By Tom Lynch
What a year for The 1900s.
With only one EP—“Plume Delivery,” a subtle, gorgeous and boundlessly promising collection of six songs—the local septet has garnered overwhelming praise from the Sun-Times, Tribune, Pitchfork, Punk Planet, Newcity and more. The band effortlessly recalls the lush pop of the sixties and fuses it with indie pop of today, using beautiful three-part harmonies and violin to complement the Velvet Underground-and-Zombies-inspired material. The result is unforgettable.
“We wanted to play simple music with a lot of stuff going on,” says frontman Edward Anderson. “I got everyone I wanted in the band—these were the people I wanted and this is what it’s added up to.” The group unanimously contends that having so many members in the band is rarely a problem. “Ninety-five percent of the time we’re on exactly the same page,” says guitarist and keyboardist Mike Jasinski, who the band lovingly refers to as “Jas.”
The band was, of course, delighted by the head-over-heels, positive response to the mini-record. “I was so happy,” says vocalist Jeanine O’Toole. “It was so exciting to get an email from some girl I went to high school with, saying like, ‘I saw you in the paper!’”
Was the response surprising? “I’m kind of waiting for the backlash,” laughs drummer Tim Minnick. “Like, what bad is gonna happen now?”
“There’s so much good music happening in Chicago,” says bassist Charlie Ransford, “we just feel really lucky to be written about.”
It’s been a year since the band’s first show—in Champaign, which led to it signing with Parasol—and though the EP was popular amongst critics, the group hasn’t done a formal tour, having played many shows around the Midwest, and a few out East in New York. This is the final show for the band this year, as it plans to hit the studio as early as November to record its first full-length. The new record, they say, is a more rock ‘n’ roll affair, with more guitars and a “groovier” vibe, which also includes elements of Motown. Their plans sound ultra-ambitious—they intend to use full string arrangements, a horn section, the works. Two of the new songs (which the band was kind enough to allow me to hear in demo form) both recall what the band originally did on its debut EP and move forward to a new beginning, with breathless, harmony-laden choruses and striking violin accompaniment. At some moments it’s relentlessly poppy, more upbeat than the older material, and then with stop-start breakdowns and vocal-driven crescendos, the songs take on a new identity. It’s really impressive work, even in its bare-bones stage, and something that should be anticipated when the band releases the album sometime next spring.
“Some of the songs are older songs that for some reason or another we didn’t record for the EP,” says Anderson. “Some [of them] needed to be reworked, needed a little shortening… Since this is our last show, we wanted to play some new songs.”
The 1900s are Chicago through and through—O’Toole and Caroline Donovan, another vocalist, both went to Mother McCauley High School together, and Minnick and Anderson grew up in the south suburbs. Ransford calls himself “the outsider,” because of his Indiana origins (and also because he’s the only one in the band who insists he doesn’t like the Grateful Dead).
The band’s here, in this city, to stay.
“There are so many great bands here,” says Anderson. “They like to write catchy songs, like everyone in Chicago. That’s the kind of music I like. I think we fit in here. Some of those bands—some of the people we know, some we don’t—I just think are incredible. I listen to a lot of music from Chicago, even if it’s, like, Wilco. I think it’s just an endless resource of good music.”
“And you can go out and see everybody play,” says Minnick, “and then run into them at the bar.”
“We’re all pretty rooted with our family and friends here,” says O’Toole. “What would I have if I moved somewhere else?”
Adds Minnick, “You go to other places, you know, and you realize how down-to-earth people are here.”
The 1900s play September 30 at Subterranean, 2011 West North, (773)278-6600, at 10pm. $10.