With that going on, I thought it a good idea to catch up with bassist-vocalist (and co-founder) Lena Rush about her awesome band.
Eric Hughes: So, it’s been awhile for me. I think the last time I saw you play was back in August. What have you guys been up to?
Lena Rush: Since August?
EH: Or even just recently, yeah.
LR: We’ve been trying to get the material together that we’re going to be putting on our next record, recently. We’ve been trying to finish up–We’ve got like a bunch of material we’ve been working on for the past year that Anthony [Ferretti]’s been, you know, tying up the loose ends and polishing up for recording. I think we’re probably going to record in December. Or January.
EH: And what kind of a record is it? Another EP or an LP?
LR: I think we’re going to go for an LP this time.
EH: That’s awesome.
LR: Yeah, we’re really excited about it.
EH: So what can you say about the new material? How is it any different from your self-titled EP?
LR: There are a lot of the same flavors going on in the new material. A lot of it is stuff that we’ve been playing live. So, you heard our last show–we played maybe three songs, or maybe four songs that are going to be on the new record?
EH: Yeah, it was back in August. I’m trying to remember–I do remember the songs that were on the EP, I’m sure you played other ones as well. But I haven’t seen any of the recent shows. So I’m not sure what you’ve done there.
LR: Right. It’s pretty much the same material. We’ve been adding in a couple new ones. Basically, they’re similar to that EP but a lot of them are venturing out in different elements of Americana and rock ‘n’ roll that we’ve been really wanting to get into after we made that first record.
EH: You’ve already answered this question for me, but your name, Whisker Music. I like the story behind it and where the name comes from. Can you describe that whole thing again?
LR: Honestly, we just–we were looking up words in the dictionary trying to figure out what would represent us best. And “whisker” just popped out, um, really well. So we felt like it kind of had an edge to it. So it’s based around the feel of the word, not necessarily what it represents.
EH: Right. I just remember you saying you wanted something not industrial. Just something real. And I’ve always kind of liked that–
EH: –That reasoning behind the name.
LR: Exactly. More organic.
EH: Exactly, yeah. I’ve mentioned your band to some friends, because I really like your music a lot. I always just say that you’re just a chill rock band. There’s just something about your music that’s just very calming, I guess, in a way. Even though it’s rock, for me at least. Along those lines, what are some of your influences? Where did your sound develop from?
LR: Our sound developed from a wide variety of things, actually. Anthony does a lot of–he writes the beginning of every song. Like every foundation of every song he writes and is basically influenced by a huge collection of different genres and different elements and especially mainly guitar-oriented songs. A lot of riffs, a lot of melodies playing on musically. And, I’d say there’s a lot of surf, a lot of Dick Dale, a lot of Neil Young, a lot of Ventures, a lot of T. Rex. You know, all the greats from back in the day.
LR: And a lot of blues. And, what else is there–it’d be great to have you come over and take a look at our record collection. You could get a good sense of–
EH: Yeah! That’d be cool.
LR: [Laughs] I guess, you know, the old saying is, “good music,” right? [Laughs]
EH: Yeah. [Laughs]
LR: All the best.
EH: And it sounds awesome. I really like it a lot. So I noticed recently that you took some publicity photos or promotional photos, whatever you want to call them at a mini golf course. And I was just kind of wondering–
LR: Oh yeah! [Laughs]
EH: What was the idea behind that one?
LR: Actually, we just wanted to go and take some photos that were just really fun and, you know, it’s like an all-American pastime, something that’s lighthearted and has that feeling of, you know, summertime fun. I feel like a lot of our music encompasses that youthful exuberance. You know?
LR: And what we’d like to represent is that kind of, you know, vibe. That kind of excitement and that mentality. And I felt like that would be the perfect place to represent that. We also took some at the beach, which I think was tapping into that kind of summertime excitement.
EH: So the purpose really of this — other than to have an excuse to talk to you guys — you have some upcoming shows in Chicago. Like one at Schubas, you’ve got something at Cole’s and also at The Whistler. Or at least the ones I’m aware of. Anything you want to say about the shows coming up?
