Songwriter Showcase: Anthony Cozzi of Radar Eyes

Anthony Cozzi’s music (Radar Eyes) is more pop than punk, but his candy-like hooks don’t shake the darkness that inspired his first songwriting. His melodies build tension with guitar counterpoint set against his detached vocals before cascading into the bliss of Love-esque choruses.

James joins Che Arthur (Pink Avalanche), Maigin Blank (Whales), and James Deia (Blasted Dipolmats) for the Songwriter Showcase on Friday, October 10th, 9pm at Uncommon Ground Wrigleyville, 3800 N Clark St. Chicago, IL. Facebook Event.


Who were some of your earliest musical influences?

The earliest musical influences I can remember were the first 45's I had as a kid in the mid 80's.  Theses included Tom Petty "Dont Do Me Like That", John Fogerty "Centerfield" and Micheal Jackson 'Thriller" LP.  I would stand on my head in my bedroom and listen to these records over and over.  I soon "borrowed" a Beatles greatest hits tape from my Dad and that became a fast favorite.  A little later in my early teenage years I traded a couple of my old Beatles/Stones tapes for three albums that I had never heard before but would change the way I listened to music from then on - Minor Threat - "Complete Discography", Jane's Addiction - "Self Titled"(XXX), and Fugazi "13 songs."  The Minor Threat album took about ten listens just to understand what was even happening. The recording and performance on the album is so ferocious, I had never heard anything like it. Then I started to read the lyric sheet and discovered there was a community behind the music. The Fugazi album was a continuation of what Ian started in Minor Threat but with more emotions than anger as well as dynamics in the instrumentation.  The Jane's Addiction album was so weird to me at the time Perry's voice wrapped around the amazing rhythm section and Dave Navarro's spacey, melodic, but heavy guitar - it was like alien hippie punk.  But, more importantly what this album did was to introduce me to Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground via the cover of "Rock n' Roll."  
One other album I bought around this time was Ramones 'Loco Live",  I basically learned to play guitar to this CD.

How has your songwriting changed over the years?

I wrote my first songs when I was about 15 they sounded a lot like Nirvana or the pop punk of the time.  I would usually write the music first and then hum/scream out a melody and lyrics would come last.  I spent most of my time in high school not paying attention to the teachers and writing thoughts/poems/slogans/drawings into a notebook(s) that I always carried with me.  I usually pulled lyric ideas from this notebook.  With Radar Eyes I wrote most of the early songs by myself in the same manner as above and would bring a mostly finished song to the band to flesh out.  This has changed dramatically since Russ, Lucas, and now Nithin have joined the band.  Usually Lucas or I will come in with a couple ideas musically and we will slowly form the song as a band.  I still have a notebook of lyric ideas but I am taking a lot more time with them for this latest album, it's actually been a very difficult but enjoyable process for me.

Do you have a process for starting a new song or combating writer's block?

I have had writers block and what I usually do is change the instrument that I'm writing on. So, I'll write on bass or synth as opposed to guitar. This usually gives me a fresh perspective.  For lyrical writers block I try to just write anything, however nonsensical, and hope that eventually my subconscious takes over and something usuable comes out.

What song or songs do you want played at your funeral

I would really want my funeral to be a party so maybe something like AC/DC "Highway To Hell."

Songwriter Showcase: James Deia of Blasted Diplomats

James Deia (Blasted Diplomats) creates Midwestern, blue-collar rock and roll with a confident barroom swagger. James combines an early 80s punk sensibility and self-deprecation with warm riffs and anthemic alt-rock. His cynical edginess and musical maturity enable him inflect simple melodies with subtle ennui and an underlying insight into why people tend to make poor decisions time and again.

James joins Che Arthur (Pink Avalanche), Maigin Blank (Whales), and Anthony Cozzi (Radar Eyes) for the Songwriter Showcase on Friday, October 10th, 9pm at Uncommon Ground Wrigleyville, 3800 N Clark St. Chicago, IL. Facebook Event.

How did you begin writing songs?

I'd always write riffs on guitar or piano when I was young and would scribble lyrics on napkins or trapper keepers. I had high school bands that never made it out of the basement but shortly before Blasted Diplomats began I was concentrating on completing actual 'songs'. It was nice timing when we started because I had a ton of songs sitting around.

