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!
Empty Bottle has often been a place of discovery for me. The first time I passed through that entry way, it was to see The Yeah Yeah Yeahs the spring before Fever To Tell dropped. Subsequent visits introduced me to acts such as Neutral Uke Hotel, Angel Olsen, Silverghost, and on this night, The Dirty Pigeons. To go along with that discovery, there were a couple familiar faces; namely The Canoes and The Buddies.
I first met The Canoes over the summer. Their record, Roger, was sent to me a while back. I loved it. They played a show at Bottom Lounge in the Volcano Room that was tremendous. They even played a cover of “Alison Road” by the Gin Blossoms just for me. I was excited to see them again.
They didn’t disappoint. The Teller boys were singing their hearts out, and Sam was kicking it in the drums like a champ. They played a new tune, which I think was called “Momses,” but I could most definitely be wrong. It was pretty sweet, but not as good as my favorite song of theirs which they closed their set with, “American English.”
After The Canoes finished up, we got a bit of a treat: Coley asked Kari to take some shots of the band down in the green room. A great honor for her, as she’s still learning the ins and outs of serious photography, but manages to come up with amazing shots every time we hit a show. It was great for me because I got to hang out down there where Nick Zinner and countless other brilliant musicians have relaxed before shows.
Everyone in the band was beyond nice. Very gracious that we liked their band and had nice words for them. Kari took some shots and I stood off to the side, watching the group try to come up with different poses. It was clear from this peek behind the curtain that they get along famously. It was nice to feel like part of the group for a bit, but eventually Kari finished up and we went back up to the stage area where Dirty Pigeons were already more than halfway through their set.
Have you heard of Dirty Pigeons? I had, very briefly, heard something about them being pretty good. Watching them, I was shocked how right whoever told me that was. Their guitarist/vocalist is ridiculously talented. He shreds in a way that reminds me of Neil Young and sings with a confident voice. I grabbed one of their free CDs, but I haven’t had a chance to listen yet. If you have the time, check them out!
After that set it was time for the main event. We saw The Buddies back in September I think, at Double Door. That was the bands first show in Chicago, and it was a scorcher. They burned up the stage like a Great White concert. This time it was a little more laid back, but still awesome.
There aren’t a lot of bands that can simultaneously sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Replacements, but The Buddies don’t much care for genre specificity. The Collins’ that made up Nashville’s Pale Blue Dot lend some southern charm to Coley’s punk singer/songwriter aesthetic and the result is a sound perfect for an evening of drinking that may or may not end in bloodshed.
Coley Kennedy is a frontman’s frontman. He knows all the tricks and moves to make him a god on stage. But my favorite moments were when he took a step back, watching Scott and Justin Collins with Pete Javier jamming on their guitars while Kim Collins and Jeremy Barrett laid down the beat. It was in these spots where I felt he was having the most fun, relishing the knowledge that he’s put together a band of amazing musicians.
One thing I’ve always liked about Coley, and this goes back to when he fronted Welcome To Ashley, is that he takes it seriously. A lot of musicians think its cool to seem aloof, or like they’re better than everyone else. He and his band work hard and practice to be as good they can, and they show it on stage. There isn’t a lot of messing around, it’s just balls to the wall rock and roll. The Buddies are exactly the kind of band you go somewhere like Empty Bottle to see.