Get To Know: Shame

If you’ve ever attended SXSW, you know that it’s not like any ol’ regular music festival with set stages and scheduled performance times; There’s super official secret shows with big name artists, last minute pop up shows, unofficial showcases by new artists in the most random places around town, and multiple sets by the same artists in a single day. This past March, I finally attended my first ever SXSW and quickly learned just how unconventional this festival can be when I found myself interviewing Charlie Steen of the British punk band Shame at 1 AM after my friend had just cut his hair (as well as his bandmates’ hair) into a mullet.

Easily one of the buzziest bands at the festival, Shame has been soaring high since the January release of their debut album Songs of Praise, which has in fact been receiving endless praise from listeners around the world. This summer, Shame will return to The States to play a handful of dates, including a show at Chicago’s Empty Bottle as well as the annual West Fest street fest. Before they return to Chicago in July, get to know the band better by checking out these six facts I learned while chatting with Steen earlier this year.

 Photo by Holly Whitaker
Photo by Holly Whitaker

THEY RECORDED IN THE LEGENDARY ROCKFIELD STUDIOS

With the amount of buzz they’ve garnered and the sheer amount of gigs and festivals Shame has played, you might be surprised to find out that the members of Shame are only 20 and 21 years old. Before they started touring heavily, the band worked on writing their debut album for a few years, starting at the ages of 16 and 17. “We were still in school, and we recorded the album when we were 20,” Steen says.

Talking about the process behind writing the album, Steen continues, “Lyrically, it was about personal sort of things you experience in that time as well social observations. Musically, it was influenced by what we were exposed to in that period. All the different bands we discovered through just being that age and being into music.” Once they had written the album, the band took a trip to the iconic Rockfield Studios in Wales to record the tracks. “It was kind of like rehab,” Steen says about the middle-of-nowhere location of the studio, where they resided for ten days. “We’re quite bad at distractions. So, we were on a farm, and this place is like a historic studio. Oasis, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Led Zeppelin, all these people recorded there. Not many people go there now…Because everyone seems to just record with their laptop or a studio in London,” he says, pausing to describe the scene. “You have like a farm, and then you have a house up top. That’s where we stayed, we each had our own room. Then you walk past the stables and stuff like that and there’s a recording studio. I was up at the house, and I did all of my vocals in my bedroom with a bed sheet over me, onto an Apple Mac. The rest of the band, they did everything to a click [in the studio].”

Prior to their work at Rockfield Studios, Steen recalls working their way through several different producers in order to finally get the right fit with Dan Foat and Nathan Boddy. “I’m not a musician, so I don’t want to put my foot in a shoe that won’t fit, but before that, we’d worked with eight different producers. They all had done the same method of ‘you’re a live band, let’s try to make you sound like some punk band from the 80’s where you record it live.’ That wasn’t how it worked best. Dan and Nathan are from an electronic background, techno producers…They did it a completely unique and different way. Like Charlie, our drummer, he recorded his drum kit individually, each song. They saw it in the same way that fits our music, where the bass and the drums are the pulse and that was very important,” Steen says. “We then realized through trial and error that the best way to approach it for us, was to try to create something completely different to our live sound. So they’re two different things. Sometimes people say it sounds like it does live, but to us it’s a great difference than how it sounds on the record. It’s a lot more concise,” he continues.

THEY ADMIT THEIR MUSIC IS DERIVATIVE, BUT THEY STILL ENJOY IT

One of the most compelling features of Shame’s music is the incredibly raw, honest quality of their songwriting. Reflecting on their style of writing, Steen says, “With the type of music we’re doing…we’re a guitar punk band in 2018. We’re very aware it’s very derivative. There’s no way we could ever deny that. I think with us–I’ve said this before, with bands and artists we might be compared to, and those that might have heavily influenced us, we’ll never have been able to experience it. That’s amazing for us. When we get to see bands like Goat Girl and Sorry and stuff, it’s amazing that we can experience it. For us, it does feel new and refreshing.” Ultimately, they were never trying to be someone else when they started writing, and they’re still just trying to stick to their own vision. “At the end of the day, we never did this with dreams of like having 5-star hotels. It wasn’t ever manufactured. It was all just part of the process. We are just very passionate about music and we know that it’s been done before, but we enjoy doing it. I think the main thing is we don’t write music for anyone other than ourselves. At the end of the day, this is entertainment and we really enjoy it. We’re having a laugh,” Steen adds.

In addition to being authentic, Shame strives to keep their sound and vision multifaceted. “I think one of the preconceptions of a punk guitar band is aggression. Which you know could be lost in translation from energy or passion, or humor at times. That’s something we want to separate. Of course there are issues we’re angry about, but we don’t want to be a band that just conveys one emotion. That’s not human. We want to be able to express humor and melancholy,” Steen says. As they keep pushing to diversify their sound, they also keep pushing themselves to grow and adapt. “We’re very self aware. When we did that album we were teenage boys…that was when we wrote that album. We know now that a lot has changed in our personal lives, which also reflects in the general absurdity of being in a band. It’s just a weird life to live. You feel very temporary. At all times. We basically just want to adapt and evolve. We don’t wanna write the same songs we did before,” he says, adding that their constantly changing environment deeply affects them as a band and as people.

THEIR REHEARSAL SPACE LED THEM TO DISCOVER MUSIC IN A NEW LIGHT

In addition to recording in a legendary music space, Shame also first formed in the rehearsal space of the legendary Queen’s Head in Brixton, which is where the likes of Fat White Family rehearsed as well.

Steen attributes their early rehearsal space to some of their current habits as music fans, saying, “When we started in the Queen’s Head…This is one of the differences; Before, we’d grown up going to venues like Brixton Academy, really large venues like that and seeing bands who had already established themselves in a position of accomplishment. When we went to go to the Queen’s Head, personally I was able to discover bands who were playing a lot more intimate settings. Not known world wide. The realization that great music exists with an accessibility to a more intimate setting is a sort of relief.”

“These were bands who, you say what you want them about personalities, but they were characters. It wasn’t just some pop culture. When you grow up and you’ve only ever seen the bands who perform on a platform of success, you can sometimes overlook the reality of a lot of situations. Of course everyone grew up listening to The Ruts and Stiff Little Fingers. So we knew about these bands, but to get to know them. You realize they’re people. And I think their intentions to do whatever the fuck they wanted…they’d gone past the point of remorse. Which was the best thing about it,” Steen continues.

THEIR STAGE PRESENCE IS JUST AN AMPLIFIED VERSION OF THEMSELVES

The same sense of authenticity that Shame’s music has transfers over into their live shows; at SXSW, Steen often told their audiences to loosen up and smile, saying “this is entertainment.” Steen says he never feels intimidated to get up onstage and deliver such a transparent show. “When I was younger, and I say younger as in like a year ago, I definitely had idolized a lot of people. Then I found that to be quite damaging because you gain this obsession and sort of like–” Steen pauses and snaps his fingers, trying to think of the best way to phrase it. “It’s unattainable identity. At that period, when we play, it’s definitely to an extent a persona. It’s who I am, but amplified,” he continues.

Essentially, their stage presence will continue to remain an extension of themselves. Steen muses further on the concept of immense stage personalities, saying, “When I would look up to all these people like Iggy Pop or Lou Reed or whatever like, it was always…if you’re constantly comparing yourself, that’s what I found damaging. I think like I was saying, I don’t believe anything can be separated from context. At this age as well, you’re in the middle of this identity crisis, so you want to absorb all of these different personalities and be these people you obsess over. Then it got to the point where I’d just rather be myself. I was just this chubby, shy stoner as a teenager. When we used to play, that was the whole point: If you’ve been insulted so much your whole life, what have you got to lose?”

TOURING HAS TAUGHT THEM THEIR LIMITS

Shame just finished another UK and European tour after returning from a North American run, which saw them playing upwards of five shows in a day at this year’s SXSW, but believe it or not their recent touring schedule is nothing compared to the previous year. “Last year we did like 140 gigs and 57 festivals in 3 months, like whilst recording an album and doing 5 tours. By the end I got a bit broken mentally,” Steen says. “It’s hereditary but I suffer from anxiety so now I can only speak for myself…On the road, I don’t drink as much and don’t do drugs as much as we used to. Every night used to be a party. I sound like an old man,” he laughs. “I feel like an old man. So that’s how I kind of deal with it.”

Their intense past experiences ended up acting as a learning experience, where Steen personally discovered where his breaking point is. “The period of what I went through in December, where we ended up having to cancel this tour in Germany, I learned a lot more about myself than I have in my entire life. So I know when is too much. I know when I need a good night’s sleep. Like I need a good night’s sleep now, but it’s a celebration. I know what I need to do. I guess I sort of learned the value of responsibility a bit more. As a person, and this is a little bit hypocritical of me to say after saying that, but I can’t do moderation. I can’t do it at all. So I know that if I have one drink, I won’t drink until I fall asleep. And I can’t do one line. I’ll do it until it runs out. I can’t do that. If I’m not doing that, I can’t do anything. So it’s either one or the other, but that’s me as a person,” he says.

While Steen may have personally learned to rein in his limits, he also realizes as a band they have to compromise sometimes. “We’ve known each other since we were kids. Sean has been my best mate since we were 8. We understand each other very well. I don’t particularly like playing a lot of shows, for my own personal reasons. If the rest of the band wants to do it, you have to find a middle ground. After what happened we’re looking through a sharper lens about how many gigs we do. So like this festival season we slashed loads of festivals cause it’s not worth flying from Poland to play to 40 people in Kent to fly back to the Ukraine the next day.”

