After talking favorite music moments from Jamaica Queens and McCartney with Bailiff's Josh Siegel; we bring you the premiere of the Chicago based band's new single, “Shake My Heart Awake”. Our conversation covered the making and tracking of Bailiff's upcoming self-released album, Remise, to talking about local gems like gypsy jazz guitarist, Alphonso Ponticelli. With the long-awaited folowup to 2011's Red Balloon, Josh returns with the additions of Ren Mathew, and Owen O'Malley with a sound to match the lyrical, whirlwind-hurricanes, bigger than a mountain chain, or desert plain desiring the thirst quenching rain.
“Shake My Heart Awake” rumbles and courses throughout the jitters of the nervous system, via a progression ripped from “Mirror in the Bathroom“. Josh, Ren, and Owen chug through the track with the urgency wrapped around the chorus repetitions of, “if you love me let me know, just say so”, to the similes of “dashing through my blood, like a flash flood, spin and pull me in like a whirlwind.” The push for a deeper and meaningful dialogue is enriched through flowery adjectives, and pleading appeals where rambling, rolling, and skipping stones seek the solace of another's lips and presence alone, as the finale of “Shake” quakes with the power to bring down the towering curtains of Lincoln Hall.
Bailiff's Josh Siegel talked and walked us through the new single, “Shake My Heart Awake”, the new album Remise, Paul McCartney classics, Jamaica Queens' Wormfood, and more.
Tell us what was different for you when you were working on the Red Balloon album to the upcoming Remise release this spring.
There was a lot less tension during the making of Remise. I mean, you always want to feel some tension because that's part of the process, but the months we spent on Red Balloon had more of that, 'I'm gonna have a heart attack,' kind of tension that wasn't helping the creativity.
Writing and recording the new album was really important for the band because Owen joined during the year we spent touring on Red Balloon which was recorded before he joined. We wanted a new batch of songs that was the result of the three of us. The band certainly got more connected by learning to write together.
We also made a point to play the songs live as much as possible before going into the studio. A good chunk of Red Balloon was written in the studio and then we kind of had to learn how to play the songs live once we finished the record. It's definitely exciting when things come together like that at the last second in the studio, but our producers Dan and Jon pushed us to figure the nuances of the songs much earlier in the process this time.
I like the nervous percussion and progressions on “Shake My Heart Awake”, what was the life shaking events that contributed to this song's inspiration?
Ah, that was one of the first songs I wrote for this record. I'm having the hardest time remembering what was going on at the time. Most of the lyrics just kind of came along with the melody, it was one of those lucky streaks of inspiration. Now that you mention it, there definitely is an urgency to the music which fits the pleading in the lyrics.
This song started out as more of a piano ballad but then it just kind of sat on the shelf and I was much more excited about other songs we had in the works. Owen kept bringing this song up and I'd go, 'Yeah, it's got something to it but I don't think we need another ballad.' Then he recorded a drastically different instrumental version of it on his own time and showed it to me and Ren. We thought it was great and went up to our attic to record a new demo of it with those parts. Then Dan, our producer, helped us shape it into what ended up on the record.
What is the latest report from the Chicago scenes?
Shoot, I feel like I've been slacking on my nightlife duties. We've been on the road for a lot of the year and when I'm home I've been hiding from the freezing snow. One of my favorite guitarists in town is Alphonso Ponticelli. I bundled up to catch his set at the Green Mill last week, he's there every Wednesday night. He plays gypsy jazz guitar with his band, Swing Gitan. The show he does at the Green Mill has got to be a contender for coolest thing happening on a Wednesday night in any city. I've played some solo acoustic shows in the last few months so I've been hanging out in more bars that have folk musicians strumming in the corner while people chat. I've also caught some psych rock and electro-pop shows recently.
Recent albums/EPs/singles of interest?
I'm been listening to Wormfood by Jamaican Queens. It starts out like an interpolation of a Brian Eno song, then turns into this really hip Outkast meets Marc Bolan thing, and then the last third of the record is so sad and eerie. The lyrics are uncomfortable like reading someone's diary after they're gone. I listened to it for the first time while we were driving past the bleak industrial strip of Indiana just outside of Chicago. It was the perfect setting for that record.
Vintage albums/singles of interest?
“Coming Up” by Paul McCartney. I'm more of a one song at a time kind listener, so whatever song I like on a particular week will probably get listened to about 60 times. This is one of those nerdy white funk songs from right around the end of the 70's/beginning of the 80's. Paul must've been listening to Robert Palmer at the time. It just kills me that when I heard it in a bar I thought, 'Whoa, is this some Talking Heads outtake?' but no it's just some joke song that Paul wrote at his home studio one night.
What's the Bailiff release plan for the new album, this coming April 22?
We've got our booking agent and publicist working on some tours for the months after Remise comes out including NxNE up in Toronto in June. We've also got a couple of videos in the works. A brilliant animator named Vicky Yen is finishing the music video for one of the singles, “Helicopter,” and we just tracked a live video for HearYa sessions that I'm excited to release. We'll also have the album up on all those online platforms and CDs and vinyl through our store on bailiffmusic.com.
Bailiff's Remise LP will be available April 22.