Saturday, May 29, 2010

Q&A: Greta Morgan of Gold Motel

"I want people to use this album as the soundtrack to their summer," says Greta Morgan, frontwoman of Chicago-born indie pop unit Gold Motel, of the band's debut LP Summer House (out June 1st independently). One listen to the record makes it clear that Morgan and the band should have no problem getting listeners to do just that. Summer House offers up 10 tracks of charming, breezy, consistently well-written sunshine pop that's about as summery and downright likable as music can get.

Indie pop fans in Chicago and beyond might already be familiar with Morgan's sweet, alluring vocals from her work in The Hush Sound. After that band went on hiatus, Morgan spent time living in L.A., where she took in the local music scene and began writing material for Gold Motel. Back in Chicago she joined forces with friends from other area bands including This Is Me Smiling and The Yearbooks, and the new group released their introductory EP in December 2009.

With a superb debut about to drop as well as extensive touring already under their belts - with many more dates already scheduled - Gold Motel are poised for great things. In advance of Summer House's official arrival and a hometown release show at Lincoln Hall set for Friday, June 11 (more info and tickets here), Morgan took some time out to fill us in on more about the band:

WCR: To launch Gold Motel you’ve joined with members of fellow Chicago bands The Yearbooks and This Is Me Smiling. How and when did you all come together?

GM: I knew the guys in This Is Me Smiling since The Hush Sound took them out t
o open for us on our first headlining tour in 2006. Dan (Duszynski, guitar) helped engineer some tracks on Like Vines, and when I was working on my project, I remembered how fun it is to work with him in the studio. Dan and I recorded the Gold Motel EP together, calling in Matt Minx for bass duties.

As for The Yearbooks, Eric Hehr (guitar) and I have been friends since early teenage years and I've always wanted to be in a band with him. I love his songw
riting, his guitar playing, his style. This just happened to be the right time for everyone to join up and start a fun project together.

For listeners who might be familiar with the work you did in The Hush Sound but haven’t yet heard Gold Motel, how would you say the two compare stylistically? Was there anything specifically that you set out to get across with the new music?

Gold Motel is very simple, summery, fun, straightforward pop-rock. I want people to use this album as the soundtrack to their summer.

The material on the debut Gold Motel LP,
Summer House, is definitely very sunny, upbeat, irresistible stuff. In that sense you can definitely hear the influence of living in California while writing the music, but what impact do you think your Chicago roots have on the sound and the band in general?

There will always be a sweetness in my music and that's the Midwesterner in me. I don't try to seem tougher, angrier, or cooler in the songs than I am in real life. There'll always be an honesty and vulnerability in the songwriting. The Gold Motel record is definitely influenced by California, though. Spending a winter there in the sunshine instead of the frigid, blizzard weather of Chicago made a huge difference in easing my state of mind.

Tell us about the recording of the album. Where did you do it and what was the process like?

We recorded the album in the house where I grew up. At the time, no one was living there, so it was just this big, empty suburban house in a quiet town. Dan and I brought his home studio and set it up at my place. The mixing board was in the library, drums were recorded in the high-ceiling living room, and piano, organ and guitars were recorded in the foyer. It was one of the most fun, spontaneous, easiest recording experiences I've ever had.

What about some of the specific songs? Do you have any favorites or any that you are particularly proud of?

"Stealing the Moonlight" was one of the most fun to write. It was the first time Dan and I sat down to write a song from scratch and it was a very quick, fun, carefree experience. I feel very lucky to be working with a group of guys who work so well and so easily together.

You’ve already filmed music videos for two songs – “We’re on the Run” and “Perfect in My Mind.” Tell us about the inspiration behind those clips and the experience making them.

For the "Perfect in My Mind" video, we wanted to capture the type of fun our group of Chicago friends has had in the last few years. We gathered our closest group and asked them all to be extras.

The song "We're on the Run" was inspired by lovers on the lam movies like "Bonnie & Clyde" and "Badlands," so we wanted to make our own "on the run"-type video. Eddie O'Keefe came with us on tour for three weeks and filmed the whole thing, editing hours upon hours of material down to three minutes of shenanigans.

