Ted Leo has pretty much done it all in the world of indie rock. He cut his teeth in the New York/New Jersey hardcore scene in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, playing in Citizens Arrest, Puzzlehead, Hell No, and Animal Crackers before moving to South Bend, Indiana to attend college at Notre Dame. There he picked up an English degree as well as a new band, Chisel. Starting off as another lo-fi ‘90s indie guitar band, Leo’s growth as a songwriter and the group’s interest in mod music eventually led them to evolve to a more fully-realized sound. After moving from Indiana to Washington D.C., Chisel showed off that new sound on two stellar albums; 1996’s 8 A.M. All Day and 1998’s Set You Free. Despite successful tours with bands such as Blonde Redhead, the Dismemberment Plan, and Fugazi, Chisel called it quits in 1998.
Leo’s journey as a solo artist began the next year as he hit the road for what would become a nearly a decade of almost nonstop touring. This resulted in a challenging and often-frustrating solo debut in 1999, tej leo(?), Rx/pharmacists. The next year he recruited a full band for the Treble in Trouble EP, naming them the Pharmacists. At first the group was a rotating cast of friends from across the east coast who helped him tour and record. After releasing the stunning album The Tyranny of Distance in 2001, Leo recruited bassist Dave Lerner and drummer Chris Wilson and began touring (often joined by other musicians) as a set band. Hearts of Oak, released in 2003, followed in Tyranny‘s steps, featuring songs exploring the vast world of pop while firmly rooted in punk. Pruned to a power trio, the Pharmacists released the politically-charged Shake the Sheets just before the 2004 election and the broader, more expansive punk opus Living with the Living in 2007. Now touring as a four-piece with James Canty (of Nation of Ulysses fame) on guitar and Marty Key replacing Lerner on bass, they’ve slowed down considerably. Their most recent record, The Brutalist Bricks, came out in 2010.