Electro dream-pop outfit Deep Sleep plays at Summer Sessions on Logan Square this Saturday, July 27th at 5pm. Here, he discusses being a solo act vs. having a band and how his design background influences his music.
1. What are your main sources of inspiration when it comes to composing and creating music?
In general, all the tunes come out of improvisations, jams, recordings, found sounds, things I see, things I hear, etc… it’s less about finding an inspiration for a ‘song’, per se, and more about evolving a simple idea. This may be the reason that the songs tend to be all over the place, as I’m still discovering a ‘sound’. I often record things onto my phone and then listen back to say, an hour long noodling, and then find this 3 second moment where it comes together, interesting sound/texture/feel, and then I start there. It all depends on who’s in the room playing, what instruments are being played, what time of year it is, what I’m into at the time, what mood I’m in, and what knobs are turned. I rather like the idea of the studio as a sound lab, creating different sonic experiments, some of which fail, and some of which succeed and progress. On the opposite end, ‘feel’ is really important, that’s probably been my greatest learning over the past few years. You can have super technical chops and you can be in a session where everyone plays perfectly, but if it doesn’t have the right ‘feel’, then it’s not there. It’s not something you can really teach or learn—or maybe it is—but it’s just something that you just ‘feel’ ;)
2. Deep Sleep seems like the kind of act that could be a solo project in the studio and a band in performance. What role does collaboration play in either or both of these settings?
Deep Sleep began as a solo project—and still functions very much as one—though collaboration happens just as much as it doesn’t. I was playing with Icy Demons for some years, and as a number of the demons moved to different parts of the country, I found myseIf diving more into solo production. I also got really into synthesis and sequencing, which seems to be a solo endeavor a lot of the time. I’m fortunate to have a great community of musicians at the Shape Shoppe on Chicago’s southside. There are a host of bands there—Chandeliers, Axis:Sova, Golden Birthday, Afterlife, Songs for Gods, Medicinal Brew, Teacher’s Pet, Dar Embarks—generating an enormous amount of material. There is also quite a lot of overlap with these musicians in each other’s bands… I also play in Chandeliers and Teacher’s Pet.
3. Your day job is in design. Do you bring what people would think of as basic “design principles” to bear on your music composition and production?
Yes, for sure. In any mode of creative production—design, art, music—the approach is based in the process. I’ve spent many years thinking about what it means to establish a strong practice and evolve a strong process. Research and experimentation are the crux of my creative process. Failure is where the learning happens. As I mentioned above, it’s much less about having a great ‘idea’ or ‘inspiration’, and much more about starting with a simple idea and seeing how far you can evolve that idea. A large part of my musical process is visual, and vice versa… if that makes sense.
4. Are there any Chicago bands you are really excited about right now? What was the last great show you saw?
Bands: Afterlife, Axis:Sova, Bitchin Bajas, Cave, Chandeliers, Dar Embarks, Hunter & Josh, J.Fernandez, Magas, Mike Broers, Onyou, Oscillator Bug, Songs For Gods, Thin Hymns, Windbreaker, Wume…. and all the Chicago jazzbos…
Hm… I guess I don’t go to as many shows as I used to, unless I’m playing at them… ha. But… the few that stick out in my mind right at this moment… Oscillator Bug at the Burlington was great. He caught me off guard and just shredded that Arp Odyssey. Dave McDonnell Quartet at Skylark playing his new compositions… total rippers, serious skills. Herculaneum 10 year anniversary at the hideout, outstanding.
5. What song or songs would you like played at your funeral?
Wait, why? Is that happening soon? I guess right now I’d say I’ve been listening to a lot of Chic, Loose Ends, Bee Gees, Pet Shop Boys, Tears for Fears, Jean Michel Jarre, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou… oh yeah… actually, that would be great, just have Orchestre Poly-Ryhtmo play, that’d definitely make for a good time. I’d definitely go to that.
MODERN MEDICINE / $12 — Banks 5 Island Rum, Drambuie, Lemon, Lime, Weatherby’s Banana Bitters
New to the Whistler’s cocktail menu this week is our update of a MacKinnon, which is the long-lost Scottish cousin of the classic Daiquiri. It’s light, refreshing, slightly herbal and fruity. If you ask us, taking your medicine has never tasted so good!
Also: Big thanks to the guys at Weatherby’s Bitters for specially making these Banana Bitters for us. Once again, you nailed it.
Trip Report: Purple Pig, The Whistler, Billy Sunday, Yusho, Au Cheval, The Aviary, Alinea, Frontera Grill
The Whistler — Had a great Painkiller with Smith & Cross, funky and creamy and boozy. Also tried a gin, pineapple, lime, and curry drink called the Delhi Cooler. Fun, almost unmarked space with a backyard, with a no frills, dive-y atmosphere. Left before the live music started.
