Interview with The 1900s
They've only released a single EP, Plume Delivery (Parasol Records), but The 1900s are one of the most talked-about young bands in Chicago. Fusing various pop and rock strains of the past 50 years, The 1900s deliver a delectable brew of infectious melodies, wistful lyrics and lush orchestration. Recently, bassist Charlie Ransford was kind enough to answer a few questions about the band's enigmatic name, myriad influences and plans for a full-length album.
There's a lot of local buzz surrounding The 1900s. In the last couple weeks I've seen features in The Reader, Time Out and the Chicago Sun-Times and you recently sold out a show at The Hideout. Were you expecting all the attention?
I think we knew we had something good when we were finished recording the EP and that people would notice it. We recorded the album ourselves and really put a lot into that recording and were very happy with how it turned out and thrilled with the job Graeme Gibson did mixing it, so we expected something. But the amount of attention that we ended up getting has been really unexpected. From the start the support that bands like Bobby Conn, The M's and The Changes gave us was unexpected, and then when the local press and blogs started writing about us ... well, I mean we were hoping and planning for things to work out like this, but that it actually did is quite surprising to all of us.
I understand you've only been performing live as a band since last fall. When and how did the band come together?
Our first show was in September of 2005, so it's been just about a year that we've been playing together. Ed [Anderson], Tim [Minnick], and Mike [Jasinski] all went to high school together and have been playing in various musical projects on and off together for years. I hooked up with them because we've all been playing in the Chicago music scene for years and knew each other through our various bands. We've all been talking about playing in a band together for years, so when the timing was right, we started getting together. The girls were reportedly recruited after performing a little impromptu dance routine to an Ike and Tina Turner song at some party that Ed was at, which if you've seen us live you know we have managed to work that into our live show quite a bit.
I think you currently have 8 members. Is bigger better? And I wonder, is this a Chicago thing? Because a couple other local bands, namely Head of Femur and Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, are also bursting at the seams.
Bigger isn't necessarily better. I mean, some of the best stuff out there is just one person singing and playing guitar like Dylan or Townes or Willie Nelson. But to do what we want to do, you need bigger. You need backup singers and string players and an occasional horn player and before you know it, you can barely fit on stage. I'd bet other bands with similar lineups have done it for similar reasons, and we probably have some similar influences that drive us to form big bands--Belle and Sebastian, Beach Boys, Sufjan Stevens, Flaming Lips, Motown, tropicalia. Why there are so many in Chicago is anyone's guess.
Where did your name come from? Because listening to your music, it seems like you might more appropriately be called The 1960s (and I'm guessing I'm not the first person to say that).
No you're not the first to say that, a lot of people pick up on the 1960s influences in our music. I think that 60s sound really comes out because of the vintage keyboards that are featured pretty prominently in our music. But if you dig into the songs a bit more there are definitely some things in there that are reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac from the 70s or Buddy Holly from the 50s or Tom Petty from the 80s. So the name "The 1900s" works on that level, but we weren't really trying to suggest anything about the music with the name of the band. I like to think of the name as more of a nostalgic nod to a century recently passed.
Plume Delivery sounds like a mix of so many different influences--60s psychedelia and garage rock, 70s country-rock, more recent indie pop. Is this a refection of individual band member's tastes?
Yeah that's definitely a reflection of our tastes. We all listen to a large variety of music. One of the reasons I think this bands works is that we all come together and agree on such a diverse set of influences, and you hit on four of the biggest influences, 60s psychedelic, 60s garage rock, 70s country rock, and recent indie rock.
What are your plans for a full-length album?
We've been writing the songs for a full-length album over the past couple months, so we've started the process already. The plan is to start recording demos of our songs to work out what we want to do with them over the summer and then sometime this fall we will be going into a studio and recording the album. We hope the album will come out sometime next spring.
What are some of the local bands that inspire you?
Chicago right now has so many great bands and such a great music scene, its really exciting to be a part of it. Andrew Bird is one of the most talented people out there and our music has definitely been inspired by what he has done. Generally what has been most inspiring has been just being around so many great musicians. I've already mentioned The M's, The Changes and Bobby Conn, but they deserve a second mention. Bands like Devin Davis, The Eternals, Paliard, Singleman Affair, Office and Manishevitz are all making great music. Chicago is really a great place to making music right now.
Visit The 1900s' Web site and Myspace page.
See The 1900s live:
July 1, Double Door, Chicago
July 15, Cowboy Monkey, Champaign, IL
Listen to The 1900s:
Bring The Good Boys Home - The 1900s
A Coming Age (live) - The 1900s
Oh No (live) - The 1900s
The live tracks--including one of the band's new songs, "Oh No"--come from a May 31, 2006 Chicago Public Radio in studio performance.
Other interviews in our Chicago series: