– by Kriss Stress
Outer Minds have only been around for a brief while, but in their short existence, they’ve already built a dedicated following based on hard work and dynamic shows. Filled with grime ridden notes crashing with jangly harmonies they’ve managed to form one of the finest combos a show goer is bound to see on a bill. Veterans, who have done stints in amazing groups such as the Baseball Furies, the Functional Blackouts, the Deccas and the Runnies (of which, vocalist Mary Mckane is still very active with), Outer Minds bring an experienced polish to the scrappiness of hungry garage dwellers with only half of the credentials. Today, Chicago Mixtape talks to vocalist and guitarist Zach Medearis about the group’s formation, his thoughts on corporate sponsorship and what groups in Chicago have caught his ear as of late.
Chicago Mixtape: In footnotes, give us a brief history of the genesis of Outer Minds – what groups did the lot of you come from prior to forming? How did you meet up?
Zach Medearis: We are a bunch of people that were into the same shit, but different versions of the same shit, and when we started playing together, it worked well. Myself and A-Ron Orlowski, our bass player, had played together on a bunch of different one off recording projects together for the last 7 to 8 years and we liked getting drunk and playing together enough to keep doing it. I played in a bunch of other garage, punk, swampy bluesy type bands and A-Ron played in other bands like the Baseball Furies. We were friends and shit. Brian Costello was in the Functional Blackouts and we needed a drummer, so I asked him to play and he liked it, so he stuck around. We had been friends for a while before Outer Minds and we got along, so it worked out. I was always into the late 60’s style flower group harmonies, so I wanted a female voice and Mary is in the Runnies where she sings and plays organ. Our voices are pretty similar in timbre and pitch, so we sing decently together. Gina, who sings and plays the tambourine, used to be in this 60’s R&B and soul band called the Deccas. Before Outer Minds was happening, Gina and I used to get together and play folky psych songs, so it made sense to ask her to be a part of this. Her voice helps fill the 3-part harmony shit we try to do.
CM: With yr recent set at Pitchfork along with increasing numbers of people taking everything on the site as gospel, are you noticing any change in audiences attending?
ZM: Yeah, I think more people are coming to shows. Our record release show in April was 3 days after we were announced at Pitchfork and it popped off pretty hard. We had a pretty awesomely stacked bill though, with a bunch of our friends like Mannequin Men and Radar Eyes, so it was fun and full of good bands.
CM: It seems that the newer garage rock scene as an umbrella term has been getting progressively more co-opted by the larger independent mainstream in the past few years – from yr side of things, how does that look? What are the benefits (the influx of corporations like Scion, etc)?
ZM: I don’t know what garage rock means as a musical terminology anymore. Scion, Sailor Jerry and all these big companies that want to give bands money to keep playing music they already make: awesome. Fuck it, as long as they aren’t asking anyone to compromise their artistic integrity and are just trying to make money by advertising in a certain genre of music while paying the bands well; I’m all for it. Touring is expensive and every dollar helps. We have 5 people to feed and gas for the van we need. So when someone actually is willing to pay you a respectable amount because they have corporate ad funds, I’ll take it. I used to think the opposite when I was a teenager in bands, but food is delicious and we as humans like to eat it.
CM: The Chicago music scene is beyond large in terms of its scope – what are some key venues and bands that you enjoy, not just as a group, but as followers of other sounds being made?
ZM: Mannequin Men, E+, the Runnies, Bare Mutants, the Circles, Football, Calibrated Crematorium, the Sleepovers, the Yolks, Daylight Robbery, Drugs Dragons, Coffin Pricks, Magic Milk, Heavy Times, Le Tour, Absolutely Not, Population, ET Habit, Bloodiest, Rabid Rabbit, Show you Suck, Hollywood Holt, and whatever else I get a chance to see is cool. Chicago is full of awesome fuckers doing awesome shit across the board. The Empty Bottle is my favorite. It’s like home to me and I feel relaxed when I’m there.
CM: What do the next six months look like for Outer Minds? With members involved in other projects (The Runnies, etc), is it difficult to balance activities and plans out?
ZM: We are doing some touring to the east and west and going out for a few dates with Chain and the Gang (latest band of Ian Svenonius of the Nation of Ulysses and The Make Up). We’ll probably do some more touring with Bare Mutants when their new record finally comes out. Those dudes rule, we love ‘em. Hopefully, we’re getting our shit together to hit up Europe for a month or 2, just keeping things going. We are having a release show for our second LP on October 31st with Football, Blind Shake and Paul Cary at The Empty Bottle, so that will be fun – costumes and junk. We are writing our third LP right now and hope to have that done soon. On September 13th, we are playing on the Booze Cruise, presented by The Empty Bottle and The Chicago Reader on this big ass sailboat in Lake Michigan. That sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun and puke. In terms of activies and plans, we schedule and balance shit out with people’s personal lives and their other projects. It’s not a big deal, you do what you can and try to play every show you can.
Outer Minds play The Empty Bottle tomorrow, Friday, the 17th, with Mannequin Men and Football – $8 in advance and $10 at the door. More information can be found here: http://www.emptybottle.com/show/4757515/
You can also hear Zach as a guest on the Thursday 8/16 edition of the Notes and Bolts Podcast, which can be found via iTunes here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/notes-and-bolts-podcast/id520376235