A few weeks ago Brooklyn based indie rockers The Subjects played an intimate yet compelling set at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. By intimate I mean there was not a huge crowd at the show, but attendees were appreciative nonetheless. Perhaps the spurts of freezing drizzle that night prompted people to take a rain check that night.
The Empty Bottle itself is an interesting set up as far as venues go. There are several different rooms to the space, all of which have dimmed lighting and walls plastered with concert posters and fliers. It’s not unlike any given basement show.
The band consists of four members, David Sheinkopf, Matt Iwanusa (aka Matty Pickles), Joe Smith and Jimmy Carbonetti. By the looks of them I thought I was going to be witnessing the latest hipster sensation of tight pants, flannel shirts, mustaches and leather vests. (How low and superficial of me to assume, I know.) Once they got going my assumption was proved completely wrong. Each member demonstrated a command of not only their instruments, but also their collective song writing capabilities.
Every song was original and sounded different from the last; one moment indie pop rock, and the next minimal new age. Incorporated in each song were an assortment of beautiful harmonies amongst layers of rhythm, sound and texture, adding an embellished keyboard lick here and a roll of a tambourine there. Some compositions came off light and fresh, something one could tap their finger to, while others combined upbeat progressions with minor undertones.
For each song band members would rotate instruments, further demonstrating their command over their music. Even drummer Matty Pickles shared lead vocals with Sheinkopf, who floated between vocals, bass and keyboards. Even their lyrics were catchy, expressing experiences of love, loss, growth and other proven topics. My favorite was “Winter Vacation,” off their new EP New Soft Shoe. I found my head bobbing along pretty quickly.