Thanks for visiting! We hope you can stick around for the music next time.
In anticipation of her performance at Summer Sessions on the Square, we interviewed country artist Angela James. You can hear her in person on Saturday, July 27th at 5pm at the Illinois Centennial Monument, Milwaukee/Kedzie. The show is free and open to all ages.
1. When songwriting, from where do you draw your inspiration?
Some songs I’ve decided to write about very specific ideas— like “Wanna Be Lyin with You” I set out to write a song about sleeping with someone you know you shouldn’t but you can’t help yourself. So many great country and soul songs are about that and it’s just such a relatable theme. It starts with an idea about something and I go from there— usually editing a bunch as I go along so things aren’t trite or riddled with cliches. And then sometimes the songs just come out of nowhere and “write themselves,” although usually when that happens it’s just a phrase or a melodic line that mysteriously hits me and the rest of the songs is working around that. I suppose that I write about dark things- relationships that soured, making mistakes, loneliness, etc. but there’s almost always some glimmer of redemption through the darkness. I guess I’m inspired by bad decisions and when shit went wrong and the aftermath of that. Makes me sound like a real good time… .
2. Who are some of your biggest influences?
Hmmmm, obviously Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Sammi Smith, Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, Lee Hazelwood and Linda Ronstadt. A lot of soul music- Candi Staton, Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Johnny Bristol, etc. As far as contemporary artists are concerned— Lambchop, Neko Case, Maxwell (I pretty much listen to just R&B these days), and Bonnie Prince Billy. When I think too long about this, the list just keeps growing. But, honestly, I grew up listening to a lot of really bad, cheesy music on the radio- that’s where I learned to sing and that I had a good voice. Think country from the eighties— Crystal Gayle, Ronnie Milsap, Tanya Tucker, the Judds, Reba McEntire. That crap definitely shaped who I am today.
3. Your music seems to pull from country music of the 50’s & 60’s. What about that music really appeals to you?
As I said, I grew up listening to country music, but not the “good” stuff. I came across classic country music in high school and college when most everybody is defining what kind of music they’re into. I loved it, but was more into rock and experimental music until I went to graduate school and began playing music once a week with a group of people my grandparent’s age (long story). They played classic country music and I realized that singing that kind of music was accessing a deep, soulful part of who I am. Then I started writing my own songs two years ago (I’m a late bloomer) and that’s just what came out of me. It feels like truly my voice, both in songwriting and in singing. I love that in country music you can write sincerely and openly about what goes on in relationships. There’s obviously a lot of room for schmaltz, bad production and cliché, but when it’s done well, nothing can hit you as hard as an honest-to-God country song.
4. Does the weather affect your music? Do you play different types of sets on warm, summer afternoons and cold, January evening?
I’ve never thought about it, but I will now that you’ve brought it up. I think my sets have more to do with the energy of the audience and the venue where I’m playing. I should probably write a song about rain since the last two outdoor shows I’ve done have been soggy affairs. Hope I don’t jinx Summer Sessions.
5. What song or songs would you like played at your funeral?
I want someone playing old Protestant hymns on the vibraphone. Or even better, two vibraphones! I really like the idea of a burning pyre on a lake (in Eastern Tennessee where I’m from) in the middle of the night with vibraphones playing “It Is Well With My Soul.”
photo by Jordan Martins
Thanks to Paul Leddy at Chicagoist for naming our Shrinebuilder among The Best Cocktails in Chicago.
THE SHRINEBUILDER AT THE WHISTLER
Doing what I do, I am fortunate to sample the many cocktail creations made by our talented bartenders around the city. I can honestly say I have never had a truly bad cocktail. There are, however, the cocktails that are so good that I can’t stop thinking about them. One of them is The Shrinebuilder at The Whistler. A delicious swizzle-style cocktail made of Green Chartreuse and Verdita (pineapple juice, jalapeño, cilantro, and mint), it is spicy, sweet, herbal, fresh, and delicious all at the same time. When I have made it at home, every person who tried it has responded with, “whoa, this is great, what is it?”
Thanks Chicago Magazine!
2013 BEST OF CHICAGO
Best Queer Dance Party: Slow ‘Mo
Show up to the Whistler on the third Thursday of the month and you may be pulled into a circle of sequin-clad ladies shaking their hips to the likes of Mary J. Blige, TLC, and Ginuwine. This is Slo ’Mo—Slow Jams for Homos—Logan Square’s sultriest dance party, started in 2011 by Kristen Kaza and DJ Tess Kisner. Have no fear: The evening’s loyal fans will welcome you into the fold.
Coming August 7th to The Whistler: Rock Proper and Chicago Mixtape present The Summer Six Pack: 6 Free Albums To Celebrate Summertime