15 Apr 2009: Empty Bottle Chicago, IL
If you live in Chicago, and have any interest in the local music scene, chances are you’ve heard of the Interiors. But then again, maybe not. I first interviewed the band in late 2007, and struggled for the right angle to present their story. They’re not flashy or particularly hip. With all three members in their thirties, they are no longer young gunslingers trying to make a name for themselves with hipster posturing. Bassist Collin Jordan is an unapologetic Simpsons geek, and drummer Brian Lubinsky and singer/guitarist Chase Duncan quoted Monty Python and cited Kafka’s The Metamorphosis as songwriting inspiration during the interview.
My temporary writer’s block ended after I saw them live, at a tiny dive in Chicago’s Humboldt Park. Apart from family and friends of the band, the crowd consisted of faded women and gin blossomed men. As the Interiors took the stage and kicked into their jangly, southern-tinged brand of roots rock, the bleary eyed men looked up from their beers and tapped their work boots along with the music, and the faded women began to sway along, closing their heavily painted eyes and forgetting their troubles for at least one night. It was the band’s no frills aesthetic, and everyman accessibility, that I realized would be the hook to the story, and hopefully be the key to their success.
That was then, and this is now. Almost a year to the date after the dive bar gig, I caught the band at the Empty Bottle. Since I last saw them, the Interiors have continued to make the rounds around Chicago and have toured the Midwest in a van constantly on the verge of breakdown. They have garnered a lot of positive press, most notably raves in The Onion and The Washington Post. I approached the band before the gig, and was greeted warmly by the same friendly guys who I interviewed a year ago.
On a packed bill, the Interiors, along with Dreamend and Hospital Ships, were supporting Boston’s Pretty & Nice. We spoke about labels, and how the band loved sharing the bill with Graveface artists, home to psychedelic breakout stars Black Moth Super Rainbow. Surrounded by the familiar family and friends I met at the first show, with a new girlfriend or two thrown into the mix, the company the Interiors keep is gregarious and inviting, and I was drawn into their energy. In this sad era of post-irony, it’s hard to find smiling faces and bodies ready to dance at rock shows. As Dreamend concluded their mopey, shoe gazing set, the Interiors bounced onto the stage, and the crowd was suddenly ready for the fun to begin.
The set began with “The Bug” from their debut album. One of their moodier tracks, with distorted guitar and feedback whine layered over Lubinsky’s rhythmic drum assault, the song is actually reminiscent of, ahem, Bug era Dinosaur Jr. The set consisted mostly of songs taken from their debut, but the Interiors also threw in a few new tracks—“I Will Wait” and “Home”—that they had never played live before. While the formula, straight ahead pop hooks with funk laced bass lines and Afro-influenced drum beats remains intact, the structure of the new songs is more intricate and the mood darker, as if the band has abandoned barroom energy for recent Kings of Leon inspired grandiosity.
I’ll have to wait to hear if the new album will follow the lead of these new numbers, but it is admirable to see the band exploring new territory outside their Pixies and Stooges raucous, upbeat mentality. In between set standards “I’m So Happy” and “A Crooked Line”, Duncan and Jordan bantered playfully back and forth between each other and the crowd. After their forty five minute set, the band returned back to the floor to laugh and joke with their people. When the groupies and the records deals have all gone away, this is what it means to play rock music. And I don’t think the Interiors will ever forget that.