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Erik Roldan writesA Conversation With The Arts of Life Band

Arts of Life Band is a creative collaborative project between disabled and non-disabled artists in the Chicago area, based out of the Arts of Life community of artists. Guided by Artistic Director Ryan Shuquem, the band makes call-and-response, energetic rock music that combines the eccentricity of Wesley Willis and the community aspect of School of Rock.

Housed in the Arts of Life space in West Town, Chicago, the band has been keeping busy with recording, performing and over-all good vibes. They found time to record a session at Coach House Sounds, capturing the spirit of their live show and energy of the band – here the session on and stream it over at">

What the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in a basement?

Matt – I threw a chair at my brother. I was watching TV and he changed the channel in the middle of the show. I was only 12, so I didn’t know what I was doing. Ha.
Mike – I pushed my cousin and locked him in the tool closet.
Ryan – I was playing with a broken light bulb and shocking myself in a basement.
David – We used to have a basement, but I don’t live in there any more.

Arts of Life Band seems to have a humanitarian mission, can you talk about that aspect of the project and how you’ve accomplished those goals?

Matt – I think we show people with disabilities that they have lots of options in life
Ryan- I agree, and I think we introduce people to each other who might have never met otherwise, help bridge the gaps between disabled rockers and non-disabled rockers.

Describe a scenario where Arts of Life Band could be someone’s life coach and the top 2 life lessons you’d teach them.

David – We’d say “You can have a band too. You can play music too. Don’t be afraid.”

What do you like about Chicago, and what makes it special to you?

Matt – I like the hot dogs, I like the meat, I like the White Sox
David – I like the police, they rescue lives
Ryan – I like the friendly people. Coach House Sounds, Mucca Pazza, CPE Sound where we rehearse. We get to meet lots of nice people that are interested in supporting our hard work.
Mike – I like my housing association and my staff.
Kelly – Hamburgers. I just do.

Tell me about your CHS session—what did you like about it? Was there anything that surprised you or was spontaneous that came out in the recording?

Ryan – I think they made us feel comfortable and really showcased our fabulous energy!
David – I liked the spotlights and the peoples
Andrew – Yeah, Matt was great. He sat in while we were waiting for our drummer and helped us warm up. He played well!

What’s happening? What are your current/upcoming shows or releases?

Ryan- We’re excited about our release show on March 10th at the Hide Out of course and we’re doing a couple high schools this month. Should be fun to rock a high school.

Also, we’ve got a great art studio with lots of beautiful art work to look at and the best tour guide in the business (David). Come check us out in West Town at 2010 W. Carroll Ave. or in the virtual world at

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Categorized: Interviews

Topics: interview

Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Evan Dando Edition

He was the alt-rock pin up boy, the slacker who proved he could write a mean hook, a man who made great music but never seemed to quite grab the brass ring. Evan Dando led The Lemonheads, who slowly but surely cleaned up a scruffy sound, and became a major presence on the airwaves with songs like “It’s A Shame About Ray” and “Into Your Arms”. Alas, Dando couldn’t sustain the momentum, but he is still out there touring, even guesting with the reformed MC5 a few years ago. Let’s wish a happy birthday to Evan by grabbing your iPod, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

