Chicago

Interview: Kevin Andrew Prchal

Kevin Andrew Prchal is a Chicago-based singer/songwriter. His recently-released record, Love & Summer, is a truly lovely record, embroidered with gorgeous strings and rich harmonies and supported by Prchal’s ability to tell story in song. His musical career began somewhere quite unexpected (to me at least!), but below, he explains why he has to thank his skater punk youth and bleach blonde hair for who he is today as a musician. Read on below as we discuss much more.

MFL: You recorded Love & Summer in three days and there are 14 tracks on this album. Sounds like a marathon! Lay out some of the pros and cons of recording a record in such a short time.

 Kevin Andrew Prchal (KAP): It was a marathon, indeed! The pros I’d say are, 1). Because we were so prepared, we didn’t waste time figuring out parts in the studio, 2). We captured honest performances filled with flaws, chemistry, and intuition, and 3). We never exhausted the songs (which can be a hazard of spending too much time on a record).

 The cons I’d say are, 1). Having to live with said “flaws” in our performances, and 2). Not having enough time in the studio because making records with my friends is a blast and I wish I could do it every day.

 

 Left: KAP with his band, The Wheeling Birds, who played on the record. Photo by Nicholas Wenzel.

Right: Rehearsing “Back to the Earth” just before they recorded it. With key player Nate Erickson (piano) and producer Adam Krier. Photo by Nathan Villotti.

MFL: The strings are truly stunning on this record. Who do we have to thank for this and how did you find them?

 KAP: Couldn’t agree more. The fiddle on “Make Me a Believer,” “Simple Thrill,” and “Illinois” were played by Katherine Andrick, and the sweeping string section on “Back to the Earth” was arranged by our producer Adam Krier and performed by John Morton. John has a talent that can’t be taught or reproduced. Everything he plays on is his own unique expression and this song is infinitely better because of it.

 

MFL: “Simple Thrill” is one of my favorites on the album. “Luke & the Universe” follows, a beautiful echo of the previous track. Tell me more about “Luke & the Universe” and why it lays where it does on this record.

 KAP: Very cool, thank you. “Luke & the Universe” is a song dedicated to a friend of mine who passed away unexpectedly in 2015 and it’s the only track on the record that wasn’t rehearsed before going into the studio. On the day it was tracked, I called the band into the recording room after a lunch break and my only instruction to them was to “make a wall of sound.” The intention was to create something brief and beautiful (like the life of my friend who passed away), yet chaotic and unscripted (like, well, the universe). The song is placed dead center at the heart of the album’s track list because I think the philosophy of this song is essentially the philosophy of the record: finding the beauty in a world of chaos.

 

 

MFL: Is there a particular track on Love & Summer that you enjoy playing more than the others? If so, what is it and why?

 KAP: I think it depends on the gig. When it’s with the band, the title track “Love & Summer” is a ball to perform. We’ve only played it live a few times at this point, but each time has felt like a circus pulling into town. When I play solo, “Back to the Earth” is a good one to play. I think that one requires a bit more of the audience’s attention in order for it to resonate, and that can be hard to pull off on a Saturday night in Chicago.

 

 

MFL: What kind of feelings do you hope to invoke in your listeners when they are taking in Love & Summer?

 KAP: Whimsy, optimism, existential dread, hope, nostalgia, running barefoot through backyards, sitting on a curb on a skateboard eating an apple with a pocketknife, etc.

 

3_KAP_Love & Summer Record Release Show

  Photo: Love & Summer record release show image, taken just last weekend. Photo by Mike Neerhof.

 MFL: I see you are Chicago-based but not Chicago-born? Where were you born and raised and how did that environment shape your life as a musician?

 KAP: Well, I was born and raised just outside of Chicago. City-folk tend to get up-in-arms about people claiming they’re from Chicago when they’re not, so I tread those waters carefully. But the town where I grew up was a fantastic breeding ground for me creatively. It was a town that introduced me to skateboarding and subsequently led me to discovering punk rock, going to garage shows, buying a guitar, starting a band of my own, dying my hair bleach blonde with blue streaks, etc. Skate culture is one that promotes creativity and self-expression and had I never been introduced to it, I would likely not be making records today.

