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Interview Mon Jul 27 2015

Giving the Suburban Music Scene a Shout at House of Blues


For all the flak the suburbs take for being less interesting and more urban sprawl-y than Chicago, they sure don't suffer a lack of quality bands. Last night at the House of Blues, six such examples--Brian Moroney, Cup Check, Aubrey Terrace, Everyone Says, Detour North and Traces of Auburn--made the pilgrimage to the big city to play on a big stage in front of a big crowd. Well over 200 people packed the floor at the House of Blues, an impressive urban draw for artists that hail from such far-flung towns as Downers Grove and Roselle, and they were treated to a high-energy show that showcased the variety of rock coming out of Chicago's belt. After the music died away, I got the chance to speak with a few of the bands about the suburban music scene and making the leap to playing one of Chicago's notable mid-sized venues.

Despite the success of bands like Fall Out Boy and The Orwells that sprung from outside the city boundaries, the suburban music scene gets less respect than the urban one, stemming from a combination of suburbia's stereotypical monotony and the notion that the musicians there aren't really struggling. "Sometimes it's embarrassing to say, like, we're from Downers Grove or Darien, or we live at home," said Darien native Collin Labak, Aubrey Terrace's keyboard player and lead vocalist. "Like, I'm embarrassed to say that I'm going to medical school."

Rather than enduring the hard life romanticized life of the struggling artist, suburban bands like Aubrey Terrace struggle instead with the perception that they aren't for real. Will Moore, lead guitarist for Everyone Says, agrees. "A lot of people have bands, you know what I mean, but not a lot of people are serious about it," he told me. "A lot of people are like, you know, we hang out on Sundays and play music." His bandmate Peter Hunt Szpytek added, "There's a fine line between the suburb bands who have ambition and the one's who don't. A lot of bands...are very ridiculous, they're just like, everyone should come for us, we shouldn't have to do work. It's sad to see bands that feel entitled when it's totally a job. You're supposed to work for it and work to get where you really wanna be."

For the bands that do the necessary work, though, there's a strong support network helping bolster their audiences and push them towards the eventual goal of playing in the city. "Wherever we are, whatever show we go to, there's always at least one other band supporting us," said Michaela, the lead singer of Roselle-based Cup Check. "And when I say one, I mean like three. And I mean watching in the crowd, not even playing." That type of mutual support is the reason that last night's six bands were able to book such a notable Chicago venue as the House of Blues, which both drew their native suburban fan bases and exposed them to new city-dwelling music enthusiasts. "I wouldn't be surprised if we had 140 people there tonight, half of which we were close with," Labak said. "The other half maybe hadn't heard of us before, and, you know, that's exciting, that's a great component. That's why we come into the city, to reach a new demographic."

Places like House of Blues and Subterranean, which Cup Check headlined last month, are equivalent to that level 3 venue on Guitar Hero--playing them gets your band more recognition from critics, more money for better guitars and cooler face paint, and more of that all-important Star Power.

With a far different atmosphere from Chicago proper comes a far different musical aesthetic, and in the suburbs pop punk dominates the sonic landscape to a nationally influential level. Brian Moroney (acoustic pop rock) and Aubrey Terrace (influenced by Vampire Weekend and MGMT) fall outside the pop punk umbrella, but the other bands spoke at length about how amazing their home turf is for the genre. "Bands like Fall Out Boy and Real Friends and Knucklepuck all came from Chicago suburbia," said Szpytek. "We played with a band from California in March and they told us it was crazy how quickly our show here got booked, because in California it doesn't exist." Added Cup Check guitarist Alex, "Out of every city that's out there that has a local [pop punk] scene, we're probably, like, up there with one of the best because of how we react with everyone." When you throw in the nostalgia factor--most of today's pop punk bands became passionate about playing when "Sugar We're Going Down" was atop the Billboard charts--and the angst that's often associated with suburban lifestyle, you have the recipe for a thriving community that was on full display at the House of Blues last night.

When asked why pop punk is so big in Chicago, though, Cup Check had an unexpected answer that actually makes sense: "It's the cold winters. No one wants to be inside all that time, it just makes us sad." Everyone Says agreed, remarking that all their best songs were written in the winter.

Regardless of genre, last night's show at the House of Blues proved that the suburbs are capable of producing solid musical acts. From Brian Moroney's Mrazzy jams and Aubrey Terrace's swirling synths to the headbanging drums, chunky riffs, and intense vocals of Everyone Says and Cup Check, the city's stage was not let down.

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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 »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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