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Chicago Singles Club Mines Local Music Underground

By Casey Moffitt in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 22, 2014 8:00PM
The Chicago Singles Club staff with White Mystery, photo credit Kerri Hacker

Chicago Singles Club, despite its name, is not a dating website. Rather it is slowly becoming an online catalogue showcasing some of the more interesting Chicago bands lurking in the city's underground.

Each month since April 2013, Chicago Singles Club features a local, independent band by recording and posting two songs, an interview of band members talking about their music and a photo shoot.

"John Peel was a big inspiration," said Jeff Kelley, co-founder and creative director of Chicago Singles Club. "There was a lot of bands I was totally in love with and search for everything I could find, and there was always a Peel session. It was a documentation of them at that point in their band history. It was pretty much live recordings."

Kelley said he tries to capture each band featured on the site as close to their live sound as possible in his studio. The site is designed to help give music fans a good idea as to how the featured bands sound live on stage.

"We'll have them track drums, bass and guitar all at once, and then go back for vocals and fix a guitar part," Kelley said. "I wouldn't call them full, fleshed-out studio recordings, but I wouldn't call them live recordings either."

Of the 21 bands featured so far, most are in the indie rock vein. There are some other genres represented, like hip-hop and cumbia, a Columbian dance music.

"I wish we could do more hip-hop, but I feel our core audience is more of a rock crowd," Kelley said.

"Also, too, because it's difficult to record hip-hop." said Keri Hacker, Chicago Singles Club photographer and social media coordinator. "Just producing it is harder."

"We try to be more eclectic," Kelley added. "The modern music listener is into everything. They've been exposed to everything. Maybe they don't listen to hip-hop, or maybe they don't listen to country. But their focus is a lot less narrow than it used to be."

"We try to curate the best of what music scene is in Chicago," Hacker said. "I feel like we've got a pretty good cross section. There is a huge hardcore scene in Chicago that we haven't really touched yet. We also haven't done any Americana or folk."

"And honestly, that's a personal preference," Kelley said of folk music. "That's something I just cannot get into. But I want to make sure that people who come to the site regularly know what they're getting into. Every once in a while we'll push them out of their comfort zone. But I want it to become where every release differs from the norm of the indie rock that we've set up. There's a lot of micro scenes in Chicago."

created by Jordan Morrell

The site started put by recruiting bands the site's staff have seen and liked. But soon the requests started flooding in.

"We probably get two, maybe more, emails a day of local bands reaching out to us," Hacker said. "Sometimes it's the same band that emails us over and over again."

But, Kelley said sometimes that persistence works to a band's advantage as some that have been featured were never on any of the staff's radar before. But that backlog of bands requesting to be on the site is growing.

"There's always a list of at least 80 bands that we like or we want to hear, and it goes beyond that sometimes," Hacker said. "We'll all sit down together and listen to a snippet of each artist and we all rate them, so it's pretty democratic. It's like a little party that we have."

Those bands which might not make the immediate cut can still get some help from Chicago Singles Club, as Hacker books a show at Cole's on the fourth Friday of each month with bands that either have been featured on the site, will be featured, or ones that might have to wait a long time to get on the site.

"I try to be pretty broad with the bands I can book (at Cole's)," she said. "Except I can't book metal there. It's too loud. Cole doesn't like it too loud when he's working."

Not only do the free shows at Cole's help to further the site's aim to shine a spotlight on the local music scene, it also serves as a funding mechanism for the site. All the recording, photography and videography is done in house which keeps overhead low. But each year Chicago Singles Club releases a record with the A sides of each band it has recorded, which costs a few bucks.

The year-end Chicago Singles Club showcase is booked at the Empty Bottle next Monday night, Dec. 29, featuring Absolutely Not, Bring Your Ray Gun, Moritat and Vaya.

"I'm a huge advocate of free music," Hacker said. "Sometimes, myself, I'm like, 'I don't want to pay $5 for a show.' But if it's free I'll go check it out and I'll spend a lot of money on beer, and that beer money goes to the band. So it all works out."

The staff is working to plan out it's future. The site might take a different direction soon, but Kelley said that the core mission is still going remain the same - to champion Chicago bands.

"I feel Chicago gets the shaft, as far as the music scene goes," he said. "You hear about all of these bands coming out of Brooklyn, or Portland. I feel like there's a ton of really good stuff coming out of Chicago that people haven't really heard because we're not on one of the coasts."