This week marked the second anniversary of Music.Defined. so I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the stuff we’ve covered over the past year via photographs. Kari has taken a lot of great shots over the past year (and I snuck a few in that I took as well). I already posted it on Facebook and Twitter, but if you haven’t seen it or don’t “Like” or “Follow” us (????) then let me say it again: Thank you for your support. Now lets look at some pictures! These will be in chronological order, starting with April 2012-present.
Over the past two years I’ve really enjoyed my time discovering new Chicago bands. One of my favorite finds has been Chris Dertz’s solo project, Bedroom Sons. Chris recently made the move from DeKalb to the big city to pursue music more seriously. In a couple days there will be a new Bedroom Sons EP to make us question why any of us even bother to write or create music, and I have a brand new track to share with you right now.
“Awful” is a song that Chris brought in to Handwritten Recording back in December to record a Hasty Revelations session for me. In the span of an hour we recorded drums, bass, five guitars, and two vocals-with Chris playing anything and everything. It was impressive to watch, and the quick “just get it done” process seemed to play well with his DIY mentality. The result was a rough, but honest rock song that was equal parts 90′s alternative rock and 00′s post-punk. This new polished version is still imperfect, but in the way that good music should be.
You can check out Bedroom Sons tonight at Quenchers Saloon, where there will be new songs aplenty. If you’d like to check out some previous releases, I highly recommend both Take Your Time and Father.
When I first brought the idea of Hasty Revelations to Rick Riggs at Handwritten, it was a purely selfish endeavor. How wonderful, I thought, to have bands that I love come in to the studio and play a song just for me. Of course, I would share these songs afterward, but for one hour, they were completely mine and no one else’s. Rick seemed to agree that the idea was good, and we figured there’d be no trouble since his studio is right across from Schubas (one of Newsweek’s 10 best music venues in the US!).
We got lucky right off the bat, landing a session with Langhorne Slim as our inaugural recording. I booked the studio for our agreed upon hour, and the band came in, played a song, and left. It took all of ten minutes. I had brought beers for the band to drink, got myself comfortable, Kari took some great pictures, and in a flash it was over. I have to admit it was thrilling and disappointing at the same time. The song they played was great, and it still hasn’t seen an official release, so I have one of two copies ever made. But they didn’t really want to be there. They were appreciative that I liked their music and wanted to share it, but who am I to them. It’s not like going to Daytrotter. And I agree. If I were a touring band, would I want to make time for someone who I’ve never heard of and whose readership could just be friends and family? I totally get that and I am very grateful that they came.
It did make me think, though. That was in August of 2011, and we didn’t book another session until mid-October. The second one was much more in line with what I thought it could be. Bhi Bhiman came in after playing the night before at Viaduct Theater, and he hugged me upon our meeting. He set himself up, played his song, listened back to it, and then hung out for almost an hour after he was done. Just talking whatever….baseball, pizza, normal stuff. These are the sessions I want to do, now and forever. I like being comfortable with the people we have in the studio.
So I decided, not immediately but soon after, that I only wanted to record bands that I personally like and bands whose music I want to see reach a broader audience. On top of getting some talented bands from around the country (Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes, Cheyenne Marie Mize) I narrowed my focus down to bands from the Chicago area-most of whom I had met or worked with in some capacity. These sessions became the ten songs I’ve included on the compilation being released today. Allow me to shed some light on how these recordings went down.
The Future Laureates album Fortress Sessions was about to come out, and I did an interview with them regarding their new tunes. I asked them if they’d want to come record something, and they agreed. Their live band in a five-piece, but for this sesh it was the core of Danny, Matt, and James playing a slightly different version of the song “Lovely,” arguably the best off that new record. This version debuted slightly ahead of the album, I think. So the fans got to hear an alternate take of one song a little early. They’re a fun group, and the best part of the recording was watching Matt try to come in at just the right moment on one of his vocal tracks. It was hysterical.
The Canoes session is the only one of these that I had to be away during. I was at a wedding, so Rick took full control. It came out great. As it turns out, “Wyatt Come Home” would be the last recording The Canoes would ever make. They broke up in December after a couple years making music together. My favorite section in this song is when lead singer Elliott Teller breaks out a very Mangum-esque nasally vocal on one of his “yeah yeah yeah” lines.
Vintage Blue took full advantage of the one hour, actually writing most of the song in the studio. It’s an acoustic love song from a band that can usually be found playing balls to the wall rock music. So that was fun to see: just a couple of acoustic guitars and a saxophone. As someone who isn’t a musician, it was interesting to watch the two guitarist/singers work out different lines and parts. And when they couldn’t figure it out it was up to multi-instrumentalist Matt Zimmerman, the groups musical theorist, to tell them what worked and what didn’t.
