Chicago

THANKS, LIKE A LOCAL
February 18, 2016 5:54 pm

You like to travel, sure, but you ain’t no tourist. You’re here to see the real city, not these smarmy tourist traps featured in your airport brochure. You’re not afraid of the road less traveled. Any city can be paradise if you know what you’re looking for. You do know what you’re looking for, don’t you?

If not, don’t worry, because Like A Local has you covered. The popular travel app has up-to-date recommendations from residents of cities around the globe. And when I say cities, I mean every single city you could possibly want to visit. From Amsterdam all the way down to Zagreb (which, it turns out, is the capital of Croatia), the list is truly staggering. Of course they know the skinny on Paris, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro–I mean who doesn’t, right? But what about Istanbul, Vancouver or Buenos Aires? Local recommendations out the wazoo. Boulder, CO; Phoenix, AZ; or Lafayette, LA? Make domestic travel your bitch. Even if you’re not actually traveling you can still find loads of activities in NYC, LA, DC, Chicago, and a handful of other North American cities. It’s all just a click away.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some examples.

By now you’ve probably heard that New York City has a lot to offer, but God forbid you actually live here to find out for yourself. What does Like A Local recommend? Given my location (off the L train) and time of day (afternoon), they recommend Roberta’s Pizza, The City Reliquary, and Beacon’s Closet (to name a few), three highly regarded Brooklyn establishments. So, pretty legit.

Did I hear somebody ask about Boston? No? Maybe it was just me. Anyways, Like A Local recommends the Arnold Arboretum, the Harpoon Brewery and the Coolidge Corner Theatre (to name a few). All of these places I have been to during my days as a local Bostonian, and all of them are awesome. Good work, Like A Local.

Okay let’s try international. I’ve always wanted to go to Vienna (mostly for the sausages) but I’m sure I wouldn’t know what to do once I got there. Well Like A Local has 130 recommendations grouped into categories like “Guide to Imperial Vienna,” “Most Popular Green Areas” and “Best Nightlife Spots.” Couldn’t be easier! Kind of makes me want to hop a flight there right now…

I won’t, but it’s nice to know that, if I did, I’d have cool things to do once I got there. Thanks, Like A Local (and also the hundreds of helpful foreigners providing insight into their respective cities), for optimizing my next vacation. Looking forward to it!

5 HUNKS FROM CHICAGO: WELCOME THE WALTERS
February 11, 2016 10:56 am

Hunk: noun | a handsome man with a well-developed physique.

The Walters are a Chicago 5-piece that posses two qualities: nostalgia for 1960s pop rock and a large dose of irony.  The self-described “hunks” have dubbed their sound “cardigan” rock.  In addition to an active touring schedule, they also claim to be a minor league baseball team that adheres to a strict exercise regimen, although any supporting evidence of such activity is lacking, or at least invisible on the internet. The album cover for their self-released Young Men EP, released this past December, displays The Walters in white turtlenecks, holding a giant blank check. It’s difficult to get passed their facade.  However, once you peel back the layers, you’re left with saccharine sweet vocal harmonies, stripped down guitar riffs, and a steady rhythm section underpinning tightly composed songs.

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Uplifting music can be a bit unnerving at times. At face value it’s difficult to take in overt happiness in contemporary music as genuine. Fact: the modern world is scary. With smart phones constantly buzzing in our pockets, and an endless stream of information assailing us from all angles, whether via social media or email, we’re exposed to tragic and disheartening news at an alarmingly rapid clip. With song titles like “Sweet Marie,” “Hunk Beach,” “Goodbye Baby,” and “I Love You So,” The Walters’ feel-good vibe harkens back to a time when music was much simpler.  Comparisons to Beach Boys as well as 50s ‘doo-wop’ groups are befittingly abound.  Although skepticism is understandable at first, their accessible and catchy music makes it easy to reminisce a bygone culture of innocence and naivety.

