5 bloggers, 5 questions, 1 band, hand-picked by the MWA writers. Welcome to FIVE x FIVE. This week: Chicago rock trio, Bailiff.
Formed by Josh Siegel and Ren Matthew via Craigslist ad in 2009, Bailiff has since become a major force in Chicago’s music scene. Following the 2011 release of their debut full-length, Red Balloon, the duo brought Owen O’Malley on board to begin work on its follow-up. After a successful Kickstarter campaign raising over $16,000, April 22 saw the official release of Bailiff’s second full-length LP, Remise. Gearing up for a slew of August shows, Josh was kind enough to answer a few of our questions for this week’s FIVE x FIVE.
A lot of bands have the “We grew up together and played together our whole lives” type of story but this is not the case with Bailiff. Do you find that forming the band as musicians seeking musicians has helped you or is there no difference?
Yeah, I think it has helped in that we were all really clear about the kind of commitment we were looking for. There has to be a friendship for sure, but that part developed while we got to work.
Did you learn anything about your fan-base or about your journey as musicians through your successful Kickstarter campaign? (this can be either a really deep question or …not)
We learned that our fans really wanted a new album from us and that was very motivating. It also filled the role of a record label. We felt the pressure of our “investors” saying, “When is this gonna be finished and released?” The great part is that we had their trust that we’d make an album they’d want to own rather than a label trying to direct how it should sound.
Most of the songs on your new record are much more laid back and contemplative as opposed to the upbeat blues-rock sound of your debut. What would you say influenced this shift in direction in the years between Red Balloon & Remise?
I’m not sure where the ideas come from. Whatever emerges during those experimenting/exploring hours with your instrument seem to just stumble out and then it’s just a matter of if what you’re playing feels right and sticking with it. When I think about the tracks on Remise there are quite a few heavy tunes, I think it’s just that Remise has two very tender ballads in the mix. We wanted to push the songs in whatever direction they hinted at while writing them. The opening track is basically a two chord funk vamp, we tried to get as much mileage out of it as we could and keep it captivating for 6 minutes like a Jame Brown song. On the piano ballad, “Head in the Clouds,” we demoed a version with drums and bass, but we ended up stripping away those tracks because it felt more powerful without them. We love a lot of different types of music. The artists we referenced during the writing and recording of Remise were all over the place. Some were loud and heavy, some were more beautiful and soft spoken.
How did your approach to writing and recording Remise differ from Red Balloon – if it did at all?
We had different producers. Red Balloon was all Jon Alvin. Jon started Remise but then Dan Smart took over. When I say “producer,” I mean in the old school sense of the word, the guy who says, “That song is a keeper,” or “That chorus could be better.” Jon gave guidance without saying specifically what to change. He might say, “This song is heavy, but if you want it to be great you’ll have to work in moments of femininity to keep it from stagnating.” It was up to you as the writer to let that idea float around while taking a song back to the drafting table. Dan certainly gave guidance but he also kinda let us know that if we didn’t make progress on song we wouldn’t have much to do at our next meeting. He liked to stand in the room while we played and then he’d call a timeout and ask us to try specific arrangement ideas, having an instrument drop out or whatnot.
You offered a vinyl copy of Remise as a perk on your Kickstarter campaign, would re-releasing Red Balloon on vinyl be something you’d consider doing in the future?
Yeah, we’d love to have both album on vinyl. It’ll happen one day. Right now it’s just a financial roadblock that’s kept us from doing it. But yeah, it’s a goal.
Aug 7 at Mike N Molly’s in Champaign, IL
Aug 8 at Be Here Now in Muncie, IN
Aug 9 at The New Vintage in Lousiville, KY
Aug 13 at The One Stop in Asheville, NC
Aug 14 at Pilot Light in Knoxville, TN
Aug 17 at Navy Pier, Grand Ballroom in Chicago, IL
Aug 29 at 643 Sports Bar in Bowling Green, KY