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The CHIRP Blog

Mike Nikolich writesBuddies Turn 20 Year Friendship into a Killer Band

CHIRP Night at the Whistler always spotlights some of Chicago’s finest bands, and our August 22 show is no exception, when The Thin Cherries and I Lost Control take the stage around 8:30 pm. Tickets are free, but you will need to RSVP to this 21+ show.

The Thin Cherries [Bandcamp | Facebook] is the newest musical project founded by veteran Chicago indie rockers Steven Delisi and Mark Lofgren. Delisi is a musician and songwriter with a background in theater and film production. His previous band, Phenomenal Cat, blended his pop/punk sensibilities with experimental music and the Russian folk influences of his bandmates.

Songwriter/musician Lofgren is one of the founders of the psychedelic pop/rock band The Luck of Eden Hall, who have toured Europe and released music on a variety of independent labels, including Headspin Records and Fruits de Mer Records. In 2014 Lofgren released his solo debut, The Past Perfect.

In 2015, Delisi approached Lofgren, who shares his love for bands like Blur, the Replacements and The Smiths, to collaborate on a recorded project that emphasizes good songwriting. In 2016, multi-instrumentalist Darren Shepherd and drummer Gabe Palomo joined the band. They became a quintet when Birdie Soti joined the band on keyboards and synthesizers.

Collaborating at their California Station studio in Logan Square led to the initial recordings for The Thin Cherries’ debut album, released in spring of 2017.

Currently, The Thin Cherries are recording their second album at Kingsize Sound Labs, with engineer and producer Mike Hagler. The band plans to release the LP this fall and will premiere their first single when they guest DJ on my CHIRP-107.1 FM show from 2-3 pm on Friday, Aug. 20.

Q. Steve, how long have you been playing guitar and how did you meet Mark?

A. I started playing guitar when I was 15 years old, but there have been several long gaps. During the last four years, I realized how important music was to me. I felt a much greater sense of urgency to do more with my talents. In the 1990s, I was living in Wicker Park and wanted to work with other musicians, so I formed Phenomenal Cat. The name was a nod to the Kinks, a band that had a huge influence on me. “Phenomenal Cat” was a track from their album The Kinks Are The Village Preservation Society.

Mark and I have been friends for more than 20 years. We used to work together on video productions and always talked music. One day, Mark played me a demo for a new song he was working on for a solo album. When I heard the song, I thought, “Wow, this is what I want to do.”  I suggested to Mark that we get together and play on each other’s songs. These informal sessions at his apartment led to us connecting musically. After we had created four to five songs, we decided to record an album. Darren and Gabe soon joined the band, and a year later Gabe’s wife Birdie became our keyboardist.

Q. Mark, your previous band, the Luck of Eden Hall, toured extensively and received plenty of airplay on CHIRP. What inspired you to form The Thin Cherries with Steve?

A. We were friends long before we were bandmates, and I always was impressed with Steve’s songwriting capabilities. I featured two songs from Phenomenal Cats in an indie movie that I produced. Once we started collaborating musically, I knew we were creating something special.

Q. Steve, what was the inspiration for the name of the band?

A. My daughter Julie gets credit for the name. Mark and I had little to do with it. Julie was working on a science fiction story and wanted me to review it. When I was looking through her notebook, I saw a reference to “Thin Cherries” and thought that might be a great name for a band. I bounced it off Mark and we were in business.

Q. Who are some of your biggest musical influences, Steve?

A. When I was a kid, my brother gave me his entire collection of Beatles records. I fell in love with the Beatles, Stones, the Who, and later, the Jam. During the early ‘90s, I began writing music and emulating bands that I was listening to like Blur, Teenage Fanclub and Swervedriver. Peter Townshend is my favorite guitarist and I still love bands like Oasis, the Jam and the Replacements. A lot of the music that was popular in the 1960s is still relevant today and great music connects people, even if you don’t know the person next to you at a concert.
When I write songs, I consciously become some of my music idols. For example, if I am trying to write something in the style of the Jam, I think about Paul Weller and how he sings and plays guitar. I was thinking about Weller when I wrote “Oven Mitt” because I thought it would be a song the Jam might want to play. The best part about collaborating with talented musicians like Mark, Darren, Birdie and Gabe is that their input often sends the song in another direction. I envisioned “Oven Mitt” to have a very jammy solo. Darren had other ideas. He created this killer psychedelic solo that made the song even better. He did the same thing in “Uncountry.”

Q. Mark, how long have you been playing the bass and is it your instrument of choice?

A. When the Luck of Eden Hall needed a bassist, founder Greg Curvey asked me if I wanted to join the band, even though I was primarily a guitarist. I jumped at the opportunity. One of the things I like about The Thin Cherries is that all of us play multiple instruments. Steve occasionally plays bass. Darren, our lead guitarist, is an excellent drummer who laid down the original tracks on our debut album before Gabe joined the band. I enjoy switching from playing bass to lead guitar on occasion. What makes this band so special is that we are good musicians and strong collaborators. Each of us is open to new ideas from our bandmates.

Q. How are you progressing on your new album, Steve?

A. While there still is some guitar work to do, most of the mix is complete. We are shooting for an October release and hope to premiere a new single on your show the Friday before we play at the Whistler. Mike Hagler at Kingsize is producing this album for us and it has been a wonderful, collaborative process. When I listen to the new material, I see a lot of growth in our songwriting and the production is much more elaborate than our first LP. Darren contributed a couple of songs to the new album and this one really feels like a group effort, rather than the “Steve and Mark Show.”

Q. Mark, what do you have planned for the Whistler show?

A. We will play four of five songs from our first LP and an equal number of new songs. Although we haven’t played a lot of live gigs, we played a couple of shows at the Elbo Room recently, including a tribute to Tommy Keene, who really is a terrific songwriter. These performances forced us to rehearse and we are getting the itch to play some shows outside of Chicago to support the new album.

Make plans to see The Thin Cherries and I Lost Control on Wednesday, Aug. 22 at “CHIRP Night at the Whistler.” Tickets are free, but you will need to RSVP to this 21+ show.

You can listen to Mike Nikolich every Friday from noon to 3 pm on CHIRP-107.1 FM

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Categorized: Event Previews, Interviews

Topics: the thin cherries

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