The band recently returned from an East Coast tour with Family of the Year. How did it go? Any standout gigs?

Our show at the MICA in Baltimore was an incredible time. The audience danced the entire time and it made me feel like I was doing exactly what I was put on earth to do.

After your hometown record release show June 11 at Lincoln Hall you’ll set off on another tour with fellow Chicago band Skybox, and you’ve blogged that you’re looking for street teamers to help spread the word. How can people get involved?

Go to to sign up!

Working without a label, you’ve done a great job getting the word out about the band. What advice would you give to other indie bands that have to take on promotion by themselves?

Reach out to your core. It's pointless to try to placate people who will never be your fans. Play to your core, reach out to your fans directly, write honestly for you and the listeners, and have fun!

How can people keep up on all the latest with Gold Motel?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

EP review: Clip Art - 'Broken by Design'

I'm not sure exactly why, but lately a higher-than-usual amount blissfully addictive, deliciously poppy music is landing in my inbox. Maybe it's the fact that summer's approaching, or simply that more bands are tapping into their love for accessible melodies and catchy hooks. Whatever the reason I'm certainly not complaining, and of the finest examples to come to my attention recently is a band by the name of Clip Art and their debut EP, Broken by Design.

Led by singer-songwriter Andy Rosenstein and featuring members of other notable Chicago bands including This Is Me Smiling, Gold Motel, Dorian Taj and JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, Clip Art's sound is rooted in Beatlesy melodies and classic power pop. The crowning jewel of the five-song EP is the first track, an upbeat rocker called "Dead Letter" with an effortlessly wonderful chorus that grabs you almost instantly. Deeper in, "I Was Gone," "Better" and the title track are exercises in heartfelt soul-pop calling to mind greats such as Elvis Costello, Squeeze and Aimee Mann. Rosenstein's expressive, up-front vocals really shine on these cuts and accentuate the strength of the music and lyrics. Finally, "Six Sides" brings a burst of energy into the second half of the EP with a zippy pace and some playful, Farfisa-sounding keys.

"Dead Letter" alone would make Broken by Design highly recommended summer listening for any fan of indie pop or power pop. The fact that there are four other excellent tunes on the EP is just icing on the cake. Don't hesitate to check this one out.

Broken by Design is available now via iTunes, and you can check out Clip Art live by heading to Double Door this Saturday, May 29 for a show that will also feature members of Morphine & Jeremy Lyons, Rescue School and Dorian Taj (more info and tickets here).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Streets on Fire prep new record, offer free mp3

Less than a year after debuting with Hot Weekend (review and mp3), Chicago's The Streets on Fire are getting set to unleash another batch of explosive rock and roll - think post-punk on speed - in the form of an LP called This Is Fancy. The record isn't out until July 20, but the band are offering the opportunity to download one of the new tunes for free right now by signing up to their mailing list.

You can also get your hands on the entire album in both vinyl and CD format two weeks before the release date by going to the record release show at Double Door on Friday, July 2 (also with Big Science, Blah Blah Blah and America Owns the Moon - tickets here). These bands know how to put on a show, so it's bound to be a damn good time.

If you need further proof that The Streets on Fire are all kinds of kickass, just take a look at the epic new album artwork above. Enough said.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Vote for Chicago's The Black Tape in 'Scott Pilgrim' contest

A few months ago we gave you a heads up about The Black Tape, a recently-formed indie act from here in the Windy City that has a wonderful 60s pop vibe going on (think early Beatles, Zombies, girl group melodies and so forth). Now, the band are front runners in a contest tied to the upcoming Michael Cera flick "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" that could give them the opportunity to make a music video for inclusion in the DVD release of the film, perform live at a major event this summer and gain a lot of exposure for Chicago indie rock in general!

