It’s that time of the month. Free Music Friday is two days away, and this month’s edition features some return performances to kick off a new school year.
The Ex-Bombers return from a summer spent touring in support of their latest LP, “Five Star Night.” Coles County’s own The Spinning Chambers are back on stage for the first time in over a year, and Smoke Off Vinyl returns to Charleston for the first time in two years. Charleston homey Ryan Noir will kick off the evening.
I was able to chat with Chris Reehoff, guitarist for Smoke Off Vinyl, via Facebook IM. Here are some details about the trio (also featuring Ryan Banks on drums and John Jauch on bass/vocals).
Q: How did you guys form up? And when?
CR: We formed sometime in late ’99. I met John in ’94 when we played baseball together in college. We eventually found out that we both played guitar, so we got together and wrote some spectacularly lame acoustic tunes; I remember that we really liked Candlebox … but who didn’t, right? We actually ended up losing touch for a few years and then randomly ran into each other at a Chicago bar and decided to start playing again.
Somewhere in that time frame, Ryan started playing drums. After John and I got back together and started writing some music that we’ll just call “better,” I called Ryan and asked him if he’d want to come play drums with us. I think that’s pretty much the story … it’s been 15 years, so that might be a little fuzzy, but it’s close.
Q: How would you describe your sound?
CR: We play an engulfing style of indie rock.
Q: Who are your influences?
CR: We’re all over the map. We dig the classics, we dig a ton of bands that most people have unfortunately never heard, we dig the music our friends make; in some fashion it all finds its way into what we do.
Q: What’s the writing process like?
CR: Most of the time I’ll bring in a riff along with a change off of that riff, and then we jam on that idea until we feel like it works. Finishing a song can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, it’s all about the feeling. We go back and forth on arrangements quite a bit. If anyone has an idea we explore it. If we feel like we’re fighting something, we’ll walk away from the idea and revisit it down the road. Sometimes that distancing really helps. Other times, songs just materialize spontaneously in practice; “Shindig” is an example of that. Those spontaneous, creative moments are really cool … easily one of the best parts about being in this band.
Q: On your bandcamp page, the last album was from 2005, have you released anything, plan to release anything in the near future?
CR: We actually became a five-piece band in 2006. We added another guitar and keys, but we broke up in early ’07 and that was that. We had recorded an albums worth of new tunes, but we never did anything with them. We were idle from that day until we were asked to play the Cal’s farewell show in 2012 (Cal’s was a killer dive bar in Chicago) as a three-piece. We thought it was the perfect time and excuse to get the band rolling again, so we did it …we’ve been playing together since and have recently been writing new tunes; we have plans to record a new album and release it on Cavetone Records. We still need to hammer out some details and work out some of the scheduling stuff, but we’re hoping to begin the sessions this winter with Steve Albini at the helm.
Q: What’s the most challenging part of the band experience?
CR: Honestly, these days, I think it’s just trying to find your own space to legitimately exist in as a band. I always hear people talk about how the Internet has provided countless ways for bands to be heard … and sure, in theory, I guess that’s true. But with the ease of digital recording there are now so many bands/artists flooding those avenues that it has all become a giant washout. Basically what I’m saying is, there is no magic button on your computer keyboard that will get your music “out there,” you know?
That’s why we love what Cavetone is doing, their approach all boils down to making a connection with someone at a live show through your performance. So, kick some ass live and hopefully you make that connection, and if that person buys your album and takes you home with them (so to speak), I think it’s great that it’s something that CAN’T be found on the Internet … the record then becomes something special for that person you made the connection with … and I think that matters.
Q: The part you enjoy the most?
CR: Well, we’ve been a band for 15 years and in that time we’ve been through a lot together, in and out of the band dynamic. At the core of it, we’re never short on laughs … and that is usually what makes it all work. And the chicks are great. (This is an “Almost Famous” joke – ed.)