Monday, May 7, 2012

Interview: Jim Carroll of Unicycle Loves You

By Frank Krolicki

photo: Meagan Fredette
Earlier this year Chicago-based trio Unicycle Loves You released their latest LP Failure, a half-hour's worth of fuzzed-out, pop-tinged rock and roll that's completely unsuccessful at living up to its name. From the opening jolt of "Garbage Dump" and "Wow Wave Cinema" to the addictive noisepop rush of tracks like "Bitch Eye" and "Piranha," it's arguably the band's best work yet and has become one of my favorite releases of 2012 so far.

The new music brought a busy few months for ULY, including a trip to SXSW, the release of a couple videos ("Garbage Dump," "Piranha") and a multi-state tour in support of the record. Now that the tour is over and things have at least temporarily settled down a bit, frontman Jim Carroll (no, not that Jim Carroll) took some time to answer a few questions about Failure, the recent shows, future plans and more. Read on to see what he had to say.

WCR: How did the tour go? Any good tales to tell?

Jim Carroll: Amidst the ill-attended and sucky shows throughout the tour, we did find ourselves in some amazing situations. One of my favorite nights was at Kansas City’s Middle Of The Map Fest. We were at odds with each other, and that made for a much more aggressive performance overall. But on top of that, our good friend and frontman of Kansas City’s The Wheelers (whom with we’re putting out a 7” split later this year) Greg joined in on the insane performance and then took off his shirt revealing “Soy Bomb” on his chest and writhed around us while we played ”Garbage Dump.” The cameras started flashing and the show became a complete riot. It was probably the most authentic punk rock moment of the whole tour. We have it on video.

How are people at live shows responding to the new material off Failure compared with shows you’ve played after past releases?

I think people are “getting it” more this time around. We really don’t have any tricks up our sleeves anymore, and the crowds have responded very well to our honest approach to a raunchy, good time. They have also been responding very positively to our cover of Captain Beefheart’s “Dropout Boogie.” It sits pretty nicely in our set.

The first time I heard Failure I noticed right away that it was quite a bit more immediate sounding than material I’d heard before. It grabbed me and I was sold after a single listen. What went on with you/the band that led to this record’s direction?

I was just really fed up with the idea of “making an album” and subconsciously went for more of the idea of an “anti-album.” Ironically, it turned out to be our best album to date.

Favorite track off Failure and why?

That keeps on changing for me as we keep plugging away at the live shows. I’d have to say “Garbage Dump” for actual album-listening’s sake. It was just so easy and natural to write and record, and I still like how it sounds.

I’ve always been a fan of music that thematically is kind of cynical and dissatisfied with life but at the same time has pop elements and is sort of musically invigorating, which is a combination I hear on Failure. Do you tend to gravitate toward this as well in music and other art?

In the age of blog-elitism, it’s completely impossible for me not to be disgusted and jaded by what bandwagons people seem to jump on. Even when the bullshit is clear as day, people are unapologetic in regards to their lack of judgement in terms of what is authentic and/or good music anymore. Sonically offensive bullshit like Sleigh Bells, or the lazy “same song over and over again” musings of bands like Best Coast are what will continue to fuel our fire. These things must be stopped at all costs!

I’ve seen some interviews and reviews that mention pretty clear influences and comparisons, but what’s someone or something unexpected that inspires ULY’s music?

Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention are one of our greatest conceptual influences.

I read that you didn’t have plans of doing music seriously when you first moved to Chicago in 2005. Now that you have the experience you do, what do you wish you knew then that you know now?

I only wish that I had a clearer vision of what Unicycle Loves You was all about from the start. But then again, you never know where you’ll end up unless you try to do something new and different. It’s also more difficult catering to everyone in a band’s needs when you have six members versus three.

You already have a couple of videos out for tracks from the record. Tell us about putting those together.

We’re just trying to have fun with the videos and have stopped over-thinking everything. I really want to make Unicycle Loves You more of a multimedia concept than a band, and we’re really just trying to own up to our Pop Art aesthetics.

Most favorite and least favorite part about being a band based in Chicago?

Favorite part: when enthusiastic people show up to shows.

Least favorite: when they don’t.

Any summer plans for ULY?

Working on that right now. We’ll be heading on the road again in July down to play a festival in Denver and another in beautiful Kankakee. Maybe even one in...Chicago? Putting out a 7” with The Wheelers around that time too. Then all I want to do is write more music.

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