A year ago, Craig Benzine, lead vocalist and guitar player for Driftless Pony Club, started posting YouTube videos under the moniker Wheezy Waiter. Since then, he has gained “a pretty good following,” and his video blog has sparked attention from DFTBA Records, a record label that focuses its efforts on artists who have gained popularity and audiences through YouTube videos. DFTBA has recently given Driftless Pony Club, a band that originated in Madison, Wisconsin nearly eight and a half years ago and is now based in Chicago, its first chance to produce records that are supported by a label.
According to Benzine, Driftless Pony Club is the first traditional band that has signed to DFTBA, traditional in the sense that they are producing music in recording studios and playing live shows and touring in support of those records. That fact alone doesn’t necessarily give them an advantage though because many of the artists, though unconventional in the sense of how things usually work, already have much larger audiences than Driftless Pony Club without touring at all. “Some of the people on the label have over a hundred thousand subscribers on YouTube,” says Benzine. “So far, [the label] has been very successful, but I’m not quite as prominent on YouTube as some of their other acts. So, we’ll see. But, it’s great for us because we’ve never had any kind of label.”
Since the band’s drummer, Nate Bartley, began graduate school last December, the band has been on somewhat of a hiatus, but now that the summer is here and school is out for a while, Driftless Pony Club is back in the studio as well as beginning to play its first shows since then.
The band is currently working on its forthcoming release, a six-song EP, entitled “Expert.” Of the new material, Benzine says that these are the best songs that the band has written to date. “We’re focusing more on the music and the melodies,” says Benzine. “I think we kind of toned it down and made [the songs] a little more minimal and made the song structures a little bit more straightforward. We kind of decided we didn’t want to just try to be different all the time, and we kind of let the song become what it is. And we rarely had choruses in our old songs and now we actually have refrains. It’s pretty amazing.”
All of that doesn’t necessarily mean that the band has simply settled into boring, old pop songs though. “The songs are shorter, it’s easier to understand the structures of them, but there’s still an edge to them. We don’t like to be normal, but we do want everyone to like it.” (Todd Miller)
Tonight at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, (773)281-4444, 9pm. $8.