Monday, January 26, 2009

Q&A: Fetla

Fetla (photo by Christopher Hiltz)

If you haven't seen local band Fetla or any of its three members around town, chances are it's only a matter of time before you do. The band, which consists of multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Travis Lee Wiggins and Stephen Dranger, as well as drummer Mike Regan, recently released their second LP, "Sweet Disaster," and have built up an impressive list of side projects over the past few years.

Travis, Stephen and Mike recently took the time to talk about their history, band name, new record, other projects and experiences playing in Chicago. Read on and get to know one of the most multi-talented - and busiest - indie acts around.

What’s the story behind Fetla? How and when did the band come together?

T.W. It’s the prime example of four degrees of separation - but in this case, two.

S.D. Travis and I had gone to the same high school, but we never really talked until I met him at a mutual friend's party in like 2000. When he found out we could both play guitar, he suggested we get together. We decided to form an impromptu band for a show that I was putting on, and we wrote like 9 songs in a couple weeks. After that, I didn't see him until late 2003, when out of the blue he calls me and says we should start playing again. We did, and we worked pretty well together and decided to start playing as a band.

At the time, I was in a band called Cadet. I was bassist in that band, but had some experience behind the drums and always gravitated towards them at jam sessions. Stephen and I are long time friends and musical collaborators since the days of junior high. Travis, Stephen and I would not all share a stage until 2004. We played a handful of shows in the Chicagoland area from 2004 to 2006 and self-recorded and released an EP called "Thank You Ghost" and an LP called "So Patriotic." We took a two year hiatus while Stephen lived in Japan. Upon his return home, we got together and worked on our new record, “Sweet Disaster.”

Where did the name “Fetla” come from?

T.W. If you live in anywhere in Northwestern Indiana, you’ll probably know what Fetla’s Trading Post was. It was the only place where you could go to buy a go-cart, a pair of British Knights, a shotgun, a box of old Kix cereal, and a grenade all at the same time. It closed down a couple years ago because it couldn’t compete with places like Wal-Mart. But it was pretty much a crazy store just outside Valparaiso that had been there since the early 1900s. Stephen and I were trying to come up with band names and were driving down the road just naming whatever came to mind. I don’t remember who said it, but while we were driving by Fetla’s one of us said “How about Fetla?” We were laughing our asses off and started calling ourselves that as a joke, but after a while, it just kind of stuck and we were like, why not? It’s hard to find a band name that’s never been used and is unique, and we looked it up and there was nothing close.

S.D. The place was notorious for having any kind of weapon you could imagine. You could also get dummy grenades. Rumors abounded that the place was guarded by a mountain lion. It was basically a local legend. I liked the name because I wanted a name that represented something about each of the band members, and we all grew up near this town.

The band has described the newest release, “Sweet Disaster,” as having a “new, more mature sound” than previous material. How so, and what led to the change in direction?

S.D. Our old material was basically distorted guitar 90s rock - a lot like Weezer or any of those halfway indie bands from the 90s. We used to label ourselves as "Weezer meets Flaming Lips." In 2005, I left the band to work for a couple years in Japan. Over that time, we had grown a lot more musically, and while I still wanted to play loud, Travis talked me into just sticking to a laid back, poppy kind of music. In another sense, though, the change mostly comes from us trying to let go of our own boundaries and compose something different than we usually do. We use the word "mature" because we think that we're more mature as songwriters than we used to be.

You’ve cited 1950s and 1960s pop music as an influence on “Sweet Disaster,” and that definitely comes through in the melodies and instrumentation. Was it a conscious decision from the start to play up those sounds, or did it just turn out that way?

T.W. That’s something Stephen loves to do, to put down influences and stuff. I’ve always tried to get as far away from that as possible because if you’re really good, you won’t sound like anyone else. I don’t think Radiohead or Prince have on their MySpace page a list of musical influences or who they sound like, and I’d like to someday get to that level. That 50’s and 60’s thing I guess is there because “Sweet Disaster” trims off most of the fat that could be in a song. There are no guitar solos, and everything is pieced together pretty coherently and tightly, like a lot of pop music from the 50s and 60s. There wasn’t a conscious decision to play up any era’s sounds. I think all of us in Fetla really try to get down what makes a song good, and let those parts shine, and then end the song so that the listener wants more without any wasted time.