Surprisingly, The Walters are still unsigned. They’ve steadily picked up steam in their native Chicago, performing at a handful of local venues and events. Even more impressive, a handful of their tracks reached ‘viral’ status on Spotify, quite an accomplishment to boast for a relative unknown. It wouldn’t come as a shock if The Walters signed a recording contract in short order. They have the creative output, and a marketable brand to boot.

If you’d like to acquire some of their tunes, look no further than The Walters’ Bandcamp page. While it’s always a nice gesture to chip in, both of their EPs are available at “name your price.” They’ve also uploaded a slew of supplemental tracks onto their SoundCloud.

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN WASHED OUT
January 29, 2016 12:04 am

Have you heard a song and wished the artist made more music? Well if you’re a Portlandia fan, you’re in luck.

Ernest Greene is an artist from Georgia whose song, “Feel It All Around” is the theme for the IFC comedy, but you probably know him from Washed Out. Greene’s music is dazed synth pop, self described “no-fi” and it makes me feel like I am in a big tub of glitter. Light, lucid, and aqueous. He definitely has the power to take listeners to other worldly planes, almost as if one was experiencing an astral projection. Washed Out is dream pop royalty.

Washed Out currently has two studio albums, Within and Without (2011) and Paracosm (2013), and 3 EPs, High Times (2009), Life of Leisure (2009), and Untitled (2010).

Washed Out’s latest album is beautiful and summer-like, a prime record for road trips. Washed Out describes himself saying, “the sounds have a very worn, distressed quality about them, much like an old sample. But they also offer much more flexibility because they’re playable.” Throughout his albums, he plays 50+ instruments, mainly focusing on old keyboards.

Currently signed to Sub Pop, if you want to see Washed Out, you’ll have your chance on July 15th at Forecastle Fest in Louisville, Kentucky. Washed Out is also preforming a DJ set in Chicago on March 25th. If you’re around and want to be swept into another dimension, I’d recommend checking either of the sets out.

THE INFATUATION: AN EMPIRE OF FOOD ENTHUSIASTS
December 8, 2015 2:55 pm

It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of local indie bands, old-school punk rock, electronic music, or One Direction. We all have one thing in common: We love food. If you don’t, you’re probably in denial and you should keep on reading this article because you’ll be craving a cheesy New York style slice of pizza in no time.

With the rise of social media people have been obsessing over writing yelp reviews, checking in at their favorite restaurant on foursquare, and capturing the perfect photo of their poached egg so they can upload it on Instagram and hashtag #yolkporn. With a crazy food fanatic world out there, The Infatuation has made its way to the top in the food blogging industry. Chris Stang and Andrew Steinthal, just two guys who built an empire of food lovers out there. They now conquer 5 cities so far (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver) and have their own hashtag #EEEEEATS trending nationwide. It’s clear that these former music industry working people take food very seriously. I had a chance to chat with Andrew about The Infatuation, music, and pizza.

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First of all, what do you guys call yourselves- Food critics, food bloggers, food enthusiast?

Mmm I would say that we’re just people who like food. Then again, everybody likes food. So I don’t know, I guess we are….Well, that’s a hard question. I’d say we like food like everybody else and just decided to write about it.

So you guys were in the music industry before The Infatuation.

For both of us music was our past. Since we were in high school even, that was the route we were headed down but by nature of the job. I was the VP of PR at Warner Bro’s Records and Chris was the VP of Marketing at Atlantic Records. By the fall when you’re in the music business for 13 years I would say the big part of it is that you’re out at shows all the time, consistently running around town going to see bands, entertaining bands, entertaining managers, and a big part of the job is out of the office. And obviously when you’re out to see a show at night, food plays a big role. Are we going to food before, are we going to food after…

Do you guys still keep up with the music scene?

For so long we went to so many shows and that was our entire life. We know what’s going on.

PizzalovesEmilyWere you into food as you were with music?

