Local singer-songwriter Paul Taneja has been writing and recording music for years, and recently formed Incredible Shrinking Boy with his long-time friends and collaborators as a vehicle for his catchy, emotionally-driven pop/rock. The band's songs have already appeared on national TV shows such as MTV's "The Real World" and "Cribs," and they've been invited to play at famous music fests such as International Pop Overthrow and MOBfest.
As they gear up for their next show, set for Friday, May 15 at Quenchers, Taneja took some time to fill us in on more about the band:
First off, tell us about the history of Incredible Shrinking Boy. How and when did the band come together?
Well, for the longest time, I just performed out as Paul Taneja. But as the stars aligned and things all came together, I realized I finally had the band mates I've always wanted. I always wanted a band to be a true friendship as well as a hard working group. We definitely have both. Joe and I have been friends since we were kids, and Ivan and I have become great friends as well. Matt has been a friend for quite a few years; I didn't know he was a good keyboardist, and one day he just tried out for us and it worked. Ivan actually contacted me a few years ago, but I had another drummer, and he contacted me again the next year; we finally met and we clicked instantly because we both share a passion for beer. Joe has always dreamed of being in a band. He just never knew he'd be in a band with his best friend! He started off in the band playing acoustic guitar, but then we moved him to bass, and now he's a badass.
What's the story behind the band's name?
The band is actually named after the song from the Time Bomb EP. The only difference is there is no "the" in front of the band title, but people make that mistake all the time anyway. The song is the story a boy on a long journey to a distant castle located in some magical land; think Wizard of Oz, I suppose? He will eventually meet a wizard whose magical powers will grant him the life he has always dreamed of. Once he is granted a new life, his past is completely erased as he is born again. The song is a metaphor of the journey I feel I've been on in my life, and it's not over, so I felt it was an appropriate band name.
What does Incredible Shrinking Boy bring to the local rock scene that sets you apart from other Chicago bands?
Well, Joe now uses his cool little laser guns and sword at our shows. He likes to zap zap zap on certain songs. Ivan has one of those "That Was Easy" buttons that you buy at Staples. But his is in Spanish, and well, when he feels a song was a breeze, he pushes it with confidence. I have a brand new amp called "The Lunchbox 2". It just came out, and you can only order it from the Web site. It is the cutest little thing I've ever owned. It's literally the size of, and actually made from, a real lunchbox. It is ridiculously loud, too. It's definitely unreal. People see and hear it and become baffled. But maybe you were looking for a more serious answer...I mean, we really love to rock out up there. I tend to be an overly emotional person and songwriter, and since I generally don't show that side of me to people, I let it all out on stage and in music. So, you could say we're very animated and expressive. We find it extremely important for the emotion to come across as effectively as possible. When I see bands, no matter how great or tight they are, often times, I just don't understand what they're trying to convey. I guess I'm old school, and really appreciate artists and bands who aren't afraid to show their feelings and really let people see the sadness or frustrations in life...something that goes a bit beyond music. Maybe that makes us emo? Eww...
For someone unfamiliar with your music, which song do you recommend checking out first and why?
Well, here are three, because it's hard to choose just one: "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll" - This is the 'hit' radio friendly type song that got us publishng deals for film and TV. So, I guess if you are a bubble gummy pop rock lover, take a listen to this. "A Vampire's Tale" - For those who love storytelling, this is the gothic tale of a character roaming the midnight city streets; he has lost his innocence and is eternally scarred by love. We have a blast playing this one live. "City Lights" - Our jam song that we close out the set with. It's mostly instrumental. Many people seem to go into a hypnotic trance during this one, and we love watching that!
From visiting the band's official site it's clear you do a lot to connect with fans in different ways, from regular blogging to posting videos on YouTube. Why do you feel this is so important and how has it helped you?
Well, blogging is important so that fans are reminded of what's going on on a regular basis. Twitter is really awesome actually, and I love watching how many great bands are using that site. Sending out regular emails to your mailing list with updates and free downloads has also shown helpful. And of course the consistency of MySpace and Facebook updates is pretty important to any band who takes their music seriously.
You've had some of your songs appear on MTV shows, including "The Real World" and "Cribs." How did that come about?
A few years back, I was at a music industry panel and the song "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll" was played in front of a group of music supervisors. They were really impressed, and so was the audience. Right after that I was offered a number of publishing deals.
Is there any particular gig so far that stands out? Why?
Definitely Bottom Lounge. That place absolutely rocks. The sound guy was great and he was very kind and helpful. The energy of the crowd was wonderful. As Matt put it, "I haven't had that much fun since Disney World".
What have been the best and most challenging parts of being an indie band in Chicago?
Well, getting noticed is tough! We would absolutely love to open up for a bigger Chicago band who we love, like Smoking Popes, for instance. But hey, with persistence, you never know what may happen.
What's next for Incredible Shrinking Boy?
We are working on writing a new album. Ideally, we'd like to record the whole CD in my living room where we practice. That is, if I can get Nick, our producer/engineer, to move his gear out here for a while. I've always written as a singer/songwriter, so it's really cool to try something new, where everyone is a part of the writing process.
How can people find out more?
Currently people can download our albums for free on our Web site - just click on the "listen" tab and click "download album" and just like magic, a zip file of our album is downloaded to your computer, and you can dump it into iTunes. You can also purchase our CDs at our shows. Our next gig is at Quenchers on Friday, May 15th. It's seriously gonna rock and we're totally stoked. We're performing with some other really great bands, Blah Blah Blah and Berry.