  1. The Who — Amazing Journey (Tommy): As a rock opera, I’m not entirely sold on its story, since it is not only somewhat incoherent, but, at times, it’s pretty stupid. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t yield lots of great music and represent, for both good and bad, a major influence on rock music. Of course, this album inspired tons of concept albums, and The Who really began to move into a new sound that helped define arena rock. On this tune, Townshend came up with a melody and soundscape that evokes unlimited space, which is perfect for the lyrics of this song.
  2. Julie Grant — Lonely Without You (You Can Be Wrong About The Boys): This is a slice of British ’60s girl pop, from a swell compilation. Some of this stuff, like this song, really has nothing to do with rock music in the slightest. This is just a dramatic, orchestrated pop song, that could have been done by any pop chanteuse of the ’50s. The difference is the neo-Spector production techniques.
  3. Neil Finn — Truth (Try Whistling This): A low-key song from Finn’s solo debut. I’ve always enjoyed this album because of Finn’s use of electronics. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a dance album. But he uses keyboards and electronic percussion in tandem with the usual instruments to create some smart, textured pop songs. This song has a particularly strong vocal performance.
  4. Roy Wood — Look Through The Eyes Of A Fool (Mustard): During the waning days of The Move, Roy Wood showed that he was reverting back to a ’50s trad rock ‘n’ roller. Nevertheless, he spent some time in Electric Light Orchestra, before leaving to pursue what was really floating his boat. His subsequent solo records evoked both ’50s rock and aspects of the early Beach Boys and girl groups. This is one of the best examples of this, a sublime slice of retro pop-rock.
  5. The Yardbirds — Happenings Ten Years Time Ago (Ultimate): A great slice of psychedelic rock, with the requisite great guitar work. There are Eastern accents on this song, mixed with a great descending guitar riff. I’m guessing that Jeff Beck is playing the main riff with support from Jimmy Page, but it’s just as likely that I’m wrong. The freak out guitar solo in the middle is pretty awesome.
  6. Johnny Cash — Dark as a Dungeon (The Legend): A folk song executed in classic Johnny Cash fashion. Well, the guitar and simple rhythm is pure Cash. The producers add some backing vocals and horn accompaniment. The horns have a disembodied quality that is unexpected, but adds a nice quality to the track.
  7. The Stooges — We Will Fall (The Stooges): The debut album from The Stooges shows a band that innovated through sheer power and the courage to not merely confine themselves to the dictates of what a primal rock song could be. But it wasn’t all hammer and tongs and power chords and dissonance. This song is simply a lengthy dirge, in the vein of The Doors’ “The End”, without the Oedipal drama.
  8. The Joel Plaskett Emergency — True Patriot Love (Down At The Kyber): Plaskett is a Canadian singer whose genial pop songs have a bit of a pub rock vibe to them. This is my favorite of his songs, which takes builds a hook around a key phrase from the Canadian national anthem. Musically, this song falls somewhere between Nick Lowe and early Tom Petty, with clever lyrics and some neat rhymes and turns of phrase.
  9. The Waterboys — Fisherman’s Blues (Fisherman’s Blues): On this album, The Waterboys starting adding traditional Irish and English albums into their music, while still retaining that big, cinematic sound. This song has an expansive melody that seems ideal for playing behind a film of verdant hills in Ireland. In fact, I think it was used for this purpose in a Janeane Garafalo film.
  10. Team Rockit — Teenage Queen (The Lowest Point In Rock ‘n’ Roll History): A crunchy riff-rocker from this Chicago band whose drummer has manned the skins for The Poster Children. This song sits somewhere along the spectrum between Urge Overkill and Queens Of The Stone Age, smart guys playing dumb rock ‘n’ roll because it sounds cool. And this song certainly sounds cool.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: evan dando, ipod, mp3

DJ Betynka - It's 12 O'Clock Somewhere writesCookies, Comedy, and an Engagement With Shaun Michael Paul of Chaperone


CHIRP DJ Elizabeth Ramborger recently caught up with Shaun Paul of Chaperone as he was finishing a batch of ice cream at his day job at Bobtail ice cream. It was a white chocolate peanut butter cup. He admitted it wasn’t the best of his flavors, but good, noting the season St. Paddy’s Day Guinness batch.

It was a good start for a conversation with the lead singer of a band known for bringing cookies to its shows—and not just your standard chocolate chip. Salted caramel is likely to pop up as an ingredient. As it turns out, this level of hospitality is emblematic of one of the nicest local bands around.

Between recipes and putting out their self-released EP Cripple King in 2010, Chaperone has already recorded a yet-to-be-released 7-inch, played a ton of shows, and is getting ready for SXSW. You can see them on their home turf when they headline a CHIRP Practice Space series on Monday, February 28 at Schubas.

Elizabeth spoke with Shaun about desert, why Chicago is Milwaukee’s second city, and some post Valentine’s Day news.