 

5_KAP_Skater

 Photo (caption in the words of KAP): Skater punk me (relevant to question 6). Photo by god knows who.

 

MFL: For those that are new to your music, if we were to listen to your previous record, Sorrow Sings, what sort of differences would we notice lyrically and musically?

KAP: Lyrically, I think you’d notice a similarity in the themes explored on each record. Both juggle grim and heavy topics while still weaving a thread of optimism throughout. Musically, Sorrow Sings is much more stripped down. It was recorded in an old church with no drums and minimal accompaniment. Love & Summer, however, is like a VW bus of musical arrangements. Everything from hand drums, organs, fiddle, pedal steel, trumpet, and more, make their way onto the record giving each and every song its own unique life. Still trying to figure out that VW bus comment? Me too.

 

MFL: What is your favorite way to listen to music: vinyl, CD, stream, cassette tapes, whatever is on your favorite radio station, or any others you can think of?

 KAP: I’d say live music is my favorite. These days, music has become so accessible to the point that it’s disposable. People listen to 30 seconds of a song and if they don’t like it, they skip to the next like it’s nothing. Because they can. At a live show, there are no options to skip ahead or listen to something else. It challenges our instincts as music consumers and forces us to really listen to what an artist has to say or express. And that’s something no streaming service will ever be able to reproduce.

 

MFL: Besides your own record, what record are you most excited about that’s been released this year?

 KAP: I have been loving Bob Dylan’s foray into American standards and his new one “Triplicate” is no exception. There’s nothing cooler than an artist who has nothing left to prove. When listening, some might roll their eyes and hear nothing but old songs poorly sung, but I hear a soundtrack to a southern gothic. I see a tall shadowy man in an old suit, walking and whistling up a long country road with a full moon above him and a dog at his side. Beautiful stuff.

Also looking forward to new ones from The War on Drugs, Josh Ritter, Gia Margaret, Todd Kessler, Jessica Robbins, and Louise Kelly.

 

MFL: Finally, where and when can we find you playing live in the next few months if at all?

 KAP: Sadly, we won’t be doing much extensive touring but you’ll be the first to know if that changes!

 

Thank you to Kevin for all the emailing back and forth and for his thoughtful answers. You can follow KAP via his website and Facebook. You can purchase his new record and previous releases on Bandcamp and iTunes.

 

New music video from Ryley Walker: “Roundabout”

Ryley Walker’s latest single, “Roundabout”, is out now with an accompanying music video directed by Joe Martiniz Jr. The track was plucked from Walker’s upcoming record, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, which is due out August 19th on Dead Oceans and was produced by LeRoy Bach of Wilco. The video depicts a raucus 4th of July celebration in Pilsen in Chicago. Already-deployed fireworks litter the streets while locals clutching a Budweiser and kids under the age of 10 with gas torches continue to improvise what is their explosive and raw attempt at firework show. About the music video, Walker says:

“Fourth of July in Pilsen is the height of summer in Chicago.” He goes on, “Dozens of crews with ad hoc explosives and a beer in hand make for a blitzkrieg celebration. I lived at 21st/Leavitt some years back and got to know this evening first hand very well. Forever my favorite part of summer in the city. This video hopefully captures a few of those moments of joy from the people involved.”

The song itself is gentle and subtle with simple guitar picking, in complete juxtaposition to the chaos of the music video. However, the sentiment behind the video and in Walker’s reflection and connection to the video content flows perfectly with the track.

 

 

Walker will be touring nonstop:

AUGUST
12th      UK       Guildford, St. Mary’s ^
16th      SE        Malmofest, Malmo
18th      PT        Praia do Tabuao, Parades de Coura
19th      UK       London, Rough Trade East instore
20th      UK       Brecon Beacons, Green Man Festival
25th      US       Chicago, IL, Empty Bottle

