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by Mike Nikolich
Break-ups are never easy, and Jen Dot claims she’s still not over the break-up of Swimsuit Addition, a popular Chicago band that was considered one of our city’s rising stars as recently as 2016.
“It broke my heart when Swimsuit Addition dissolved,” Dot says. “I put my heart and soul into that band and I wondered if I ever could recapture the magic.”
Fortunately for us, Dot is resilient, as evidenced by the release of Can’t Wait, a fine new recording by her latest band, beastii. While she still smarts from the pain of the dissolution of Swimsuit Addition, Dot clearly has moved on, calling her new album “Some of the best work of my career.”
beastii and Sex No Babies are the featured acts at the January 24 edition of CHIRP Night at the Whistler. The show starts at 8:30 pm, and admission to free to anyone 21 years or older.
Can’t Wait features nine garage rock gems, some of which Dot wrote years ago. The music is raw and hard-rocking, with strong vocals and solid musicianship. Opening tracks “Can’t Wait” and “Black Magic” set the tone, with muscular guitar licks and Dot’s urgent vocals. Other standout tracks include “So Far In” and “You Don’t See Me.” You can check out the album at beastii's Bandcamp page.
“I’ve been writing songs since I was 12 years old, and began recording them on cassettes when I was 15,” Dot says. “I love many of my early songs. In some ways, I think I was smarter when I was a kid. I would write about something as trivial as getting cut from a basketball team. My lyrics were so geek back then, but the songs have a simplicity and honesty that still resonates with me.”
One of Dot’s earliest recordings lives for eternity on Bandcamp. The album of acoustic guitar-based emo ballads, is called Fight Like A Man, recorded under the alias of Genevieve Whitetooth.
A special education teacher for Chicago Public Schools, accomplished DJ, fiction writer and blogger, Dot considers herself an artist first, with an emphasis on writing, something she’s been doing since she was a child.
“My older sister died when I was nine, and writing poetry was a way for me to deal with the grief,” Dot told What About Chicago podcasters Rahim Salaam and Ben Moroney last fall. “I used poetry to express myself, sometimes by simply rewriting my sister’s poems, but writing came naturally for me, and it still does to this day.”
Dot created Disappearing Media, a creative web portal for writers, as well as the Pulp Oddyssey, which covers news from a fictional universe. In addition, Dot provided writing and creative input for The Ghost Planet, a monthly experimental variety show hosted by Frank Okay at Township.
“I probably spread myself too thin,” Dot says, “But I enjoy interacting with artists of all types. I tend to go into a lot of directions because I am passionate about art and have a lot of ideas, not to mention channels of communication. I like to throw ideas out there and see what sticks.”
Science fiction figures into the band’s name. beastii stands for beings eternal from alternate space terra II, a story Dot is still writing. The songs began as a solo project, until Dot started collaborating in the studio with Chris Lee (Soddy Daisy) and Dom D’Amico (Atomic Love, Dom’s Rock Fantasy).
“Chris was doing the recording and playing drums, and when Dom joined, we realized we were doing something special,” Dot says. “I think this recording is the most ‘me,’ but it’s definitely a collaborative effort. Dom and Chris provided the extra edge for these songs.”
Dot’s influences range from Blur to Gorillaz to Magnetic Fields, with Patti Smith and PJ Harvey tossed in for good measure. But the Monkees may have had the biggest influence on her songwriting. You can hear the guitar riff from “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” a tune written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, on “Earthquake Weather.”
“That’s not an accident,” Dot says. “I try to sneak that chord structure into a lot of my songs. I listened to a lot of sixties garage bands as a kid, and still love that sound.”
Dot’s favorite song on “Can’t Wait” is “Moonwalkin’,” a tribute she wrote to Michael Jackson the day after he died in 2009.
“Michael Jackson was such an important musical influence and it took me years of rewrites to come up with a version of that song that I liked,” Dot says. “But I was really happy with the version we recorded for Can’t Wait.”
beastii will perform that song and most of Can’t Wait when Dot takes the stage at “CHIRP Night at the Whistler” with Lee and D’Amico. It should be a terrific show and proof positive that people can emerge from conflict stronger than ever.
Mike Nikolich is a DJ at CHIRP Radio-107.1 FM/Chicago. You can hear his show every Friday from noon to 3 p.m. Central Time.
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