David McMillin of Fort Frances is a friend of mine. Of all the people we’ve had come record, he’s the one I think of first if I want to go get a drink or just hang out. We don’t do it very often because he’s a much busier guy than I am. I told him whenever he wanted to do a session we would be ready for him. He brought us “The City By The Sea” just a couple days after he had written it. He played it solo on the piano, and it’s a brilliant piece of work. This song, I’m told, will appear on the band’s next EP (though I have no idea what they’ve done with it since this was recorded quite a while ago).
Anyone who has ever read this site knows that up until last weekend when Chaperone decided to split after their show at the Burlington Bar, they were my favorite band in Chicago. I knew that getting the whole group together would be tough, so I asked lead singer Shaun Paul to come play for us. He came in with three songs that he had written ages ago but never recorded. They were all really good, so I actually included two in this collection. One of them, “Letters From Home,” is a companion piece to the Chaperone song “Letters To Home.” He doesn’t try to hit every note exactly, but my goodness his voice is expressive as hell. The emotions just rip you apart when you listen.
Gehring Miller of The Welcome was the first interview I did after starting this site. He’s actually a friend of David McMillin’s, so that’s how I was introduced to him. The Welcome have gone through some personnel changes in the past year or so, and I think right now they’re the strongest band they’ve ever been. Since we already knew each other they came in pretty confident and knowing what they wanted to do. They added a couple little things, like the chorus of voices singing “YEAH!” at one point. I think they also tacked on the xylophone part. This was one of two morning sessions we did throughout 2012-this one went much better. Plus they brought hummus and chips.
Bedroom Sons is a new band to the Chicago area-and really it’s just one person, Chris Dertz. He came here from NIU in DeKalb, and he’s one of the best things going in my mind. He shares some mutual friends with me in the Des Moines music scene, so it’s nice to have him up here in the big city. His session was probably the most impressive of all of them because there was so much involved. He played drums, five guitar tracks, bass, and sang two vocals. And he did it all in an hour. And made it sound good. From what I understand he recorded one of his EP’s in one night from midnight to 6am, so I guess he’s used to working quickly.
Dastardly is a pretty well-known band around these parts. And if they haven’t toured into your part of the country it isn’t for lack of trying. The lead singer/songwriter of the band, Gabe Liebowitz, has one of the best voices I’ve heard in a long, long time. I’m glad the song he chose to play for us features his vocals so much (albeit through a Morrisey haze). It’s funny, when he came in after playing the song I said something like “hey that’s really good. When did you write it?” “To which he replied, “Oh when I was in Manchester in England.” I didn’t realize it was a Smiths song (never was a huge fan). He opens all his solo shows with this one, and he does an amazing job with it.
The man known as Briar Rabbit has been playing around Chicago for a couple years now. I’d never met him before he came to the studio, but we’ve been tweeting back and forth for quite a while. We were both at the Childish Gambino show back in August and we seem to have pretty similar tastes. He did something really different with his time-played us a song that’s as close to gospel as we’re ever gonna get. I was forced to hop in and do some hand claps, certainly the weakest point of the song. This recording was impressive as well, because it sounds like there are multiple guys singing the song, but it’s just him. He played it normal, did a low, did a high, did another one normal, and they all sound great. A lot of work went into this for being under two minutes long.
So those are the artists behind the tracks on 60 Minutes Or Less. I hope you enjoy the record as much as I do. It’s pretty much the only thing I’ve listened to this week. I’m offering it up for free on Bandcamp, but if you love it and want some more of these sessions to happen feel free to pay a dollar or five. Whatever money we get from it goes straight toward making more recordings like these (I get a discount, but these sessions don’t pay for themselves).
Also, if you’re in the Chicago area, we are putting on a show January 29th at The Empty Bottle. It’s free with RSVP and features Gabe, Vintage Blue, Bedroom Sons, and The Welcome. Should be an exciting night! No excuse not to come! Get your ticket here!
It’s hard to believe it’s only been four months since I reviewed the debut release from Bedroom Sons, Father. Now the solo effort from Chris Dertz returns with a wildly different follow up called Take Your Time. The collection only contains four songs, but they’re a good length, so it doesn’t feel like you get shorted at all with the EP. It’s almost too much, really. Every song here is so full that you hardly have a chance to breathe and take it all in.
Immediately after clicking play on the first track, “Friends,” you forget everything you thought you knew about Bedroom Sons. The more experimental sound on Father is replaced by whirling guitars and post-punk drums and attitude. With just one release under his belt, Dertz comes out firing with all the confidence in the world. His lyrics are improved, his voice stronger, and because he plays all the instruments each one has the same swagger. Like all the songs on Take Your Time, “Friends” is a love song. This one is of the “Man vs. Himself”-type, as Dertz poses the question “How do you know if who you are is who you want to be? And if you know, do you have the strength to be the change you want to see? Or are you just too weak like me?”
