Tag Archives: Chicago

An Awkward Conversation With Mike Kinsella About Cap’n Jazz Rumors

Setting: Lincoln Hall, Chicago. About 10:30ish, 15 minutes or so into Headlights‘ set, about a half hour after Maritime‘s performance.

Mike Kinsella and his friend (who I unfortunately did not get the name of) sitting at the southern end of the bar. I pop up before I leave the show…

Me: Hey, it was really nice meeting you.

Mike Kinsella: Yeah man, you too. [shakes hand]

Me: Hey, I know this is a little odd, but I have to ask. I heard rumors Cap’n Jazz are getting back together… Is that true?

MK: I don’t know, are they getting back together?

MK’s friend: Well, what do you think? Do you think Cap’n Jazz should get back together, or should they leave it behind, keep it in the ground? What do you want Cap’n Jazz to do?

Me: [clearly flustered] I… umm… I think they should do whatever makes them happy.

MK: So, what makes me happy?

Me: Umm….

MK: You wrote the paper, so what makes me happy?

Me: I… um…

MK: So what was your conclusion?

Me: Well, I said the conclusion was… unknown.

And so it went… The rest was a bit of a jumble, and that beginning of me embarrassing myself in front of Kinsella and his friend isn’t word-for-word because its been a few hours and I clearly could have forgotten a word/sentence.

But, Kinsella’s a good sport for even dealing with my “hey, I’m some random fan, answer my every question!” trope I busted out. Kinsella and his friend were certainly very nice to me, and I wish I could have stayed and chatted longer.

But, whatever happens with the reunion rumors, I just hope the Cap’n Jazz guys actually make whatever decisions because they want to. But, considering the amassed discography that makes up the Cap’n Jazz family tree, it’s clear they’ve all been doing things the way they want to for some time. And that’s what makes them all continue to create strong, vital music today, with or without a Cap’n Jazz reunion.

Rumored Cap’n Jazz and Owls Reunions

Indie Rock Reviews have posted information regarding a rumor that beloved Chicago emo acts Cap’n Jazz and Owls may reunite. Take a look [Thanks Ori Nevo for the tip]:

With Pavement’s reunion plans all but finalized, it was only a matter of time before other defunct acts added their name to the list. The latest: Chicago’s Cap’n Jazz.

It might sound too good to be true, but according to a close source, the band — Tim Kinsella, Mike Kinsella, Sam Zurick, Victor Villarreal and Davey von Bohlen — has been rehearsing old material in hopes of putting together a 10-date tour for summer 2010. While nothing is confirmed, the source says the five performers were asked to learn their individual parts for five songs.

Sure, IRR won’t be spilling the beans on their source, so who knows the veracity of that statement. However, it’s not like a reunion would be impossible: The Kinsella brothers are quite close, and Sam and Victor have been in so many Kinsella-related projects it’s hard to keep count. And as for Davey, he’s still a close friend of the band, having recently opened for Mike Kinsella’s full-band Owen gig in Chicago back in September. So who am I to say what may happen?

I’ll try and dig up some information myself. In the meantime, stay tuned for what could be an interesting couple of reunions.

Kuma’s Secretly Hearts Emo

I’d heard of Kuma’s Corner for months and have craved their metal-themed hamburgers and pretzel buns for many a month I’ve lived in Chicago. Tonight, I set out for the famous metal bar and was able to snatch a spot before the looming crowd grew larger than the small room had space for. And I noticed something so curious that the New York Times picked up on before I was able to get to my WordPress:

I DON’T know what I was expecting — guns? outlaw bikers? — but the restaurant, with its high ceilings and a pleasing corner location, didn’t end up all that threatening. Sure, there were drawings of half-naked female vampires on the walls, a scrawl reading “Die Emo Die” above the bar, and the incessant and propulsive fluttering of double-kick bass drums chugging under growled vocals on the sound system all night, but my girlfriend’s parents — not the target demographic, one assumes — described it afterward as “a hoot.”

Yep. “Die Emo Die.” The Times piece actually makes it a bit more prevalent than the three words actually are. They’re scrawled in chalk, are a bit small and sit atop a gigantic picture of a bear. And with all the other chalk descriptions (what charity they’re giving money to this month, the burger of the month), t-shirts and random ephemera on the wall, it isn’t terribly noticeable. I guess that is unless you’re me and it sticks out almost immediately. It also helps that I sat at that part of the bar directly facing those three words.

