Presented by Bowery Boston
Doors: 6:00 pm / Show: 6:30 pm
This show is SOLD OUT!
Tickets available at AXS.COM, or by phone at 855-482-2090. No service charge on tickets purchased in person at The Sinclair Box Office Wednesdays-Saturdays 12-7PM.
Please note: This show is open to all ages. Opening acts and set times are subject to change without notice. All sales are final unless a show is postponed or canceled. All bags larger than 12 inches x 12 inches, backpacks, professional cameras, video equipment, large bags, luggage and like articles are strictly prohibited from the venue. Please make sure necessary arrangements are made ahead of time. All patrons subject to search upon venue entry.
Born out of fierce friendship and a mutual affection for melody, Chicago’s Ratboys – anchored by the partnership of Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan – aim to ‘write songs that tell stories and honor the intimacy of memory,’ according to Steiner.
GN, the group’s second full-length album via Topshelf Records, offers a bevy of tales, laments and triumphs, which recount near-tragedies by the train tracks, crippling episodes of loneliness, remembrances of a deceased family pet with freezer burn, and on and on. The songs shift and breathe as worlds all their own, tied together by the group’s self-proclaimed ‘post-country’ sound, which combines moments of distortion and a DIY aesthetic with a devotion to simple songwriting and ties to the Americana sounds of years past.
Drawing influence from the down-to-earth sincerity of late-90s Sheryl Crow and the confessional confidence of Kim Deal and Jenny Lewis, the songs on GN (aka ‘goodnight’) “largely detail experiences of saying goodbye, finding your way home, and then figuring out what the hell to do once you’re back,” says Steiner. The songs chosen to close both sides of the record – the slow-burning ‘Crying About the Planets’ and quizzical ‘Peter the Wild Boy’ – unpack the respective journeys of two real people who were quite literally lost and found. ‘’Crying’ tells the survival story of Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson from a first-person perspective, and ‘Peter’ reflects on the life of a feral child in Germany who was eventually adopted by the King of England,’ according to Steiner. ‘Writing as and about these people is the best way I can attempt to empathize with them and really just wrap my mind around these bits of history that otherwise might not get talked about. And it helps me understand my own experiences a little bit better,’ she says.
Certain personal stories – the tour adventures recapped in ‘GM,’ the struggle to learn to show affection as divulged in ‘Molly’ – find Ratboys just as eagerly exploring subject matter that comes from within, and then illustrating the highs and lows with soaring hooks and plaintive ones. Even in the moments that lie somewhere between bliss and misery, a tension persists between Steiner’s sweet vocal delivery and Sagan’s physical, almost-off-the-hinges guitar playing that lends each song a deeper sense of color and movement.
Steiner and Sagan felt the impulse to make music together from the get-go – they first met as university students, quickly put out an EP together, and started performing as an acoustic two-piece in dorm rooms and backyards. During the next few years, the friends traveled separately, eventually reunited, and recorded what would become the first Ratboys record, AOID, which the folks at GoldFlakePaint describe as ‘a gleaming, joyous, raucous display of melodic indie-rock.’
After a year and a half of touring the US and Europe as a plugged-in full band (featuring the additions of drums, bass, and trumpet), the members of Ratboys returned to Chicago and holed up at Atlas Studios for two weeks to record with engineer Mikey Crotty (who had previously worked with the group on the songs ‘Not Again’ and ‘Light Pollution’). ‘This time around, we were lucky enough to feature the talents of friends who play the pedal steel, accordion, cello and violin to give the songs an extra something,’ says Steiner. ‘Dave finally got to show off his ridiculous skills on the pocket piano, and the whole thing felt like one big loving experiment.’
Ratboys keep the good times going in 2018 with a new EP called GL (aka Good Luck). Featuring four songs recorded shortly after the GN sessions, this new companion piece expands upon themes of isolation and memory, while focusing closely on the ups and downs of personal relationships.
‘Each of the songs on GL sounds like its own little world, which is what we set out to do,’ Steiner says. With each song sounding distinct from the rest, the EP offers up four different takes on the sounds of heartache.
On the heals of their newest release, you can find Ratboys on the road, playing songs old and new all over North America and Europe.
Casper Skulls burst forth from the Toronto exurbs in 2015. Described by MTV as a collection of “confrontational art rock that bleeds with sincerity,” and drawing comparisons to luminaries like Television, The Fall (The Toronto Star), Pavement, and Sonic Youth (Noisey), their debut EP, Lips & Skulls (Buzz) attracted immediate attention from audiences in Toronto and up and down the Eastern seaboard. Riding the wave of rising excitement, the band hit the road, hard, touring extensively and sharing stages with acts like Cloud Nothings, Thurston Moore, Suuns, Weaves, The Julie Ruin, Solids, Greys, and Chastity Belt.
Following the reverberating shout that was the band’s first EP, Casper Skulls debut full length, Mercy Works, (out now on Buzz) is a startlingly ambitious statement of intent. The album was recorded in early 2017 with co-producer/engineer Josh Korody (Fucked Up, Dilly Dally), and mixed by Alex Newport (At The Drive-In, Death Cab For Cutie). While the rough and ready post-punk and lo-fi early ’90s indie influences present on the band’s first recordings still provide the foundation, there is a sense of scale on display in their swelling guitar figures and sweeping string arrangements (provided by Toronto musician Paul Erlichman). Each of the album’s 11 songs are densely arranged, intricately written and performed with an uncommon earnestness.
Dual songwriters and vocalists Melanie St. Pierre and Neil Bednis seek to represent lived experience in immense detail, engaging with a diverse palette of references, both musical and lyrical. Whether drawing on the poetry of William Blake (“What’s That Good For”), the dystopian sci-fi of Philip K. Dick (“Colour of the Outside”), or ruminating on mortality and evolving personal/cultural legacies through Elvis Presley and Paul Simon’s trips to Graceland (“You Can Call Me Allocator”), St. Pierre and Bednis collect pieces of the world around them and imbue them with new meaning as they attempt to understand their place in it.
Swirling standout “I Stared at ‘Moses and the Burning Bush’” deals with the role of religion in experiences of grief, cleverly wrapped in a reference to a ’80s pop artist Keith Haring. “I like the idea of exploring biblical imagery without necessarily picking sides,” says Bednis. “It’s rationed throughout the songs what my stance is, if I even have a stance. I find that religion can be therapeutic when people in your life die….(It) doesn’t necessarily need to be a sacred thing.”
Despite how swiftly they seemed to have reached songwriting maturity, Casper Skulls still see themselves as being at the beginning of their journey – an enticing prospect given the self-assuredness that underpins their debut.
“We’re really only at the start of being a band,” says St-Pierre agrees. “Our records don’t have to move mountains as long as we’re being true to our own ideas. We want to be a slow burning candle.”