice instrument like a work of art. They’re so cool looking and have such personality. At least with guitars, the way they look and feel definitely influence how you play them.
What do you think about Chicago’s music scene?
Marty: Chicago has a great scene and a lot of cool venues and house shows to either play or catch a show. Since we moved into our studio in Pilsen a couple years ago, we’ve been catching a lot of shows at Thalia Hall and have been itching to play there.
If you can describe your music (genre, tone, etc.), how would you describe it?
Jack: The American Grizzly sound in most simple terms is good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, which gives us the luxury of pulling from a lot of different genres. Some of our tunes have heavy blues roots and others have a southern rock and/or country vibe. American Grizzly changes shape from show to show and album to album . We play folk songs, noise rock and pop tunes. We don’t really have a predetermined sound, so we can pretty much explore any area of music we want at any given moment and regularly do.
What’s your favorite song you’ve composed so far?
Jack: Favorite song we’ve composed so far is probably “Big City” because we got to collaborate with some awesome horn players and a great keyboard player here in Chicago. The song has a lot of energy and we enjoy playing it and listening to it. Anthony crashed his van the first time he heard the recording. That being said, our first album was recorded in Nashville, so any one of those songs could also take this slot.
Are you working on new music or touring soon?
Jack: We are going into the studio October 22nd to record a new EP. We are very excited. We are going to practice restraint.
What are your favorite Chicago bands?
Marty: We’ve all been diggin’ Lucille Furs album they put out a few weeks ago.
What are your influences?
Petty, Neil, Hendrix, Dylan, The Band, Auerbach, Aretha, Jim James, Dylan, Garcia, Petty, Lennon, Mic, Keith, Ray Charles, Natural Child, Brian Wilson, Allman Bros.,Freddie King, Jeff Tweedy, Pete Townshend, Clarence Carter, Denney and the Jets, John Prine, Stevie Wonder.
With their upcoming shows consisting of Lincoln Hall on November 2 and opening for Third Eye Blind December 1 at 115 Bourbon Street, make sure to catch American Grizzly before they hibernate in the studio to work on another EP.
Alicia Maciel is a junior at DePaul University studying marketing, music business, public relations, and advertising. Immersing in photography, promotion, interviews, interning at Metro and Notion Presents, managing The Chicago Vibe, curating live music, and plenty more – she hopes to bring innovation to the music scene. “A Chicagoan gal making music personnel personal.”