SEPTEMBER
9th        MX      Mexico City, Foro Indie Rocks
14th      US       Bloomington, IN, The Bishop ^^
15th      US       Nashville, TN, The East End ^^
16th      US       Bristol, VA, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion
17th      US       Bristol, VA, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion
18th      US       Bristol, VA, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion
21st      US       Sonoma, CA, Gundlach Bundschu Winery *
24th      CA       Montreal, QC, Rialto Theatre **
25th      CA       Toronto, ON, The Drake **
26th      US       Pittsburgh, PA, Club Café  **
27th      US       Columbus, OH, Wexner Center @ Ohio State  **
29th      US       Madison, WI, The Frequency  **
30th      US       Minneapolis, MN, 7th Street Entry  **

OCTOBER
1st        US       Des Moines, IA, Vaudeville Mews **
2nd        US       Omaha, NE, Reverb Lounge **
4th        US       Salt Lake CIty, UT, Kilby Court **
5th        US       Boise, ID, Neurolox **
7th        CA       Vancouver, BC, The Fox Cabaret **
8th        US       Seattle, WA, Barboza **
9th        US       Portland, OR, Mississippi Studios **
11th      US       Felton, CA, Don Quixote Music Hall **
12th      US       San Francisco, CA, The Chapel **
13th      US       Los Angeles, CA, The Echo **
14th      US       San Diego, CA, Soda Bar **
15th      US       Joshua Tree, CA, Desert Daze Festival                                                    
16th      US       Phoenix, AZ, Valley Bar **
17th      US       Santa Fe, NM, Meow Wolf **
19th      US       Denton, TX, Dan’s Silverleaf **
20th      US       Austin, TX,      The Mohawk **
22nd      US       Tallahasee, FL, Wolf Den **
24th      US       Athens, GA, Calendonia Lounge **
25th      US       Asheville, NC, The Mothlight **
26th      US       Washington, DC, DC9 **
27th      US       Philadelphia, PA, Boot & Saddle **
28th      US       Hudson, NY, The Half Moon **
29th      US       Northampton, MA, Iron Horse Music Hall **
30th      US       Providence, RI, Columbus Theatre **

NOVEMBER
1st        US       Boston, MA, Cafe 939 **
2nd        US       New Haven, CT, BAR **
3rd        US       Brooklyn, NY, The Market Hotel **
7th        NL       Amsterdam, Paradiso Noord ***
8th        NL       Groningen, Vera ***
9th        FR        Paris, Espace B
10th      BE       Brussels, AB Club ***
11th      BE       Bruge, Cactus ***
12th      NL       Utrecht, Le Guess Who? festival
13th      UK       Brighton, The Haunt ***
14th      UK       Manchester, Ruby Lounge ***
15th      UK       Glasgow, Broadcast ***
17th      UK       London, Islington Assembly Hall ***
20th      ES        Barcelona, Sidecar
21st      ES        Valencia, Loco Club
22nd      ES        Cadiz, Aulario de la Bomba
23rd      ES        Madrid, Siroco
26th      FR        Lyon, Le Sonic
29th      CH       Lausanne, Le Bourg ***
30th      DE       Schorndorf, Manufaktur ***

DECEMBER
1st        DE       Erlangen, E-Werk ***
2nd        DE       Berlin, Kantine am Berghain ***
4th        NO       Oslo, John Dee ***
5th        SE        Stockholm, Bryggarsalen ***
6th        DK       Copenhagen, Pumpehuset ***
7th        DE       Hamburg, Nochtspeicher ***

^          Ryley solo show
^^         with Promise Land Sound
*          supporting Iron & Wine / Sam Beam
**        with Circuit Des Yeux
***      with Itasca

 

Chicago-dream folkers step into the studio for their first full length!

Remember these guys?

Remember how much MFL loved their EP? If you have forgotten, check out the review of their EP, Gardens. 

The fellas are reaching out to the public now to support them on their epic adventure to record their first full length record. The Kickstarter campaign is running until June 2nd and the goal is $8,000! You can support them here.

New track from Chicago rockers, Tuff Slang: “Nothing All the Time”

Hell-bent on meshing southern twang, rock and rhythm n’ soul, Chicago rock trio, Tuff Slang has created a genre all their own. Back in March, Cody Messick (Guitar & Vox), Justin Frederick (Bass & Vox) and Aaron Vincel (Drums) released their latest track, “Nothing All the Time.” It’s a seriously catchy indie rock gem that’s guaranteed to lodge itself between your ears for days (don’t worry, that’s a good thing!). According to the fellas, “Nothing All the Time” was one of the first tracks they wrote during their earliest rehearsals. Good thing they held onto it after all this time! “Nothing All the Time” describes a typical occurrence in relationships of all types. Just listen to the track and you’ll be able to relate.