How has being in a band (Blasted Diplomats) with other talented songwriters changed your own songs?

We're lucky because we all contribute songs so there's never a shortage of material. If I think something I'm working on is undercooked, someone else can suggest an idea. Then I'll do the opposite of that idea or something. But really, every songwriter should have a sounding board.

You've lived in the Chicago area most of your life: do you think the city has influenced your songs?

Chicago is a music town with a ton of songwriters, bands, labels.. That can lead to over saturation but at the same time it's an influence. In high school, seeing a friends band blow my mind at the Fireside Bowl set up a framework for me that I still have, which is to try. No song will write itself, so as long as you're doing and trying and changing, you'll pretty much be ok. I think Chicago is a good place for that.

Do you have a process for starting a new song or combating writer's block?

Chords come first for me. And that's usually an emulation of a song I already like. Just rip off your favorite songs and change some chords. No one will ever know. I also watch movies and play along to them. I watched the Tarkovsky Solaris and came up with a song about decaying flesh. So really, who knows where it comes from. 

What song or songs would you like played at your funeral?

Chuck Berry songs.

Songwriter Showcase: Maigin Blank of Whales

Maigin Blank of Whales' music is steeped in the traditions of independent rock music. Drawing from the long melodic phrases of noisepop/rock and shoegaze, Blank’s drowsy vocals contrast propulsive and psychedelic guitar textures. The dreamy and ethereal effect of her music frame lyrics that ground the listener with sober, uncomfortable truths: “Did you find what you were missing? / The floor, once more”.

Maigin joins Che Arthur (Pink Avalanche), James Deia (Blasted Dipolmats), and Anthony Cozzi (Radar Eyes) for the Songwriter Showcase on Friday, October 10th, 9pm at Uncommon Ground Wrigleyville, 3800 N Clark St. Chicago, IL. Facebook Event.

Who were some of your earliest musical influences?

Around 7 to 9 years of age I was influenced by very awful pop music of the likes of Debbie Gibson and Madonna, etc. The only cool thing that I can remember that I was also into was Julee Cruise after seeing her on Twin Peaks, when my sister or dad would be watching it (couldn’t figure out what was going on in the show though). I even traded my sister for her copy of the “Twin Peaks” (television show) soundtrack on cassette, mainly to listen to “Into the Night” and “The Nightingale”. It wasn’t until my formative pre-teen years when I finally got into the ‘better side' of music. My family lived in New Zealand at the time and it was the early 90’s, so ‘independant’ music was accessible and much more appreciated. 

How has your songwriting changed over the years?

I used to be very fixated on writing ‘honest’ lyrics, and that the lyrics had to drive the song. I think now it really is all about having a catchy and interesting melody. If you have that, you can have any kind of lyric you want. 

When working with your band, do you present complete songs to them or do you begin with some ideas and then complete the song as a group?

We will usually bring our individual ideas in and work together on completing them. I like to have the lyrics and a basic melody ready when bringing my own ideas in, but generally we all expound and collaborate on each other’s ideas and the end result is great, particularly because we’re all influenced by different bands and have a different output in mind. 

Do you have a process for starting a new song or combating writer's block?

I almost always start with lyrics first, which I will usually have a bunch written prior to sitting down and working out any instrumentation. Finding ‘good’ melodies that aren’t too ‘filler’ or boring is the hard part. What happens a lot is that I’ll record some ideas, listen to them, and think “ugh, that’s crap”; but then come back to them 9 months later and really like them.

What song or songs do you want played at your funeral?

Moonlight Sonata, one of my all-time favorites. 

Songwriter Showcase: Che Arthur of Pink Avalanche

Che Arthur (Pink Avalanche) writes post-punk songs tinged with metal and a Husker Du-inspired rough melodic bent. His frenzied emotions are held in place with taut atonal guitar riffs. But between harsh and distorted outbursts, Che’s weathered voice reveals introspective and morose expressions.

Che joins James Deia (Blasted Dipolmats), Maigin Blank (Whales) and Anthony Cozzi (Radar Eyes) for the Songwriter Showcase on Friday, October 10th, 9pm at Uncommon Ground Wrigleyville, 3800 N Clark St. Chicago, IL. Facebook Event.

