Local Artist Profile
By Ryan Fergus
There are plenty of classic New York-inspired indie-rock records from the past decade (PJ Harvey’s “Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea,” Interpol’s “Turn On The Bright Lights,” The Strokes’ “Is This It?”). And let us not even get started on Los Angeles; after all what band hasn’t sent the city of angels either a telegram of unrequited love, or at the very least, a spewing of acid-flavored venom?
Now, sure, we Chicagoans are privileged enough to boast the 2001 masterpiece that is Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot;” one of the most critically acclaimed records of the new millennium (and a pure “Chicago” record from start to finish), but a question to the Midwest indie-rock elite - what have you done for us lately?
That is the question that Chicago-based five-piece Bound Stems have been attempting to riposte since 2005, when the release of “The Logic of Building the Body Plan” E.P. proceeded to become critically lauded everywhere from The New York Times to Entertainment Weekly. Featuring a re-tooled line-up and the piqued interest of national media, both old and new (the group is a favorite of many influential bloggers), Bound Stems released their debut full length, “Appreciation Night” (Flameshovel) in September of 2006. The record, an interesting mix of Wilco-ish experimentation and youthful, indie-rock abandon, is in the words of drummer Evan Sult, “a patchwork collage of loose ends and beginnings. It’s essentially a record about transportation.”
Coming from Sult, this is particularly interesting, considering both his pedigree and his history. In the mid-to-late 90’s, Sult was drumming with Seattle-based Harvey Danger; a power-pop combo who’s smash single, “Flagpole Sitta,” overshadowed many of the group’s more literate, clever pop stylings. The quick success and just-as-rapid decline of the group’s success (Spin, upon the release of the group’s criminally-underrated second record, “King James Version,” rightly predicted that “the witty swagger and rejection of novelty-grade goofiness will sail over the heads of radio and the general public”) left such a bad taste in Sult’s mouth that he and his girlfriend packed up and left the Pacific Northwest for the “less judgmental and pessimistic” confines of the windy city.
The move was a boon in more ways than just escaping the fallout of the “utter breakdown” of his former band. After answering an ad in the classified section, Sult hooked up with Bobby Gallivan, Dan Radzicki and Dan Fleury, who, in addition to playing together on the same Libertyville high school basketball team, had by this point been playing music together for a few years. The pairing, according to Sult, was “completely reinvigorating. I felt enthusiastic about making music again.”
With the addition of multi-instrumentalist Janie Porche, the group performed at the 2005 South By Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas. The group is currently preparing to perform on the BMI stage at this year’s Lollapalooza, alongside both marquee acts (Pearl Jam, The Roots) and the newest toasts of indie-nation (Tapes ‘N Tapes, LCD Soundsystem).
The success has been sweet, perhaps most notably for Sult, who has proven there can be a classy second-act in rock ‘n’ roll that doesn’t have to rely on inane reality shows, or misguided reunion tours. “My dealings with the whole major-label experience and the break-up of my last band was a very painful, raw experience,” the drummer notes. “Now, with Bound Stems, we kind of look at what Harvey Danger did the first time around and go ‘lets do the opposite of that’.”