Elizabeth: So the first time I saw you guys was your show at Quenchers. I was with two other people and we were in a post-holiday malaise and then we saw cookies and thought…this is going to be alright. Imagine our surprise when there were three different gourmet flavors to choose from. So what’s with the cookies?

Shaun: Well Miles [Chaperone’s bassist] does the baking—he’s the Betty Crocker of the group, mixed with January Jones from Mad Men.

Elizabeth: Does he wear an apron and everything?

Shaun: Of course. He’s pro! He’s gotta wear an apron. But yea, we made cookies for a show and people ate them up and he made them for the next show, and then it just became a thing. We’re thinking of moving into other deserts, like fudge. In fact, Miles is moving into the kettlecorn realm. [We have a certain] down homeness as a band and cookies are just a part of it.

Elizabeth: You’re a Chicago transplant. The Midwest certainly has a “down homeness.” Is that what drew you to the city, coming from North Carolina?

Shaun: Oh definitely. In fact, I was looking at several cities before I settled on Chicago. People have the same mentality here as the people at home [in North Carolina]. Chicago is kind and open as a people.

Elizabeth: Does that translate to the music scene?

Shaun: It’s contradictory. [The music scene is] definitely kind of cutthroat. Bands don’t support one another enough. Although we are close with some bands—we’re real close with Dastardly.

Elizabeth: Why do you think that is? Competitiveness? Laziness? The winter?

Shaun: The winter definitely factors in…

Elizabeth: How did you get your start in music and how did Chaperone come together?

Shaun: I played music down in North Carolina. I was in a couple of high school punk bands like everybody. I actually came up for Second City to pursue comedy. A couple of buddies came up from North Carolina and I started playing with them. It got to the point that I had to decide between the two of my interests, music and comedy, just from a time standpoint, and I love music. It’s just fun.

Elizabeth: What are the good aspects of the Chicago music scene?

Shaun: The clubs are great and the people that schedule bands, the bookers, are good people. It’s nice dealing with people that are kind and remember you. We really love Schubas.

Elizabeth: What local bands are you excited about?

Shaun: Gold Motel. Greta [Morgan] is real nice, we played with them in Milwaukee. I also love Catfish Haven but alas they’re not doing anything anymore. I see George Hunter on the street and he keeps telling me he’s got something in the works.

Elizabeth: Milwaukee is a pretty down home place itself.

Shaun: Oh yea. The thing about Milwaukee is that people are willing to go out and see who’s playing, whether they know anything about the band or not. In Chicago people have to know who the band is before they go out.

Also, in Milwaukee people will dance at a show in a way that they won’t in Chicago. Sure, sometimes one person in the [Chicago] audience will cut a rug, but we’re a bouncy, happy band. When we’re on a stage we dance around and we like the audience to enjoy it and dance around too. We love Milwaukee.

Elizabeth: You’ve been compared to Los Campesinos! A CHIRP reviewer compared Chaperone to Girls and Neutral Milk Hotel. How do you react to those comparisons?

Shaun: I never really got into the Girls albums. But there is a certain do-it-yourselfness about Girls that applies to Chaperone. We recorded our own EP without any outside help. We were real happy to say we did it ourselves.

Neutral Milk Hotel is my favorite band ever, so that makes me really happy to hear. They have a certain lo-finess that I relate to. There’s also an honesty to Neutral Milk Hotel that I strive for in Chaperone. Whatever I write, even if its fiction (people always ask whether the songs are true, did I run away with someone to the Everglades?), I try to make my songs feel honest and authentic.

Elizabeth: Who influences you?

Shaun: I love Okerville River. I’m real excited about their new album. Bright Eyes is the reason I started writing music in the first place. I thought if he can do it and put stuff out by himself, I could. Ryan Adams was an influence—he’s definitely influenced the country aspects of Chaperone! Of course, you can’t go full country…

Elizabeth: Isn’t that Gwenth Paltrow’s new movie—“A Little Bit Country?”

Shaun: Yea…ha.

Elizabeth: Standard first job question—where do you see yourself as a band in five years? Are you just going along for the ride or do you have specific aspirations?