The second track, “Won’t Stop,” really blew me away. Even after hearing the change in style on the first track, I wasn’t prepared for the summer anthem of the year to be on this record. I seriously heard this song and imagined sixteen year old me driving around in my ’91 Sunbird blaring this thing at full volume. It’s got everything I love-horns, guitar solos, screaming vocals, and a bit of a Rolling Stones feel that I can’t quite explain. The guitar work here is the best on the EP. It’s a blues/soul song, and the sad, longing guitar solo fits perfectly. It’s a song about loss and regret, and the words feel sincere and heartfelt:
that your loving, to me
is the only thing
i could possibly need
and i need it relentlessly
so don’t go just yet
give me one more breath
some time to reconnect
and if not, give me death
“Yours By Rights” is the most poppy piece of songwriting on the EP. It’s almost like, and forgive me for this, an old Barenaked Ladies song. There’s a lot more attitude in the song Bedroom Sons put out, of course, but that’s the first thing I thought of. The textured vocals in the chorus really make this song for me. “When everything in our lives is right, it’s all because you’re mine,” is Dertz trying endlessly to convince this former lover to return to him. It’s a sunny outlook, but on this EP everything that seems light has a dark side underneath.
The final song, “The Same Dream,” is the final plea offered by Dertz. On this song his voice and guitar style remind me a little of Chris Owens on the last Girls record. His words are hushed, almost indistinguishable for the first verse. As he’s singing he seems to be coming to terms with the fact that this may not end well. He even tells the one that left,
if god forbid you find a new man
i hope he can see you
in all the ways i know that i can
and love you just half as much as i do
The music explodes in fuzzy guitars a vocal wails in the chorus. Now a month after the breakup, our protagonist is still agonizing over his loss, unable to move on. Throughout the record Dertz does a good job of keeping this narrative going, with each song being the next step towards getting over the heartbreak.
Bedroom Sons have now delivered two impressive EP’s in a little over a year. The next step, I hope, is a full-length and some shows around the Chicago area. The progress made between last May and today are pretty astounding, and if he continues at this rate, I think a lot of people will be talking about him instead of just me. Give this EP a shot. It’s available on Bandcamp as a “Pay what you want” download. If you like it, also check out Father, which is $2.
I don’t even remember how long it’s been since Bedroom Sons emailed me a link to this record. The first time I listened to it I thought it was ok, but it didn’t really hit me the way I like a record to. I did really like the last song on the EP, “My Blood pt 3″ and I sent that one to my friends at The Snake. They also enjoyed it, and I set up a digital release of that song as a single. After that, I just kinda moved on without thinking about it. Then about a week ago I got some news that reminded me that I should review this EP before another one comes out.
The first song kicks off with some soft and sweet singing about a lake in Michigan before it snaps off in a new direction with a drum fill and the voice of Chris Dertz. The vocals that Dertz performs on Father are really the bedrock of the whole thing. He sounds a little like Conor Oberst, and there’s a lot of anger and passion in his delivery. The guitar playing also plays a part in creating the sound of this song, with Dertz not playing so much as attacking the instrument. There’s a vicious bit of frenetic starting and stopping on the strings that gives a panicked sound to the recording.
On “My Blood pt 2″ Dertz fashions my favorite lyric from the 4 songs collected here: “I know how you are heated my blood boils all the time, but to lash out at your brother, well that’s just like a son of mine.” On this one the instrumentation is pretty much left behind in favor of vocal loops. It’s a very odd song, but compelling all the same. The lone guitar playing for the last part of the songs is quite nice and gives it a bit of an epilogue that a lot of people wouldn’t think to include.
“Frozen To The Bone” might be the most quiet song, but it’s not for a lack of crashing guitars. Most of the song is just a straightforward folk song with guitar and harmonica. When you’re least expecting it there’s an explosion of sound as Dertz screams “So I tried, to run away from the pain I fell on the ice, and he picked me up and threw me like a stone.” The dynamic of soft and hard, loud and quiet is a constant one on Father. It’s used to great effect and never feels forced.
The final track, “My Blood pt 3,” I’ve already mentioned. Let me be a little more clear about why I thought that one would be a great single. It’s completely different from the rest of the songs, but also the same. It takes all the best things about the other three songs, and packages it in a way that tells you everything you need to know about the record. It’s got bluegrass and country influences, but also Neutral Milk Hotel and Arcade Fire can be heard in there.
Bedroom Sons records out of DeKalb, IL and plays around the Chicago area. On record, Dertz plays all the instruments and sings-with the exception of the horn on “My Blood pt 1.” He’s a talented musician, a gifted songwriter, and from what I can tell a pretty nice guy. Father is available for download right now on Bandcamp for the very fair price of FREE. It is definitely recommended that you check it out.