Record Release Party
April 30 (Saturday)
w/ The Hentchmen, The Moonwalks, and The Idiot Kids
(1501 Holden, Detroit)
The Ill Itches..., when I first heard them..., sparked a double take. It was sensational and gnarly garage-rock, something that demonstrated vibrant reverence to the Grande glory days. You know, Detroit rock 'n' roll... But there was some elusive element radiating in the wings of each song, some kind of frenetic sonic atom pulling or tweaking the frames of the arrangements, away from clear-cut "rock" and into the realms of punk-blues, or metal-folk, or psych-pop. Never purely one or the other, never sitting still...
Stephen Schmidt (guitar/vocals): "When we all sit down and write something its all very spastic and weird the first couple of takes, but when we get our feet wet with the song it all kinda comes together. We stand out based on the idea of attempting to make our own genre while still trying to be rooted towards our influences."
The Ill Itches got rolling in early 2013, quickly solidifying a signature style of a rock that reliably ricochets around the genre compound, whilst also finding its live players, with Schmidt, Matt Livengood (drums), Josh Woodcock (guitar) and Matt Mruzek (bass/vocals) comparably ricocheting, themselves, around the performance space. It's always loud, it's often fast, and it consistently emanates passion, energy, guts & gusto...
Joshua Woodcock: "We went into the band wanting to play something loud and dynamic which wasn't cluttered with things that don't matter. I think we each have our own personalities, and we've each gone through things in our personal lives at some time that we used in the songwriting process. I think we each had a period where there was a lot of emotions bubbling out and we pushed that into the music. The sound itself formed very organically, we each came in playing how we felt, and I think it adds some depth to the songs. Outside of the initial goals we had, I don't think we've really set out and said "this is the type of music we should play." We each play to our own personalities, and I think that there's some realness to it because of that."
Next Saturday, they release their first proper full length (after a couple of EP's and singles). The self-titled record (on vinyl, released through Jett Plastic Recordings) gets a voluminous celebration at the Marble Bar. The inimitable Hentchmen are on the bill, along with The Moonwalks and The Idiot Kids. (Info).
Matt Livengood: "Musically, we are 4 fundamentally different creatures. I’d always heard the hardest part of touring was playing show after show (after show). For us, it’s agreeing on what record to play on the van stereo. From Ohio to NYC to Vermont and back, we spent what seemed like half the time debating which album to listen to next. You’d think this would equal just about the worst formula for functioning as a band, ever. But I think it’s helped us write songs with a bunch of disparate parts that, somehow, end up as coherent & cohesive wholes."
|photo by Erick Buccholz|
When you guys look back on leading up to this album, the work that went into it...everything, what were your biggest takeaways? What did you find most fulfilling about the experience, but what, more so, did you wind up learning about yourselves or each other, from the experience?
Josh Woodcock: Making a record is one of the most rewarding things I've ever been a part of. (Livengood) and I have recorded an album together before, and (Mruzek) has a lot of recording experience under his belt, so the process was fairly painless. We recorded with Zach Shipps and Dave Feeny, and really just played the songs out how we play them live. It's all about balance, though. In recording, you really feel the strengths of each member and their unique voices
Matt Livengood: We finished recording the last few tracks on the record just before Josh left. The entire collection of songs came from 4 recordings sessions spread out over summer 2013 (“Michigan Ave Meltdown,” “Lucille,” “My Sister’s Possessed”) to winter (“Hallelujah,” “Revolving Door”) and summer 2014 (“Bubbletape,” “Give It Up,” “No Way”) to January 2015 (“I Feel Good,” “Al Serpico,” “Heather.”)
Right..., because Josh was in Japan for...what? More than a year? In 2014? Can you talk more about that absence and how that affected the band and its operation...? What were the band meetings like, when you talked about the future, 2 years ago, and how do you feel now, having gone through this recording?
Matt Livengood: We’d originally planned to put the album out sometime last year. But when Josh returning to Detroit became a real possibility, we decided to defer the release until after he got back. We still had some logistics to break down—art, distribution, all that fun stuff. And we wanted Josh to have a hand in it. So rather than having him reach around half the earth’s circumference, we figured it’d be easier to wait until he came back.
Stephen Schmidt: Josh’s exit to Japan did soften the overall mood of the band but it really didn’t stop us from playing. I personally never looked 2 or 3 years ahead on just about anything, I like living day by day so I kept that approach with the band and we just focused on the next show not the next year.
Josh Woodcock: I kept in touch with the guys while I was gone, and always knew we'd have the release and I'd at least fly home for it. When I came back, it was very much "ok, now's the time to put this out."
