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Interview: The Changes

By Scott Smith in Miscellaneous on Aug 8, 2005 1:05PM

For some bands, getting signed to a major label is the culmination of many late nights spent honing their sound in bars and clubs and presents them with a chance to sit back and enjoy a little success. For local band The Changes, the possibility of signing with a major label means 2005_08_08_changes.jpgthey’re working harder than ever with an August residency at Schubas that starts tonight.

Though the band casts an adoring look back at some of the artier bands of the 80s like The Police and The Smiths, dismissing it as little more than a grab bag of influences would be a mistake. Formed in 2002, the Changes’ recorded output blends elements of the above with jazz, dance rock, and pop. Thanks to a growing local fanbase, their live show helped earn them a spot on Lollapalooza’s bill last month. Expect The Changes to garner more fans during their month long August residency at Schubas beginning at 8 PM tonight and continuing over the next three Mondays with various special guests (and at a bargain price of only $6).

After their set at Lollapalooza, Chicagoist sat down with vocalist Darren Spitzer and guitarist David Rothblatt to discuss their influences and how they’ve developed as a band.

Chicagoist: You guys have been called an “intelligent” rock band. How does that work lyrically? What inspires you when you’re writing songs?
David Rothblatt: We try to think of a moment or an instance and then just describe it and not try to be poetic about it. Our music’s more the “smart” part of it and with the lyrics it’s important that they’re very heartfelt.

C: People talk about your influences all the time but I don’t think any band thinks “Oh I’m going to make this record sound like this.” When you guys are creating, what kind of sound are you going for?
Darren Spitzer: Stuff we’re listening to at the moment and are really excited about and then it always comes out as our own thing so that always feels really good. It’s always our voice.

C: What have you been listening to lately?
David: Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of early 70s Genesis, the first couple albums.
Darren: I’m listening to a lot of Sam Cooke so I’ve been really enjoying holding the mic [like him]. It’s a little bit new. I’m playing less guitar. It creates more space and let’s Dave do a different kind of rhythm guitar thing. That’s really changing the scope of certain songs for us. It has a whole new feel: there’s a lot of percussion. But I think the Sam Cooke thing is making me more excited about holding that microphone. I love Sam. I don’t think he’s lounge-y, I think he’s demanding and very powerful.

C: Sam, Otis [Redding] or Wilson [Pickett]? Who do you prefer?
Darren: Sam. And I think the other two would tell you the same thing. I think Sam’s where everything started coming from.

C: You guys have a really devoted following. At the Kaiser Chiefs show at the Double Door back in March, your audience rivaled theirs. How did that develop?
David: That was a word of mouth thing, actually. We played out for a year without that. Then when we started to figure out how to play live and then naturally people started liking it.

C: What’s the worst mistake you guys made early on when playing live?
David: One is: After you play a song, you should probably play another song at some point in the near future.
Darren: Oh, the space! Oh no!
David: If you listen to [recordings] of us in 2002, you’ll hear the end of the song and then there’s…
Darren: Silence!
David: Five minutes of silence!
Darren: And you’re thinking to yourself “What the hell are those guys doing up there right now?” You could have heard a pin drop. So that’s the biggest thing. Now there’s no lull.

C: Your press materials are making a big deal out of the fact that you’re the only unsigned band at Lollapalooza. Do you think that’s going to change after your set today?
David: We’ve been talking with several different labels and hope to have something worked out by September. Our next plan is to record a full-length so it’s just a matter of picking one [label] and doing it.

C: Did you have that in the back of your mind as you were going into your set today?
David: For us, every show is very important to really get out there and prove ourselves and be amazing. But we definitely wanted to “bring it” today.

C: Have you already started thinking about ideas for your full length?
Darren: We’re bringing in a lot of new material right now. Everyone’s getting really excited about it.
David: Our EPs were recorded with different people. We’re kind of excited about doing an album where it’s this unified thing and everything makes sense together.

C: Will the album have a thematic feel to it? What’s going to link the songs together?
Darren: It seems like we get excited about recording new tracks and then we make an EP and then take two of the awesome cuts from a previous album we were in love with and throw them in there. We keep building on what we did. The end result though is that you end up with something so sonically wide-ranging. But it sounds like “Oh that’s that band, that month, doing their thing.”

C: There’s so much of an emphasis now on singles because of things like iTunes and downloading. Do you think most bands are looking to record albums now and approaching it like that?
Darren: We’ve been doing the singles thing for a while now. I guess we were really interested in that: making the song special so that that would be the thing you talked about. But I think that when a band goes in to record an album it all has this unified feel to it because that’s when it was done. In our experience—and maybe this is what has made the band what it is so far—is that people are kind of excited that things are so wide-ranging. Maybe we have to re-think….everything.
David: Yeah, what are we doing? This [next] album will be very un-unified. (laughs)