Shaun: Of course we have aspirations. We just finished a 7-inch—we got the master tracks back three days ago. Of course, vinyl is expensive so we’re saving up money to release it. We’re also shopping ourselves around, looking for a small label to release a full-length. We love recording! We get in and go—wow, an organ! That’s what this song needs—an organ! Ideally in five years we’ll ideally be touring Europe with a couple of full-lengths and 7-inches under our belt.

Elizabeth: Tell me a little bit about the rest of your band.

Shaun: Definitely! Miles [Doornbos] is our bassist. I played with him in an earlier band, Mountain Coming Down and we met through my job at Bobtail Ice Cream. We’re best friends. It’s always great to make music with your best friends.

Mark [Sheridan] is our keyboardist/boy genius. He’s 21 and he worked for me at Bobtail a couple of summers back. He’ll play anything we throw at him.

Elizabeth: Chaperone’s Conner Oberst?

Shaun: Yes! Shaylah [Kloska] is our glockenspiel and singer. We also write together…actually we got engaged last week.

Elizabeth: Congratulations!!!

Shaun: Thanks, yea! Actually, I was in a band with her ex-boyfriend. Our band broke up, we didn’t see one another for 2-3 years and then I ran into her at a show at the Bottle. We invited her to be a part of the band and things developed from here.

Elizabeth: Does a relationship change the dynamics for the band or your songwriting?

Shaun: I really hope it won’t change the dynamics. I definitely thought about that. But no, it hasn’t affected things. We used to drink wine at one another’s apartments and write songs and then go home after that. I was worried that would change, but we moved in together a year ago and things are great.

Elizabeth: Has the EP [self-released Cripple King] changed anything for the band or its approach?

Shaun: The EP’s been great for us. People I never would have imagined are listening to us. Things are really snowballing and the EP’s been effective.

The hardest thing for us over the past few months is that we lost our drummer [Tom des Enfants]. He decided to leave the band three months ago due to conflicting priorities. But we’ve got a new drummer. Schubas will be our first show with the new line-up. And we’ve got two day parties lined up for SXSW and we’re looking for some other gigs there.

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Categorized: Interviews

Topics: interview

Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday George Harrison Edition

This week, we pay tribute to the quiet Beatle, the first Beatle to play live on stage in America, the late George Harrison. Harrison’s sister lived in Benton, Illinois in the ’60s (way down south), and George paid her a visit and during that time, he stepped up on stage to play with a local combo. Little did they know who they were playing with. Harrison was a masterful guitarist, a philanthropist, a populizer of eastern religion, a very good songwriter, a man who bankrolled a lot of great British film, and the Beatle who had the best single scene in A Hard Day’s Night (“She’s a drag, a well-known drag. Sometimes we turn the sound down and say rude things about her.”). In honor of this musical giant’s birthday, please get out your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.

