5 bloggers, 5 questions, 1 band, hand-picked by the MWA writers. Welcome to FIVE x FIVE. This week: Chicago rockers, The Van Goghs.


Self-proclaimed American laundry washed in British detergent, The Van Goghs play garage rock music with a nostalgic touch. Last May, the group released their Roman Candle EP, a follow-up to 2011’s Escape of the Jellyfish and recently were kind enough to answer some of our burning questions for this week’s FIVE x FIVE.

You mention some big name favorites like Bowie, Beck and the Beatles; are there any local groups that you’ve been listening to lately? | Dan Jarvis

There’s been a few groups various members of ours have been turned on to after getting a chance to share a stage with them.  Soft Speaker in particular we’ve had the privilege of playing with a few times.  Cool people, good songs, they go about music the right way.   

Some others would include:  Tin Tin Can, Cave, Witch Feet, Flint Eastwood (MI), Rabble Rabble, Black Cat Heart Attack and The Claudettes.

With almost two years between your first two releases, did you notice any stylistic changes or musical developments between Escape of the Jellyfish and Roman Candle? | Eric Slager

During the recording of Escape of the Jellyfish we were a 4 piece.  Mick (guitar/vocals) wrote a few keyboard parts that weren’t part of the live performance to help flesh out the songs.  That was a catalyst to us realizing we would love to have a full time keyboardist to give us a fuller sound along with more flexibility.  With Travis the keys and synths became more a part of the music than a recording afterthought.   

We also have a new bassist.  Our old bassist was more into Dub and Afro-rhythms which gave some songs a bit of a Clash-like feel on the rhythm end.  Ryon our current bassist is definitely more rock & roll with probably a greater interest in the small details.  That had a pretty large effect on the underlying architecture of Roman Candle‘s songs.

Escape was a self-recorded effort on some pretty crude equipment and we didn’t exactly know what we were doing half the time.  It kind of pigeon-holed for a while as a band that was going for that “garage-blues-Black Keys-type sound”, which really wasn’t what we were trying to do.  So with Roman Candle we worked with a producer which made us get more introspective and critical with our writing process.  That along with using an actual studio upped the overall quality/fidelity of the recording.

Over the last few years, it seems like you have played most of Chicago’s best local stages. Is there a venue in the city that feels like home? Is there a favorite spot that you haven’t had a chance to play yet?  | Patrick David

It would probably have to be between Martyrs and Double Door.  We’ve had some our best shows and crowd experiences there, plus both venues have always treated us well too.  

We’ve yet to play Hideout or the Metro.  Both are pretty iconic Chicago venues that we hope play at within the next year. 

What does your typical writing/recording process look like? Do you have songs fully developed before entering the studio?   | Alyssa Welch

I suppose it’s more of a mix of writing processes and methods for us.  Many start as a smaller part, riff or melody someone brings in and that is then hammered out by the rest of the band until it’s fully realized.  A few ideas have come in as full songs, then just polished up.  A couple were born out of random jams at practice as well.

With Roman Candle released last May, is there anything in the works for your next release?  | Dan Fiorio

We definitely have the material for some new recordings, but it might be awhile before we have expendable income for that.  Maybe we’ll have to try Kickstarter or find a 6th member that has a trust fund – hah.  All the best to everyone at Midwest Action! 

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