Would I say we liked it as much as music at the time? No. We started fielding calls from our friends who were finance guys, doctors, bankers, who weren’t out as much, and were looking for information because their parents are in town or want to take a girl out to impress them or whatever the situation was, we would get phone calls. Also at work they’d be like “K-Rock’s in town. He likes Mexican food, plan the night.” We were those planners and looked at each other and were like- people are coming to us for this information. Clearly, they’re not getting it elsewhere. There’s a need for a voice that speaks to people and real talk about restaurants.

Was YELP not a ‘thing’ yet?

We started in 2009 and Yelp was definitely a thing. I think we were kind of the anticipates of Yelp in a sense that you don’t know what opinion to trust on there. It’s a lot of white noise on that platform and it’s really hard to decipher what information to trust. It’s really useful for some things, but restaurants need some nuance that you really need a person you trust to guide you. The voice of a million people doesn’t really help a lot of times so we thought that there was a big opportunity to really try and make the expense of going to restaurants sort-able and divide it by category. Make it very real, honest and not pretentious. A lot of food media out there is very serious and very much representing of the chefs and the industry..We were just obviously not that and thought that there could be a real opportunity to become the voice of the people and make something super useful and help find restaurants. That was always kind of the goal. How can we help enrich people improve their lives by just having a good resource.

Who are some artists you dig currently?

Let me pull up our Spotify. We do a monthly Spotify Playlist! (Below). Hmm- I like Leon Else, The Japanese House, obviously the new Disclosure record. I’m all over the place. I just like good music. I’m a songs person so whether it’s dance, electronic, hiphop, alternative or indie- I’m all across the board. I’ve worked with artists in every range over my career, mainly because I was interested in everything and familiar with every kind of scene.

What’s your favorite post-concert food?

I’ve always been a post-show slice kinda guy. Especially if its a late one I’m like “alright I just need something before bed and I’m going to get a slice of pizza, so thats usually mine.

Since NYC is famous for their pizza- What are some underrated pizza restaurants here?

I mean it might not be underrated anymore but they’ve been getting a lot of attention in the past year. Pizza Loves Emily in Clinton Hill is fantastic! That’s my new favorite Brooklyn pizza by far. That place is absolutely worth the trip. I think Brooklyn Pizza is kind of underrated. I just like a classic slice pie and they have some of there other good stuff as well.

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Are any pizza places worth lining up for anyway?

Yeah. I mean, pizza’s one of the very few things I would line up for. I mean not too long. If the line is 40 minutes long at Grimaldi’s they’ve got problems because that is not worth waiting for. If you go make a trip to Di Fara deep into Brooklyn, THAT is absolutely worth any amount of minutes you have to wait and all $5 for the slice. That’s just your quintessential New York pizzeria.

You guys were part of the food curration for GovBall this year! How cool was that?

We’ve been friends with those guys over the years. Our backgrounds with music and we have a lot of relationships and we know that world really well and we worked together a couple of years ago on the media front and we helped simply blow up the food a little extra via social networks. Last year we’ve been in discussion and were like look, I think we could really help improve the food lineup and represent New York better. Last year was our first year that we curated the food lineup and we’ll do it again next year and we’re really excited because we brought in stuff that they didn’t have previously like the Ramen Burger or Tacombi Tacos

Do you think Instagram has been a big game-changer for food bloggers/enthusaists?

I think every social media platform has made it easy for everyone, whether you’re in food or writing about music or trying to write about cars…Whatever it is, internet’s given you the opportunity to say whatever you want. And it’s kind of up to you to see if you can come up with something different, unique and compelling enough to make people give a fuck. Instagram for sure has enabled especially in food. Most of these kids on Instagram don’t have actual websites or blogs. They’re just Instagram photographers going out there taking pictures to get likes- which is fine. But it’s made this whole thing pretty crazy.

What’s this new app you guys made where I can text a dinosaur?

