- October 2014 -
HAVE A BEER WITH MORE GORGEOUS
Chicago-based trio More Gorgeous is weaving its accessible blend of art punk/noise rock into the fabric of Chicago’s rich rock-‘n’-roll tapestry. Since the band’s inception, they’ve released an LP Escape from Terror Beach to rave reviewsand played gigs at venues like Double Door, Subterranean and Beat Kitchen. More Gorgeous recently wrapped up tracking at Chicago’s own MINBAL and plans to release their second record in spring 2015.
We caught up with the guys over some drinks before their September show at Township and chatted about their ever-evolving sound, their place in the Chicago scene and what excites them the most about their new record.
The Show: More Gorgeous at Township
Drinks of Choice: Alex Brittain, lead vocals and guitar (Becks non-alcoholic beer); Jason Poe, bass guitar and backing vocals (whiskey); Taylor Wells, drumming and percussion (coffee)
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: Are you guys all originally from here?
Jason: Taylor and I have known each other since preschool. We met when we were about five years old. We're originally from Jefferson City, Missouri and moved to Chicago in the summer of 2008. We were in a whole other band in high school and we moved up here. Never had a practice, let alone a show. That band broke up. Alex, though, he had moved to Jefferson City when we were juniors in high school. We were 17.
Alex: Seventeen, yeah. I came along and bought them beer so they would hang out with me.
Jason: We had people to do it before. It was a lot easier.
Alex: They were also the only cool guys in Jeff City, which is the capital of Missouri, but it's also a really small, conservative, relatively boring town.
Kristen: That's what I was going to ask. I've never been there.
Jason: Yeah. You're not missing much.
Taylor: They call Missouri “Misery” for a reason.
Alex: They were the only guys that I knew that were really into cool music. I grew up in southern California, but through a series of unfortunate events ended up in Missouri, where my family is from originally. When they went to Chicago, I stayed behind. I wasn't really in a position to move anywhere at that point. We kept in touch and I went to visit a couple of times. A couple of years later, a room opened up in the apartment that they were living in at the time and they knew how miserable I was back in Missouri, so they encouraged me to move up to here and play some music with them. That's exactly what I did and it's been great.
Kristen: Well, cheers to that. Tell me about the name “More Gorgeous.” It’s a great band name.
Alex: It's a lot better than some of the previous names we went through. Right before we played our very first show we decided that the name we had at the time was fucking stupid. We wanted a name that was going to be kind of intentionally cocky and kind of glammy, in a way. When we first started, we were playing a kind of post-punk new wave, with little elements of glam rock in there. We wanted a name that would reflect that. More Gorgeous just seemed appropriate.
Taylor: Yes. Simple.
Jason: It's also a little sarcastic.
Alex: Yeah. The sound has evolved a lot since then, or devolved, depending on how you look at it. Now it almost has an ironic twist to it because the music is far from gorgeous now. We've gone a more art-punk route and it's gotten a lot more aggressive, a lot louder and a lot faster.
Kristen: You released your first record in April of last year. I noticed there's a dichotomy in that record – a playfulness but also darkness. Is that dichotomy still at work with your new material?
Alex: I would say it's even more prevalent now because the music has gotten darker, louder and faster. Lyrically, and really with the arrangements and stuff, we've gotten weirder. We're embracing humor a little more, too, with the lyrics and the song titles and our general attitude. The music is still, upon first listen, somewhat nasty and dark.
Jason: But there's still a melody to it, especially with Alex's vocals. He still has the same playfulness in his vocals where he bounces around with the melody.
Kristen: What are you working on right now?
Taylor: We go into the studio October 10 to start working on our next full-length.
Alex: We're working with Don Bates. He's a very talented engineer who recorded the last album. He’s now based in Nashville and is doing wonderful things there. He's going to make a special trip to Chicago to record. We toyed with the idea of going there. That would be a lot of fun, but I don't think that we'd be able to take as much time as we'd really need. It's still going to be mixed in Nashville.
Jason: We can put that in the liner-notes.
Kristen: Do you guys have all the songs fleshed out, then? Obviously, when you go into the studio, there are changes that you’ll make, but do you have the songs pretty much down?
Jason: Yeah. We have the skeleton.
Alex: I think we may even be hoping to get one or two more written before we get started. We've already got a pretty good idea.
Taylor: We have two 10-hour days. We're doing drums and bass live together. Hopefully we’ll knock that out in the first day.
Jason: We're going to do as much live as we can. I think that's where our best energy for the three of us comes out. Playing songs like it was band practice, but playing a little bit better.
Alex: Yeah, it definitely helps capture the energy. These songs are nothing if not energetic.
Kristen: What do you guys think of the Chicago scene? You can be honest. I've had people totally rip it to shreds and I've had other people say that they love it.
