Monday, April 27, 2009

Q&A: Gehenna

In anticipation of upcoming gigs this Tuesday, April 28 at Martyrs', May 1 at Miska's, and May 16 at Underground Lounge, recently formed local trio Gehenna took some time out to answer questions about their sound, beginnings and place in the Chicago rock scene:

How and when did Gehenna come together?

Ian Westerfer:
Pat and I were working as hired guns for a project (Chemistar) in Philly in 2008, and when we wrapped there we came back to Chicago to really hit our own material and push our band seriously. We needed a drummer, and this one sold us a microphone. We had her at hello, essentially.

Ridy Luks:
Pat and Ian begged me, it was rather comforting.

You recently recorded a your debut EP. As the introduction to the band, what did you set out to get across in the music and how do you describe your sound?

Pat Wade: We all listen to totally different shit so what ended up happening is a sound of conflict, passive aggressiveness, and hypersensitivity. I think of it as reverse-narcissistic-heavy-ish pop music. It's whiny, and as a white guy from the Philly suburbs I've got no right to whine. But life is still messy and shitty and horrible sometimes and I've found that feeling is something that other humans relate to.

IW: We were, and are, writing to find out what our sound is. We're sort of learning each other, all the time. As for the sound, I keep thinking it's the sound of a singer-songwriter working in loud, hard alternative rock. Which may sound awkward, but I think when you hear the music, you'll see how it works really, really well.

RL: We wanted our sound to be indescribable, something people can listen to and not be able to point a finger on our influences.

Which song should people who have never heard the band before check out first and why?

PW: I guess right now it's "Vortex Soul." The reason being that of the EP songs I wrote, the lyrics from this one - and this entire band - is really about "who wins" between Ian and I. So yeah, vote for that one. Also, it will trick you into thinking we're good.

IW: No way! "Electric Sheets" is the winner - it was meant to be resentful and angry, but it just came out so sad. And from the music snob standpoint (which I am, but Pat's worse), the different feels we get out of the 5/4 time-signature are badass.

RL: I think it would have to be "Army of The Sad." The vocals are intense with a fierce ending.

Who or what would people be most surprised to learn influences your music?

PW: I loathe the guitar as an instrument. I'm forced to play it.

IW: Aside from bands, my favorite music growing up was musical theater and video games. So that may be a surprise; I don't know how much Andrew Lloyd Weber or "Super Mario Bros." made it into our EP.

What sets Gehenna apart from other bands in the local indie scene?

PW: We are working to define this every day. We ascribe to the philosophy of writing good, playing good, looking good. We hope this works.

IW: Absolutely nothing. We are exactly like every other heavy rock trio with a girl drummer and singer who's basically a modern folkie.

RL: We don't want to sound generic. In our set, we will go from a balls to the wall heavy-ass song, followed by a power ballad. It's quite endearing.

What can people expect from checking you out live?

PW: You can expect mistakes because we have a tendency to write beyond our skill level. You can expect to laugh because even though most of our song material is cuttingly personal and graphic and emotionally wince-worthy, the three of us don't act that way when we play. I guess the music is serious, but none of us take each other - or anything else for that matter - seriously. Lastly, you can expect something bad to happen because I have the worst luck in the universe. My amp will die, I will break like 50 strings. I'll fuck up the solo and I will have to burp from beer at the vocal climax of at least one song. Oh, and also it will rain. Every time.

RL: You can expect a lot of beer drinking, stick falling, pick dropping and good fucking music.

How do you think being a band in Chicago affects your music? What are the best and most challenging parts of playing music in this city?

PW: Ian and I come from Philadelphia where, when we left, there were like three venues that allowed original music to be played. It was a city completely overcome and rotted inside from the popularity of cover bands. Most of the people would not give something a chance if they hadn't heard it before. I guess that's a human phenomenon, but it seemed worse there. I moved to Chicago because it is friendlier to original music. Venues and listeners have a respect and willingness to give something a chance that makes it exciting to build and develop a band in this city. The difficult part about it is that there are so many bands in this city. It's mind-numbing and can be really depressing if you think about it too much.

What band or bands would you most like to play with, local or beyond?

IW: Locally, I'm a huge fan of Skybox, but that could be a weird bill. Beyond local, we'd work well on a bill with bands like Muse, Queens of the Stone Age, Tool, Smashing Pumpkins... I probably sound overambitious, but I feel certain fans of those bands would dig what we're doing. And at least Muse would get the pleasure of blowing us out of the water after our set.

What's next for Gehenna?

IW: We want to live on this shit. Whether that means "making it" and ending up with 1,000 pools and our own edition of "Rock of Love," or just developing a small-but-hardcore fan base around the world, we don't want to work "jobs" anymore. Jobs get in the way of making music, and we want to make music all the time. It's a win-win scenario, I think - the fans subsidize our work/lives, and in return we pour all our energy into new songs. People may not always realize that running a band means a ton of bullshit: maintaining Web sites, making fliers, designing logos, booking shows, paying for a practice space...actually writing music becomes one of many priorities, instead of the priority. We don't want to focus on all that other shit, we want to make songs that people can't live without. To that end, we're looking for investors to help us fund the initial push of design, merch, CD production, etc. You'll make your money back and then some.

How can people find out more about your music?

Our MySpace is going to be the easiest way to see, hear and maybe someday feel us - gross! It's more user friendly than any other band promotion format. The three of us are in and out of there all day long, and we're not famous yet so we're still gracious and appreciative. We welcome psychos, stalkers and super fans.

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