Bird Names Come Home for the Holiday

By Sarah Cobarrubias in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 16, 2010 4:40PM

It’s been three months now since Bird Names moved away, and every day still feels a little like a breakup montage set to John Waite’s “Missing You.” The fringe pop outfit was a staple in Chicago’s experimental community but relocated to Athens, GA back in August, leaving three members behind and taking on the form of a two-piece. Comprised of Phelan la Velle and David Lineal, the duo’s currently in the midst of the Bird Names Mouth Off tour, a 25-city trek across the states, and will be returning to Chicago Thanksgiving weekend for a show at the Empty Bottle.

We’re used to seeing Bird Names perform in their old five-piece formation, jammed into the dank corner of some crowded basement, swapping instruments every chance they got, and introducing songs with inquiries about scoring pot. This time around Chicago will experience Bird Names in their new two-piece form. Though their already lo-fi sound will be stripped down to the bare essentials, we have no doubt they’ll deliver the same eccentric live act and inventive, off-kilter pop we’ve come to adore. And, Lineal tells us, the three former members will make a special appearance mid-set, each taking an eight-bar solo for old time’s sake.

As for the band’s new hometown Athens, Lineal tells us it’s well-suited for “lifer brokedick musicians” - living’s cheap, weather’s pleasant, and there’s an intimate music scene. Plus, they literally live on Easy Street. But Lineal says he still considers himself a Chicagoan at heart and explains:

[T]he experimental music community is filled with energy and imagination. It's a beautiful scene and very folk (in the sense of amateurs lighting and gathering around small fires of soul), but broad and dynamic enough within itself to not stagnate. On the scale of the country and even the whole world, the music sphere of Chicago is something special. People inside the city and out of it don't recognize this enough…. I might be back before my Southern accent takes complete control.

Along with the tour, Bird Names is busy preparing for the February release of their new album, Metabolism: a Salute to the Energy of the Sun. Lineal describes the album best himself:

It's an illustration and celebration of the sun's energy as converted by people to become musical sound. For people down with Bird Names’ records, this will be clutch - you can trip out hard to it, spiral into yourself, feel and be human to it. It's a useful record. For Chicagoans especially, I hope it will be connotatively thick, as it’s lavishly papered with field recordings of the city to suggest the din of the streets that's always there, that you always screen away from attention into the unconscious.

Advance copies of Metabolism, which was recorded last spring in Humboldt Park, will be available at their Empty Bottle show November 27. Along with our beloved Bird Names, the show's line-up is a who’s who of local weirdos. Opening will be Distractions, a loungey dreampop act that will release a 7” single and 12” LP this winter. Also playing is psych-pop favorite Nude Sunrise, and Wumme, who opened for Dan Deacon and Lightning Bolt last month at the Illinois Centennial Monument. Cost of entrance is $8 at the door, but in the spirit of giving, it’s FREE with RSVP. Just send an email to with the subject “Bird Names,” and you’re in.

Bird Names, Wumme, Nude Sunrise, and Distractions play Saturday, November 27 at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western, 10 p.m., FREE with RSVP or $8, 21+