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Local Notes: The Field Auxiliary

By Kim Bellware in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 8, 2012 10:00PM

The Field Auxiliary (Photo via band's Facebook page)
Local Notes is a new, recurring feature spotlighting the makers and doers of the city's music scene.

In our first installment, we introduce you to Chicago experimental rockers, The Field Auxiliary

Band: The Field Auxiliary
Founded: Debatable (but took shape between 1999 and 2001)
Key Players: Dan Smart, Rob Jensen, Jon Ozaksut, Josh Kalvelage
Former Incarnations: Smart was formerly of now-defunct Chicago band Probably Vampires
Local Cred: Band members attended south suburban Catholic high school together, have played in Chicago-based bands ever since
Tag: Our band could be your afterlife

The Field Auxiliary had its start less as a unified band and more as the musical experiment of founder Dan Smart. Smart, who had known most of band's core members since high school, played with a rotating cast of bandmates as The Field Auxiliary took shape. Along the way, he and other members explored life in a garage rock outfit, as experimental groups and as college students. Only after what Smart calls a "distillation" process did the foursome come together as a cohesive force behind The Field Auxiliary's woozy, spaced-out music that's at once dream and thrilling.

In the beginning: "We were a revolving cast kind of band, and that's kind of magic, but then you do that for thirteen months you say 'Man, I really wish our stuff could be the same from week to week!'" Smart said. "We thought, 'This would be really great to have four guys working on the same thing.' It distilled down to the four of us after the first record, then we did an EP together last year and than an LP this year.

"We really came together as a group with the writing and the palette of instruments we want to use and the vibe of the songs and the direction of things…it's hard to write when you imagine you're going to be in some venue and you don't know which four people will be playing this."

Coming Together: "One of the things I had always wanted to do was a project like [The Field Auxiliary]," said Smart. "A little more out there, a little more exploratory. I was one of those kids who had a four track all the time and you know, weird solo records mashing up poppy songs and noisy stuff and seeing what happens—whatever interested me. Go wild, you know? It felt like a sweet time to try and make it a real thing. I made a record with a friend of mine who was an engineer. We put it together in our apartments and in our good ol' parents' house. At his very patient parents' house. We took our time to find odd ways to put it together with the songs I had. When we finished it I decided to call it The Field Auxiliary, but it was more of a 'me plus whoever' situation for a while. It was a solo thing that turned into something I thought I should give a name to and do live stuff with, and invite other people to do that with me.

"The first person I thought of was [drummer Rob Jensen]; he actually played drums on a lot of the songs. He was the only one who played on the actual first Field Auxiliary release. I definitely had to ask him [to be a part of the band]. We had other friends who were hopping in and out. We were playing shows without bass, and with three guitars, and shows where we had six people on stage at the same time, then small shows in between. It eventually boiled down to the four of us. It seemed like we were the most interested in giving it a real try, in showing up and giving it space. We spent weekly time trying to explore it and making it a real band we all wanted to be part of."

Present Day: "We have our LP release that we've been working on and we're really excited. I think this is the most like 'ourselves' that we've ever sounded."

The Field Auxiliary release their LP, "Nomenclature Fever," tonight at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont, 9 p.m. 17+, $8