7th Kind

Talk about working together to make something amazing happen. The Chicago based 7th Kind is an experimental rock band and a key player in the city's recent renaissance of horn-centric ensembles. They're also the progenitor of logistical nightmare rock, a genre characterized by the collision of complex, meticulously charted sonics and evocative, free-flowing imagery. Says, Justin Amolsh, "We have a full dynamic range on stage. Sure with our size and instrumentation we can blow the door off the joint, but it's really exciting to hear this group play soft." With their latest work, a wild collection of eclectic and elegant,  "Sea Monster" is as William Ashby describes it, "A unique record even for us.  It’s the accumulation of a broad time span of songwriting.  It’s the accumulation of nine musicians with extremely varied influences.  And I think in retrospect it will be apparent we were still searching around the lab for our favorite elements."

So with nine musicians, all with skills enough to stand out on their own, 7th Kind comes together like the perfect recipe, with precision, timing and creativity down pat. Even though they call it "experimental rock" there is no "tinkering" with anything here - 7th Kind brings an unreal and unmatched style that makes them stand out from previous kindpins of their genre like King Crimson or Zappa. All of this can be heard on "Sea Monsters" which as Robert Rodi says, "The songs are amazing. Some are brief and punchy, others are like expansive suites—but they weave together in a weird and wonderful way. I’m pretty confident you won’t have heard anything like it." Well guess what, we at PEV LOVE "weird and wonderful" and we know you will to, so get ready to hop into their XXQs and find out for yourself.

XXQs: 7th Kind
PensEyeView.com (PEV): At nine members--including the five-man horn section--the group comes close to overwhelming the stage. With that, how would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

William Ashby:  I call it experimental, or art rock with horns.  The sound is eclectic, pensive and yet sometimes overwhelming.  What sets us apart is that my song writing is more personal than other bands in this genre like King Crimson or Zappa.

Justin Amolsch: We have a full dynamic range on stage. Sure with our size and instrumentation we can blow the door off the joint, but it's really exciting to hear this group play soft.

Robert Rodi: I think we defy expectations. You see an ensemble this size, all these horns, you basically expect a party band; you expect a lot of power blowing. You don’t expect intricacy and lightness, you don’t expect subtlety. We leaven power with virtuosity, which yeah, takes people by surprise.
PEV: Hailing from the windy city, Chicago, what kind of music were the members of the band into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
Amolsch:  We were and are all over the place as far as musical influence. For example, I was as inspired by seeing CSO playing Strauss tone poems as I was seeing Blue Meanies and Mustard Plug at the Metro.
Rodi: I think most of us could say the same. We all went to see the big acts in the arenas, but we also trawled the small rooms, the basement clubs on Clark Street. I also saw a lot of art song recitals at Orchestra Hall, and what I took away from that was: shut the fuck up and sing. If you have a point of view, let it come through the music. It’s why we keep our onstage patter to a minimum.
PEV: Tell us your take on the music scene in your hometown and what was it like trying to break into it?
Amolsch: It's great. There's so much to do and see in Chicago's music scene. I've enjoyed being a part of the great community of horn players here in town. There's always somewhere to play and some new band to see!

Rodi: A number of us are involved in other groups or endeavors that are musically a couple steps away from 7th Kind—so we can fuse all that experience when we get together. It’s great to be in a town that can accommodate that kind of breadth.
PEV: What can fans expect from a live 7th Kind show?
Amolsch: An aural journey. A unique experience. A free bumper sticker.
Rodi: The set lists are carefully constructed to form a kind of emotional and narrative arc. If we do it right, it should be a pretty decent catharsis.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
Amolsch:  How does that middle part of "Falling on a Doorknob" go?
Ashby:  I was going to mention that song too, that I don’t forget the ending like I have a reputation for doing.
PEV: Having all been in other bands before how is playing with 7th Kind different then those other works?
Amolsch:  Completely original pieces of music. This also is a different line-up of instruments than any of us have played with before.
Ashby:  The last band I was in was a rock trio.  Other than music school, I had never played with horns.  None among us had attempted anything like this, so it took us awhile to learn what works and what doesn’t.
PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?
Amolsch:  From everyday life, filtered through the strainer of Bill Ashby's warped brain.