As far as the biggest lesson that Steen has learned about the band through the years, besides learning his limits, he says, “You kind of lose a lot–this might sound very dramatic, but you kind of lose a lot of human rights. And by that, I don’t mean like I’m shackled in chains in a 4×4 room. I mean, in terms of you kind of lose the things that make you feel human. Eating a meal with your mum and dad or like going for a drink with your friends. You lose people you love, your friends and family. It sort of disappears. Familiarity becomes an abstract ideology. I still don’t think I know a lot about myself. I think as people we know each other so well, we [the band] went beyond friendship about 2 years ago. It’s almost like a cult. I guess, I don’t know, you have to deal with everything you deal within a normal life, like breaking up with someone, moving out of home… you have to do that through the band. The biggest amount of privacy I get is when I go to the toilet. Fact. For 6 and a half weeks. So I think you lose privacy. But you know I’m saying all this and we fucking enjoy it and we love it. Whatever we have to lose at this particular moment in time, personally, I feel is because we want to do this. I want to do this. We want to do this to the best of our ability.”

THEY’LL ALWAYS USE THEIR PLATFORM IN A POSITIVE WAY

Through their music, social media, and even past interviews, the members of Shame have made it clear that they’ll never shy away from standing up for what’s right. At one of their shows at SXSW, Steen jumped off stage mid-show to tell off an audience member who had gotten aggressive with some of the other crowd members. Touching on their habit to speak out, Steen says, “As a person, and a white man, we don’t want to…I don’t want to be the spokesperson for any problem or any inequalities with girls, or race, or religion. But as a human being, I don’t understand how you could not want to support all these people and fight against any inequality. I think we all feel it’s disgusting for anyone who has any sort of platform to not [use it].”

Steen also reflects on the tendency of the press to label them as a political band, but says they never saw it like that; they just realize it’s something that directly effects them. “At the end of the day, it’s the biggest bullshit that a person could say ‘I’m not political.’ Everyone has politics, it’s just whether or not they choose to share them. How could you not talk about it? I don’t know, it doesn’t really make sense to me. There are a lot of great bands who will speak on these issues, and I think particularly in the current climate, in the music industry, and every industry, but this is the one we’re most absorbed in because this is our life.” He continues, shouting out people like Princess Nokia who speak out on all these issues, adding, “As a guy, like who is constantly surrounded by the music industry all the time, it is without a doubt and without question, majority middle class, white men. That’s how it’s been for probably just under 100 years. With the birth of pop culture, all of these unforgivable acts of discrimination were erupted that weren’t extinguished. They shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but they should have been addressed and destroyed when it came out.”

Lastly, Steen asks that everyone remains respectful of others when they come to shows, especially one of their gigs. “At a guitar gig, like a mosh pit, it’s mainly like male aggression taken out. We don’t fucking want that at our shows. Like it’s a safe environment. I’ve never won a fight, I’ve only ever been beaten up. Honestly. We’re not the jocks, we’re not the cool kids, we’re the people who just want to enjoy ourselves and we want everyone else to enjoy themselves as well. It’s not fucking hard, it’s not a lot to ask. If you’re an asshole, don’t come to our show.”


Make sure you grab your tickets to Shame’s show at The Empty Bottle here and keep up with them on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram.

You can also order your own copy of Songs of Praise here!

This article was originally posted on ANCHR Magazine

Get To Know: Deeper

In a major city like Chicago, there’s always ample opportunities to catch local bands playing live music every night of the week. Especially with venues like The Empty Bottle, Schubas, and Lincoln Hall, you can often discover a new favorite hometown band by just getting to the show early enough to catch the opener. I first discovered Deeper by doing just that; showing up early to Twin Peaks’ ACLU benefit show held at The Empty Bottle back in March of 2017.

Since that show, Deeper has continued playing all around the city, from bars shows at The Whistler to a support slot at Whitney’s Valentine’s Day show at Thalia Hall. The band’s four members, Nic Gohl, Drew McBride, Mike Clawson, and Shiraz Bhatti, have also been hard at work putting the finishing touches on their debut record, which will finally be out on May 25th via Fire Talk Records. Around the release, Deeper has put out three singles; “Pink Showers,” “Pavement,” and “Feels,” all of which have garnered buzz and kept the momentum surrounding the album in full swing.

Just ahead of the album release, I met up with Nic Gohl and Drew McBride to get to know more about the band. Check out these six things I learned about Deeper so that you can also be in the know before the album drops.