They're currently doing great in the competition - "Indie Rock Vs. The World" - at number 5 out of 500 bands, and you can do your part to help them come out on top by voting here. You can do so until this Friday, May 28. Show your support for these very talented guys and be sure to spread the word!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lineup announcements for Taste of Randolph, Green Music Fest & Wicker Park Fest

One of the best things about summer in Chicago is the selection of music festivals and all the standout acts they have to offer. This week brought both new lineup announcements and additions to initial announcements for a few of the fests:

Taste of Randolph:
One of the summer's earliest music fests in Chicago is the West Loop's Taste of Randolph, which is set to run from Friday, June 18 to Sunday, June 20 along the Randolph Street Corridor, from Halsted to Ashland. The music lineup is as follows:

Friday, June 18: Lovehammers (8:30 p.m.), Matthew Santos Band (7 p.m.), Waco Brothers (5:30 p.m.)

Saturday, June 19: Lucero (8:30 p.m.), One Eskimo (7 p.m.), Mucca Pazza (5:30 p.m.), Twin Tigers (4 p.m.), Spinach Prince (2 p.m.)

Sunday, June 20:
Superchunk (8:30 p.m.), Califone (7 p.m.), Headlights (5:30 p.m.), The Love Language (4 p.m.), Environmental Encroachment - The Magic Marching Band (3 p.m.)

Green Music Fest:
West Town's second consecutive Green Music Fest will take place on Chicago Ave. between Ashland and Noble on Saturday, June 26 and Sunday, June 27, and will feature the following acts:

Saturday, June 26: The Wailers, The Aggrolites, Deals Gone Bad, Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps

Sunday, June 27: Cloud Cult, David Bazan, Maps and Atlases, Fang Island

The fest runs from noon to 10 p.m. both days, and for more information on specific set times keep your eyes on the event website.

Wicker Park Fest:
The partial lineup has also been announced for Wicker Park Fest, scheduled for July 31 to August 1, including headliners Local H. Here's the list of acts so far:

Saturday, July 31: Holy Fuck, BoomBox, Auto Body, The Gaslamp Killer, Signal Path, Tokimonsta, Prepschool, Alex B (Tweener DJ sets), Cap ‘n Jazz, Only Children (DJ SET), Moneypenny, Bayside High (DJ SET), Gemini Club, Kid Color (DJ SET), Blah Blah Blah

Sunday, August 1: Local H, fun., Plants & Animals, Van Ghost, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights, B.S. Brass Band, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, Jamie McClean Band, Save the Clocktower, DJ Lou Dooben, Baroness, Torche, The Hood Internet, Shapers, Zebo, Matt Roan, John Simmons.

Click here for more information.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New record store coming to West Logan Square

It's always refreshing to hear of new brick and mortar record stores in this age of digital music, and Chicago is about to welcome its newest - saki - in West Logan Square on May 29. According to the press release announcing the opening, saki will be the neighborhood's first record store, and "will also be a performance spot for local music groups, art gallery, and a gathering place for people interested in Chicago’s independent music scene."

The store will carry vinyl, CDs, books, magazines, toys and turntables, in addition to featuring a stage for in-store band performances, and art and photography from both local and national artists.

“We’ve had so much inspiration from our musicians and artists,” said Allison Wasilewski, general manager of Carrot Top Distribution (the independent Chicago record company behind the store), in the release. “Even our logo was designed by musician Archer Prewitt of the bands The Coctails and The Sea & Cake.”

The grand opening will take place May 29 to June 6. Here are the essentials:

3716 W. Fullerton Avenue
Hours: Sun-Mon, 12-7pm Tue-Sat 12- 8pm
For more information visit or call 773-486-3997

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Record review: Model Stranger - 'Dreams & Bones'

Dreams & Bones, the new record from Chicago indie trio Model Stranger, comes in like a storm and doesn't let up throughout its nine tracks of fiery, driving rock 'n' roll. Vocalist/guitarist Stephen Francis, bassist Kevin James and drummer Vincent Joseph clearly set out to craft a sound cemented in the rawness and passion of the classic rock and old school psychedelic bands they no doubt cite as influences. They recorded the album live to analog, and as a result it has an organic, open sound that lends itself perfectly to the 60s and 70s rock leanings of the material. At the same time this stuff manages to sound incredibly fresh and exciting, from the moody, catchy "You Only" and "Fire Fire" to the rollicking "She Don't" to the intense, mesmerizing "Eyes Half Open." The band clearly give these songs everything they've got, and it would be tough to come across as any more invested or more genuinely passionate than these guys do on Dreams & Bones.