We have a text message recommendation service called Text Rex where you can text us directly for restaurant recommendations. We have a whole system set up, but it’s always a human. You’re always talking to somebody and it’s always open 8:30am to 11pm everyday so you’ll always get a response within 5 minutes. And if you text at 3am you’ll probably get a message saying ‘hey you’re probably hammered and  probably want pizza so here are your options.’ People want what they want now. We hear from people all the time- they don’t want to sit there and go through the website. Its also good for us. It’s like having an amazing focus group of thousands and thousands of people everyday telling you what they want, so we made a lot of content decisions based on hearing what people say through Text Rex.

I think what we can get out from this is that you can do whatever you want. Don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not capable of doing it. And follow your dreams, even if it’s something as simple as taking artistic photos of your food.

MELLOW OUT WITH SANTAH’S INDIE FILM SCORE VIBES
December 1, 2015 2:17 am

The indie rock scene is buzzing with news of Santah’s new album Chico, which was released earlier last month.

The Chicago-based quintet initially garnered public interest with the 2010 release of their debut album White Noise Bed, and has maintained a solid fan base ever since. Santah, which consists of Steve Plock, Mike Winegardner, Tommy Trafton, and Stan and Vivian McConnell, count Wilco as a major influence and had the opportunity to record at Pieholden Suite Sound, founded by the late Jay Bennett.  In 2012, following the release of You’re Still A Lover, Santah spent some time touring and playing several shows, including those at CMJ.

The band describes their sound as “blurry-eyed, dark, doo-wop rock & roll,” a description I don’t think quite fits their woozy, indie flick soundtrack vibe. “Sun On Ice,” for example, reminds me of what you would hear during a dream sequence in a Sofia Coppola film, as is the case with “Did We Sing?” and “Here Are My Shells.” My personal favorite off Chico is “No Human,” a sweet little number that manages to sound both happy and sad.

Though Chico was only released a few weeks ago, Santah fans are already stoked to hear the new album live.  Be sure to check them out when they come through a city near you!

THE UNABASHED WEIRDNESS OF WHITE MYSTERY
October 27, 2015 2:30 pm

What separates a good punk band from a bad one? How does a two-person band succeed? Where did they get all that hair?

These are the questions that come to mind when checking out the Chicago punk rock duo White Mystery. Singer/guitarist Miss Alex White and her brother/drummer Francis Scott Key White produce a wailing thrash of Velvet Underground meets AC/DC. Lyrically, their songs range from the one-word “No!” to the 306 word paragraph that is “Dubble Dragon.” Scan your eyes over their lyrics page and watch as phrases like “Rotting pigs swing,” “Severe pain, excruciate, carve out my insides,” and “Ragnarok Earth Inferno burn to death from my mighty dynamite blast” jump out at you.

Punk music was born out of a desire to express and relate. One of punk’s early defining traits was its simple, brutal honesty (The Ramones songs are mostly about having crushes on girls and riding around in cars). Another early defining trait of punk was that it was not nearly so important to be good at your instrument. Both of these things could be applied to White Mystery. The attitude is certainly there, but so is the sloppiness. In a genre that celebrates raw emotion and power over technical artistry this can be OK, and at times for White Mystery, it is. How much of the time depends on how committed you are to what they are doing.

What they are doing has to do with their concept. Not all acts have a concept, but when they do, it can help fill out areas of their music that would be lacking otherwise (see Lady GaGa). This is especially important in instrumental duos. When there are only two people, a greater percentage of band responsibility falls on each members’ head. A concept can help alleviate whitemysterysome of this stress, an idea bearing the burden for the band. Look at The White Stripes. Jack White is a future member of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. He shreds, sings like a mofo, and adds a dense cloud of mystery to whatever room he’s in. But Meg White is not on his level. When it comes down to it, she’s just not that good at drums. But the White Stripes are still arguably the most important rock duo ever. This is because of Jack White’s concept. As he discusses in the documentary “Under Great White Northern Lights,” White sought to place himself within a creative boundary. By operating under the pre-established notions of Rock ‘n Roll, backed only by basic drum parts, White set musical limits on what the band would sound like. This forced him to be more creative within these boundaries, and to come up with absolutely face-melting songs. Meg White doesn’t hold Jack back, because he is not moving in that direction.

