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Feature Thu Oct 19 2006

Hearts on a string: The Changes aren’t afraid to put their feelings on the line

Darren, Rob, Jonny and Dave appear to be four young lads poised to capture the world on a string.

The first time I heard The Changes about a year ago I was delightfully entertained. I listened to the songs on their Myspace page —"When I Wake," "One A String," and "Her, You and I", and I was addicted to the positive, feel-good, '80s-sounding music with unabashed, heartfelt lyrics. Hearing them perform at the Metro was even better — Darren's pitch-perfect voice paired with infectious pop melodies that sounded familiar yet unique at the same time.

changes1.jpg

In just four years The Changes have come a long way. After starting to perform together at open mic sessions at Uncommon Ground, singer Darren Spitzer, guitarist Dave Rothblatt, bassist Rob Kallick and drummer Jonny Basofin now have officially arrived on the indie music scene. They've done the seemingly impossible by getting their album, Today is Tonight signed to two labels — the indie label Drama Club in the U.S. and Kitchenware in the UK. Producer Chris Brickley, who worked with R. Kelley, did the mixing on the album, which contains all of the songs on their original self-released EP plus several new songs, including "Modern Love," "Sisters" and "House of Style."

The band's lyrics are ridiculously simple, yet have a universal appeal. "I'm not afraid of you / no matter how hard you try / this is what's meant to be / and you know why," sings Darren in "On a String," a song about opening oneself up to the vulnerability and joy of a new relationship. Then there are the passionate feelings in the upbeat song, "Modern Love" about cheating: "All I wanted / was to be wanted / All I needed / was to need what I'm feeling / by the radio/ with the lights turned off / and you never really knew about it" (!). Or what about the reference to a love triangle in the brilliant song, "Her, You and I": "You are walking past us / we look outside / at least we are together / her, you and I"? In another, called "House of Style," there is the accurate depiction of what it feels like to be rejected: "You told me / you'd be with me / you don't care/ you'll tell everyone."

No, it's certainly not edgy. It's a day in the life of The Changes, four regular guys facing the ups and downs of being in their late twenties — uncertainty, love and heartache, in a style that is innocent and refreshingly honest. Most of the songs leave you with an impressionable happiness and romanticism — just like music from the '80s. In an industry clogged by an ever-increasing contest for hipness, The Changes, in their boyish style like the Beatles, show that it's all right for guys to have feelings, too.

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Already having started their U.S. tour, I caught up with Rob Kallick, bass player in The Changes, over the phone.

Marla Seidell: So what happened over the last couple of months? How does it feel to be famous now?

Rob Kallick: Famous — I guess. We finished recording in June and then we didn't do a lot cause Dave got mono; we took it easy over the summer. The last few months have been crazy. Since we announced the release date things started to heat up.

MS: How did you get hooked up with Kitchenware?

RK: They were one of first bands that contacted us. They used to have a band called Prefab Sprout--they're like this amazing band from the 80s. When the owner of the label (who was the manager of Prefab Sprout) heard us, he heard a lot of similarities. He flew in to see us in Chicago over the summer. We finalized all that in June.

MS: People say your music sounds like music from the '80s — The Police and The Smiths.

RK: It's funny — there are two different ways bands get started. One band will get together with an idea of what they want to sound like — a punk band for example. The other type of band will get in a room and just start playing music together, which is what we did.

MS: You guys formed the band four years ago. How did you meet?

RK: Jonny and Dave knew each other from Lake Forest High School. Jonny met Daren through a friend, I knew Jonny from high school, although we didn't go to the same school.

MS: And you're pretty close outside of the band?

RK: Were all very close, like brothers. There definitely wouldn't be a band if one of us left.

MS: Were you interested in music from a young age?

RK: Yeah, all of us were. The band has gone through a lot of changes, no pun intended.

MS: When did you first fall in love with music?

RK: I remember getting an MC hammer album. I can't think of moments, but I remember hearing music and feeling it more deeply than my friends. Every song I heard I wanted to listen to over and over. I listened to Top 40 on the radio. Darren and I were in Michigan recently; we've been DJing, playing music like Color Me Badd, C&C Music Factory, En Vogue. All that stuff, that was big when we were younger — Vanilla Ice, Dr. Dre. We were listening to CD and CD of that music. As cheesy as that is, there is something I like about it because, I don't know why, the four of us love that kind of music — it makes us laugh; we love it and hate it at the same time.

MS: Which bands is your biggest influences music wise?

RK: I think the general influence for us is to keep things exciting. Each song, we try not to stay on one thing for too long. But there is not one band that is the same influence — we try to come from our own place.

MS: How has the band changed from the beginning?

RK: You know, just sort of figuring out what were good at and not good at. And after a year, Dave started writing the songs. First it was Darren, now it's all Dave.

MS: How does it feel to have come so far in just a year?

RK: It feels great. It was lot of hard work. To get signed, to get a manager, a booking agent. All of things take good fortune and luck. A lot of bands are out there. All of them are doing the same thing. When you start a band there's no telling where things are going to lead. You just don't know. You hope that what you're saying is unique. Seeing your record in the store — it feels great. Just to see this thing that you worked so hard on. I'm sure a film director feels the same way when they see their film. That's its real. It's pretty awesome.

MS: Lets go back to what you're saying as a band. What is your message?

RK: I think the album touches on a range of moods someone our age (in their 20s) could feel. And the message is universal. Just about where I'm headed. When I wake – the image of being wake in middle of day and phone is ringing. Being alone, and saying what am I doing? Dave has a great ability to paint these pictures of what we've all experienced. Those things we talked about the lyrics, combined with the popiness of music, makes us The Changes.

MS: How has Chicago influenced your music?

RK: In the music scene, we're friends with a lot of other bands. Having friends in other bands and that sort of motivates you to keep doing your thing, to not give, up. Being in Chicago, in the Midwest — we're sort of removed. We don't feel a lot of pressure to wound a certain way.

MS: Which song says the most about where you are right now as a band?

RK: Maybe "On a String."

MS: Why is that?

RK: That song encapsulates everything we're about. From a musical standpoint, there's not a lot of guitar, there are orchestra bells, keyboards and percussion; things are a bit different, all built on an awesome song Dave wrote.

MS: What inspired you to name your album Today is Tonight?

RK: The album takes shape in the day of a life of anybody, pretty much. Starts with when I wake, ends with when I sleep. Songs in first half feel more like daytime, and the songs at the end feel darker.

MS: What inspires you all to create a song?

RK: Dave will come in with a song. He'll play it for us. Then we'll go crazy with it. Sometimes it'll stay just the way he wrote, other times it will change dramatically.

MS: For example?

RK: Twilight, which is a disco song on the album. It was a rock song when Dave brought it in, and we decided it do it disco.

MS: What do you think of the Beatles?

RK: Darren and Jonny are huge Beatles fans. Jonny loves Ringo. Darren loves all four of them.

MS: What's your favorite place to play in Chicago and why?

RK: Definitely the Double Door. We have our best shows there; it sort of brings out the best in us.

The Changes will, in fact, play at the Double Door Friday, October 20th.

-Marla Seidell

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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