A lot of times it's very difficult to classify the music you've made. I was watching an old Fats Domino video ("Ain't That A Shame") and I thought, "Wow, this is almost what Fetla sounds like now!" because the song structure is exceedingly simple, focuses on melody, rests on just a couple hooks, and it's only a couple minutes long. At the same time, I was very aware that I had let in some soul influences into the music, so "50s and 60s" seemed a good description, and conveyed what we wanted to accomplish with the album - simple, catchy pop songs.

Multiple members of the band are multi-instrumentalists. How does that play into recording, live performances and the band’s overall dynamic? How do you work out who’s going to play what?

T.W. It’s fun as hell to switch instruments. It’s what I’ve always loved about playing with Stephen and Mike. It keeps things fresh and lets us explore a little more. Any time you can use different tuning or play an unfamiliar instrument, it has a different setup, so you don’t get locked into the feel you’re used to. You can be more inventive. Most of the songs on Sweet Disaster were cultivated from a couple jam sessions Stephen and I had. We’d take these songs that are in a really rough form and polish them up. Pretty much whatever instrument you played when the song was being written is what you ended up playing on the recording or live, including vocals. For “Sweet Disaster,” Mike came in and wrote all the drum parts after we had the music and melodies created.

How do you feel playing music in Chicago has impacted the band? How does playing a show in Chicago differ from playing in somewhere else, such as in the band’s
home state, Indiana?

T.W. Stephen and Mike live in Valparaiso, Indiana, about 1.5 hours from Chicago. I’ve been trying to get them to move up to Chicago, but sometimes “The Region” can suck you in and never let you go. We all grew up there, but I consider the heart of our band to be Chicago. Chicago has no shortage of great venues and bands. It’s not too hard to get some good press if you’ve got good music and are willing to put it out there. I feel like the opportunity is there for any band if they’re good enough, want to make the effort and don’t act like jackasses. With that, what musician would want to live anywhere else?

S.D. Playing in Chicago is pretty much the only way to go. We used to play in Indiana, but the scene where I live is pretty much dead, so there aren't many places where kids come out to hear music.

M.R. Chicago is a tough place to play. It's always hard to get people out to the city, but I do think Indiana is even worse. Most of our friends from Indiana are too busy with things like “World of Warcraft” or work to come check us out.

What was the best show you’ve played in Chicago and why?

M.R. I think our best show in Chicago was at the Underground Lounge in Wrigleyville. We just had a really great night, great sound and a good time playing. People seemed to enjoy us. I enjoyed that show a lot, even though our merch display was stolen. I think we will always wonder what happened to it.

T.W. The best show I’ve ever played would have to be the “Dancing at Weddings” CD release show at Schubas with my solo project Essex Chanel in 2008. I sent my CD around trying to get a CD release show, and Schubas said they liked the CD and offered a date. I pretty much shit my pants because I had played some smaller venues and didn’t even know it was possible for me to play at a place like Schubas. I remember getting the email and I started shaking and had butterflies in my stomach. I had recorded the CD by myself and didn’t even have a band to play it. I thought I was going to do it karaoke style, just playing the music behind me and singing over the top. But I wanted to try it with a full band, so I got together all my friends from different bands - Mike and Stephen from Fetla, Mike Rice from The Summer Salts and Micah Trivisonno from Technicolour Stallion - and arranged it. The show sold out and we played the whole CD live, from start to finish with no stops. There was something special about that night. It kind of validated all the work I had been doing for years, and there was that nervous energy of doing something for the first time, in this case playing a CD fro start to finish in front of a ton of people at a great venue. And I was able to share that experience with my friends up on stage.

Tell us about some of the additional music projects you and the other band members have been working on.

T.W. Right now I’m working on the final mixes of the next Essex Chanel record. It’s called “Love is Proximity” and has 43 songs. I’m still trying to figure out how to release it. I’ve had a lot more people – 9, people to be exact - play on this album, and pretty much every instrument that you could think of a band playing. It’s at times folky and more orchestral and arranged than the other albums I’ve worked on. I’ve been working on it for two years, although I’ve recorded a lot of CDs while working on it.

