photo: courtesy of The Changes
When it comes to their career, the members of The Changes
approach everything—especially the music—with a meticulousness that borders on the neurotic.
"Some bands may be able to go into a studio and knock out three songs in one day. We just can't do that," bassist Rob Kallick explains. "'When I Sleep' is a great example. The bass part and the drum machine were recorded in December. We were still adding guitars in March."
Starting out, things were simpler. Lead guitarist David Rothblatt says he and drummer Jonny Basofin "played in tons of bands together" before they hooked up with lead singer Darren Spitzer. After jettisoning a bassist who "wasn't really into what we were doing," Basofin introduced them to Kallick and the band began recording demos together in early 2002.
Over the next three years, The Changes released two EPs and honed its live sound around Chicago. That deliberate timetable was accelerated thanks to a set at Lollapalooza in 2005, where they were touted as the only unsigned band.
"There was a mixture of excitement and pressure when Lollapalooza happened," Kallick says. "There was a period of three months where we just trying to find our way, writing songs and thinking in our heads: 'The goal is now to make a full-length.'"
In early 2006, they signed with Kansas City, Mo.-based Drama Club Records, in part because of the hands-off approach the label took to the band's creative process. Regardless, Rothblatt says recording the album was far from easy thanks to the perfectionist tendencies of the band. "All four of us have to be so unbelievably excited," he notes, "If one of us isn't, we all freak out."
"That may have been where a lot of the stress came from," Kallick says. "I think that combined with the fact that the four of us produced it. We didn't have anyone else making any final decisions."
The payoff is Today Is Tonight, a deliberately crafted song cycle surrounded by a dreamlike breeziness that never becomes too precious for its own good. Credit that to urgent vocals inside a dance-pop wonderland of cascading keyboards and climactic guitars, topped off by a touch of disco-inspired yacht rock that never makes quite clear if its intentions are tongue-in-cheek or not.
Despite the careful approach and the tense sessions that led up to it, the band is surprisingly relaxed about the finished product.
"This weird thing happens where once it's recorded and it's out, we love it for what it is," Rothblatt says. "Even if there's little mistakes, we end up loving it."
As for the future, they've already begun obsessing about the next time they get into the studio.
"I think we want a lot of heavy metal," Kallick says. "And a lot of prog rock. Also, really quiet music that you can't really hear. We're just getting started."
In the beginning:
David: Goose Island Brewery in early 2002. I think it went OK. We had to play through the PA, even the guitar. And none of us had ever been in bands so we were like "OK."
What's cool in your neck of the woods:
David: Lucky Strike.
Rob: And the karaoke bar, Blue Frog.
David: That's near where our practice space is.
Rob: And our friend Billy's house, right down the street. He has a ping-pong table. Hooters probably the most.
Where you'll find us on a Sunday afternoon:
David: Practice, usually.
After a gig we:
Rob: The truth of the matter is, when you're at our level, yeah hanging out after the show sounds great. After I load out all this crazy gear. That will take an hour.
I get live at:
Rob: I like going to Double Door. Empty Bottle's probably my favorite. The way the room's set up and the bands that always play there are on the rise. I saw Dungen there. They were amazing.
Fresh from the woodshop: Today Is Tonight, the band's first full-length album.
Coming soon to a stage near you: The Changes play a record release show for Today is Tonight at Double Door on October 20.