Monday, March 24, 2008

Interview with The Sapiens

Dance rock band The Sapiens was formed in Chicago in 2005 and quickly created a buzz with their high energy shows at local venues. In 2006 they put out their debut EP "Sorry We Don't Make the Rules" which received airplay on Chicago stations WLUW and WONC.

In 2007 the band released their second EP "Vs. The Hornet": recorded at Manny Sanchez's IV Lab Studios, its six stellar tracks were produced by Chris Harden (who has worked on tracks by Umphrey's McGee and Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy) and mastered by Doug McBride at Gravity Studios (Veruca Salt, Smashing Pumpkins, Kill Hannah). The most dapper of indie bands was recently named one of Chicago's acts "to be heard from in 2008" by Jim Derogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Left to right in photo above - dressed up and going places: Charlie Nadler (guitar), David Veller (bass), Evan Sears (vocal), David Fine (drums), Matt Witt (keyboards).

Q & A with Charlie Nadler of The Sapiens

The Nightfly: You began as a foursome, but later added a member – what was the decision behind this change?
Charlie: I actually wasn't in the original lineup. The guys wanted to try the no-guitar-thing at first, but then they remembered that guitar is good (said the guitarist), and four became five.

The Nightfly: How would you compare your current second EP with your debut EP?
Charlie: Faster, more frantic, angrier, punkier, yellower.

The Nightfly: You list Muse and The Kinks among your influences and there are echoes of Elvis Costello, The Ramones, The Clash and The Knack - how did you come up with the perfect sound "recipe"?
Charlie: We try to just let it happen; everyone in the band has very different tastes and influences, so when we write, the material gets pulled in a lot of different directions. Most of the time we're happy with the results. Once in a while, it goes in a weird direction and we have to kill it.

The Nightfly: How did you arrive at your choice of Chris Harden as producer for "Vs. The Hornet"?
Charlie: IV Labs had come recommended, and we had heard good things from another band who had recently recorded with Chris.

The Nightfly: Your sound is raw, but your look is very polished – did you purposely aim for contrast?
Charlie: Our keyboardist Matt Witt always says that one must project an image of success at all times if one wishes to be successful. Actually, he's definitely never said that. Dressing up is part of our attitude that we don't want to half-ass our shows or anything we're doing as a band. The contrast is a bonus.

The Nightfly: Is there a full-length album planned and would it include tracks from your two EPs?
Charlie: We definitely have a full-length in us, and a lot of that material is already written. There might be a track from the first EP that could make it.

The Nightfly: Are lyrics as important to you as the music?
Charlie: I can think of a lot of songs I love in which the music is amazing and the lyrics are nonsensical or obvious or nonexistent. It's not as frequent that lyrics can save a musically uninspired song for me, but again, I play guitar. That said, I wouldn't be in this band if I didn't think we had our act together on both ends.

The Nightfly: The cover art on the "Vs. The Hornet" EP is striking – who is the artist?
Charlie: Our very own David Veller of the bass.

The Nightfly: Do all five members co-write the songs?
Charlie: Usually someone brings an idea, the rhythm section will co-write and arrange it until it's a song, and then Evan will write the lyrics. Sometimes it works differently, but the songs always get direction from all five of us.

The Nightfly: You seem like the ultimate live band – do you prefer playing shows to writing and recording?
Charlie: We love playing live, and our shows are really what we're all about. But it's all connected; we're always writing, and for me that's why we're doing it – to write great songs. And as far as recording, I don't even know yet - "Vs. The Hornet" was recorded in a frenetic three days only a month after I joined the band, so I'll have to see how it goes next time when we really spend some time in the studio.

The Nightfly: Your songs are tailor made for videos – any of those in the pipes?
Charlie: The video! This is talked about almost every day. Yes - we're planning on making a video for at least one of the new songs.

The Nightfly: In the band photos, you all look very upbeat – is it too often assumed that rock bands should put out a moody vibe?
Charlie: Probably. Every band has a face or personality they put up - I think moody is kind of the default disposition for rock bands. Our music isn't gloomy, so we don't try to do the doom-and-gloom band photos.

The Nightfly: Do you view yourself as entertainers, rebels, shamans, aural therapists or a little bit of everything?
Charlie: Entertainers. If we could figure out a way to have lions on stage attacking us while we play, we'd do it.

The Nightfly: How important are industry conventions such as SXSW in Austin and have you attended any?
Charlie: We haven't been to the big ones yet. Any kind of exposure and networking opportunity in a setting like SXSW where industry people are all gathered is definitely important. Hey - we should start going to these!

The Nightfly: Which bands/artists are you currently listening to?
Charlie: Menomena, LCD Soundsystem, MGMT, Ra Ra Riot.

The Nightfly: You have a loyal following on the Chicago club scene – have you toured outside your home state?
Charlie: We've recently started getting out of Illinois here and there: Lawrence, St Louis, Indianapolis, Detroit. We'll be playing Madison and Detroit this summer.

The Nightfly: You've had songs on Chicago radio stations – can bands/artists make it without radio air play now that we have MySpace and other Internet options?
Charlie: Definitely. There are a lot of ways artists can find an audience: Myspace, the infinite music blogosphere,
,etc. Radio is just one of many outlets.

The Nightfly: The gorgeous track "Waitress, Waitress" sounds like Bruce Springsteen wired on very strong espresso – are The Sapiens fans?
Charlie: The Boss got a good amount of airplay in my family when I was growing up, so he's ingrained somewhere in there for me. I haven't heard of him making any Sapiens playlists, but who knows – maybe there are some closet Bruce fans in the band.

The Nightfly: songs are very high-energy – are audiences at your live shows bouncing off the walls?
Charlie: Yeah! We make it hard not to dance.

The Nightfly: Would you be flattered if a company offered to make The Sapiens action figures?
Charlie: I'd be flattered at first, but then one day I'd see the action figure of myself in a store window while strolling the streets of Paris with my supermodel girlfriend, and I'd be filled with shame at the extent to which we had commoditized ourselves. "What have we become?" I might say. I think this is when I'll take up an aggressive drug habit that will ultimately lead to the demise of the band.