White Mystery absolutely has a concept. Their lyrics are consistently thematic, and their image is complete. If there’s anyone that doesn’t believe that, just watch the trailer for their feature length film, “That Was Awesome.” But duos don’t need a concept to survive. Look at Death From Above 1979 or Shovels and Rope. These bands are good musicians making good music. Sometimes if a musician is good enough, they can even carry a not so good one (I’m lookin’ at you The Black Keys). When this doesn’t hold true, a question must be asked; does the validity of their concept outweigh the musical failings? The answer for White Mystery is yes, but not by a lot, and certainly not for everyone. Some will love it, those drawn to noise rock and raw punk. The feminine power and unabashed weirdness will immediately pull in others. But some will not be able to get past the simplistic musical structures and performances.

In an interview with SheShredsMag.com, Francis explained (surprisingly soft-spokenly) their band’s goal; “We’re trying to reach nirvana, and the best way that we know how is to do what we love, and hopefully inspire others to do so as well.” This draws attention to the best and most valid aspect of White Mystery—their attitude. Alex and Francis have put themselves into the musical world in such a thoroughly bizarre way that it’s hard not to respect them. Their strange look and sound are initially jarring, but then deeply endearing. They will not be ashamed of what they are, and that is a beautiful thing.

Hangin’ Loose With Surf Rock Is Dead @ Mercury Lounge
August 24, 2015 10:47 am

Brooklyn’s own Surf Rock Is Dead brought their set to a sold out Mercury Lounge last Wednesday as the opening act for Day Wave. This show was super laid back as the Brooklyn duo set the tone with their atmospheric, 80’s reminiscent indie-rock, in league with such bands as Beach Fossils and PORCHES. With thunderous bass lines and masterfully executed guitar effects, SRID laid down their riffs to a chilled out crowd that seemed to be ridin’ the wave. Perfect for the tail end of Summer, their sound is a mix between the puffy clouds and the roaring ocean, but with a ton more reverb!

After moving to New York City from both Chicago and Melbourne respectively, Kevin Pariso and Joel Wittenberg met at a studio in Brooklyn, where their musical worlds would collide. In a few short weeks (end of September) they will be releasing their debut EP. I was lucky enough to hear all about it before the show.

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So you guys are from Chicago and Melbourne, what brought you to New York City?

Kevin: When I was in college I was in a band with people that were all older than me. When they all left, they moved to New York. I was still in school at the time so I figured I should finish that, but I knew I would be coming to New York to join them so it was a music based choice.

Joel: I used to play in bands in Australia, but I felt it was time to do something different, so I came to New York. I needed a change of scenery. I was even considering this to be the end of music for me. That’s what I did; I would play drums in bands, and tour a little bit, and it sort of got old. It became just like a normal career. So I wanted to just focus on different musical things.

Cool, so then how’d you meet once you were here?

Kevin: So my old band had a practice space and I would just go and jam there. Joel was working there at the time, and he looked like a friendly guy so I was like, who is this? So we just started talking about music, and then worked on something very briefly. I just remember the dynamic was very good. It was very professional but friendly. If I asked him to try this he would do it, and If he asked me to try something it would make sense and I would do it. There was a foundation of respect in just trying each other’s ideas, which is a huge part of what is happening in this.

Joel: Yeah, I had to go away for a little while. So I was over in England for a bit and then I came back and I was working at a studio over in the city. I think drunkenly after one of his shows one night we just jammed and started switching instruments, and we realized we should do this.

Kevin: I think we were both at a point where music felt like work, and this wasn’t in this category.

Joel: And it was super collaborative as well. We were both putting ideas out that you don’t often find work in other environments.

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Nice. Well you answered my next question, but how do you guys write? What feelings or experiences do you draw for the material?