The Summer Salts are polishing up tracks for our second album. We’ll start recording sometime in early February. I’m really excited about this album, it’s going to be great. I think Mike from Fetla will be doing the recording and producing on this album. I’m trying to work with some other people so I can concentrate more on the actual playing and not have to worry about the production, and experience other ways people record.

Essex Chanel, The Summer Salts and Fetla are my primary musical projects, and I can’t really stretch my time any wider while also working a full time job as an Art Director. I do have two other projects of note that will start developing soon that don’t have names but a lot of music. One is a project I’m working on with Allison Trumbo, who I’ve worked with for the last couple years. She plays violin. In this project I play banjo or guitar and sing. I started it because I wanted to play really small venues, like coffeehouses, and get better at being comfortable with a small audience looking you right in the eye five feet away. The other project is with a producer/DJ I know named Victor Carreon. We’ve got a project where he’s taking care of beats, percussion and scratching, and I’m playing melodies by singing, guitar, bass and keyboards. It’s a lot more electronic/beat/dance in nature and we’re using loop pedals, computers and samples. That project is going to take off sometime this year.

I'm working on a project right now called Silhavey, experimenting with some electronic sounds, but nothing concrete yet.

M.R. I am currently a freelance audio-engineer and I work on my own music from time to time. You can hear it at I am also a member of the band Suburbanite, and you can hear us at

Travis, I noticed from your site that in addition to your various music projects, you work on a lot of other projects involving visual art, writing and design. Tell us about some of these projects. How do you find the time to do all of it?

T.W. That’s a hard question! I can’t really sum everything up very well in a short space. You’ll have to read the book. I’ve never been one to subscribe to the division of human creativity and ingenuity into small separate entities, and decide that some of those are more important. That thinking has led me to be able to work in any creative medium I want at any time. If it’s about expression then who cares how you do it, whether through music, art, film, writing, whatever, you know? I had this project in mind where I would send two toothpicks to everyone I know with a card that would say “express yourself.” It would be interesting to see the results because you can be creative with just two toothpicks. You don’t need paint or a canvas or a Gibson guitar. For the issue of time, I actually just wrote a blog post about that. The shortest way I can put it: When you have it in your mind that you actually want to do something - the focus being the action, not the idea - you don’t waste your time or energy.

S.D. The man hates free time. The term “leisure” has no appeal to him. Or rather, art is leisure.

What’s in store for 2009?

T.W. Lots of music releases and touring with our various bands. We’ll probably play some Fetla shows here and there, and I’d like to record another album with Fetla where Mike gets out from behind the drum set and becomes more of a front man like he has been in some of his other projects.

Where can people pick up the music and find out more about Fetla and band members’ other projects?

You can get a hard copy of “Sweet Disaster” through, and we’ve got digital releases through and a bunch of other places. You can download a bunch of tracks off of the album for free on our Web site. If you go to our MySpace you’ll find links to most of our other projects. Stephen has a solo project called My Cat, and Mike has a band called Suburbanite as well as his solo project. My personal site has links to all my projects, regardless of media.

More Chicago music Q&As:

Lily Schaffer

King Sparrow

Mark Minelli

Friday, January 23, 2009

Five shows this weekend - January 23-25

We Shot Warhol (photo by Brian Bina)

Friday, January

- We Shot Warhol with OnTheFront, King Sparrow, Mindsight and An Aesthetic Anaesthetic at Reggie's Rock Club - A night of local rock and roll. Pay extra close attention to King Sparrow, one of my picks for the "Best Emerging Chicago Bands of 2008." 8 p.m., $8, 17 and over. More info and tickets.