Ashby:  I’m just as God made me.

Rodi: Bill is definitely the fountainhead of everything we do. He acts, we react.
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
Amolsch: Nope.

Ashby:  Yes.  We played our first gig at the Mutiny on Western.  We played an instrumental of Dido’s Lament to a bunch of drunks yelling, “Tom Sawyer!  Tom Sawyer!”  We arrived where we are today by not doing that again.

Rodi: I’m sorry I missed that. I’d have loved to sing Dido’s Lament. A bald guy with a mustache, gender-bending? That’s hardcore.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of 7th Kind?
Rodi: We don’t know what all the lyrics mean, either.

Ashby:  There’s a few people in our band who can’t stand the Blues.
PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a goal for you?
Amolsch:  As soon as my dad said it would never work.

Ashby:  Yeah, when I told my dad I was going to stick with music he asked me how I was going to put food on the table.  I haven’t gotten back to him on that. I tried so hard to apply myself to something else until my mid twenties when I finally gave in and said, fuck it, lets see where this inner pull takes me.
PEV: Tell us about your latest album, "Sea Monster". What can fans expect from this?
Rodi: The songs are amazing. Some are brief and punchy, others are like expansive suites—but they weave together in a weird and wonderful way. I’m pretty confident you won’t have heard anything like it.

Ashby:  It’s a unique record even for us.  It’s the accumulation of a broad time span of songwriting.  It’s the accumulation of nine musicians with extremely varied influences.  And I think in retrospect it will be apparent we were still searching around the lab for our favorite elements.
PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?
Ashby:  Most of this band has toured with other bands.  Currently, Justin and Nick tour with Mucca Pazza.  But 7th Kind hasn’t toured yet.Rodi: I forget which one of us first said it, but if we toured, we’d probably need nine individual vans.
PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
Ashby:  I’ve been told several times there is a European market for this music.

Rodi: I hear they’re very polite in Canada.
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career?
Ashby:  I’m flattered you call it a career.  I try really hard not to find fans among my friends and family.  You give them a CD and they never mention it the next time you see them.  So it’s awkward.  One time I played a song for a friend and he grimaced and said, “You have anything without horns?”  Again, it’s awkward.
PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
Rodi: I do a lot of writing. Sometimes I write about music so there’s a continuum. But then again sometimes I don’t.

Ashby:  Rob doesn’t just “do a lot of writing,”  he’s had many novels and comics published.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?
Amolsch:  Booker T.  Being one of the MGs means that you'd get to collaborate with everyone that came through Memphis to record and more!

Rodi: Miles Davis. I think he’d have totally got us.
PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
Amolsch:  The Congregation here in Chicago. They have that great Stax records horn sound and a fantastic singer in Gina Bloom.

Ashby:  There’s a renaissance of horn bands in Chicago right now:  Mucca Pazza, Black Bear Combo, Balkano, Origin of Animal.  They’re all worth checking out.
PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think each of you would be your career?
Ashby:  The trades.  Everyone in the trades is an unhappy musician.

Amolsch : International espionage always had a certain appeal to it...
PEV: So, what is next for 7th Kind?
Ashby:  We’re working on our new record.  We have demos of some of the songs available for free from a link on our website.  The new record is little different.  You’ll hear longer grooves, less jumping around.  Go get Detonate, it’s a great driving tune.

Amolsch:  We have a show July 1st at Martyr's in Chicago with The Congregation. Then, continue to record and play shows.  In short, get everyone to hear our music.

Rodi: World domination. I’m always telling everyone, aim higher.

 

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