Kevin: Well a lot of it comes from personal experiences and such. We’re not like Bob Dylan, telling a tale..

Joel: Often it’s the little fleeting experiences like, people you meet in the city, or things that happened in the past, sometimes girls, sometimes friendship, sometimes work. It’s the little fleeting ideas that we sort of work our songs around.

Kevin: It’s a lot more atmospheric. But the lyrics we have we like to make them count, because there aren’t too many.

Joel: Yeah I try to make them concise, so in a very short period you know what’s going on. Either obvious, or elusive.

Cool, good answer. So what’s the ideal setting to listen to your music in?

Kevin: Let’s see, not the subway. I’m imaging like a bunch of people longboarding, But on a safe road! *laughs. That or just laying in bed with your eyes closed, imagining.

Joel: The serious response I’ d say to that is road tripping, but the non serious answer would be maybe snorkeling, like underwater but you can hear the tunes.

Kevin: Does that exist?

Joel: No! but it should. That would be awesome! *laughs

I think you’re on to something. As for the EP coming out in September, Did you do everything you wanted to creatively? Did you record and mix yourselves?

Kevin: This dude definitely did.

Joel: Yeah that’s what I did. I used to work in Red Bull Studios in the city, so I cut my teeth over there, did a lot of the mixing. It was all us.

Cool! What’s next? Tour in the works?

Kevin: Yeah we definitely have shows in the works, a little bit of regional stuff. But we’ll just be keeping the momentum going and tracking the other songs we have.

Joel: Ultimately, we’d like to tour nationally but I think over the winter we’ll probably just be doing the Northeast. We have a bunch of tracks we’re working on too so we’ll continue writing.

Cool, that’s the fun part. So sounds like there’s a sold out show tonight.

Joel: Yeah!

Kevin: It’s going to be fun.

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They certainly had a good night on stage, and more to come. Make sure to come check these guys out as they join the beach vibe revival that is slowly seeping back into consciousness here on the east coast. Catch them August 21st at Cameo Gallery in Brooklyn, September 6th at Palisades, or October 10th at The Boot and Saddle in Philadelphia.

Reptar @ Rough Trade; A Music Overload
July 21, 2015 12:22 pm

I was thoroughly blown away by the overload of back-to-back talent at Friday night’s show at Rough Trade. The first opener, Meth Dad, performed a high energy set in the middle of the audience, eliciting a call-and-response interaction with the crowd. Surrounded by large, inflatable Christmas decorations, he finished his set by collapsing into a pile on the floor. Then came Brothertiger, another solo performer who projected his own unique energy into the crowd, this time from the confines of the stage. The highlight of his set was his excellent rendition of Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place.” The penultimate act, Stranger Cat, somehow managed to surpass the high bar set by her predecessors. The brainchild of Brooklyn’s own Cat Martino, Stranger Cat filled the hall at Rough Trade with her soulful vocals and powerful supporting band. I was overwhelmed to day the least, but nothing fell short of straight up awesome.

Finally, however, it was Reptars turn to take the stage. The Athens, GA group produced bouncy synth-pop highlighted by singer/guitarist Graham Ulicny’s very unique vocal performance. Bassist Ryan Engelberger, keyboardist William Kennedy, drummer Andrew McFarland, and guitarist Jace Bartlet round out the five-some and provided more than enough energy to completely saturate the packed house at Rough Trade. They released their new album, Lurid Glow this past spring, and in performance they managed to strike a pleasant balance between their old and new material. I managed to catch a short video of my favorite song, Rainbounce, from their debut album, Body Faucet:

Reptar will continue their summer tour into the Midwest this week, culminating in a show in Chicago on Sunday night.

The Need To Know About In Tall Buildings
July 15, 2015 11:00 am

Erik Hall, known to music fans as In Tall Buildings, is getting ready to tour. His sophomore release Driver came out in February to positive reviews from sites including Stereogum and the Consequence of Sound.