And yet, just after sitting down something curious blasted through the bar’s speakers. At The Drive In’s “One Armed Scissor.” At The Drive In, a band that is by any other means, emo. Sure, it’s hard as hell, but it’s emo nonetheless. So, I smiled to myself, made note to my roommate who joined me in the metal meal quest and awaited the arrival of my burger (the “Melvins” burger.)

And man was it delicious. The atmosphere there was great, and is certainly another fond reminder of some great metal acts that exist. It’s just another great place that only seems to exist so perfectly in a place like Chicago.

Tis Brutal

Found this little clip in a Red Eye review of the Jack Black-themed/curated video game Brutal Legend:

jackblackvideogame

Hmm… Is it simply appropriate to say “no comment” at any point? ‘Cause when a description like “rap-metal-emo” pops up, it’s so blandly all-inclusive that it renders all terms rather useless. (I tend to overindulge in genre-name-dropping, but I hope I’m able to draw a line sometimes.)

Fin.

Another SDRE presale listing, this time Atlanta

Thank goodness for email posting… otherwise I might not have gotten this stuff up!

Another Sunny Day Real Estate reunion date has been tossed online, this time by the monolith known as Ticketmaster:

United States Of America (1)
• OCT •
3
SAT
Center Stage Theatre
Atlanta, GA
09:00 PM
Sunny Day Real Estate More Info »
presale begins:Fri, 06/26/09
10:00 AM

http://www.ticketmaster.com/Sunny-Day-Real-Estate-tickets/artist/766668

The presale is this Friday, the 26th, besting the San Francisco date. I’d say Ticketmaster and Live Nation are pretty official… but can we get the ball rolling on Boston? And Chicago? And DC?

Interview with Sam Zurick

When I last dropped in an interview with an artist that will be featured in America Is Just A Word, it was with Dismemberment Plan frontman Travis Morrison. Today’s post features selections from an interview with Sam Zurick, a multi-instrumentalist extraordinare of Chicago’s esteemed post-hardcore scene. Zurick is probably best known for his work as a bassist in the revered and short-lived Cap’n Jazz and his work as a guitarist in Joan of Arc, on top of his role in the massive web of Kinsella brother-involved projects ranging from Owls and Make Believe to Friend/Enemy and Ghosts and Vodka (and then there’s his solo project People Dick). Basically, Zurick has been an instrumental part in what’s been a creative, challenging, and inventive musical community that’s provided the seeds to numerous emo bands since Cap’n Jazz broke up.

Sam gave me an enthusiastic thumbs-up for sharing as much of the interview as I please. Here’s a little sample:

*What made you want to pick up an instrument?

Sam: “I had no intentions of playing an instrument until I met Tim (Kinsella). We met Freshmen year of high school and became buddies. Whereas I was just a music fan, he wanted to dig in and actually make music. So, he brought me into his basement and showed me his guitar and amplifier. I soon started to roadie/dance for his band ‘Toe Jam’, and from there I picked up the bass and we started Cap’n Jazz.”

*I know there were several names for what would eventually become Cap’n Jazz, but who came up with that name? What were some of the previous band names?

Sam: “The only previous name I remember is Spazzmatic Jazz Machine…which Tim came up with I think. For whatever reason we thought Jazz should be in the name and we were eating Cap’n Crunch one morning and I was like ‘Cap’n Jazz’ and it stuck.”

*Musically, what styles or methods of songwriting influenced what you were making Cap’n Jazz?

Sam: “We fed off of Vic’s guitar playing mostly, he was classically trained and knew his way around the guitar much better than anyone else at that age. We knew we wanted it to be loud and aggressive, so I guess we were influenced by ‘Rock and Roll’ music?”

*How did Davey enter the Cap’n Jazz fold?

Sam: “Tim wanted to change the sound and add another element, and he was a fan of Davey’s band ‘Ten Boy Summer’, so he asked him to join us and it worked out.”

*Was the Chicago music community receptive to Cap’n Jazz, or did you feel that you had to build your own community?

Sam: “It was more of a suburban scene instead of a Chicago scene; we all lived in the suburbs and the scene we were in was very receptive to us at the time. There were Northwest Suburban bands, and Western Suburb bands, and we all were connected through basement shows, VFW halls, and skateboarding. The whole Chicago scene was out of our league, we were just teenagers and couldn’t get in bars even if we were asked.”

Taboo And Alphabets Too

Last night a bunch of my friends threw a show in their house… a comedy show that is. Whereas most young towns have a thriving music scene, the comedy community in Boston is everything that most insular scenes hope they can be; diverse, thriving, widespread, intimate, creative, and a network of people who are friends first and competitors never. And funny. Man are they funny. Everything from the quick-and-fast rules of delivery to hip-hop rhymes and beats about taekwondo to odd-ball rants by folks featured on Comedy Central, it was all enhanced by the intimacy of the tiny Allston-based house.

