Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Love of Locality

"I like music by people I know."

I've heard that statement made a few separate times this past couple days. The reason why? Well my money's on you knowing it if you're reading this, but if not, it's Band Practice.

Band Practice consists of Classic Brian's own Friday writer Conor O'Brien, Tynan Shevlin, Greg Knox and Roy Schribner on bass. They describe themselves as Indie Pop Rock, and others have described them as things such as "Cr^Zy ^w3$0M3".

The band was formed over Thanksgiving 2009 and started as a joke in Conor, Roy and Greg's jazz band class. They started playing together and liked themselves so much that they formed a band. They called it Band Practice, a testament to their modest expectations. At one of their early shows, Tynan Shevlin drummed for them and did such a fitting job that he made the band's (un)official roster.

After a year plus of sparsely playing shows and practicing for them the night of, the band received a grand opportunity.

Monday Nick and I really like Band Practice. After attending every BP show we could throughout the summer, I told Nick it would be awesome if we could get together some money and buy the band some recording time. Nick agreed, but thought we should skip the whole raising/giving money aspect of it. Monday Nick's uncle owns a recording studio in Chicago, where Andrew Bird recorded a fair amount of stuff. Andrew Bird's a pretty good violinist, so that's cool. And, due to Nick's uncle being extraordinarily nice, Band Practice got to record here for two days for free. Did they earn it? No. Did they deserve it? Yes. The band sounds pretty great, and they make fun music. It should be recorded. Most people pay to record. Band Practice lucked out with two free days at a legit studio, and they have a six-track EP to show for it.

The EP is called Band Practice!, but the band is called Band Practice with no stupidly-included exclamation mark. On my original listen to this CD, I was thrilled just to be listening to my friends on recording, which has for a while been sort of a dream of theirs. But as I burned my CD to my computer and continued listening to it, I noticed that I actually like the stuff they play, and not just the fact that they're my friends.

Or so I think.

No way I can tell, really. I've been besties with the band's lead singer for like a year. I can't convince myself to judge this objectively, now matter how hard I try. Apparently I'm not the only one.

"I like music by people I know," my brother tells me as we jam out to BP on our way to Champaign, where I would drop him off at the train station because he's needy as fuck. That wasn't the first time I had heard that that day. He enjoys Conor's vocals, and the proficiency of the melodies, and of course Clayton Penrose-Whitmore's violining that can only be described as orgasmic. The recordings have their imperfections, but such is to be expected on two days work.

What is it about our local music that makes it sound better than other people's local music? This I can't figure out. I'm trying to convince myself that Legacy and Waltz of Debris aren't two of my favorite songs period, but that I just know the whole band and that's why they're both hair-raising to me. The imperfections, Conor's voice being stretched constantly to its utter limits, the wrong notes at the beginning of Everything's Fine, the random extra snare drum at the beginning of Waltz of Debris, the slightly too prominent bass at the beginning of Legacy, to others that may sound like musical flaws, but to me it's just Conor's passion and willingness to go for it, the band's fun imperfect beginning, Tynan's excited drumming, and Rhett--I mean Roy's love for the sound of his beautiful upright bass.

Local music has characters. Band Practice isn't a bunch of rock stars. Band Practice is a bunch of bored kids who know how to use their gifts for the power of good and were able to scam the system to put their tracks on record. They have fans. I mean, they're all 18 (or close to it) and have a ton of friends. But we love that the bassist is the mortal enemy of the lead singer, and that the drummer will spend his spare time staring at a wall like a backwards wax figure. We know that Greg's a better pianist than Conor, but that Conor comes up with the songs so he knows how to play them better. We know stuff about Band Practice. That's why we love Band Practice. Local music has character.

A band that you've never heard of is playing a show that costs eight bucks to go to. Do you go? Typically, I don't. Shows are loud, lyrics are usually lost under the thick sound of uppity guitar playing and hell, the songs just aren't as good when you haven't heard them before. So what's different about Band Practice? Are they any more notable than rivaling group Practice Band? I'm trying to convince myself of the local bias, but if this stuff isn't good then why do I keep hitting play again and again? I concede. Band Practice is catchy as hell.

But, with that, I admit that locality is catchy as hell. It's why you would rather go to Fat Moe's than Steak N Shake (if only it weren't 1 in the morning and Fat Moe's was open). Local bands are on our team, and we want them to succeed. They, of course, have to do their part and play some enjoyable music. Band Practice does that. The fact that we care about the band makes us care about the music. And caring about the music makes it ten times better. Band Practice benefits from being good in the first place. Right?

There's got to be a sort of litmus test for this, next time you're listening to a new band, pretend your cousin was the bassist and see if that makes you like it more. That's got to be enough to at least make you want to optimistically listen to music, as opposed to waiting for it to grab you, which is what we do with most music.

If you haven't yet, give Band Practice a listen. I mentioned this earlier, Waltz of Debris and Legacy are great. Also listen to Tunnel. It's cool and original and a bit lonely down there at track six.


Let me know if I'm full of shit. If not, enjoy some good music.

--Eliot Sill


  1. No I think you're wrong and they're just really really great someone give them a record deal.


  2. Just listened to the band for which my cousin plays bass.


    Nope, not as good as Band Practice.


    I'm totally serious, by the way.

  3. Gaze Into The Vast Ethers of Perception is like, the coolest name for a song ever though. It sounds like a Flaming Lips song title.


  4. Band Practice is fantastic, just made better by knowing them.

  5. I cry a lot after reading your posts eliot..

  6. The fuck is Rhett Bradley? You mean that queer-bag I tricked into quitting BP so I could steal his spot? OK, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT NOW. That "random extra snare drum at the beginning of Waltz of Debris" is actually the sound of the E string on my upright bass hitting the neck as I played that note SO FUCKING HARD. ASSHAT.