You can purchase the single on Bandcamp now.

Album announcement from Chicago band, Whitney

Whitney is a most beautiful combination of ex-members of both the Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Max Kakacek (ex-Smith Westerns, guitar) and Julien Ehrlich (ex-Unknown Mortal Orchestra, vocals/drums) have come together to create Whitney. The project was created organically during a harsh winter in Chicago after the boys life paths crossed yet again.

Yesterday they announced the release of their debut record as a team,  Light Upon the Lake, which is a result of a high intensity burst of creative energy from the two.

Check the feel good single, “Golden Days”, from Light Upon the Lake which is due out June 3rd on Secretly Canadian:

 

Catch the guys touring this spring:

Sat. Apr. 9 – Bloomington, IN @ Culture Shock – Dunn Meadow – University of Indiana
Tue. Apr. 19 – Los Angeles, CA @ Union
Wed. Apr. 20 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah w/ Wild Nothing
Thu. Apr. 21 – Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room w/ Wild Nothing
Fri. Apr. 22 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent w/ Wild Nothing
Mon. Apr. 25 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile w/ Wild Nothing
Tue. Apr. 26 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret w/ Wild Nothing
Wed. Apr. 27 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge w/ Wild Nothing
Thu. Apr. 28 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux w/ Wild Nothing
Fri. Apr. 29 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Loading Dock w/ Wild Nothing
Mon. May 2 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club w/ Wild Nothing
Tue. May 3 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall w/ Wild Nothing
Sat. May 7 – Fort Collins, CO @ Aggie Theatre w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Sun. May 8 – Lincoln, NE @ Vega w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Mon. May 9 – Des Moines, IA @ Wooly’s w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Tue. May 10 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Thu. May 12 – Lawrence, KS @ The Bottleneck w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Fri. May 13 – Memphis, TN @ 1884 Lounge – Minglewood Hall w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Sat. May 14 – Oxford, MS @ Proud Larry’s
Tue. May 17 – Columbus, OH @ Skully’s Music Diner w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Wed. May 18 – Grand Rapids, MI @ The Pyramid Scheme w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Thu. May 19 – Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Fri. May 20 – Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium (Dempsey’s Upstairs) w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Sat. May 21 – Winnipeg, MB @ West End Culture Centre w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Mon. May 23 – Saskatoon, SK @ Amigos Cantina w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Tue. May 24 – Edmonton, AB @ The Starlite Room w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Wed. May 25 – Calgary, AB @ Commonwealth Bar w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Mon. May 30 – Detroit, MI @ El Club
Tue. May 31 – Cleveland, OH @ Mahalls
Wed. June 1 – Albany, NY @ The Hollow
Fri. June 3 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right
Fri. July 15 – Chicago, IL @ Pitchfork Music Festival

 

 

Album Review: “Ilsa” by Mike Castle

Mike Castle, a Chicago-based singer/songwriter and incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist, recently shared the story, embodiment and tale of his journey through a dark time in his life, in the language of music. This story came to us in a neat package of tracks, a record titled, Ilsa. Unable to bear the constant stimulation of life which came to him in the form of intense anxiety, Castle found himself in a hospital, certain his heart was failing him. From this experience he emerged with a new sense of hope, love, forgiveness and fulfillment. He emerged with a clearer picture of what his life was and what it will be, and that this battle with anxiety will be ongoing, but he can handle it. With this clearer picture, also came the understanding of imperfection and patience with the imperfections of life.

 

Ilsa is decorated with heartbreak, pain and revelation disguised in blues, rock and folk-inspired sounds. Every sound, instrument and voice you hear on this record is Castle himself. He worked tirelessly to create twenty to thirty demos and when it came down to getting into a studio, a collaborator suggested to Castle, he just do it all himself. “Just do it, it won’t sound the same if you don’t do it all,” he said. That was precisely what Castle did. The result was exactly what Castle wanted, a record wrought with subtle flaws and dripping with raw emotion and honesty, the epitome of Castle and his life.