  1. Radiohead – Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors (Amnesiac): It’s good to start out with this, considering all the chatter the new Radiohead album has generated. Some see The King Of Limbs as a throwback to this Amnesiac and Kid A sound, as opposed to the prior two more guitar oriented albums. That is true to a certain extent. However, the new stuff is more languid and mellow. This particularly track has echoing electo-percussion, a processed voice popping in and out and unexpected piano interludes. It’s more aggressive and jarring than the new material. Which isn’t a judgment, it’s merely an observation.
  2. Jamey Johnson — Playing The Part (The Guitar Song): Johnson is the rare contemporary country singer who actually plays real country music. With his distinct baritone voice, Johnson’s music sometimes comes close to ’70s Southern rock, but it never loses its more traditional feel. He’s a good songwriter, whether it’s telling stories of how overrated Hollywood is (as on this song), singing from the point of view of an old guitar, or taking on rich folks who don’t understand the needs of the poor, Johnson is a throwback in the best sense of the word.
  3. The Pogues — The Gentleman Soldier (Rum, Sodomy & The Lash): I cannot underestimate what an impact the second Pogues album had on me. The band did a masterful job of mixing a punk rock attitude and amped up vibe to traditional Irish and folk music. Moreover, they drew the lines clearly for me on how the roots of American country music came so strongly from Ireland, Scotland and England. This got me back into more traditional country and embracing the cowpunk scene of the mid-80’s even more. This is just a fun little romp.
  4. The Olivia Tremor Control — Memories Of Jacqueline 1906 (Music From the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk At Cubist Castle): At around the time I was reveling in the power pop revival of the late-‘90s, with some of those bands evincing strong psychedelic vibes, the Elephant 6 collective was putting out lots of great psychedelic pop. OTC was my favorite of all these bands, as their best songs really had an authenticity matched by their catchiness. This is a typical number with some inspired mid-fi production touches.
  5. The Byrds — It’s No Use (Mr. Tambourine Man): A folk rock number that really rocks. This has a great lead guitar figure and chugs around really nicely, augmented by the ominous harmony vocals that I always associated with this band. It seems like The Byrds have been marginalized a bit, which is a shame, as their early albums are full of gems that influenced legions.
  6. Emitt Rhodes — Take You Far Away (The Emitt Rhodes Recordings: 1969-1973): Indeed, that Byrds influence can be heard on this edgy pop song from cult favorite Rhodes. This also has a strong lead guitar figure, and Rhodes multi-tracks his voice to create some awesome harmonies. The bass part sounds like Paul McCartney on a psychedelic Beatles track, giving this jangle psych-pop a bit of an Eastern gloss.
  7. Guadalcanal Diary — Everything But Good Luck (Flip-Flop): This Georgia band was part of a brigade of jangly guitar bands who got oodles of college radio airplay in the wake of the ascension of R.E.M. And they were quite good, with three of their four albums being keepers. This is from the band’s final effort, where the guitars were amped up a bit in one last attempt to get radio play. This was actually a welcome addition, as guitarist Murray Attaway always wrote strong tunes, so a little more volume was not a detriment. This is a scolding moralistic song, which was something this band did from time to time.
  8. Johnny Cash — Southern Accents (Unearthed): Rick Rubin did a great job of giving Johnny Cash a variety of material to record. Here, Cash really delves into one of Tom Petty’s most personal numbers, elevating a good song into a great one with an engaging and empathetic performance. Rubin’s production is spot on, augmenting Cash’s acoustic guitar with light percussion, organ, piano and harmonica. Cash sounds great on this.
  9. The Orange Peels — Everybody’s Gone (Square): This San Francisco band is led by Allen Clapp. They have come up with a great power pop variation on the sunshiney soft pop that came out of California in the late ’60s. Clapp’s voice is key. He’s not a traditionally great singer, but he is tuneful and his voice exudes a cheerfulness and empathy that imbues his words with feeling, whether a song is happy or takes on something less pleasant. This song does a great job staying bouncy and finally leading up to a big hook in the final chorus.
  10. Fountains Of Wayne — Mexican Wine (Welcome Interstate Managers): FoW’s biggest seller is just a small step down from their first two classic albums. The band mixed witty observational lyrics with an encyclopediac knowledge of guitar pop from the ’60s through the ’90s. This song starts off softly, before building to a nice mid-tempo rock with some great stylized guitar (a la Elliot Easton of The Cars), and building more, with horns and stacked harmony vocals. A pretty darned good way to start off an album. Great use of dynamics throughout the track.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: george harrison, ipod, mp3

Karin Fjellman writesMONDAY! CHIRP Night at the Whistler with Wumme and Oriental Rugs

It’s President’s Day, and you know what that means — time to [Whig] party! Tonight, come out to the Whistler for a night of rad local music and a chance to support your favorite independent radio station, CHIRP! A portion of the night’s bar sales benefits CHIRP, so drink up while you listen to some great tunes from our friends Wumme (formerly Altered States, ex-Bird Names) and Oriental Rugs. Oh yeah, and it’s FREE to enter! See you there.

Monday, February 21, 2011
Wumme (formerly Altered States, ex-Bird Names)
Oriental Rugs
2421 N. Milwaukee
9:30pm – 2am
No cover

CHIRP DJ Dustin Drase spins before and after bands!
Raffle tickets sold throughout the night — win awesome prizes for cheap!

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Categorized: Event Previews

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