These garage rockers are neither poets nor gentlemen (nor sober)
By Matt Pais
February 23, 2010
To clarify: Laureates singer Chad Preston doesn’t expect the fame of an actual laureate–a person honored in their field, FYI–and he isn’t trying to be clever like a poet laureate. In fact, the local rocker many times doesn’t even know what his songs mean when he writes them.
“There’s no intention to try to tell any kind of story or to set up a scene in a song,” says Preston from his place in Portage Park. “Usually the meaning, at least for me, comes out after I’ve written something. I listen to it and go, ‘Oh, yeah, maybe that makes sense. Maybe that’s what the song’s about.’”
Click here to listen to the Laureates’ “Get Sensitive” on the Metromix blog on ChicagoNow.
That act-first, evaluate-later philosophy is fitting of the band’s sound, which Preston, 35, dubs “drunken garage pop.” On Friday the Laureates play a release show at Hideout for their catchy, ’60s-inspired EP, “No Kontrol,” which is fuzzier and rougher around the edges than the band’s previous full-length, 2008’s “There Are No More Gentlemen.” Furthering their whirlwind of material, the band also is posting one cover song for free download every month through 2010 (covered so far: the Velvet Underground and the Breeders).
You have a new song called “Beauty Spies.” That sounds like people who watch other people from behind the bushes.
I guess maybe you’re in a bar and you’re seeing some attractive ladies and you’re not spying on them but … there’s no real explanation for the title of the song.
Well, how can people know if they’re being normal or a creepy beauty spy?
Oh, I’m no expert in that. I would blow my cover immediately. I have no tips. We’re all in relationships anyway, so we probably shouldn’t even be talking about that kind of stuff.
It seems like the songs are meant to be abstract.
Some songs are more straightforward. In general I usually start with a title and then write lyrics to that title. I don’t sit around and write poetry or something.
How does the EP, “No Kontrol,” compare to your full-length album?
I think the biggest difference was the way we approached recording it. We wanted to do something a little noisier.
I think we thought in hindsight the full-length was kind of clean and maybe a little bit polite-sounding. So we wanted to do something just a little wilder. More echo and reverb and just a lower fidelity.
In your music, what’s something you have no control over?
I guess that would be people getting our records and coming out to the shows. We have no control over that.
You can’t order people to come?
No, we can’t do that. We’re not at that level yet where you can boss people around, I guess.
What makes your live show great?
[Laughs] Um, that’s a good question. We don’t do anything really different. We don’t wear costumes or anything. At the end of it we’re just kinda glad to pull it off sometimes.
I don’t know. When you’re playing live it’s a little different from recording. You can’t really control everything. You can have gear problems or maybe someone has too much to drink and they forget their parts. Little sloppy things; sometimes you can goof on a song or whatever. In the end we just hope to entertain people. At least not bore them.
How can you play drunken garage pop while sober?
Well, you know, maybe you’re not sober. There’s a difference between being sober and drunk. Well, not a difference. … It’s such a relative thing. You can have a couple of beers, two or three, and you’re loose and then you can play. It’s if you go over too many, then there are problems.
Your last album said there were no more gentlemen. Are the members of the Laureates not gentlemen?
[Laughs] I don’t know if we can include ourselves. We try to be, but I don’t know if gentlemen do well in rock music. You’re supposed to have low morals, right?
Is that right?
Classically speaking. I think there’s a lot of nice guys in music too. I would hope. You can count us in on that. We’re not a-holes or anything.
When people think of laureates, they probably don’t think of low morals.
Yeah, it sounds like we have a pretty high opinion of ourselves when we have that band name, right? But we literally pulled it out of the trash. It came out of a Chicago Reader article we found in a dumpster outside of our practice space.