 

It opens with “Trying to Be the Man.” You can hear the struggle instrumentally and lyrically. The struggle of sifting through the mess that one’s thoughts can become. The deep sea of questions, what ifs, why, when and how can be difficult to keep afloat in, to catch a breath when it’s constantly washing over you. The ringing guitar in your ears feels like that constant reminder and tug that anxiety manifests as. At times in the song it’s buried by other instruments, or Castle’s voice but at other times, it’s all you can hear. Within this, is a story, a message from a man who is trying to overcome this all to be a man for someone else. To be a man that exists within himself but is so hard to reach sometimes.

 

 

“Telephone Wire” is a bluesy piano ballad that goes hand in hand with “Trying to Be the Man.” Whether it’s the story of another love or the same love, it ends in pain but this is the kind of pain that’s accepted and resolved. Much of the theme of this record is acceptance of the way things are but knowing that, according to Castle, “love eventually wins.” Other tracks dealing with lost, past or present loves, like “Late Night Girls”, the 6 minute “Lake of Fire” and “Ilsa”, the namesake of the record, are rich with this theme.

 

“Rio Grande” is a short, absolutely rock-inspired track while “The Only Thing I Really Loved” starts sounding like a 60s rock track and when Castle’s vocals are added in, it takes on a more contemporary sound. Ilsa will not age as it incorporates elements of so many decades and styles of music. It’s the kind of record that could be listened to in 20 years’ time and could be placed anywhere in the chronologically organized file cabinet of the last 60 years of music. It’s clear that Castle had fun being creative on this album. No track begins or ends like any other track on the album and he showcases his ability as a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and lyricist/storyteller.

 

“Light” is an undeniably unique track dominated by distorted vocals and ripping guitar. The distorted vocals sound like they’re coming to you through water. They sound like the sun looks when you open your eyes under water and see its light above you, flittering and rippling but irrefutably powerful.

In the darkness, there’s a light.

Keeps me safe and holds me tight.

 

“Light” builds gently until the light pours, explodes and shoots out of every crack, crevice and imperfection, reaching its highest point right when you think the song is going to end. It leaves you on the edge of your seat. This is one of my favorites on Ilsa.

 

 

“Guillotine” brings the record to a close, summarizing and reiterating what Ilsa represents. The perspective that life is so short but is so rich. It’s a decadent experience that can be so incredibly overwhelming at times, hard to deal with, unbearable but beautiful when you let it be beautiful. A line from “Guillotine” summarizes it so perfectly:

In my short time of being here, I have loved, lost, I lied.

Ilsa is available now on Bandcamp and iTunes. You can also find out more about Mike Castle and his music at his website: mikecastlemusic.com

 

Album Review: “Gardens” by Chicago’s own, Sedgewick

So familiar, but so unfamiliar, Sedgewick has honed in on exactly what my ears love: something creative, unique, eccentric and new yet something friendly and recognizable despite the fact that I’d never had the pleasure of allowing their music to grace my ears until recently.

In their music I hear the fantastically rare vocals that remind me of Alt-J, the warm, emotionally drenched lyricism and instrumentation of Horse Feathers and The Oh Hellos and the celebratory pounding and harmonies of Fleet Foxes. I am head over heels for these four unassuming songs that make up Sedgewick’s most recently released EP, Gardens. 

The opening cut, “The World in You”, tenderly draws you in and releases you to the sonic loveliness that Sedgewick has built. The strings and vocal harmonies will melt you:

Following the first track, is “Nostalgia” a raw and beautiful track featuring identifiable sounds from everyone’s childhood: giggles, shouts of joy, and innocent enthusiasm for life.

The only reason I’m not writing about the other two songs on the EP is because I want you to hear and feel them for yourselves. Gardens was released this past spring of 2015 and you can find it on Sedgewick’s Bandcamp page and on iTunes. Additionally, they were featured on Daytrotter where they premiered some new material that we can all look forward to hearing again next year on a new record. Sedgwick is composed of Chicago fellows Sam Brownson, Oliver Horton, and Jake Hawryla.