LR: Oh yeah, well the one at Schubas is going to be great since we’re opening up for New Ruins and Avi Buffalo. And this will be our first time playing at Schubas. We’re really excited to be able to experience that venue and hearing what it sounds like in that particular space, having gone there since we’ve been here for the past like five years.
LR: But we’ve never played with those two bands before. However, this Saturday we’re playing at Cole’s. It’s going to be a free show, so it’ll be more accessible to, you know, a crowd that can’t afford–I don’t know how much the Avi Buffalo show is, like $15 or something? We’re actually playing with a few of our friend bands. One of them is Tom Musick, he’s in a band called Can.Ky.Ree. that he usually plays with. But this time he’s playing with his ensemble called King of the Moon and his Minions, and they’re just amazing. And also the second band that night is going to be the Deadlands, who are just incredible. They have that–what’s that called?–sort of like that lonesome desert rock that’s really beautiful. Just incredibly gorgeous music. And a lot of guitar. A lot of fun. Tom Musick’s band is more gypsy kind of music. So that’s going to be an amazing night, I think. I’m really excited. I put that bill together specifically for those two people and I thought it’d be such a fun show to put together. And then the next show at The Whistler is with The Singleman Affair, who we’ve played with over at Enemy Gallery before, and we just love their music and thought, you know, we’d love to play a show with them again so I booked that one with them. So yeah, a lot of friends and a lot of fun coming up. [Laughs]
EH: Awesome, yeah. And so that’s what’s going to keep you busy for the next couple weeks. And then what can people expect from you in November and up until you’re recording again in December?
LR: We’re working on a few things. We’re trying to keep as busy as possible playing live. We’re going to try to take off November and work on wrapping up the rest of that music and maybe doing some pre-production at the studio we’re recording at. And then, I’m working on a show I think we’re going to play down in Wicker Park in December at this other place that’s free called Nick’s Beergarden. And we’ll do a long set, like the whole night there. We’ll probably be playing a lot of our favorite covers. Usually they do blues there, so we’re going to pull out some tricks from under our sleeves. Maybe some Captain Beefheart or something. [Laughs]
LR: What else is there? Yeah, I think that’s about it.
EH: Actually on your first record, I’ve always kind of wondered: Your one song, I forget the full name of it. But Pete Sven’s something. Who’s Pete Sven? Is that somebody at all or is that just a character?
LR: It’s a character that we made up actually. He’s sort of this joke character that–actually, can you hang on one second? I’m just going to ask him what this one thing is that we came up with about Pete Sven.
EH: Oh, for sure.
LR: I’ll be right back.
Thirty seconds later…
LR: OK, I got it. [Laughs]
EH: [Laughs] Nice.
LR: There are just so many dimensions to Pete Sven.
EH: Ah, I’m so curious.
LR: It’s an inside joke between Anthony and one of his best friends and I. We do like text messages and stories together to come up with short blurbs about Pete Sven. So he kind of became this active character in our consciousness while we were writing so he seemed perfect for the song written about him. [Laughs]
EH: Oh, that’s really funny. Are you going to like reprise him on your new record or?
LR: Probably. He seems to be this active spirit. [Laughs]
EH: Interesting. OK. Last question for you: The last track on the record is basically “Calling All Moon Units” in reverse. I’m just curious, what’s the meaning behind that song?
LR: Well, we’d been in the studio for a long time –like a lot of long, long hours — and one night we were listening back to a lot of them and Al Weatherhead played it backwards and was like, “Oh my gosh. You guys have to hear this. It’s just amazing.” And we heard it backwards all the way through and it just came to us: “We need to put that on the end of the record. It would be the perfect ending.” Because it’s so abstract and I thought that it stood alone really well, you know?
EH: Mmm hmm.
LR: And it sounded like a whole ‘nother song with a whole ‘nother feel but it felt just as relevant as the straightforward one. [Laughs]
- Check out my review of Whisker Music’s self-titled EP.
- As mentioned in the interview, Whisker Music has some upcoming play dates in Chicago. They are: October 20 at Schubas (tickets are $12), October 23 at Cole’s (free!) and November 2 at The Whistler (free!).
“Calling All Moon Units” official music video