Chicago’s music scene is bursting with talented bands that deserve national attention, and 8-bit crEEps is no exception. Founded in 2016 after guitarist Mick Kong, bassist Jbird James and keyboardist Ginger Glitch dissolved The Van Goghs, they beefed up their sound and became the 8-bit crEEps when former Wedding Photography drummer Joey Charch joined the band.
“We were looking for a new drummer and put an ad on Craig’s List,” Mick says. “Joey’s drumming blew us away. He helped transform our sound and we’ve continued to refine it ever since.”
While 11 of The Van Gogh’s pop gems live in perpetuity on Soundcloud, the 8-bit crEEps have a harder-edged sound, featuring longer tracks that give the quartet plenty of opportunities to stretch out and show off.
“Our music definitely has a psych-surf/post-punk sound,” Jbird says, “but we have been influenced by so many artists and genres of music that we find it difficult to put a label on our music. We describe it as new sounds on old circuits.”
The band’s name was influenced the dimly-lit video arcades that Mick used to frequent when he was a kid.
“These arcades were dark, dank and filled with lowlifes with bad mullets who mindlessly played the 8-bit video games that were popular at the time,” Mick said. “One guy lurked about Sinbad’s Castle, Haunted Trail and other southside Chicago arcades. I never knew his name, but since he gave me the creeps, we immortalized him by naming our band the 8-bit crEEps.”
The band describes its sound as “Syd Barrett singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to David Byrne,” and clearly owes a musical debt to Talking Heads, with flourishes of Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Peter Murphy and even Minneapolis’ beloved Trip Shakespeare tossed in for good measure.
Did someone’s parents own a killer music collection?
“Yep,” Mick says. “My mom played a ton of Bowie, Stones, Beatles and Paul Simon when I was growing up. You hear a lot of Bowie in our music and that’s definitely not by accident.”
Currently, the band has written 20 original songs and Joey says they’ll be heading to the studio to record some of these songs in May.
Ginger, on the other hand, loves bluegrass and honky tonk, and was raised on punk bands like Fugazi.
“Tesla Coil Magnet Train” is an excellent example of the band’s eclectic style. Mick kicks things off with a muscular guitar riff before Ginger adds a 1980’s-flavored synthesizer fill. Mick’s vocals initially may remind you of David Byrne, but once the song changes directions at the 4-minute mark with a cool guitar riff, Ginger’s vocoder and gorgeous harmonies, you realize the band is creating its own unique sound that likely will influence other artists.
On March 17, 8-bit crEEps will release a cassette featuring previously recorded songs at a performance at Quencher’s Saloon with fellow Chicago favorites Soft Speaker and Ovef Ow.
For CHIRP Night at the Whistler, the band plans to play 8-10 original songs, and may perform a cover of “Psycho Killer” for good measure.
“We have a solid set of songs planned, including a couple of new ones,” Jbird says. “The Whistler is a great place to play. Intimate. Small. Great drinks. Receptive audiences. The neighborhood has the same feel that Wicker Park had 10 years ago, which is why bands love playing here.”
One tune the band likely will play is “New Zoo,” the first song they recorded.
“This was the first full 8-bit crEEps song and we enjoy playing it live,” JBird says. “The song has a fun feel to it, with a lot of ups and downs, and it’s definitely a fan favorite.”
After one Chicago gig, a woman from London approached Mick and gushed that the band would be huge if it was based in the U.K.
Luckily for us Chicagoans, since all the band’s members are gainfully employed at several of the area’s leading technology, retail and gaming companies, we don’t have to worry about the lads moving across the pond anytime soon.
But since nobody can predict the future, you should make plans to see 8-bit crEEps and Superfyre on Feb. 28 at CHIRP Night at the Whistler. Tickets are free, but you will need to RSVP to 21+ show.
You can listen to Mike Nikolich every Friday from noon to 3 pm on CHIRP-107.1 FM