 

 Photo By Alexa Viscius
Photo By Alexa Viscius

GROWING UP, THEY HAD SPLIT OPINIONS ON THE STROKES

“I hated The Strokes,” said no one ever…except for Deeper vocalist and guitarist Nic Gohl. “I like them now!” Gohl continues. “I had this vendetta against MTV and all that shit. I think I had a really shitty taste in music. I was into Ska bands at one point…” Unlike his bandmate, bassist Drew McBride talks about a fascination with The Strokes while discussing his early influences. “I think for me, the moment I was like wow I wanna play music, I was 12 or 13. I was a total nerd loser kid, so I would check out a ton of CDs from the library. I didn’t know much about indie rock before this, but I checked out The Strokes Is This It and- it almost sounds cliche looking back on it, but I listened to that and I was like oh my god, this is the coolest thing ever.  That was sort of it for me,” McBride says.

Despite Gohl’s self-proclaimed questionable taste in music growing up, he still managed to get into making music at an early age. “I think it was like second or third grade and my best friend had gotten one of those Squier starter packs. I was super jealous and really wanted to start playing music because they were, so I played my brother’s shitty guitar through his practice amp, and put the distortion on, and just started kinda hitting it,” he recalls about his early days of playing.

THE GROUP COMPLETELY CHANGED UP THEIR SOUND TWO YEARS AGO

Gohl’s music taste isn’t the only evolution the band has had over the years, it turns out. The original lineup that formed in 2014 actually had completely different songs and contrasted with the signature sound that the present-day Deeper has honed in on. For the group’s self-titled debut that’s out May 25th, the process only dates back to 2016, a couple of years after the start of Deeper. “It kinda started in 2016 when Drew joined the band. The name has been around for four years but before that, we were approaching music and trying to make something different,” Gohl says. “It’s essentially a different project, but the name stayed through,” McBride chimes in, Gohl joking that they basically didn’t feel like making a new Facebook page for the rebirth of the band.

“When Drew came on we basically got rid of every song we had before. So none of the stuff we were playing in the earlier form of Deeper came on. It’s different, completely. We were just starting from scratch. We would have a few and be like fuck it, we should get them down on paper before we forget them,” Gohl says about the writing process. “I think there’s some more guitar pop songs, and also some punkier songs that are a result of like when we recorded them. We were in a phase of writing songs that were a little more straight forward.”

THEY USED A PIECEMEAL PROCESS WHEN RECORDING

Since the band first started writing for Deeper 2.0 in 2016, their recording process has been an ongoing journey. “We started slowly recording with Dave Vettraino, who recorded the whole album and was also Drew’s roommate. They used to live in a place called Public House, where numerous records….the first NE-HI–” Gohl recalls, and McBride tosses in the names of Melkbelly, The Hecks, and Pool Holograph, just to name a few of the fellow Chicagoans who have recorded with Dave. “Everyone has recorded with Dave,” he says.

“Yeah, Dave’s the best. We basically started recording tracks down there. We’d do like two days, one weekend, and then we’d maybe get back together a month or two later and record another one. Slowly we had all the bones after about a year and a half. It was a long process,” Gohl adds, admitting it wasn’t the most efficient process.

About halfway through the recording of the tracks on the debut, Dave moved out of Public House and started working in other studios, which Deeper couldn’t afford at the time. “So we just had him come to our practice space and we recorded the rest of it there. So there’s definitely some differences in some of the songs you can hear,” the band says. While there is that difference in tone that comes from the multiple recording locations and sessions, the band also sees a positive side to piecing everything together. “The tones are a little bit different from song to song cause it’s not like all the drums were tracked at the same time and mic’d in the same way. It creates a wider range of sounds,” McBride says.

“The nice part about it, for a long period of time when putting the record together, I was kind of afraid of it sounding super piecemeal. That element makes it better for the listener. It evolves throughout the record, and kind of brings you in the different mind sets we were at when we wrote and recorded those songs,” Gohl reflects.

THEY BELIEVE EXPOSURE FOR SOME IS EXPOSURE FOR ALL

If you’re a fan of music in this city, you’ve obviously noticed the growing buzz around the current scene, which has sent more and more bands out on national tours. In the past few years or so, we’ve seen bands like Whitney, Twin Peaks, NE-HI, Post Animal and more start to regularly tour the country and drastically grow their audiences. With bands popping up over night, between either new musicians just starting up and established bands kicking up side projects, it can seem daunting to try to stand out among the masses. However, as Deeper points out, it’s more about camaraderie in Chicago, not competition.