    Who were some of your earliest musical influences?

    Che Arthur: In the early 80s when I started playing guitar as a 12 year old, I'd say my influences were probably the pop of the time - Prince, etc.  My guitar teacher at the time would show me songs by Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, and other classic hard rock stuff and I’d say by 13 or 14 that stuff was influential for me.  Then around the same time (ages 12-14) I was discovering punk, which eventually became a bigger influence on my writing (and my life) than all of the other stuff.  

    How has your songwriting changed over the years?

    Che Arthur: It used to be words first.  I used to always carry a notebook around with me, and I’d fill it with whatever thoughts/lines/ideas crossed my mind.  I'd then pick from that stuff after writing music, finding lines that fit the mood of the music i’d come up with.  Now it’s very much the opposite.  Now I typically come up with a bunch of music, then as that stuff takes shape I then sit with it and think of lyrics.  Sometimes I’ll have a few lines floating around in a notebook somewhere and I’ll build from there, but it almost always comes after the music’s written now.  With the most recent pink avalanche record, I'd say probably only a third of those songs had lyrics when we got to the studio to record them.  

    When working with your band, do you present complete songs to them or do you begin with some ideas and then complete the song as a group?

    Che Arthur: On the solo records I've done, they’ve been complete songs.  With pink avalanche it’s a mixture.  Most of the songs on the newest record started as just a couple ideas and then were fleshed out in practice by either the whole band together or various combinations of the 4 of us.

    Do you have a process for starting a new song or combating writer’s block?

    Che Arthur: I pretty much just pick up an instrument and see what happens.  I've never had a set routine.  Sometimes I pick up a guitar and the whole song just comes out almost fully formed.  Sometimes it’s just a verse or a chorus, and I'll often video record a part I like with my phone and save it to come back to later.

    What song or songs do you want played at your funeral?

    Che Arthur: I don’t want a funeral.

    Songwriter Showcase: Kate Adams

    Kate Adams’ honey dripped voice betrays a woman sharpened and hardened by heartache and long Chicago winters. Her songs are unapologetically simple: her voice is accompanied only by a guitar or ukulele and she avoids angular turns of melody and skittish rhythms. But through melancholy meditation, her songs achieve a gravity that can crush and suffocate.

    Kate joins JC Brooks of JC Brooks & the Uptown SoundOdea and Isaiah Oby for our Songwriter Showcase Thursday, October 2, 2014, 7:00pm – 8:00pm at Columbia College's HAUS @ Quincy Wong Center (map). Facebook Event

     Kate Adams

    Kate Adams

    Who were some of your earliest influences?

    Kate Adams: Joni Mitchell, Jim Croce, Etta James, Kathleen Hanna, Loretta Lynn, Paul Simon, Jeff Buckley, Jeff Mangum, Fleetwood Mac

    How has your songwriting changed over the years?

    Kate Adams: I like to think it's improved or I've at least become more discerning about what gets played for audiences, but most of the change has come from experience, I've gone from very formulaic to forcing unnecessary complexity to, I hope, settling somewhere a bit more natural, being ok with my skill level as an instrumentalist (which is not huge) and letting that support the other skills that are stronger for me, in terms of vocals and lyrics.

    What role has Chicago played in your music?

    Kate Adams: Chicago pulled me into a big sweaty hug of a musical community almost immediately which was a wonderful change from my experience in New York.  I've been constantly inspired by fellow musicians and the organizers and audiences that support and challenge everyone, and I've developed a great love for Chicago for that reason among many others.  I've written a not-bitter break up song about New York, but until Chicago I had never written a love song to a city.

    Do you have a process for starting a new song or combating writer's block?

    Kate Adams: I've had a pretty good run lately and I think that's mostly been the result of just, as pompous and schmaltzy as this sounds, being open to the muse or whatever.  If I'm 80% asleep and I hear a tune in my head, I will keep myself there until I'm not hearing more and then wake myself up enough to reach over and record truly awful vocal approximations of whatever I'm hearing and then go back to it later.  I've also started leaving instruments on seating around my house, so if I sit down I've already picked up a guitar or dulcimer or whatever.

    What song or songs do you want played at your funeral?

