Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Layaways

More Than HappyThe Layaways are a Chicago-based indie pop band who have released two albums since 2003. The band's founder, singer and guitarist, David Harrell, also happens to be a friend of mine. Wait--this isn't just a case of giving props to a pal! The Layaways are really good. Don't just take my word for it; other mp3 blogs, including Fingertips and The Catbirdseat, and media outlets like PopMatters and the Chicago Sun-Times, have all bestowed praise on The Layaways.

Their music has been described as shoegazer and garage rock and compared to that of bands we all love like Jesus and Mary Chain, Guided By Voices, Pernice Brothers and My Bloody Valentine. The first Layaways release, More Than Happy, was a solo project. But for the second album--last year's We've Been Lost--Harrell pulled a band together and began sharing songwriting and lead vocal duties with bassist Mike Porter. Nathan Burleson on drums and backing vocals rounds things out. The Layaways are currently working on their third album.

From More Than Happy:

We've Been LostYeah Yeah Yeah (mp3) - The Layaways

Let Me In (mp3) - The Layaways

From We've Been Lost:

Silence (mp3) - The Layaways

The Long Night (mp3) - The Layaways

Recently, David kindly allowed me to ask a few questions about the band, the joys and challenges of self-releasing albums and the Chicago music scene.

I love the name The Layaways--where did it come from?

It was a replacement for my original idea, The Paperbacks, but another Chicago band turned up in 2003 using it. The Layaways just sort of popped into my head one day and I was amazed to find out that it wasn't already used. And I thought it related well to some of the lyrical themes--delayed gratification and that sort of thing.

Both of your albums are self-released. What is the process and what are the challenges of doing it yourself?

Footing the bill for the recording and equipment and then getting distribution for the actual release. With the first disc I was a completely unknown quantity and I really didn't want to spend time trying to persuade a label to release it. It seemed easier to just press some discs and send them out for reviews and college radio. We were able to secure distribution for both discs via Carrot Top here in Chicago and Tonevendor, a distributor in California.

We are contacting indie labels about releasing our third disc. I think a self-released artist eventually hits a wall in terms of press coverage and radio play, that in most cases you need to be on a real label to be taken seriously. Or at least to get reviewed by Pitchfork.

Are any of the bands you get compared to actual influences? Who are your favorite artists?

[Of the named influences] I guess I listen to Guided By Voices the most. A lot of reviewers mention Jesus and Mary Chain, but I'd argue that it's actually a case of common influences, though I definitely like them. As for favorite artists, I'm still a fan of the big "B" bands--Beatles, Beach Boys, Big Star. When I was first learning guitar, it was songs like the Cars' "Just What I Needed" and "My Best Friend's Girl," so I guess there's an underlying tendency toward eighth-note rhythms in my stuff. And I'm a pretty big Yo La Tengo fan. Recent faves include Iron and Wine, Bloc Party, Spoon, The Wrens and Pedro The Lion.

How would you characterize the Chicago music scene and who are some of your favorite local bands?

I'm not sure there is a scene in the sense that a particular club has a built-in audience for a type of music. Chicago's great in that there are a lot of clubs and it's relatively easy for an unknown artist to book a show. But then you're pretty much on your own as far as bringing in an audience for that show.

As for Chicago bands, it's probably more songs as opposed to artists. There's a great Clyde Federal song called "Cleared A Little Space." I'm also digging "Iron Woman" by Devin Davis [download from Davis' Web site].

You can buy The Layaways' albums at Amazon, Insound and iTunes.


Anonymous limonada said...


9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good mp3s--will have to check them out further!

3:37 PM  
Anonymous ladyhawke said...

The layaways are great. I love the vocals the feeling i get when i listen to their songs.

1:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Layaways are great.I love the vocals , the guitars and the feeling i get when i listen to their songs.

1:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find myself humming the tunes at odd moments--especially "Silence". Then as I become aware of it, the many hooks come to mind, like 'in the silence I find solace' and before I know it, I'm softly singing the song.
The songwriting is superb.

12:03 PM  

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