Smile Politely

Exit 182 Festival Preview: Friday and Saturday

For the next three days, Mike n’ Molly’s will be hosting Champaign-Urbana’s newest music festival—Exit 182. A welcome addition, the fest will feature 12 bands from C-U, Chicago, Memphis, Eau Claire and Peoria.

Exit 182 came about when Joe Smyth and Isaac Burgess at Mike n’ Molly’s realized that several of the bands they had booked for this weekend were on their way down to SXSW. And not only that, but the quality of the other bands booked lent itself to more than just the normal weekly promotions. Just like that, C-U has a new music fest and we all have a great excuse to go out an enjoy three straight nights of rock and beer.

Today, we run down the lineups for the Friday and Saturday shows. For a preview of tonight’s show featuring the Young Republic, Heyokas, Kilroy, et al. and Roses & Saké go here.

Friday Night

Just one week after the Daredevil Christopher Wright came to town, another rising Eua Claire band, Laarks, makes their way through C-U. Laarks got signed the old-fashioned way, sending their debut album out until it landed with indie mainstay Absolutely Kosher. The record has been getting a lot of positive press, but keyboardist/vocalist Ian Jacoby explained the band is best heard live.

Can you talk about what went into recording An Exaltation of Laarks? How about the response to the album?
An Exaltation of Laarks was recorded at our house over the course of a few years. We’d had the songs for even a few years before that, but it really took a while to get them to the point where they were being executed in a live environment the way we wanted. To me—and other members of the band may disagree with this—Laarks is a live band. Don’t get me wrong, the recording is really good, but I think the high energy and drive that people talk about in the reviews of the album come across best in a live setting.

The album seems to get compared to the Postal Service quite a bit in your reviews. Thoughts on this comparison?
I mean, it’s always a compliment whenever you’re compared to one of the most influential albums of the last 10 years, but beyond that I don’t really see it. Like I said, I think that it’s much more of a rock record and we have a lot of guitars and noise and feedback (Kyle our guitar player is amazing at noise collage stuff.) There are some epic parts, there are some quiet parts, and yes, there are some “pop” parts, but I think if people are looking for a really clean pop record, they may be a bit disappointed.

Eau Claire seems to have quite a few bands with growing profiles these days. Can you discuss what the scene is like up there?
Oh man, don’t even get me started on the Eau Claire scene. I love it. I truly love it. There are three touring bands right now (Bon Iver, DCW, and us), but even beyond that, there are four to five other indie bands that I think could easily do national tours whenever they get the chance.
There’s a band on Amble Down Records, a local label that has put out some amazing stuff, named Meridene that Brian and Zach just got done recording, and it sounds amazing.
The sort of driving force behind the EC scene is this magazine called Volume One. It’s definitely similar to Smile Politely, and it’s been instrumental in connecting a lot of the creative types with people who have the drive to get stuff done.

What’s it like working with Absolutely Kosher records?
It’s great. I mean it’s a mid-sized label, even in the indie world, but you get to connect with them on a really personal level. We were just in San Francisco to play Noise Pop, and we got to meet Cory (the head of Absolutely Kosher), and he was the nicest, most down to earth guy you could hope to meet. You’d never think that he’s worked and signed some of the best artists of the last decade (Pinback, The Mountain Goats, Xiu Xiu, The Wrens, etc…)

You guys have played Champaign in the past, but for those who couldn’t make those shows what can our readers expect from your live show?

Epic. Ha ha. Well, we’re loud and have some pretty high-energy songs. Our drummer sweats and makes a lot of funny faces. We live for playing live. I’m serious, there’s nothing in the world that I enjoy more, and I just hope that the audience comes away with some sense of that. Oh, and I’ll probably make at least one or two jokes that won’t go over very well. On this last tour we did, we played at Kansas University, and I accidentally said we were playing at Kansas State. It seemed innocent enough to me, but there were some pretty pissed off Jayhawks. I promise to never make that mistake with the Illini. Ever.

