This post is written by Justin "J Co." Corp - engineer at Second Street LLC. Justin has worked at several recording studios in Chicago and has a Bachelor's Degree in Commercial Music from Millikin University.
After a brief hibernation through this mild Chicago winter, I'm alive and well and stoked to be analyzing some of the greatest releases of early 2023! The seasonal saddies are on their way out and replaced with a general sense of joy and excitement all around the city. Our great ocean (lake) is thawed, the sun has returned to the sky, and the trails are packed with hopeful new joggers trying to make right on their New Year's resolutions. The city truly comes alive in April, and we're reminded why we withstand the torture of the past six months. This complete shift in our collective depression is shown in music, too - songs released in October through January are generally more introspective and existential. However, this debut EP by The Trenchies titled You Are Listening To is the epitome of optimistic outlooks and summer dreams (not to mention shenanigans and horseplay).
There's not necessarily a huge epic tale to the formation of this indie rock band. And there's something so charming about that. You can hear that the root of everything The Trenchies do is just buddies being pals; friends being chums; mates being chaps. Along with their youthful giddiness, one of the greatest strengths of The Trenchies is their unity - especially between the bass and drums. While the band found its current form just one year ago, Bassist Claire King and drummer Thomas Weiss have been playing together since their time at Notre Dame. Singer/guitarist Logan Ludwig was looped in as a mutual friend and Andrew Pridmore (keys/guitar) joined after subbing with the crew. It's clear that the tightness the band has in rhythm is directly tied to the tightness that they have in their relationships.
After a few performances at Subterranean, Book Club, G-Man Tavern, and their notorious performances at Schubas, they started to garner a huge reputation for their stage presence and the nature of their performances. Painted eyelids, puppetry, and absurd lyrics are a given at this point. The Trenchies had just two releases before their sold-out EP release show this March at Golden Dagger. And what a debut! With tracking from good friend Grey Taxon at Gravity Studios, and mixing/mastering from the promised land (Nashville), the sonic tone of this project takes the rhetorical tone to a new level.
What Does It Sound Like?
The Trenchies convert their young carefree energy into fickle, fun, and flighty music. While every track on this release takes itself seriously to varying degrees, at the center of every song is the kind of silly and bombastic art that we've grown to love through groups like Talking Heads, The Cure, OK GO, REM and more. Luckily, both of the first tracks on this project are paired with hilarious music videos, co-directed by lead singer Logan Ludwig and videographer Evan Hansen. This debut EP starts with the band's most recent single release - "Life Preserver." With a calm groove and a threateningly good guitar lick, this song brings me so much optimism for a beach day this summer and easily found its way into my playlist. As the song calms down with the "Television...radio...; one of them has gotta go" refrain, it feels like the sugar high comes crashing back down.
The second track on You Are Listening To was my very first impression of The Trenchies. In fact, I still remember my friend impersonating "Talk Show" to explain how much fun he had at their live show the night before. The lyrics are irreverent and almost irrelevant - this song is just a blast. The vocals have a sense of performance to them that renders any true lyrics as brief quips, and the chorus is literally "blah blah blah blah blah" all the way through. With splanky guitars, a thick bass line and a tight groove, there is nothing missing in this hit.
"Spin Out" and "Reunion Show" showcase the production style of the band in a way that pulls back the curtain on what makes The Trenchies, "The Trenchies." The bass is present and yet subdued, which creates a ton of space for bright rhythm guitar parts and wild vocals. There are only a few points in the project where Logan's vocals sit without doubles or background vocals, and each time brings a level of exposure to the lyrics that shows you should be listening extra closely. "Reunion Show" is one of these moments of vulnerability that tells the story of the lifespan of a band - from solo projects to breakups and (of course) reunion shows. What really glues this song together is the nostalgic organ that lies in the midst of it all paired with the sweet acoustic guitar strums.
What Does It Feel Like?
It's harder talk about what the album does not feel like! As is the case with anything The Trenchies release, it feels like you're listening to your friends play a fun little show while you're having the time of your life. The keyboard melody and tripled vocals on"Hey Junior" make me want to ride my bike as fast as I can - like a paperboy on his mail route whipping newspapers at mailboxes and drinking a Capri Sun. These songs invoke such deep imagery of joy through their playful lyrics and happy-go-lucky arrangements.
Whenever I have the dream of touring the world with a band of buddies, I'm imagining a group just like these four. The six song EP finishes with another chipper hit - "Acquired Taste" - and I am craving the publication of the lyrics all the more. Vocals in this song feature the lead singer pretending to get stung by a bee, pronouncing words in absurd ways, and a fair share of whooping, hollering, screaming, and wailing. My new wish is for every song on this EP (and every other release of theirs, actually) to have a music video accompanying it. The youthful antics that The Trenchies put on are contagious, and I can't wait for the next chance to hear them live.
The old adage for musicians is "tour to sell music; sell music to tour." With a huge stage presence and a solid record under their belt, The Trenchies is a group with huge potential to break through from out of the Chicago scene. Plus, they have no shortage of close collaborators, side projects, and tour pals: The Hustle, Midcentury Llama, Modern Dairy, and Beauty Saloon have all been featured alongside The Trenchies in the past few months. Go see The Trenchies the next time they're on stage and prepare to have an absolute blast.
Have you had a chance to see the music videos for Life Preserver and Talk Show? Are you obsessed yet? Check out the links below to dive deeper into the rabbit trench. Haha.
On The Block...
"Lefty Lucy B/W Hanna Road" - Mike + Ben
This release gathers two creatives into one exciting project that forecasts an Americana connection that I hope they continue in records to come. “Lefty Lucy” is the fast, raucous kind of folk that thrives off of classic story-telling techniques. With an agile electric guitar part, this track speeds its way to the finish line with a comical delivery and a honky-tonk tone. "Hanna Rd." is a charismatic slow-jam with a melody that is sweet like molasses and gorgeous steel guitar solos and harmonies.
"Crimson to Chrome" - Friko
One of the first bands I got to hear live after moving to Chicago - this band is going places and very soon. Friko's new release is bold, crass, and brilliant. This song was teased in their AudioTree session last June and hasn't left my head since. You'll get lost in the catchy chorus and the trippy rhythmic feel. I've been waiting for a chance to write about Friko, and this single is a perfect example of what makes them special.
"Break" - Kenneth Rhys
The second of three singles to be released prior to this 2023 project couldn't be more different from the first! Kenneth Rhys can capture the moody, acoustic sound at the same level as the groovy electronic sound that he's most known for. This track also features OTB alumni Samuel Aaron as well as Peter from Alga (also featured on this week's playlist!)