    Kate Adams: Talking Heads, "Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place)"  and maybe Jim Croce's "I Got A Name."

    Check out more on Kate at the CHIRP Radio blog

    Walk In/Rock Out Friday at The Burlington

    This Friday is an exciting opportunity for Homeroom’s network to throw down some heavy rock and have some fun - the bill includes the bands of Homeroom’s staff and Board of Directors. Here's what they have to say about their music and their love for Homeroom. 

    How would you describe your sound in 5 word or less?

    Roommate: Sonically/lyrically rich art pop.

    The Paver: Baroque-core.

    Ballcock Assembly: Higgs-Boson confined by electric fence.

    What is your favorite song to perform?

    Roommate:  Lately, the band has been digging deep into a song called "Wilderness" from our forthcoming album MAKE LIKE. It's the shortest song in the catalog. Kind of like a haiku, maybe. 

    The Paver: Pity Industry, 13 Knots and Trust. Once in a blue moon we like to play a quiet song like Niagara Falls. 

    Ballcock Assembly:  "Charlie"  It's one of the first songs I wrote and we play it completely unconsciously.  It's about a crazy old hippy hitch hiker we picked up road-tripping in college.  We posed for a picture with him when we dropped him off.  In the song, however, we kill him and dump his body at a rest area.

    If your band were to "dress up" as another band for a Halloween show, which band would it be and why?

    Roommate: In the past, we've played entire nights of music by The Cure using our full, five-piece band formation. 4/5's of the band were practically raised by The Cure, the music is dynamic and melodic as hell, and audiences really enjoy it. In fact, we'll be doing it again on Saturday, November 8th at the Burlington!

    The Paver: Milemarker

    Ballcock Assembly: Klaus Nomi backed up by various Nascar drivers.  Because it just feels right.

    4. What is your favorite thing about Homeroom?

    Roommate: Homeroom takes bold risks and fosters cross-pollination between disparate creative communities, generating art works where they might not have existed before. 

    The Paver: Homeroom works hard to fill gaps in cultural programming and supports lesser-known artists all on a very small budget. It's inspiring to see what they produce each semester.

    Ballcock Assembly: Art is important because it is a language that cuts across all cultural barriers.  Thanks to the board for having us play. 

    5. If your band was hired to play at Joan Rivers' funeral, which song would you play?

    Roommate: We don't play weddings or funerals. 

    The Paver:  Candle in the Wind

    Ballcock Assembly: "Could You Be The One" would be a no-brainer since Husker Du played that on her talk show.  If you haven't see it, do yourself a favor and jump in the tub right now with a glass of wine and your tablet. Great TV.  "Miss World" by Hole would pretty wicked, too.  But if she was still with us, I'm certain she would want someone to play Fok Julle Naaiers from Die Antword.  In Afrikaans, it roughly translates to "Fuck you, you fuckers."  
    Alav hashalom, Joanie.

    Lasers and Fast and Sh!t, The Paver, Roommmate and Ballcock Assembly play at the Burlington this Friday, September 26th at 9pm.

    $8 suggested donation supports Homeroom's Fall Semester. DJ Dave Ksander spins in the front room. 21+

    Songwriter Showcase at Elastic Mashups

    We've added a very special Songwriter Showcase as part of Elastic Mashups: A Festival of Everyday

    FESTIVAL OF EVERYDAY : avant jazz, spoken word, improvised electronics, poetry, songwriters, video, contemporary music, performance, and puppetry

    Over 3 days (May 15th-17th), Elastic is showcasing some of the many diverse artists, presenters and organizations Elastic has been working with, some for over 15 years.

    On May 16th at 8pm, Elastic Mashups features Real Talk Live organizers and performers, who’ve been curating a monthly literary, performance, and open mic series at Elastic since 2011, as well as Homeroom, which has been presenting singer/songwriters and other events at Elastic regularly since 2008. Elastic co-founder and Hip Hop Series curator Sam “samiam” Lewis will be DJing throughout the night. Live music by Donna Polydoros and Tiny Fireflies

    Purchase advance tickets here.

    In addition to the Elastic Mashups, Homeroom has one more Songwriter Showcase for our Spring Semester on May 24th at 9pm. Click here for more info.