Alex: I have a strong opinion about it. When I first came to Chicago and when we first started playing music together, I was certain that we would be able to establish ourselves immediately, simply based on the strength of the music. I knew that we were a great band and the music that we were doing is relevant and hip, for lack of a better term. I just didn't see a reason why it couldn't break through immediately. I quickly realized that the scene is very exclusive and very incestuous. A part of me feels like if you weren't part of that initial wave of art school buddies that founded a lot of the local scene as it is today, then they don't want anything to do with you. We’ve still managed to play a lot of really great shows and gotten to know a lot of really great bands and attract some attention, but I think this next record will open a lot of doors for us. It's a lot different. The first one was a little too ambitious and maybe it turned a lot of people off. I just hope that people will start to embrace us a little more. I know we've got something to offer the scene. It's just the same handful of bands that are getting all of the really prime opening slots with all the national acts that come to town.
Kristen: Do you feel like it's partially the clubs that are driving that?
Alex: Oh, absolutely. Those bands are the ones that clubs and promoters really go to first before they're even willing to listen to others.
Taylor: All they care about is whether or not a band can draw people, which is understandable. But in this city, it's hard to build a fan base without getting the shows so you can draw people.
Jason: It's a catch 22.
Taylor: It's like trying to get a new driver's license. It's almost as bad as trying to go to the DMV.
Kristen: The DMV is terrible. My least favorite place on earth. What’s the least rock-‘n’-roll thing you've done in the past year?
Taylor: I applied for a loan to get a scooter and I got denied twice. I'm on my third try. I'm going to get it, damn it. That's not very rock and roll.
Jason: I don't know what's worse. Getting denied for a loan for a scooter or actually just riding around on a scooter.
Taylor: If I were rock-‘n’-roll, I would just steal it.
Kristen: Also, it depends on what kind of scooter you're talking about. If we’re talking about a loan for a Razor Scooter, that’s a whole new ball game…
Jason: You got denied for a $30 loan.
Taylor: A Vespa. Let me just tell you. If you're broke and trying to get a scooter, there is a lot of red tape to get through. Unless you come from a rich family.
Jason: Who knew, man?
Kristen: What advice would you give people trying to buy a scooter?
Taylor: Have rich parents or save up a lot of money. Get a good job.
Alex: All you want to do is scoot, man.
Kristen: Or tell them that you're in a band. Reach out to the company and be like, "We will all tour on these scooters."
Alex: Oh, yeah. You might be on to something.
Jason: We could all wear Vespa shirts.
Alex: I think if we all rode in tandem, we could pull a trailer.
Taylor: I think the biggest problem was that I was honest on my loan application.
Jason: There's your first mistake.
Alex: You have to lie. I guess my answer to the least-rock-‘n’-roll thing would be ordering non-alcoholic beer. I was going to say getting sober. That doesn't seem very rock-‘n’-roll, but then again I think a lot of rock stars do find themselves in that position.
Jason: Last Sunday I went to lunch in Boystown with my girlfriend and a couple of our gay friends. Long story short, I did not survive. I couldn't hang with them. We went to Scarlet’s. It was three in the afternoon and they’re partying in there like it’s three in the morning.
Taylor: Let's just say, the next morning, he had a broken phone.
Alex: Brunch in Boystown kicked your ass.
Jason: Brunch in Boystown kicked my ass. I loved every second of it until I couldn’t remember any of it. I just can't hang with the big dogs. Champagne and orange juice kicked my ass. I can drink a bottle of whiskey in one night but I can't drink two bottles of champagne and hold my shit together.
Kristen: Don’t worry; champagne gets me, too. What are you most excited about with regards to your upcoming record?
Alex: I feel like we've been swearing up and down for the past year or so that we're the best punk rock band in Chicago. I do firmly believe that. I feel like we're good players. I feel like we've got good chemistry. I think the music is interesting; it's pushing the often stagnant punk rock genre forward. We've been referring to ourselves as this art-punk/noise-rock combo for a while now, but people haven't really had a chance to hear it unless they've seen us live. We've still only got the first album to really show the world. And as proud as we are of Escape from Terror Beach, the sound has changed a lot and I want people to know that it's an organic thing. We weren’t just trying something completely different to see what happened. We didn’t try punk rock because we felt like our ship wasn’t going to come in.
Taylor: There was a long period in between of getting fucked over and pissed off.
Alex: We were legitimately angry when we started playing this stuff. It just seemed more natural. It was really great writing and arranging everything. When it came down to it, we were writing in our shitty south side rehearsal space with just drums, bass and guitar. The stuff we're doing now is just what was coming out. It was a really natural progression and I'm so excited for everyone to hear the next record. I'm confident it's going to help us make significant strides.