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The Interview: Intonation Music Festival

By Sarah Dahnke in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 24, 2006 2:00PM

Sometimes just trying to keep all of the upcoming summer music festivals straight makes us tired. It seems as if every morning, after we roll into the Chicagoist office an hour late, dodge the stink eye from the boss, pour an Irish coffee and crank the Journey, we’re greeted with a press release that announces a few more bands.


The folks at Intonation took us by surprise this week and announced a whole slew of bands, including Lady Sovereign, Dead Prez, Jon Brion, The Stills, Boredoms, Lupe Fiasco, Jose Gonzalez, Annie, Devin The Dude, High On Fire, The Constantines, Kano, Panthers, Chromeo, 90 Day Men and Tyrades. Whew. We’re going to need a nap or a Sparks after that roll out.

We recently sat down with Jon Singer, Mike Simons and David Singer at the Intonation headquarters to see how Intonation plans to set itself apart from the other orange logo-having music festivals and what they have in store for our birthday weekend. (It’s never too early to put out a little birthday hype.)

Chicagoist: You guys partnered with Pitchfork last year, but you've both gone your separate ways to put on your own music festivals this year. What caused this split?
Intonation: Last year, Intonation chose Pitchfork to be our curator. There was a misconception that the Intonation name belonged to Pitchfork, but that was not true. We partnered with Pitchfork and allowed them to use our name. The festival came out looking like Pitchfork’s festival, but we kind of let it happen that way.
This year we chose VICE because of their amazing roster and impeccable taste. I imagine that Pitchfork is looking forward to the challenge of putting their own festival together. We do find it interesting that although Pitchfork is supposed to be an authority on music news, they haven’t reported anything about our festival.

Chicagoist: But there's no bad blood between you guys?
Intonation: No. We just had creative differences.

Chicagoist: What will be different about the Intonation festival versus the other Chicago-based summer festivals?
Intonation: One look at our lineup should answer this question. We are putting together two amazing days of music that crosses every style boundary we can think of. From Bloc Party to High on Fire … from The Streets to Jon Brion to Dead Prez. There's a little bit of everything. And I think you'll see that reflected in our audience. We're hoping that we interest all of Chicago's music fans. Also - at our festival you don't have to choose. The stages are alternating, so you never have to miss a band.

Chicagoist: On the same note, will you be booking a significant number of Chicago bands? Do you plan to spread them out throughout the weekend or have a separate, local stage?
Intonation: No local stages. Chicago's music scene is too important to be shoved aside. They are a vital part of what we are trying to do. Right now, you'll see Lupe Fiasco, 90 Day Men, Tyrades … I believe Dead Prez have a strong Chicago connection. And there are still more surprises to come.

Chicagoist: Are you guys reaching for more of a Chicago-based audience, or are you marketing nationally through Vice and KEXP?
Intonation: We're reaching out to people who love music, period. Last year, we had plenty of people travel from all over the world. The first kid in line was 14 and from Australia, but the thousands of bicycles we parked indicate that this is a Chicago event first and foremost.

Chicagoist: Tell me about partnering with KEXP and what they will be doing for the festival.
Intonation: KEXP is obviously a great station, and they'll be really helpful for us in terms of getting the word out about what we're trying to do. You'll be pleasantly surprised by their role during the festival itself.

Chicagoist: Do you think there will be much competition among Intonation, Lollapalooza and Pitchfork this summer? Do you think you are reaching for similar audiences?
Intonation: I think that we're doing something pretty unique, but most people I know are going to go to all three. Lucky for us, ours is first, before it gets too hot.

Chicagoist: Do you have any plans for promoting music events outside of the outdoor summer festival realm?
Intonation: Only time will tell.