Download mp3: "She Don't"

The album is available directly from Model Stranger here, and check out the video below for a closer look from the band into the making of the music. To catch them live, head to Double Door on Tuesday, May 25 to see them play a show to benefit Haiti. Also on the bill are The Sweeps, The Outbreaks, Jackpot Donnie and On the Run. The show starts at 9 p.m. and costs $7 (tickets here).

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Q&A: The Locals

Having reviewed their 2008 LP, Big Picture, I was happy to hear Chicago alt-pop trio The Locals were back with a new EP called SALT. The EP is wonderful, made up of four songs that show genuine growth and take the band's sound to new and exciting places. Vocalist and guitarist Yvonne Doll's delivery is feistier and more passionate than ever, energy is amped up to 11, and fuller, more adventurous instrumentation brings an added breath of life to the material. Take opening track "Sound It Out" for example, a great big power pop song with an instant chorus that perfectly ties together everything that's so great about this unit.

Yvonne as well as bassist Christy Nunes and drummer Kirk Snedeker recently made some time for a Q&A with WCR to discuss the EP, what makes the Locals unique and what's in store for the future. Check out what they had to say below, and be sure to show the band some love by seeing them live on June 5 at Red Line Tap and June 25 at Quenchers.

WCR: Your new EP, SALT, follows up your 2008 full-length, Big Picture. How would you say the new stuff compares to what we heard on the album?

Kirk: Because there are four songs instead of 11, the EP feels very concise and focused. Plus, Transient Sounds' new studio, where we recorded the EP, is killer.

Big Picture was an album we made over a six year period. Some of the songs were written early in that process as the band was transitioning from the more acoustic rock past to the newer electric, guitar heavy sound we have today. Some of the songs were written later as we were finding our new path. The result is an album with a lot of different sounds and directions. I think SALT is different in that the four songs were written within a close time period and really document our current sound and the path we are taking today. I like the idea of releasing EPs to document a moment in time. We also really experimented more this time with different instrumentation, allowing us to use more keyboards, even a full horn section, to create layers and depth in the music that we had not done as much of in the past.

Tell us more about some of the songs on the release. Are there any particular tracks you're most proud of?

Yvonne: I'm really happy with "Everything Must Go." There are always one or two songs on a new release that really feel like they are a hint of what's coming next for the band. It just feels like where the music is heading, well at least for now!

Christy: I really love all four songs, all for different reasons. Lately, I cant get "Away From Here" out of my head.

How did you hook up with Steve Gillis (drummer for Filter-turned-engineer/producer) for recording and producing the EP? What was the process like?

Lauretta Tagli from the Chicago band The PowWows is a good friend of ours and she introduced us to Steve a few years back when we were in the process of recording Big Picture. We were actually halfway through the recording of Big Picture when we met Steve. He asked us
to do one complete song with him and we were so impressed with the results that we scrapped everything we had done and started over, recording the whole album again from scratch. We enjoyed working with him so much that we teamed up again for SALT.

Yvonne: He is a friggin genius savant! We really enjoyed working with him in his home studio and now that he and his partner Vijay opened Transient Sound, it was a no-brainer to do the EP with him. The process was great, we've really hit a nice working rhythm (no pun intended) with Steve. Very pleasant, very creative. All good times!

The band's website reveals that SALT is "the first of many four song EPs" to follow-up Big Picture. Can you give us some more information on what we can look forward to on the upcoming EPs and when you expect them to be available? How did you come to the decision to release a series of EPs instead of another LP?

I'm hoping to be back in the studio in the fall and release the new EP as soon as possible after that. You know our music is evolving so quickly right now, it just seemed like a really good idea to just push stuff out as it comes, rather than group them in 11 or 12. Maybe it's the 140 characters or less mentality - LOL, a tweet rather than a blog.

So much has changed in music over the last 5 to 10 years. People used to buy full-length albums at their local record store, now people buy individual songs while sitting at home in their pajamas on their laptop, or download a song on their phone on the way to work. How people buy music and where they buy music has totally changed. Why wait and create a full length album? Why not continue to release new music as it happens, song by song?