Beginning July 13th, Hall will be hitting the road for shows with pop legend Matthew Sweet and pop sweetheart Natalie Prass. ATYPICALSOUNDS was privileged to speak with Hall during his last few days of quiet time.

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On July 13th, you’re playing a show with Matthew Sweet in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Is there anything you’re dying to ask, or anything you’d like to learn, from someone who’s been in the music industry as long as he has?

EH: It’s always fun to be on a bill with someone who’s been doing it a long time. I remember having a pretty cool 5th grade science teacher who liked to talk about music with my friends and me, and among a list of artists she recommended at the time were Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, and Matthew Sweet. It’s safe to say some semblance of that list made its way into my musical awareness growing up. We’ll also be sharing a bill with Veruca Salt this summer!

You and Natalie Prass will also be performing together for a series of shows. Will you be traveling together? How do you get comfortable touring in close quarters to someone you may not know so well?

EH: I’ll be driving my own car for those shows, but I’m sure we’ll share some green rooms! It’s fun to meet another band on the first night of a run of shows together and then get to know them bit by bit as you cross paths on stage, in between sound checks, over post-show hangouts, etc. I’m friends with Natalie’s bass player, so I’m looking forward to hanging with him and getting to know the rest of the bunch.

How do you keep yourself entertained while on tour? What is the least glamorous thing about being a touring musician?

EH: I do a lot of crosswords, and, whenever possible, I go for a walk. Also, tour is the only time that I ever watch television, and it’s great to catch a bit of Conan or Colbert in the hotel room.

I’d say the least glamorous part of touring is the food I inevitably sometimes eat. I eat extremely well at home. My wife is a chef, and I’m generally interested in good food. On the road, that entire set of values go right out the window. Standards and inhibitions are lowered, and convenience takes over. That long standing idea of packing a cooler and keeping it stocked with healthy, economical staples has somehow never once been carried out. Maybe this time around…

What keeps you based in Chicago, versus places like Los Angeles or New York? Do you think your location has affected your opportunities as a musician?

EH: Thus far Chicago has allowed me every opportunity I could ask for as a musician, and I don’t imagine that stopping to be the case. Sure, there are paths I could pursue in New York or LA, but I’ve simply never had the desire to live in either of those cities.

As someone from Chicago, what are your feelings towards New York-style pizza? Do you feel strongly one way or the other, or do you believe there’s a time and place for each?

EH: I have never been opposed to any type of pizza ever, and I’ve never felt the need to debate the matter. Quite simply: Pizza rules.

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photo by Neat Beet, Mercury Lounge 4/15

Your latest album Driver took 4 years to complete. Is it more difficult to stay focused on your solo projects, versus working with a band? Is there a sense of urgency with either?

EH: In a band it’s easier to get decisions made. When working all by yourself, it’s easy to sit with a song for a long time and consider options forever. I actually love the balance of shifting between the two, because it allows me to continually come back to the situation with fresh ears. In that way, having involvement in other bands actually keeps me moving forward with In Tall Buildings.

Was there any time during those 4 years where you wanted to scrap everything you had already completed for the album and start over again?

EH: No, I never felt that way. It was always positive, and I always knew that I liked what I had. It just took me a while to push those songs towards the finish line.

Driver is interesting in that it seems to straddle electronic and folk influences. Does that seem accurate to you? Which artists would you say most influence your sound?

EH: Sure, that’s accurate! Ideas come from all over, and though there could never be a comprehensive list I’m happy with, I can say that Driver was partially informed by Califone, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Low, Thom Yorke, Gillian Welch, Arthur Russell, and Deerhoof.

Do you have a preference for a more sedate sound versus a loud or aggressive one? Is there something that draws you to one aesthetic over another?

EH: For me, both are required. Though, I think “sedate” is a good word to describe the underlying tone of a lot of my songs.

Any thoughts on your next album?

EH: It’s well underway. Excited to get another one out there, will keep you posted.