busy bodies

ISSUE #64 / June 13, 2019

Busy Bodies / 📷 : Finlay Markham

Busy Bodies / 📷 : Finlay Markham

This week we hooked up with local indie rockers Busy Bodies to talk about their new EP Extended Play. The young five piece is set to make a splash in the scene this summer, with their relaxed style and mellow sound they show a maturity that belies their years. Make sure to check out Extended Play, and read all about the genesis of one of Chicago’s promising new acts.


MM: Michael Molitor (guitar, vocals)
JS: John Schmisek (keys, vocals)
MD: Matt Donnelly (drums)
BB: Ben Baran (guitar, vocals)
TM: True Markham (bass, vocals)
CCS: Kyle Land

CCS: So what’s the story with Busy Bodies? If we aren’t mistaken, you’re a fairly new act. How was the band formed?

MM: It’s weird because, while we’re super new to Chicago, this project has been around in some form since 2013. We all met at New Trier High School through our mutual friend Pat Stineman who’s a super talented musician himself and was the drummer in our first band.

JS: In the years since, the project has lived on between semesters at college through summer EPs and winter house shows, though always under different names. Along the way we added True, a longtime friend, and most recently Matt, the drummer we’ve always needed but never could seem to lock down.

MD: I saw Mike, Ben, and John play a song of theirs in an experimental music class, and I liked the song a lot. So I kept an eye on the songs Mike would play in class, and one day after he played a song called ‘Alibi’ I went up to him and told him if he ever needed a drummer for anything to give me a call. Almost a year later, he did.

TM: When their original bassist dropped out, I took his place and started to learn the bass.

JS: It’s funny, we’ve got years of history creating music together, but we’re still fairly new to the Chicago scene.

BB: It was the plan to restart the band after we graduated college. I’m a little surprised and super happy that we actually did it.

You all just put out your debut, Extended Play, a clever take on the EP acronym which of course means the same thing. Where did the idea spring from?

MM: All me, baby! [smiles] Glad you like it.

BB: I trust that it was Mike’s idea. [smiles]

TM: We all fell for it immediately! Mike came up with the name, and we built the concept of play into it together- the idea of a carefree and fun (if somewhat literal) take on an EP was something we all supported, especially for a first release.

JS: Beyond the wordplay itself, I always liked the idea of the EP representing creative play between the five of us, a spirit that I hope the release expresses.

Busy Bodies’ sound is an amalgamation of a ton of influences. Could you name a couple and tell us what about their style you bring into your own?

JS: I’ve often felt that we’re first and foremost a songwriting band. Some of the big influences for me personally are artists like Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Ron Sexsmith - rather than playing to a genre, they each have a gift for creating these self-contained songs that occupy their own proper world, which is something I think we aspire to as well.

TM: Yeah, we tend to pull from a pool of mutually-adored musicians. You can often hear them in our music- flavors of The Band in “Joe,” Radiohead in “In Your Cloud,” etc.

BB: We all love Elliott Smith for his guitar playing, chord progressions, and singing voice. Actually, everything about his music is great! I hear some of his music in “Sweet Marie”- we even sampled the organ from “Angeles.”

MD: Dr. Dog, Bad Bad Hats, Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys, Last Shadow Puppets, Alexandra Savior). They all keep it simple and do whatever they are doing in service of the song.

MM: I try to take some of my vocal cues from singers like James Mercer, John Darnielle, and Rivers Cuomo. They all have really great range and a kind of jubilance that I really like.

Your press photos only show four members. Did you recently add a fifth member?

JS: Matt (the drummer) is the new member! We’ve been meaning to get a new picture with him for a while now.

MM: Yep. We can schedule practices pretty well, but we keep forgetting to take photos.

What’s in the Busy Bodies’ playlist right now that you think everyone should be checking out?

JS: Oof- that playlist needs an update! But going off of what’s on there now, I’d say everyone needs to stop what they’re doing and listen to some Professor Longhair for the best New Orleans boogie of all time.

TM: “Seeing Other People” by Belle and Sebastian, “Run That Body Down” by Paul Simon, and “Game That I Play” by Jessica Pratt.

MM: It’s not on that Spotify playlist right now, but I LOVE Amanda Glasser’s [Baltimore] first solo release. Also our local friends Sick Day have a great sound, and Jungle Green is killing it, too. Our shows with them have been awesome.

BB: I’ve been going through a folk music kick lately. Especially Tiny Ruins- I love the song “Reasonable Man,” and Bert Jansch- “Black Waterside.” (He’s) one of my favorite guitarists.

MD: The Glow by Gold Celeste, Living Theatre by Olden Yolk, Sun Kids by Spaceface.

Chicago is full of great venues. What’s the dream venue, and where do you love seeing a show?

MM: My favorite venue as a fan and the one I most aspire to play right now is Thalia Hall.

BB: I really like seeing shows at Schubas. I saw Buck Meek (from Big Thief) there, and the sound was perfect.

JS: Honestly, I always love an Empty Bottle show, and I still can’t wait to play there as Busy Bodies. Otherwise, I’d have to agree with Ben that Schubas has a great sound.

MD: The Riviera for both. I’ve seen tons of amazing shows there including my first concert ever (Arctic Monkeys in 2009 on the Humbug tour.)

TM: I love seeing shows at The Empty Bottle and Sleeping Village, but if I had to choose a dream venue, I would love to play at Metro.