Friday, June 18, 2010
I'm stoked to introduce you to Windy City Rock's newest writer, Bobby Minelli! Not only will Bobby be writing about all things Chicago rock and roll, he is a genuine Windy City rocker himself, fronting the Gentlemen's Club.
To get you better acquainted, Bobby took the time out to answer some questions about his background and the band. Read on to find out more, and keep an eye on WCR for his contributions.
Also, the Gentlemen's Club will be playing a headlining gig at Lincoln Hall this coming Sunday, June 20, so be sure to check it out. Molehill, Jackpot Donnie, Soul Vendor and Jimmy Zangrilli are also on the bill. Festivities start at 8 p.m. and cost $7. Click here for tickets and more information.
Bobby, first of all, welcome to WCR! It's cool to have you on board. To get everyone up to speed, tell us a bit about your musical history as well as your current band, the Gentlemen's Club.
I started playing music here in Chicago while attending Loyola University. I came from a very musical environment where I grew up in Ohio, so I suppose it was just a way of discovering or keeping my identity. My Dad and I were in the car in 2000 and the radio was just flooded with boy bands and the like, and I heard "Last Nite" by the Strokes and I was like, 'wait a God damn minute…people are making music like this currently? Where is this? Who is this? Can I get in on that?' I ran with it from there. My brother and I played as a duo all through college, then I fronted a band called Roar, and just tried to progress as a songwriter.
Later, a group of guys I worked with and I were always joking about this fake band we had called the Gentlemen's Club. We all dug good pop music, British stuff, Motown stuff and garage rock revival stuff, so we were constantly talking about it. Then one of the fake members booked a real gig. We played my songs, people came and even liked it! I realized right away there was something there.
Tell us about some of your material and the inspiration behind it.
Well, the songs are very personal to me, even when they are fun and danceable. I have no particular method when it comes to song writing. Generally, I get the idea of a song I would like to hear, and then try and make it up. I love the feeling when you hear a really great song and then want to show everybody you know, bug them with it. Sometimes I get that feeling about songs that don't, strictly speaking, exist yet. They almost always pertain to my life because that is just the way I relate to music. Mostly I try and teach the universe a lesson, it's like 'no no no,' teaches me one back and the song sums up that experience.
In terms of other musicians, who are some you enjoy most?
Well, like I said before, the Strokes revival rock of the early 2000s was massively influential. I think Julian Casablancas is easily one of the best songwriters of our generation. To me, he just sounded like the reason kids run away to the big city - something I did.
I also think Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys really has a sly and stylish flavor to his lyrical development and delivery that I was enamored with. Okkervill River is a great band, there is so much good indie rock right now - the White Rabbits, the Drums, GIRLS, Yeasayer. I am constantly very taken with studying great songwriters and how diverse approaches can be. I love Brian Wilson, the Boss, David Bowie, Morrissey and Johnny Marr, Paul Weller - you know, guys known for writing kick ass songs. I rely a lot on the creativity and ingenuity of my band mates for arrangement and what specific direction a song takes, how it is performed. My guitarist Jeff Freling and I work really well together in terms of discovering how a song should feel.
Favorite music release of 2010 so far?
I loved the new Spoon, Surfer Blood, the Drums, LCD Sound System, the Black Keys and Yeasayer. But I think I have to say that the National's High Violet is getting them all of this crazy attention and they really deserve it. The slow burn is a hard thing to pull off in this immediately gratified age, and damn do they pull it off. They are a truly great band, who have been putting out great albums for ages. Although I must say, the Strokes have a new record coming in September and after they all did their solo projects and came back together, I think they could be making the record of the year.
Best live show you've seen recently?
I recently saw GIRLS at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee and it was an incredible experience. I had the chance to chat with Christopher Owens before the show, and he had these eyes that looked like they had crossed ancient oceans. The music captured that. They are easily in my top five of bands right now and the sort of sublime riot that they are onstage is really disarming.
A while back I did an interview for WCR with your brother and fellow musician, Mark Minelli, who also makes great music here in Chicago. How would you say you guys compare and contrast artistically? Do you ever collaborate, and if so, how?
Well, we played together in college and we were both just starting out. Now we get together weekly and just trade songs. We critique, get jealous, keep a healthy unspoken competition and I think it is a really good thing. He writes folk music and I write rock, but when we were kids, we were both obsessed with Disney music, so sometimes I think we are both playing out those types of musical fantasies in our lives with varying styles and personalities. He is really damn good so it is constantly a challenge for me to be on top of things and get better. People would be well served to check him out.
You recently moved back to Chicago after spending some time living in Milwaukee. What differences have you noticed between the music scenes in the two cities?
Milwaukee has a great music scene and people are very serious about supporting art in that city. I really love it. The pace is different due to the population difference, but the fact that it is smaller allows for people and shows to be a bit more concentrated. There are so many bands in Chicago that sometimes it can be a bit hard for a music fan to focus, or find what they are looking for. I really like the idea of establishing a scene, that is something we are really invested in. And what you can get from a crowd in Chicago, I don't think you can get from anywhere else. I mean, we survive these winters together, and the traffic and all that big city living, that when we get the chance to become a united force, a crowd, there is this Midwestern rebellion that comes out.
Since moving back to Chicago you've become involved with the Chicago Roots Collective, a group of local musicians that help support one another and spread the word about each others' music. How did you come to be a part of that and how do you think the CRC can benefit the Chicago music scene?
We have a great working relationship with friends in band called Molehill and they originally got us involved in the CRC. It is exciting, people acting on the obvious yet sort of untapped idea of supporting each other to get the music heard. I think introducing musicians who want to work with each other and make progress together, who aren't scared of seeing another band succeed, is a really exciting prospect.
(For more details on the Collective, check out Bobby's recent article)
Speaking of the CRC, the Gentlemen's Club are getting ready to play Lincoln Hall Sunday, June 20 with other CRC bands. What can people expect and why should they be sure not to miss it?
This is our first chance to play Lincoln Hall, which is truly an amazing venue and worth seeing in its own right. And with the CRC, there is always a guarantee of a killer lineup. It is the Gentlemen's Club's first show in Chicago in a couple of months so we are chomping at the proverbial bit. And we are, and please quote me on this, "hungry." I know there are a million bands out there and it is hard to choose what to see in a city this large. If you come out, we'll take it as a challenge. We'll prove it to you.