Matt Livengood: It definitely wasn’t by design, but this full-length is pretty much the culmination of “Chapter 1” of our band’s development. All these songs came from before Josh left—and now that he’s back and we’re finally putting this record out, we’re moving on to Phase 2.
Was there ever any doubt this band wouldn't continue? Whether there was, or if there wasn't, what were some of the deciding factors that assured it would continue?
Matt Livengood: We always intended to keep the band going after Josh left—in the abstract. But as far as how things would actually play out, once he moved to the Orient…well, we all knew we didn’t have much of a clue. So we took things pretty slowly. Other than a couple of shows we’d booked in advance, we flew below the radar during our initial run as a 3-piece. Mainly, we played around with our sound & tried to determine what our new “Sans-Josh” dynamic was going to be. There were some quandaries, for sure. But we all believed in what we were doing and thought we’d come too far together end it, so we duked it out....
...But it had a huge silver lining. Matt and Stephen hadn’t really landed on a steady approach to interacting onstage. When Josh left, rather than having 3 mics at 9-12-3o’clock, S&M started playing at 10-2 onstage. That REALLY improved their interplay. And it gave me a line of vision to the crowd, which I liked. So when Josh came back, he hangs back & keeps the rhythm with me, while the 2 up-front guys do their newfound thing.
When you listen back, what stands out? And, where else did you guys work on the recording, besides with Shipps in Ferndale?
Matt Livengood: “Lucille,” “Michigan Ave Meltdown” and “My Sister’s Possessed” were originally recorded at the Tempermill with Dave Feeny, and the rest of the tracks were laid down at Rancho Verde Audio Lab, Zach Shipps’s studio.
Stephen Schmidt: The experience, itself, just of recording was something more fulfilling to me than it was, later, to eventually hold the hard copy of the album. I just remember really trying to harness some raw and crazy energy for some of these songs that literally whatever came out (spontaneous lyrics) were fine by me. Don’t get me wrong I’m excited to physically hold my hard work but I want to have that feeling recording again.
Josh Woodcock: The songwriting side of things really sticks out. Most of those songs are in the same form as when we first played them for each other. We tend to alternate songwriting tasks, and each person would bring in something and we'd all arrange them and feel them out together. Every time you work on a new song, it's like going on a date with someone new and feeling them out. Later on, though, it felt very comfortable and I could already feel where the others would take the songs beforehand.
You guys have the Hentchmen on the bill, can you talk about what that band means to you...? And, about the energy from other newer bands that popped up on this scene right alongside you or just a year or two after you, like The Idiot Kids or the Moonwalks; we're seeing this ...well..., not resurgence? But this sort of re-imagining of rock or garage or whatever, can you talk about that and what its like being in the middle of it as one of the leading voices on reinventing something The Hentchmen started...
Matt Livengood: I like the term “reinventing” for our band. For sure, much of our sound is built on a foundation of old school garage/punk—but we’ve always keep in mind that anchoring ourselves to a throwback-ish kind of vibe might limit where all we could go, song-wise. I think that’s where Mruzek’s presence really resonates.
Josh Woodcock: The Hentchmen are great. We played with them at Blowout a few years ago and were just blown away by them, especially because they were able to remain friends for so long and still connect on that musical level. I think the Hentchmen still hold that torch, but we're happy to be here now and fan the flames a bit. Being a part of this scene is great, and especially with a band like The Idiot Kids...they're what punk rock is all about, and you can really feel their love and understanding of what they're doing when they get up and play.
Stephen Schmidt: The henchmen were a band I first heard of when I listened to The Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit compilation. They had a track on there that I would literally listen to over and over again, "Accusatory." It was kinda that song that made me try being crazier while writing and overall style of my playing. To this day the Henchmen were and are a huge influence to me and I very excited to play with them for the second time. The Idiot Kids are another one where I just had to see them once and instantly knew their fire was there. Anytime a man can play a guitar in 6 inch kiss army boots and smash on pedals effortlessly has my vote. As for all the other bands, I still get excited seeing any of my friends play, the style of music doesn’t matter to me I just love seeing good people get in the right place to preform. Its truly a beautiful thing. And I hope that this certain style of Detroit rock n roll gets captured and harnessed for future band to get influences on.
After this release show - what are your future plans? Beyond that, what are your future aspirations, what would you LIKE to do (or try) next?
Josh Woodcock: We just hope people like this album and connect with it in some way. From there, we just want to continue playing and enjoying our chance to be a part of this music scene.
Matt Livengood: Looking forward to hitting the road. And hitting Josh. Preferably upside the head.
April 30th - Release Party - Marble Bar