ISSUE #44 / January 24, 2019

Engine Summer / provided

JM: Jeremy Marsan (guitar, vocals)
BK: Ben Kostecki (bass, vocals)
RO: Ryan Ohm (drums, vocals)

CCS: So Engine Summer. You all are from Elmhurst right?

JM: Yeah, we all went to high school together.

CCS: Then you’ve known each other since you were teenagers?

BK: Ryan and I played in a band together, and Jer basically stole me from them.

RO: It’s easy that way, too. We’ve known each other for so long.

BK: We’re more like friends who also get to play music.

CCS: That’s awesome, it doesn’t happen all the time. So Jeremy started the band?

JM: Yeah, I was playing with a different drummer; we were just a duo and then we got Ben to join. I was always jealous because you two (Ryan and Ben) played in a three piece before, and I was always in bands with four or five people, and it’s rough. There were always people quitting, because the more people you have the less important everyone is, so it’s easier to say, “screw this.” So I just wanted to have a duo. I was just so stoked to have just one other person to practice and get to shows. We realized we needed at least one other, and then our old drummer quit, and Ryan joined. We thought for a second about having someone play tamborine.

RO: We tried it out.

BK: It’s just so much easier with us.

RO: We did it for a show or two.

BK: We have some friends who could hop in for sure, but mainly we just stick to us- that vibe and energy.

JM: The trio is a classic form.

RO: The power trio.

JM: We’ve all got our power stances, right?

CCS: So you’re name came from the Crowley novel?

JM: Yeah, did you read it?

CCS: Yeah, in high school.

JM: Yeah, I read it in college. It has its own language.

CCS: So what inspired you to name it after the Crowley novel?

BK: Yeah, what did inspire you?

(all laugh)

JM: It was just such a sick book.

RO: I thought you just liked the word combination.

JM: It was a good word combination, but it was based on Indian Summer, and this is a society that was 800 to 10,000 years later and they slowly changed words. A little too slowly, if it was that long ago, but anyway there were a lot of words that were said a little differently and Engine Summer was one of them. It was a cool book; I’d have to nerd out if I kept talking about it so we’ll just leave it at that.

CCS: As far as songwriting, how does your process work, having known each other so long?

RO: It’s quite cool in a way, in the past it was way different but now somebody brings an idea and we all just go in. So if even Jer wrote a song, by the end we’ve all put something into it. Even me as the drummer I’ll bring in a beat or riff and Jer will transform it; and we all sing, so we all write as well.

BK: Or we just start playing.

RO: Yeah, just jam.

BK: Like, the other day, I was just playing a few random bass notes and Jer was recording it with the field recorder cuz we can always record all this stuff, and then we just say, “yo, let’s hone in on this.” It’s very organic.

JM: Then we were listening back two weeks later and we were like, “that sounded cool,” so we recorded it again and all of us were just shouting random things over the song. And I listened to it again and wrote down what it sounded like we were saying. Like a script. Ben says this here, and then Ryan here. We just tried it the other day and it seemed to work really well. Thats is more of a new thing we’re trying.

RO: It’s cool and super organic. Now we have a new song.

JM: We’ve all gone through a phase of playing more complicated stuff, but now our favorite thing to do is play  krautrock stuff where we hit a single note, and then just adding one or two notes.

BK: More rhythmic and adding the vocals to create more rhythm. Adding more elements that way.

JM: Yeah, we’ll play it for like 25 minutes.

BK: And then we’ll strip it down to like two. And say this is what we really want.

CCS: Transitioning into a more post-rock sound?

JM: Even more minimal.

RO: Yeah, more minimal.

BK: I wouldn’t say post-rock, per se. Jeremy’s guitar playing has a post-rock element to it.

JM: But we still have a chorus, a pop rock chorus.

RO: Trying to find a catchiness with the chug of krautrock. It sounds more complex than it is.

CCS: So you all self-released your last album. Are you looking to get label support on the new one?

JM: We’ve had some small bites.

BK: It’s all part of the game. We’ll probably put out a single on our own since it’s been awhile since we put out a song, but we’re holding out for little bit to see what we can do. Last time we really tried to push for a label, but it didn’t work out but we learned a lot of stuff on the way, so now we’re a little more targeted in our goals. Hoping everything crosses in the right way.

CCS: So you all came up in the Chicago DIY scene. How did that scene influence your aesthetic?

JM: It took us a long time to figure this out but we started to write our songs so they sounded good live. So if we write our songs to where they sound good in the basement, they’ll sound good in a DIY space, and they’ll sound good at The Bottle, and they’ll sound good at a festival. Especially when one person writes a song in their bedroom and then you play it and record it or piece it together while you record it, it can sound really cool; but then you play it live and it just sucks. We had that happen to songs, and we realized we can’t play this- it just doesn’t sound good.

RO: It was important to us to sound good live.

BK: I feel like that’s half the reason people like us; we put on a very energetic live show. So we keep that in mind. We try and write things that we’ll love to play for people. It’s always kind having the audience in mind. The DIY scene is always half rooted in DIY spaces and half rooted in all the local venues. It’s kind of hybrid now. I guess being older you can go to venue shows now. But back then they provided the staple. Most of my shows, when I was 19 or 20, the DIY scene was just were the best organic parties where, and you’re friends just happened to be playing music. That was always really cool. Half the reason was to socialize but we got to perform too. It was the best of all worlds.

RO: The last couple shows we played, one was at Subterranean and one was in an attic in Palmer Square.

BK: Shout out to Palmer House.

