Birds of Chicago creates a soulful urban folk. Having recently released their debut album and wrapped up an extensive US tour the band is primed to strengthen their following. Thankfully they found some time to answer some of BLS's questions.
BLS: You have both experienced success individually or in other bands. How dose this experience differ form your past musical endeavors?
BOC: it feels like a natural evolution: each of our bands had been collaborating, to an increasing degree, for the last several years... this freakish canadian-american hybrid is the final biomusical result of all those years of experimenting together.
BLS: J T, I heard that you did the lion’s share of the songwriting of your self titled EP. How dose your process change when taking into consideration what Allison brings to the musical equation? Are there benefits / drawbacks to developing songs around two voices and personalities?
JT: I thank you for using that phrase - I consider the lion one of my spirit animals, along with the northern pike and the meerkat. Alli's an amazing writer -- as her couple selections on this record and her Po' Girl work reveal, I just tend to spit em out faster. As far as writing for her, however -- it's a hugely exciting thing to have another voice - a woman's voice - to write for; particularly a voice as dynamic and nuanced as hers.
BLS: Your EP is filled with elements of soul, classic country and grassroots rock. Which of you encouraged what elements? Are their influences which both of you equally draw upon?
JT: All of those influences are Alli's -- I bring more of a Norwegian Black Metal flavor to the group. Sadly, all of the songs that had more of that feel didn't make the final cut for this album... uh, seriously, one of the main reasons we gravitated towards each other in the first place is a shared love for all those musics and for the touchpoints between them...
BLS: You are currently on tour. How does the make up of your band change when you’re on the road? Have you brought any additional musicians along with you?.
JT: Basically Birds of Chicago was designed to be a collective, one that revolves around Alli and me -- but when we are at full strength, we have all the Clouds on stage with us... The Clouds plus a couple other stalwarts - namely Joe Faulhaber - our frequent Texas ax-man.
BLS: Do you find it easier to gain an audience for Birds of Chicago from fans of your past musical endeavors? Are they receptive to this new project?
BOC: For whatever reason or combination of reasons, there's been a nice groundswell of loving feeling from lots of sectors for this project, right from the start... That's the kind of thing I don't think it pays to think very much on; we're certainly happy about it, though, and we're gonna keep working really hard
BLS: As artists you have reached a level of success that awards you the opportunity to access resources that help you promote your music, book your gigs and other important aspects of growing your audience. Do you still find you’re doing a lot of work in these areas as well? If so what tools do you regularly use? Do you have any advice to pass on to bands that are just starting out?
BOC: We are just getting to a position for the first time in either of our careers, where we have a team around us that we trust implicity and that are savvy in all the ways we need people to be savvy about moving this thing forward; we're learning to let go of some daily operations a little bit, but we still spend many hours a day on band admin and promotion! Our advice to anyone just getting started will always be: nobody cares more than you do about your music! you are gonna have to be willing to be the main shepherd/advocate for getting your music out into the world, and to get yourself hip to all the social media tools at your disposal.. trust me, if we could eventually make ourselves do that stuff, you can..
BLS: From Ella & Louie and June and Johnny, the musical world is filled with male/female musical teams. What are some of your own favorites?
BOC: Etta James and Harvey Fuqua, Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell, Iris Dement and John Prine, Emmylou and Steve Earle (I know most folks would insert Graham here, but I've always loved the blend of emmylou and steve's voices best of all) --and we've been really digging the new Shovels and Rope album O' Be Joyful - which is Cary Ann Hearst and her husband Michael Trent
BLS: In honor of your bands name what is your favorite breed of bird?
Alli: Magpies and Crows
JT: Hawks and falcons amaze me more than almost any other thing in the world.
BLS: Ideally what would be the perfect state of the band if you had a choice? Recording in the Studio? Playing Live? Or just sitting around making music?
JT : As much as I love being on the road AND making records, there's probably no single greater continual thrill than the moment a new song gets finished -- or actually, sometimes, not the actual moment it gets finished, but the moment you realize it will, actually get finished. That's the main high for me, the thing that keeps me coming back.
Alli: I love that moment too - -but the greatest high for me is collaborating with musicians who inspire me and playing for a receptive/interactive audience- that perfect communion and joyful exchange which happens when all the elements align and you hit it just right..
BLS: Name 5 bands you love but who few people have heard of?
BOC: We'll just name 5 that we know, no matter what their present level of recognition, definitely deserve a lot more, and in no particular order...
Anais Mitchell -- people seem to be starting to get it with her now - but they can't do it fast enough. Her most recent record -- Young Man in America -- is flat out brilliant
The Record Low -- our favorite Chicago Band - staying for the moment, in self-imposed obscurity.. Lonesome, seriously melodic dudes with good rock n roll hunger, dissonance...
Nels Andrews: a serious poet (don't cringe at that phrase - it's beautiful!) with understated melodies that Jackson Brown would like to call his own...
Sean Hayes : the grooviest, weirdest superman lover of folk-hop.. one of a kind.
Awna Teixeira -- Alli's partner in Po' Girl just put out her first solo album, where the darkness goes... it's a quiet stunner -- sad and joyful and gorgeous all the way through.