“I forget who I was talking to, someone…it might have been Drew actually,” Gohl says, “But, it’s not like there’s a limit on opportunities. You know? I guess city wise, you’re fighting to get the bigger shows from bands coming from out of town. As far as getting on a record label or booking agency, if you’re gonna get on it, you’re gonna get on it. You’re not fighting those people necessarily. Focusing on that, you’re never gonna be able to do this. There’s no fucking point. I think I would never call each other competition. It helps out each other. Having like Twin Peaks and NE-HI definitely have helped us out a lot. Those are some of our closest friends. We got to watch them go through becoming a national act. Being able to see what they had to go through kind of helped us figure out how we want to attack this and make sure it can be as successful as possible.”

Elaborating on the communal spirit in the city, McBride says, “When people like Whitney or Twin Peaks are successful, then people start looking at what else is going on in Chicago, so I never think yeah it’s this competitive thing. Exposure for some is exposure for everyone. If someone is like ‘Oh man, Twin Peaks are cool. Who else is from Chicago?’ Oh you also like NE-HI? Check out Deeper!”

All in all, the band just want to keep their focus on their work and moving forward in their own time. “We really enjoy playing together, and we’re really happy to finally get a piece of music out. I feel like we’ve definitely been humbled through the process and with that, we have no set expectations of where…we definitely want to shoot for as far as we can go, but I think we know what we’re doing more and I think that we have an honest approach. I just want it to stay fun, and keep on progressing and be able to reach more people,” Gohl says.

TOUR HORROR STORIES WON’T KEEP THEM DOWN

Every band, especially those just starting out, tend to have some battle wounds when they return from a tour. As Deeper get ready to hit the road after the album release, they recall some eventful shows in both Nashville and NYC.

Starting off with the scarier of both tales, the band describes the time they played a Halloween show at Fond Object in Nashville, which is a record store with a performance space outside of a house. “We played with Jack White’s girlfriend at the time, who was on Third Man Records. I forget her name. We also played with these guys called the Boo Dudes. They were a Halloween cover band. They covered a bunch of songs and changed all the words to Halloween themes. Then they all wore costumes onstage. So the drummer was the Headless Horseman so it looked like he was drumming with no head,” McBride says. Gohl says they hung around with the Boo Dudes afterwards and had a great time, but the night had started off rocky when they found out the promoter had double booked, and they didn’t have the night. Despite the double booking fiasco, they got added onto the spooky bill and the night went from a dud to a great time.

The last time Deeper performed on the east coast, they also had an epic comeback while in NYC. “We’re having an album release show in New York as well because that’s where Fire Talk, our record label, is based,” McBride says. “To me, I’m excited for New York so that we have a little bit of redemption. Last time we played New York, we played two shows on a Friday and Saturday. As we were leaving the show on Friday- I didn’t realize it- but the car keys for our van fell out of my pocket and I didn’t realize until mid way through the next day. We’re about to go to load in and I’m like, oh my god, the keys!” McBride says they looked everywhere for the keys to the van they had rented through a service that’s the car equivalent to Air BnB, but they were nowhere to be found. After even checking with the Brooklyn precinct to see if anyone had turned the keys in, the band had to let the van owner know what had happened, and Uber their gear to their Saturday show. Just as they were about to give up hope of continuing their east coast tour, McBride says Gohl convinced him to check with the police station one more time. McBride recalls, “So I go in and check again and he’s like these? And pulls out the keys. I remember sprinting out of the precinct as he was filling out the discharge forms. I kicked open the door and I was yelling THEY HAVE THEM!” Gohl remembers the band members all going crazy with excitement over the return of the keys, mentioning they all went out all night in Chinatown to celebrate.

Hopefully when Deeper plays in NYC this time, they’ll only be celebrating a successful album release show, not the return of any more lost items.

MOST OF THEIR FAVORITE MUSIC SOUNDS NOTHING LIKE THEIRS

When shouting out other Chicago bands that they like to support, Gohl’s and McBride’s lists include the likes of Bunny, Pool Holograph, Clearance, The Hecks, The Knees, and so many more…a lot of bands that exist under the same Chicago rock umbrella. However, when it comes to listening to music from outside of the city, their picks come from all different genres.

“I am obsessed with this band from Philly- they’re a part of the 80’s post punk scene-called Crash Course In Science. They’re playing the Bottle for Cold Waves Fest, so I’m really excited to see them play. Besides that, honestly, I’m just obsessed with listening to DAMN. still. I think that will be my forever album,” Gohl says. “I’ve been listening to a lot more electronic music. I’m really into synthesizers and drum machines, which is definitely something we’ve been pursuing with some of the newer stuff,” he continues.

McBride agrees, adding,”I honestly have been listening to a lot of electronic or experimental electronic music instead of solely just indie rock. Like Nicolas Jaar and Jon Hopkins and things like that. I feel like all the other music that we listen to allows us to not get burnt out on what we’re doing. If I was only listening to the same kind of music that we’re making, I just don’t think I would enjoy it as much. I think also to evolve the sound, you can’t just listen to the things that sound the same as you. Otherwise the album is going to be similar to what you’re already doing or what your peers are already doing. By listening to like other genres, or electronic music, I think it allows us to find what we think is cool in music that’s not the same as us. Then bring that back. If these other artists did something cool in this way, I don’t wanna do that same thing, but I like the concept of how they did that.”