RO: Next tour, ideally, we’d have a couple venue shows and then a house show, a random basement; keep it mixed up.

BK: Yeah, keep it random.

CCS: Any tour plans soon?

JM: Those are in the works as well. Late March or early April we’ll be doing a run to support the album. We’ll do an East Coast run.

RO: Definitely New York. And then out to Colorado.

BK: Then we may do a one off down to Nashville and Louisville.

CCS: So you’ve been shopping the new album?

JM: Yeah we had plans to go with a local label, then they decided to shut down, but we had already recorded and were mixing. So we were like “Ok, we’ve got to find someone NOW.” We sent a bunch of emails just before Christmas and we got some bites. One label person was really interested. We’re going to follow up with him this week.  

BK: We’re fully prepared to just put it out ourselves if it doesn’t work.

JM: It’s called Indiana.

BK: We recorded it with Luke Otwell the first week of October and got it mastered by Dion Lunadon.

JM: Dion Lunadon of A Place To Bury Strangers. We didn’t even know if he did mastering, but we really dig his solo stuff which is kinda like skate punk done in the style of A Place To Bury Strangers, it’s so heavy and gritty and fun, and that's what made us reach out. And he was down to do it.  

RO: You get that nice full texture by the end.

BK: Yeah, it’s really ready to go, the album artwork is almost done. So something will be coming out very soon on a label or not- we’ll see.

CCS: So we dig your website, it’s a great ‘90s designed style site. Who built it?

(all laugh)

RO: That’s all Jer. Is the cantaloupe still on there?

(all laugh)

JM: So, funny story. I was at the doctor’s office and I was emailing them a copy of my insurance card, because I didn’t have it on me. My phone was dying so I just did it from the first account I could log into which was the band account and I’m sending it to her and she’s not getting it, but she’s just laughing a bunch. She said, “Is this what you’re sending me?” And it was our webpage with the spinning cantaloupe.

RO: And that’s how we got a new fan at the doctor's office.

CCS: So the new album is told from the perspective of someone from Indiana?

RO: Kind of a loose character we envisioned without setting any hard guidelines. We put different aspects of ourselves in as well.

JM: We were thinking of a guy who is from a small town in Indiana, because it’s so close to Chicago, but a world apart in a way. Someone who came here on scholarship and experiences- total culture shock even though it’s so close.

BK: We didn’t write songs that are like, “how does he think of himself in this situation?” There’s loose themes.

JM: It was kind of fun to do it that way. We could say things in the songs that we wouldn’t say. Nothing bad or anything, just little lines here and there. I don’t even know if anyone is going to dig in that far, but it was fun for us.

CCS: So outside of the band life, what are you all up to?

BK: I’m an accountant for a school district. I work for a special needs co-op. It’s a weird position. I do a vast amount of things.

JM: It’s your classic 9 to 5-er.

BK: It is, but my bosses are hugely supportive of me doing this. They let me move my hours back so I wouldn’t constantly lose sleep from shows.

RO: They put our shows in their newsletter.

BK: Yeah, it’s really nice.

JM: I’m working for a small business publication, editing articles.

BK: And your sound stuff.

JM: Yeah, I’ve been doing some sound design stuff. Some film projects Ryan and I worked on together.

RO: We just finished a full-length together. We did the festival route, and now we’re trying to sell it to somebody.

But Weird Life films is a company I co-run with some buddies. Twin Peaks was one of the first bands we shot for, helped us out a lot, and now we do videos for a bunch of different bands around Chicago and around the country.

CCS: We ask this in all our venues, it’s a twoparter. First, what’s your favorite venues in the city?

JM: I’m biased. I really like The Bottle.

RO: They have a nice greenroom for sure.

JM: Schubas is pretty nice.

RO: I really judge it off who gives you the most free beer. The Bottle is pretty sick and Schubas gave us a whole cooler of beer.

JM: One time we played SubT and they gave us all these cans of Tiger beer.

BK: Ryan wasn’t in the band yet and our old drummer didn’t drink.

(all laugh)

JM: And the other bands weren't really drinking, so we were the only ones drinking it.

BK: We were the only ones!

JM: We had like twelve each.

RO: I really like Sleeping Village, too.

BK: That came out of nowhere. That one is going to be a major venue going forward. We were trying to book something in February or March and they were booked up. They are going to attract the upper to mid club-touring acts for sure.

CCS: The second part is what Chicago acts do you all think are overlooked?

JM: I really like Diagonal.

JM: I don’t know if they are overlooked or not, but they are really good and could have a lot more attention. They just have some sick, droney, shoegaze stuff. They have a new album they just came out with.  

RO: We just saw ‘em at The Hideout. They had a decent crowd, but we thought they could have had better. It’s different than a lot of stuff out there. Really heavy, chuggy stuff. I really like Faux Furrs and The Hazy Seas who are both on the bill of our Bottle show on Monday. Both are bands that should be bigger. Faux Furrs has a really cool sound.

BK: Their newest EP is game-changing.

RO: One more, at least for me, is Kevin Krauter. Who is from HOOPS. I did a music video for them way back when, and I started to listen to his solo stuff, and it is just off the wall. He’s on a small label I think but his stuff is really good.

JM: Have you seen Ruins?

CCS: Not yet, but we’ve caught Cafe Racer, which he’s in. You guys would dig them.

JM: Yeah we haven’t seen them yet. We need to.

CCS: You all have anything to add?

BK: We’re just a bunch of goofballs. This is probably the most serious you’ll ever catch us.

RO: We’re really stoked about this new record and playing more shows and doing more touring.