I capped off the night with what must have been an hour dedicated to playing the wordsmith worthy game Taboo. After some quick, catch-and-release trials, a group of us decided to play “hardcore,” where you could only give one clue in order for others to get the word in question in one guess. It’s a lot more challenging than the usual method of playing the game, but it sure is fun. In retrospect, the cap-off of Taboo featuring performers from the night’s previous comedy collaboration was odder than I had imagined at the time. Well, odder in recollection than experience; as most of us were all friends, it really wasn’t all that weird. But the boundaries that individuals often place on society with labels such as “performer” would elevate members of the community above others, when really it just provided for an interesting initial introduction for everyone present in the house. The atmosphere lacked any pretension associated with elevating members of the community, the intimacy of the event, the intelligence of the performance, and the humor involved made it all seem like any other night hanging out with friends… just some of those friends had the incentive to stand up and talk to a crowd for ten minutes.

Combining a general lack of pretension with musical intelligence, creativity, communal intimacy, and a warmth of humor is Chicago’s Cap’n Jazz. Though they broke up by the mid-90s, their impact has been felt throughout the emo world, most immediately in the then-growing presence of the Mid-Western underground emo scene that was about to reach a tipping point. Their influence had immediate impact with the culmination of post-Cap’n Jazz projects, most notably with 2nd guitarist Davey Von Bohlen’s side project The Promise Ring coming to the focal point of the national emo community. However, brethren Mike and Tim Kinsella have also had their fare share of impact with acts such as Joan of Arc and Owls (as well as American Football and Owen), two highly experimental groups that aren’t as well known as The Promise Ring, but certainly have their fare share of influence. Still getting shout-outs in magazines such as Alternative Press (last month’s cover story on the 23 most influential punk bands of the last 23 years had a great spread on band), the Cap’n Jazz legacy was compacted into a singular double-album release in 1998, Analphabetapolothology (now there’s the Taboo-worthy word).

Cap\'n Jazz

Brimming from end to end with unmeasurable catharsis, Analphabetapolothology takes some getting used to before you can grab those nuggets of mid-90s emo gold. Then again, Cap’n Jazz were never shooting for pop gold, just music that challenged themselves, made the band members satisfied with their own creation, and had a particular subcultural connotation. It’s a bit of a continuation of the hardcore punk tradition (and hardcore can readily be seen as a starting point for the members of Cap’n Jazz, not to mention countless of other alternative bands that continues on to today), where the band wanted to make something profoundly different then what was being pushed out on the mainstream and have it mean something to their particular community. But, while hardcore became uniform in all senses of the word, Cap’n Jazz’s hold on emo was as angular as the guitar-work involved in it. They called in the horns, lyrics that weren’t all there (at least, upon first glance), gritty dynamic changes that recall Sunny Day Real Estate played by a garage band, pop-worthy harmonies, and song structures that subverted all forms of the norm.

The best and brightest of emo today have Cap’n Jazz to thank for the fuel of creativity that somehow manages to bubble up, as if untapped, while the rest of the world thinks of emo as simply shallow. Musically, you can hear Cap’n Jazz’s influence on a vast array of emo artists. Tim’s almost-whispered, rant-singing at the start of “Puddle Splashers” recalls a more musically ambiguous version of what Taking Back Sunday vocalist Adam Lazzara attempts to create, while “Que Suerte!” sounds like a messier, more cathartic mix of what makes Thursday’s work so captivating.

Yet beyond later influence was Cap’n Jazz’s immediate impact on the community around them. The band appeared at a time just before emo began to solidify its main aesthetic elements, and Cap’n Jazz challenged every idea of singular aesthetic until its end. The biggest acts of mid-90s, Mid-Western emo not only came from disparate places on the map, but had disparate ideas in their musical take on the sound that originally had been birthed in DC. But under the musical heretofore of bands like Cap’n Jazz, they helped open the community to anyone with any original and challenging idea of emo, not simply to those who had pretensions to how to run a scene. It was more about the people involved in the community rather than following a guidebook, and for Cap’n Jazz’s musical and personal role in the national scene, it’s much greater than the first listen of Analphabetapolothology might lead you to believe. In a world where a post-hardcore sound could share space with bands who brought hardcore, pop-punk, pop, and whatever rule-based genre to the table, it was Cap’n Jazz’s original blending of ideas that helped emo form so many different strands and creative impulses for years to come.

Cap\’n Jazz – Little League