There you have it! Pre-order the Shuga exclusive of the record on white vinyl here, or swing by the shop to snag it on Friday.

Keep up with Deeper on Facebook + Instagram + Twitter


This article was originally posted on ANCHR Magazine

American Grizzly – Instore Insight

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.”

Bulls and Roosters – A Chat with Danny of together PANGEA

Words By Alicia Maciel 

LA rock quartet together PANGEA is driving across the nation, touring in support of their latest full-length album Bulls and Roosters, via Nettwerk. The Bulls and Roosters Tour kicked off on September 14th in San Diego, CA and is wrapping up on October 22nd, and feature support from Tall Juan and  Daddy Issues.

Releasing a 1-minute-40-second gimmicky, nostalgic music video via Stereogum for the album’s mosh inducing lead single “Better Find Out”, directed by Steele O’Neal, heightened expectations of fans everywhere. The video can be seen HERE. “Better Find Out” is available to download/stream now HERE.

Co-produced by together PANGEA and longtime collaborator Andrew Schubert, and mixed by Chris Coady (TV On The Radio, Beach House, The Black Lips), Bulls and Roosters was recorded to two-inch tape at Golden Beat studios in Los Angeles and showcases a more matured sound than prior efforts.

We wanted to try new things and experiment with making music that wasn’t so aggressive or fast,” said singer/guitarist William Keegan. “Rather than worrying about any expectations, we were like, ‘Fuck all that. Let’s be as honest as we can possibly be.’ Sure, it’s growth, but there’s still a brattiness to it.”

Together Pangea have continually challenged themselves with each subsequent offering. Jelly Jam [2010] poured the gasoline, Living Dummy [2011] struck the match, and Badillac [2014] lit the fire with its revved-up nineties rock-inspired flames. Along the way, fan favorites like “Sick Shit,” “Badillac,” and “Offer” would rack up millions of Spotify streams. “Snakedog” became a plot point in a bonkers episode of NCIS and “Sick Shit” soundtracked a trailer for HBO’s Animals, while the group received support from Consequence of Sound, Pitchfork, MTV, Stereogum, and more. Following the 2015 release of The Phage EP, produced by The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson, the boys independently embarked on the journey to what would become Bulls and Roosters.

Bringing matured rock brattiness along with minimalistic, portrait album art – Bulls and Roosters represents together PANGEA’s growth and determinacy of “never making the same album twice”. Other than the album art alone standing out compared to their previous album artworks, Bulls and Roosters is a tame yet brash rock n’ roll earworm that’ll stay in listeners’ minds for years to come.

While on the road heading to their Nashville gig at noon central time, bassist Danny Bengston took some time to chat with me on the phone.

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Photo credit: Derek Perlman

Hey Danny, how are you?

Pretty good – it’s been a nice day, not too long of a drive. We’re driving to Nashville from Atlanta right now. We just played in Orlando yesterday. It was awesome, never played there before. The show was beyond our expectations!

That’s sick – was the show close to capacity?

The room was pretty big, a lot more people were there than we thought there would be.

To start off, I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about your gear. What you got, any pedals?

I have two basses I take on the road, one’s a Rickenbacker maple wood and the other’s a Fender P bass. I play them through a 1978 Peavy Mark III bass amp head. 410115 bass cabinet and a chewing pedal.

What tones did you find in your equipment that resonates with your sound?

I’ve always liked my very first bass amp. It has a great, shitty sound so I just looked around until I got another Peavy.

When recording your bass tracks, do you record along with the drummer live or are the drums overdubbed?

Most of the time, we record drums, guitar, and bass altogether live. I think it really adds to the sound and it’s always better to play together. On this album, there’s one or two songs without everyone recording together.

Are the bass parts planned or is it more improvisation?

The bass parts are planned ahead. We tend to write a month in advance. So, we’d learn a new song and I’ll go into working on bass parts.

What’s the songwriting process like for the band?

Usually, William or I bring ideas to the table.

It seems you guys have taken a different approach to songwriting, less garage rock influenced and more honky-tonk, 60s/70s country rock. What drew you to this change other than simply bringing different sounds to your audience?

As a band, we decided collectively to keep writing music we enjoy and we take influence from the music we’re listening to during the recording process. During this album, we were listening to a lot of Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young.

I recognized you guys recorded Bulls and Roosters on tape. Is there a reason together PANGEA took the analog route?

We chose to go in that direction since it would fit the mood of the songs a lot better.