- Chris Mills and Nora O'Connor at Hideout - 10 p.m., $10, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Saturday, January 24

- Mexican Cheerleader with The Brokedowns, Days Off and Tongues at Beat Kitchen - 10 p.m., $8, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- Frightened Rabbit with Arc in Round at The Empty Bottle - 10 p.m., $10, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Sunday, January 25

- Overman with Noctaluca, The Blamers and You are the Sound at Elbo Room - 8:30 p.m., $7. More info and tickets.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Living Blue - Walk Talk Rhythm Roam

Waiting a long time for a majorly delayed album to come out can be dangerous. Once a completed record sits unreleased for more than a year, as was the case with The Living Blue's new digital-only release, "Walk Talk Rhythm Roam," you might get so pumped to hear it that when it finally does come out it's more likely to disappoint. Thankfully, "WTRR" has the goods to still sound completely satisfying after a 16 month wait.

The Living Blue have never been a predictable band. In 2005, with seven years and two LPs already under their belts as "The Blackouts," they decided to change their name for their then new release, the excellent "Fire, Blood, Water." After the dust settled from that record, they opted to leave their label, Minty Fresh, without another deal lined up. Then, after recording "WTRR" in August 2007, they held out for the right deal to come along for over a year before suddenly announcing at the beginning of 2009 that they would soon release it on their own as a digital download.

This unpredictability carries to the band's music more than ever on "WTRR," making for the freshest sounding record they've released yet. If "Fire, Blood, Water" had elements of everything that makes up the best, purest sort of rock 'n' roll - fast songs, loud guitars, unbridled energy and a mind for melody and compelling lyrics - "WTRR" takes the formula to the next level. The pumped up garage vibe, guitar crunch and distinctive yelp of front man Steve Ucherek are still here (just look to "Numb" or "Without You"), but with them this time comes a wider spectrum of moods and sounds. "Refugee," for example, makes use of an eerie "Paint it Black" vibe, while "Forest Fire" introduces a playful jangle and "Roll the Breakers" offers up a wonderfully bizarre, unexpected jazzy groove.

While The Living Blue have always played up a psychedelic sound, which is out in full force on "WTRR," they somehow keep it from overwhelming the material. You don't have to be into psychedelic rock to "get" this band. For every moment on the album as heavily psyched-out as the slow-burning "Something You Do" or the moody "Depth Charge," there's a pop hook in the canon to lighten the mood. "Nightwind," for example, matches "Fire, Blood, Water's" "Tell Me Leza" in driving, melodic perfection, while the mellow "Venus Fly Trap" is about as beautiful as garage rock can get.

It would be a shame if "WTRR's" independent, digital-only release kept it from a large audience, as its spontaneity and raw energy are much needed reminders of what rock and roll is all about in a music world full of over-calculated, diluted acts that seem to have forgotten.

"Walk Talk Rhythm Roam" is available through all major digital music stores, including iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic and Napster.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New releases: Andrew Bird, Animal Collective, Umphrey's McGee and more

Animal Collective - "Merriweather Post Pavilion" - While the vinyl version of this, the ninth studio album by the critically-acclaimed experimental Baltimore band, was released earlier this month, the CD version comes out today. The album has received highly positive reviews from critics and fans alike.

Robert Pollard - "The Crawling Distance" - The new solo album by the former Guided by Voices front man.

Antony and the Johnsons - "The Crying Light" - The third album by this New York City chamber pop act featuring English-Irish singer-songwriter Antony Hegarty.

Releases by Chicago artists:

Andrew Bird - "Noble Beast" - The acclaimed local singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist releases his his fourth solo studio album today. The album is available in a standard edition, a deluxe two-CD edition and a double LP.

The Living Blue - "Walk Talk Rhythm Roam" - The follow-up to 2005's excellent "Fire, Blood, Water" by this Champaign/Chicago garage rock band. Since their last record, the band has split with their label (Minty Fresh), deciding to release this long-awaited new collection of songs independently via digital music retailers such as Amazon MP3 and iTunes.

Umphrey's McGee - "Mantis" - The new album by progressive rock/jam band Umphrey's McGee is a first for the band in that it consists of all new material that the band has yet to play live - typically, the band has worked out arrangements live before putting songs to CD.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Alive Day - Blindsided by Hope

It's rare to find a band these days that comes across as completely uncomplicated, straightforward and without pretense, but Chicago's Alive Day do just that. There's a pureness and positivity running through the band's debut record,"Blindsided by Hope," that sets them apart from the sea of bands who are just as concerned with crafting an image as they are with crafting a good song.

Lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Dan Arrecis and the rest of the band deliver a style of music that's somewhere between classic power pop and modern radio rock, featuring pure vocals, loose production and melodies you'll find yourself humming hours after listening. Just look to opening track "Only a Rumor" and its instantly memorable chorus, or the catchy guitar riff of "Drifting," for the proof that the band has no trouble crafting strong hooks. These tracks are perfect examples of the wide-eyed optimism present throughout the entire album. There's nothing complicated or heavy-handed about them, and that's their greatest charm.

"Blindsided by Hope" sounds like a labor of love from an incredibly sincere band, and it's hard not to feed off the energy these guys offer up on the CD. Alive Day are definitely worth a listen if you appreciate a good pop hook and a down to earth approach to rock and roll.

Check out the band live on January 29 at Lilly's and February 17 at Empty Bottle.


More local CD reviews:

Office - Mecca (free download)

Snowsera - Fictions

The 1900s - Medium High

The Locals - Big Picture

Friday, January 16, 2009

Five shows this weekend - January 16 to 18

Friday, January 16

- Bully in the Hallway, The Bitter Wigs, American Draft and Papillion at Bottom Lounge - Four local bands of the punk and garage rock persuasion. 8 p.m., 21 and over. More info.

Saturday, January 17

- Hey Champ, Thunderheist, Pretty Good Dance Moves and Bald Eagle at Schubas (Tomorrow Never Knows festival) - Schubas fifth annual Tomorrow Never Knows festival, which lasts five nights and features 20 buzz bands, will play out night four on Saturday with local band-DJ hybrid Hey Champ and Toronto's Thunderheist. Also, check out Cursive, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, Colourmusic and All The Saints on Friday night, and Bishop Allen, The Donkeys and Tulsa on Sunday, the fest's final night. 9 p.m., $15, 18 and over. More info and tickets.

- Two Girls, Dark Fog and The Living Blue at Double Door - Three local psychedelic indie rock bands, including one of my favorites, The Living Blue, who are planning to release their new album, "Walk, Talk, Rhythm, Roam," next week. Doors 8 p.m., show 9 p.m., $7, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- Franz Nicolay with The Syllable Section at Empty Bottle - New York-based multi-instrumentalist and member of The Hold Steady, Nicolay this week released a new solo album, "Major General." 10 p.m., $8, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Sunday, January 18

- Douglas Acres with The Innocent and Consortium at Empty Bottle - Pay particularly close attention to The Innocent, one of my favorite (EP review here) up and coming Chicago acts. 9:30 p.m., $7, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Office - Mecca

If Scott Masson, front man of Chicago indie pop favorites Office needed to further prove he had no desire to be involved in the "business" part of the music business (the band recently opted out of life on a record label after a brief stint on Scratchie/New Line Records that produced 2007's "A Night at the Ritz"), he's done just that by giving away their new record, "Mecca," as a free download.

Having developed a devoted fan base since starting to release music under the Office moniker in 2000, Masson and company could have easily charged for the album, which is full of the catchy new wave-inspired hooks, top-notch melodies and clever lyrics listeners have come to expect. I am uncertain about the exact circumstances that led to it being offered for free, or even about the current condition of the band, but I am certain that "Mecca" is a damn good record.

While "Mecca," Office's fifth released LP (a sixth album, "Glass Corvette," was recorded in 2004, but never released), continues the group's formula of addictive, jubilant pop set against mostly frustrated, often bizarre lyrics, it trades in the slick production of "A Night at the Ritz" for the less polished sound of previous records. In fact, the band was reportedly largely dissatisfied with the production of "Ritz," considering "Mecca" the true follow-up to 2005's "Q&A."

Still, their sound remains the same at the core, evidenced by the record's jerky, singalong opener, "Sticky Dew," which sets the tone with a vibe similar to "Ritz's" opener, "Oh My," The track stands out as one of the record's most accessible, joined by the chimey, melodic bliss of "Enter Me, Exit You," the rocking sugar rush of "Dr. Drako" and the jangly "Double Penetrate the Market." Even when the band is less upbeat, as on "Trainwreck DJs" and closer "The Silent Parade," Masson's lyrics prevent the material from losing any of its strange charm, as evidenced by lines such as "Two-headed puppies race/If you've got a buck to waste/The helicopters above us already know us/El Chupacabra and Britney have joined us."