The other bands performing Friday night are all artists on Chicago’s Thinker Thought records:

Jared Grabb – The singer/songwriter is supporting his brand new album Where Do You Hide Your Love Songs? which I could say a few words about or you could just check out the whole thing on his MySpace page.

Tina Sparkle – Peoria’s Tina Sparkle has been in town a couple of times recently, but it’s hard to get enough of this rock band live.

Mayhew the Traitor – Partially local Americana/alt/country/whatever rockers Mayhew the Traitor will be playing the first of what we hope to be several C-U shows this year.


Saturday Night

Pet Lions
The Chicago band just recorded a new three-song single and also has a new album in the works. In the meatime, you can get the soaring pop of their debut EP on their website for the price of an email. We spoke with guitarist/vocalist Karl Østby.

Can you talk about what went into recording your upcoming release?
We recently finished recording a three song single called Shadows. It will be released by AEMMP Records as a 7″ vinyl as well as a digital download. It should be coming out this May. We had a lot of fun recording these songs, but it seemed to go by really fast. As opposed to our debut EP, Soft Right, these new songs were recorded almost all live and we used the first or second take for each of them.The new single comes across a bit more raw and natural sounding. We’re also currently writing for a full-length which does not have a release date yet.

You guys have played Champaign in the past, but for those who couldn’t make those shows what can our readers expect from your live show?
I believe this will be our fifth show in Champaign. Of the Midwest towns we’ve played in, we’ve definitely enjoyed Champaign the most. I suppose that means you should expect us to be putting on a high-energy performance and having a blast. For those who have seen us before, we’ll be performing a new song that we’re pretty excited about.

Talk about your decision to give away the Soft Right EP for free?
The album was and still is on iTunes, but we came across torrent links to our EP where you could download it for free. That was actually somewhat encouraging because we felt like someone thought our music was worthy of sharing. We didn’t really intend to make money off of Soft Right, but it’s kind of difficult to expect people to buy your records when they’ve never heard of you. As a new band, we figured giving away the EP would be the best way to get our name out there.

Will this be your first trip to SXSW as a band? What are you most looking forward to?
This will be our first trip as a band to SXSW. To be honest, I think we’re all looking forward to some warm weather! Of course, it will be awesome to be involved in the general atmosphere of music everywhere. I’m sure we’ll find time to catch some cool bands, so that’s exciting.

Mittens on Strings
This Chicago band, which originated in Louisville, has been making music since 2001. However, their newest album, Let’s Go to Baba’s is their first as a completely functioning, full-time band. We spoke with singer/guitarist Dave Badger.

Can you talk about what went into recording Let’s Go to Baba’s? How about the response to the album?
Yes. It was a very detailed, awesome process that took several sessions in a couple of studios to record, and about a year and a half to mix and master. Everybody typically sat in on the mixing part – there’s a lot of back and forth between mixing and re-recording selected parts of the music. Two Eyes (bassist Jonny Schenke) did the mastering for Baba’s and it seems like everybody thought it turned out real nice.

What can our readers expect from your live show?
We’ve had a few lineup changes — most notably adding Bill Grubb from the band “Unmanned Ship” on drums. Our cellist, Danah (Albaum), left a while back, and since then our live shows have become way more rockin’. Prez (mandolin/singer Alex Preston) has also started this thing where he gives away arcane objects in a raffle, which people seem to like. We also hear that the live music sounds more psychedelic. So put that together with the pop and the country and you’ve got “wayyyy more rockin.'”

Will this be your first trip to SXSW as a band? What are you most looking forward to?
This will be our fourth appearance as a showcasing act in five years, and we’re definitely looking forward to getting some sun-kegs. We’re also hitting Wichita, Dallas and Houston.

Other bands on Saturday:

Jet W. Lee – Here’s our interview with the local rockers from last December.

Fantastic Plastics – Formerly known as Tyson and the Friction, with Fantastic Plastics we can all expect Man or Astroman meets the 80s and an exuberant live set.

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