 

What’s your favorite track on the album?

After making the album and having some time away from it, “Gold Moon” is my favorite. I really like the vibe of the song, the guitar playing, and everything else about it.

Why did you choose to name the album after the track Bulls and Roosters?

It’s a reference to a painting by John Baldessari. It’s about selling artwork and we thought it fit well.

With Bulls and Roosters being a more minimalistic take compared to your previous, more aggressive works – do you feel it’s the best work of the band so far?

Definitely – I think it’s the best stuff we’ve done so far.

While you’re on the road, I figure you guys are already working on some stuff.

Yeah, we’re working on some things right now and are trying to get in the studio soon enough to get a demo done.

Is the Bulls and Roosters tour your first big, national headlining tour?

No, I think it’s our third or fourth American headlining tour. We did one for Badillac and The Phase.

I’m excited for your show here in Chicago on the 6th – are there any other cities you’re looking forward to hit?

We LOVE Chicago, it’s one of our favorite places to play. The crowd’s always really good, so are the people and the food. New York is always a spot to look forward to as well as Toronto. We’re looking forward to heading back to the west coast, too.

Check out together PANGEA on tour! Hope to see some fellow Chicagoans at Bottom Lounge Friday, October 6!

September 26 – Nashville, TN @ The End

September 27 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle – Back Room

September 28 – Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery

September 29 – Philadelphia, PA @ Voltage Lounge

September 30 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg*

October 01 – Boston, MA @ Sonia’s Nightclub

October 03 – Montreal, QC @ L’Escogriffe

October 04 – Toronto, ON @ The Hard Luck

October 05 – Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s

October 06 – Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge

October 07 – Madison, WI @ The Frequency

October 08 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry

October 10 – St. Louis, MO @ Firebird

October 11 – Ames, IA @ Iowa State University – The Maintenance Shop

October 12 – Omaha, NE @ Showdown

October 13 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge

October 14 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court

October 16 – Seattle, WA @ The Vera Project

October 17 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret

October 18 – Portland, OR @ Analog Theater

October 20 – Sacramento, CA @ Harlow’s Night Club

October 21 – San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel

October 22 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst – Atrium

Tickets for the tour are available now HERE.

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.”

An Interview With Post Animal

Words from Kevin Sterne
Photos from Rachel Zyzda


Chicago’s Post Animal are in the thick, sticky center of their summer tour and recently made the pilgrimage back to their hometown for two long-awaited shows at West Fest and Subterranean. Comprised of long-haired rockers Dalton Allison (bass, vocals), Jake Hirshland (guitar, keys, vocals), Matt Williams (guitar, vocals), Javi Reyes (guitar, vocals), Joe Keery (guitar, vocals) and Wesley Toledo (drums), Post Animals pulls from contemporary and classic rock influences while adding their own psychedelic spin.

I was welcomed by humble dudes Dalton, Jake and Matt for a sit down in band’s van while Woods played on the West Fest stage behind us. We discussed their current tour, the Chicago scene, and their much-anticipated new album.

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What does it mean for you guys to be playing Chicago’s West Fest

Jake: I think today specifically we were all looking forward to playing West Fest. We’ve all come to West Fest for many years, and other Chicago festivals as well. We’ve seen a lot of people that we really like play here, and around this specific time of day. We’ve been in the audience for this experience. So to be out here and playing and having people show up. Just seeing people smile has been an out-of-body experience for me.

Dalton: And just now, standing on this stage and looking out, you can see the John Hancock Center, and I work at a Best Buy at the ground level of that. To be on a stage, at West Fest, and looking out and seeing my employer has been a crazy last hour.


Who are some bands that you’ve seen play West Fest in the past?

Jake: Mild High Club!

Dalton: Lemon Twigs played like the same exact time slot that we just played. So that was crazy.

 

You all are in the midst of a national tour. How’s that going?

Dalton: The tour is insane. It’s the first time we’ve played outside of the Midwest. We’re going to more places than I ever imagined. More cities, more physical, actually locations than I ever thought I would travel in my life. That’s been the craziest thing for me.

 

Any memorable or favorite places you’ve played on the tour?

Dalton: In DC, we played the 9:30 club and Black Jack. Thalia Hall in Chicago.

Jake: It’s surreal playing these shows like in Tampa, and these weird places that I’ve never been to.

 

Any crazy tour stories?

Matt: Some pool swimming. Some family meals.

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So, let’s address the elephant in the room: word is there’s a new record.

Jake: It’s done, actually. We’ve been sitting on this thing a long time.

 

Can you talk about the recording process, and how that all went down?

Matt: Our friend Emily has a lake house in Watervliet, Michigan. Right on Paw Paw Lake. And we spent about eight days there tracking all the instruments. Writing some and recording. And Dalton spent time mixing it and producing it. And then he co-mastered with our friend Adam Thein.