The Locals have been part of the Chicago indie rock scene for a while. How and when did the band first come together, and how has it evolved into what it is today?

Yvonne: Well, I toured solo for a while before releasing my first disc, Bliss (and wow, check out the hair on the cover of that CD!). I had some great musicians work with me on that as a backing band and loved it too much to go back to being solo. Christy and I met around that same time and decided to form the band. We got our downstairs neighbors "The Daves" to play with us, drummer Dave Buss and violinist Dave Goldman. I asked them to play the release party then just kept on booking - come to think of it I never actually asked them if that was OK - but hey, they stuck around for like six years, so I guess they were OK with it. LOL. After those guys decided to call it quits, Christy and I really wanted to do something heavier. My musical tastes changed a ton over those years and Christy always had an affection for more alt rock, so we went for it and never looked back.

In what ways do you think the Locals are unique from other indie rock/pop bands in the city?

: Well, I defy you to find a better chef/drummer than Kirk. He is a spectacular chef, we are just waiting for him to perfect the cooking us dinner WHILE drumming technique. I also think that you may not find very many bands who have an overall degree of shortness. I mean Kirk is a perfectly normal size human man, but Christy and I almost make one person when stacked on top of one another.

It's weird driving behind them too, because it looks like no one is actually in the car, and yet there it goes.

I'm not even sure how to respond now. I was going to talk about how we are one of the few bands to actually have a mascot, but that seems so uninteresting compared to our overall height.

See, Christy even keeps her answers short.

If the Locals could choose any one band or musician to play a show with, who would it be?

Silversun Pickups or The Whigs!

The Pixies!

Christy: PJ Harvey, hands down. She is so captivating on stage.

Of the many shows played in the band's history, are there any that stand out as especially memorable?

Our SALT release party on April 30 was really really fun, with one of most fun crowds we've ever had. Totally cool.

I agree, I'm still on a high from that show. There was a great crowd and energy in the room that night.

My first show with them is a standout for me, that's when I knew we had something special.

What's the one thing people might be most surprised to learn about the the Locals?

The Locals spent the night together in a honeymoon suite. No one got lucky except for Christy, who found a quarter. Also, Kirk has the longest toes ever seen on a human. We call them tingers, as they are about the same length as fingers.

Where can people keep up with the band and find out more information?

-Band Website
-CD Baby

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Show preview: Everybody Was in the French Resistance...Now! at Schubas, 5/6

Everyone's favorite speak-singing Brit, the always entertaining Eddie Argos, is coming back to Chicago for a show at Schubas this Thursday, May 6. But this time it isn't with his flagship band, Art Brut. The show will feature the music he's made with his girlfriend Dyan Vald├ęs as Everybody Was in the French Resistance...Now!, a project that finds the duo looking back at classic pop songs and responding to them by way of original tunes.

Their debut record, Fixin' the Charts, Volume One, includes amusing replies to "Jimmy Mack" by Martha and the Vandellas, "Girlfriend" by Avril Lavigne, "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson" and "He's a Rebel" by The Crystals, to name a few. The two got the idea for the project after hearing "Jimmy Mack" on the radio and agreeing that Jimmy deserved a response to his girlfriend, who sings that she's about to cheat on him if he doesn't come back soon. The record is a lot of fun, and if this material comes off half as entertaining live as Art Brut does, the show will be a great way to spend a Thursday night.

Team band and Chaperone will open the show. $10, 9 p.m., 21 and over. Click here for tickets.

Check out the video to "G.I.R.L.F.R.I.E.N (You Know I've Got A)" - the duo's Lavigne response - below.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Video: Gold Motel - 'We're on the Run'

While Chicago's The Hush Sound is on hiatus, the group's co-vocalist and pianist Greta Morgan has had no problem keeping busy. With her new band, Gold Motel, she released an EP in December, will put out an album, Summer House, on June 1, and recently made a video for a new song called "We're on the Run." It's great, summery stuff that'll put you in a good mood. Check it out below, and catch Gold Motel's album release show at Lincoln Hall on Friday, June 11 ($10, all ages, tickets here).