According to Masson's Office blog, he is currently based in Michigan, while his bandmates have a new group and will soon play shows around the city. Hopefully this doesn't mean the end of the Windy City's claim to Office. If so, we'll be without one of the finest bands the city has produced in recent years, a distinction "Mecca" makes even clearer.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Q&A: Lily Schaffer

If you've ever been to Inner Town Pub in Wicker Park on a Thursday night, you might recognize local singer-songwriter Lily Schaffer as the long-time host of its open mic. She has also been writing songs and playing around Chicago for years, and recently finished recording her debut album, "Lemonade."

The soon-to-be-released album, which can be previewed on Schaffer's MySpace page, immediately brings to mind the wryly clever pop of Aimee Mann and Fiona Apple. With a canon of strong songs that are as witty as they are biting, as catchy and pop-minded as they are literate, Schaffer is set to garner quite a bit of attention with "Lemonade."

In preparation for the release, she took the time to fill us in on more about the record, her background and being a musician in Chicago.

Tell us about your forthcoming album. What should the unaware listener expect?

I think that the the album might surprise anyone who has seen me perform live, even with my band. A lot of production went into it, so there's a lot going on in every song. I'm really happy with it; working with Danny Shaffer was a ton of fun. A few songs might surprise people; some of the songs were written a long time ago. I guess the unaware listener should keep in mind that I don't take myself seriously; I think of my songs as caricatures of their subjects.

You've mentioned that your work is reminiscent of Aimee Mann and Fiona Apple, which definitely comes through on "Lemonade." Who or what are your most unlikely influences?

My mother, for one. She had a klezmer band for 10 years, which I despised as a child. I doubt anyone would describe my music as "influenced by Eastern-European folk music," but it's there somewhere. Lyrically, my influences are all over the place. I studied poetry in college, so I'm always influenced by poets and spoken word artists. I really like hip hop. Some other unlikely influences - George Gershwin, maybe, Steven Sondheim. I was raised on musical theater.

"Lemonade" includes contributions from members of fellow Chicago acts Frisbie, the Sons and the Most Dangerous Race. Tell us more about those contributions and how they came to be.

Well, Frank (from the Sons) plays bass in my band. Jim Dinou (of the Most Dangerous Race) is friends with Danny Shaffer, who produced the album. I met Gerald (from Frisbie) through Danny Shaffer, as well. He's really talented. I recently saw Frisbie at Subterranean. They are great live.

If people wanted to sample your music in one song, which song would you play them and why?

I would say "All He Wants." Thematically, musically and lyrically, it's the type of song I write about 75 percent of the time. The song is about a guy who is a chronic self-fulfilling prophecy. He's his own worst enemy. There's no way out of a bad situation if you're the one who created it. Usually when people ask me what I write about, I tell them I write songs about people with problems, which sounds depressing, so I should probably say I write slightly funny, mostly happy songs about people with problems.

How long have you been playing around Chicago? How has living and playing in this city influenced your work?

I was born in Chicago. I started writing songs when I was 10. I started playing guitar when I was 16. When I was 18 or so, I started dragging my friends to open mikes in Wicker Park. I think Chicago has a great music scene; it's large and small at the same time. Playing music and living all around Chicago has always been a great experience.

Favorite Chicago musician, past or present?

There's so many! I just saw Andrew Bird play a few weeks ago. He's amazing. I guess if I had to pick, it would be him. Liz Phair is great. I wrote "The Sweetest Thing" after hearing her song "H.W.C." "Exile in Guyville" is still one of my favorite albums. I've always been a huge fan of Common. He's definitely one of my influences.

Last great local show you've been to?

Well, Andrew Bird's show at Ronny's was great. It was just him, switching back and forth between violin and guitar. It was an impromptu, unscheduled show, so there were maybe 30 people there, in the tiny garage. I saw David Singer a few months ago, opening for Frisbie. He is also one of my favorite local musicians. He's a great songwriter.

Best place you've played in Chicago and why?