 

In terms of the writing process, how does that go?

Jake: Some people come to the table with close to completion songs. And we kind of synch ourselves into a part that’s already been written, or modify it slightly. Then there’s other people who write more of a skeletal idea, and bring it to everyone to have them fill in the gaps. Say, someone writes a song, but doesn’t write a bass line. Then Dalton will work on writing the bass line. And sometimes we’ll just jam stuff out. “When I get Home” was a jam.

Matt: I was on the drums for that one. I didn’t write the drum part, but I was playing drums when they wrote the song.

Jake: I was on keys. Dalton was on bass. And even the vocals were just melody sounds, we didn’t have lyrics yet.

Dalton: There are probably like 3-4 songs on the record that we were just jamming and mumbling into the microphone. “You’re Not There” was like that. We kind of just mumble what it feels like it should be and then write the lyrics later.

 

The new music video single, “Special Moment,” is that going to be on the record?

Jake: It’s the first song on the record.

 

How’d that come to fruition? Because that is some dynamite screenwriting, kind of American Psycho-like.

Jake: Yeah, dude. Totally. That’s all credited to Alec Basse. He came to us with a number of ideas. And we we’re perusing one that we liked. Then he basically took the reigns. With the two music videos we have, we try to get people we trust, and then give them full control. Because none of us are directors, and we don’t pretend to be. We’re actually working on another music video right now. It’s almost completely hands, and that’s worked out for us really well so far.

 

 

Let’s talk about the Chicago scene and the evolution of your music. How you would describe the Chicago scene right now, and how you fit in with it?

Dalton: When we were playing house shows, most of the bands we were playing with were garage bands. But then we met all these dudes that are in Woongi and The Voluptuals, and the guys that are more on the experimental side, and formed a friendship with them. Then we have our friends in the Evening Attraction that we play house shows with. I think there’s this psych rock thing going on, but a little heavier. People focus on being a little heavier and more groovy.

 

Listening to the studio recordings and then hearing you live, I’m finding a harder-rock, more rock and roll aspect to the music compared to maybe a few years ago when you were playing shows at Schubas and Double Door. I’m wondering about that transition. 

Jake: A lot of the stuff on the new record is leaning more towards rock and roll, heavy rock and classic rock. There’s still some psychy stuff, but were not trying to pigeon hole ourselves as psych rock. I wouldn’t say that the main thing that pops out is psychodellic in terms of describing this record.

Dalton: We’re a rock band with psych influences more so than a psych rock bands.

 

Having toured and played together live, has the live sound transitioned to this record more?

 Jake: I think so. I think the record might actually influence the live sound. I think in us writing this last record, we realized some stuff that we wanted to do and now are translating that live. We’ve even taken some of our old songs and retooled them to be a little more in this style. It’s kind of an identity change for us, not a huge change but definitely a change in identity over the last year.

 

So where’s Joe right now? I feel like I just saw him in a Dominos commercial.

Dalton: He’s running wild on everyone’s TV screen. We’re not sure if he’s real anymore. I haven’t seen him in person in a while. 

Jake: I see him at the gym.

Dalton: He’s one of the most beautiful people.

 

Was he part of the recording process for this record?

Jake: Absolutely.

Dalton: He’s been on every recording. He played drums on Water Activities. He plays guitar on four of the songs on Garden Series.

Jake: But he was definitely part of the recording. One-sixth of the playing and song writing on the record. He’s definitely still a huge part of who we are.

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What’s next for you guys?

Jake: We’ve got another month of touring. And that hangs heavy. We aren’t looking too far past that.

Dalton: We’re trying to meet with people who can help us “take the next step”—whatever that may be.

 

You guys unsigned?

Dalton: We are.

 

Have there been conversations? 

Dalton: A few, but you never really know.

Jake: We haven’t had THE conversation.

Dalton: People seem so interested in real life, but then you don’t hear from them for a while. And you’re like, okay, let me lower my expectations.

Jake: But we are really happy. I feel like we’ve finished a record that we’re happy with, going on a tour that we’re happy with. So we’re pretty content with where we are. We’d love to work with people who could take it to another level, but for the moment we feel good.

Dalton: We’re not over-reaching by any means. It’s going well, we feel really good with the opportunities we’ve already been given.

Jake: And we get to decide everything. Everything we’ve ever done has our full, entire stamp of approval. And that’s a really good feeling.

 


Kevin Sterne is a writer and journalist based in Chicago. He writes about music, craft beer and culture for Shuga Records, Substream Magazine and other places (like here). His super weird and highly offensive fiction has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Praxis Magazine, Word Eater, Defenestration and many other places you’ve never heard of. Kevin is the creator of a really terrible magazine called LeFawn.