One of my all time favorite sets was an acoustic, last minute set at the Mutiny. I went there expecting the worst and ended up playing to a crowd that was really interested in what I was doing, which starkly contrasted with what they came to see.

You host the open mic night at the Inner Town Pub in Wicker Park every Thursday. How did you come about doing that, and what can people expect from checking it out? How can performers get involved?

I was doing an independent project in my last semester of college. I would go to open mikes and write something based on my experience. I played a few songs there and the host at the time asked if I would be interested in hosting. I've been doing it for almost four years. It's a lot of fun, very laid back. There's a pool table right in front of the stage. The crowd varies; they can be anything from rowdy to apathetic. In terms of getting involved, just show up. I'm there every Thursday at 10.

How can people find out more about your music?

For now, go on my MySpace, As soon as the album is pressed, I'll hopefully be playing out with the band, trying to promote it.

More Chicago music Q&As:
Chester King Sparrow Mark Minelli

Live band karaoke in Chicago

Did you ever fantasize about fronting a band on stage? Always call dibs on the microphone when playing "Rock Band"? With weekly live band karaoke at bars throughout Chicago, you have no excuse not to take your rock 'n' roll aspirations to the next level.

Live Band Karaoke, a collective of three local backing bands, is your best bet for becoming a rock star - if only for three minutes - in the Windy City. The group is Chicago's first and longest running live band karaoke outfit.

Besides being much more fun and far less hokey than traditional pre-recorded karaoke, the live band variety boasts a highly superior song list. In what traditional karaoke setting can you sing "Cut Your Hair" by Pavement or local classic "Valerie Loves Me" by Material Issue? With the expansive repertoires of the three backing bands - The Hootenanners, The Karaoke Dokies and Liquid Courage - you can skip sickeningly overdone selections by Whitney, Celine, Meatloaf and Creed in favor of tracks by bands such as The Smiths, Pixies, Ramones, The Kinks, Pretenders, Sex Pistols and many more. The bands also take requests via their online forum.

Currently, you can check out live band karaoke at the following locations in the city:

Piece, 1927 W. North Ave. - every Saturday at 11 p.m.

Stanley's Kitchen and Tap, 1970 N. Lincoln - every Sunday at 10:30 p.m.

Reggie's Music Joint, 2105 S. State St. - every Thursday at 10:30 p.m. (starting January 8, 2009)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Five shows this weekend - January 2 to 3

"Loomings" by Kid, You'll Move Mountains

Happy New Year, everyone! Start the first weekend of 2009 off right with some live music:

Friday, January 2

- Kid, You'll Move Mountains (CD release show) at Metro - Featuring former members of Troubled Hubble and Inspector Owl, Kid, You'll Move Mountains is one of the latest notable indie rock acts to come out of Chicago. This show will celebrate the release of their debut CD, "Loomings." Check out this week's Indiesomnia podcast for an interview with the band's Jim Hanke and to print out a flyer that will get you into the show free! Also with The Sapiens, Pool of Frogs and Picture Books. Doors 8 p.m., show 9 p.m., $8, 18 and over. More info and tickets.

- Pet Lions, Blah Blah Blah, Caw! Caw! and Hollows at Subterranean - I recently touted indie pop group Pet Lions as one Chicago's best up and coming bands to watch. Their instantly memorable, highly catchy tunes are worth catching live, and with fellow locals Blah Blah Blah, Caw! Caw! (EP reviewed here) and Hollows also on the bill, tonight's show is bound to be great. Doors 9 p.m., show 9:30 p.m., $6, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- Mannequin Men, The Living Blue and Team Band at Schubas - If you're in the mood for something loud, fast and gritty, these three local bands can help. 10 p.m., $10, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Saturday, January 3

- The Singleman Affair, David Singer & the Sweet Science and Tim Kinsella at Hideout - Local folk rock. 9 p.m., $8, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- "A Heavy New Year Fest" at Reggie's featuring The Satire, In Case of Capture, Slaughter the Weak, Armageddon After Party, A Summit Above and Stomoxys Calcitrans - A new year's celebration no metalhead should miss. 5 p.m., $5, all ages. More info and tickets.