Truth be told, I assumed Jeff Julian, vocalist and guitarist for Chicago’s Vaudevileins wasn’t going to make it for his early afternoon interview.
And I understood that possibility, as the night before, the beloved Cubs won their first World Series title since 1908, defeating the Cleveland Indians in a marathon Game Seven.
Then the phone rang, on time, with a true pro on the line.
“It was a heck of a night, a helluva game, a helluva series,” Julian laughed. “But work calls at some point.”
A day later, on November 4, the Windy City denizens began a run of nine shows in nine days, with the latest stop seeing the four-piece rock band hit Cake Shop in NYC tonight for a Monday gig that will feature selections from their upcoming album Magician, which will be released on November 18.
“It was a longer process than we had originally intended, but that’s part of life as a do it yourself, independent band,” he said of Magician. “But we’re really excited about it, we think it’s the best work we’ve done as a group and the production turned out very well. This is what you put in all the work for and so we hope people like it, and either way, we’re super proud of it.”
They should be. A good ol’ fashioned rock album, Julian and company (Evan Mohler, William Aldridge and Brennen Chouinard) have come out swinging on their latest, with the freedom of being indie artists evident from the start, as they’re following their muse with the idea of reaching an audience that doesn’t necessarily want restraints on the music. That doesn’t mean 12-minute drum solos or things of that nature, just a willingness to stretch out within the space of a three to five minute track.
“Having never had the experience of being on a big label, I don’t have anything to compare it to, but it’s great to have the freedom,” Julian said. “But it goes beyond just the freedom. Bill, Brennen, and I have been playing together since 2010 and then Brennan and I played together longer than that because we were in another band together. And Evan is new to the mix, but I bring that all up because it’s fun to play and write music with people who are open minded like Bill and Brennan and Evan are. They’ll take an idea, they’ll work with it, they’ll give it life, and when we come into practice with a new song, nobody says, ‘Ahh, that’s not gonna work, I don’t like that, let’s not even give it a shot.’ Everybody gives an idea room to breathe and really puts their own spin on it, and that’s very fun.”
That may be the key word right there, as even hearing Julian talk about the life of a working musician, there’s an enthusiasm there that isn’t too prevalent these days. Too often, you hear about the downside of the music business and life on the road, and while those folks all make valid points, the frontman of Vaudevileins has a different take on it all.
“This is what we do,” he said. “We’re getting ready to go out on a run of shows and there’s very few things in life that are more fun than piling into the van and driving from town to town and playing shows, being together, having your inside jokes and seeing the world. Those are some of the best times of my life, so having that group, it’s kind of like being on a team, even though you’re not competing against any other teams. On any given night, you’re trying to create the best versions of those songs in a live setting, and you’re constantly trying to achieve this level of perfection that you’ll never get to, but it sure is fun to try.”
There’s that “F” word again. Julian laughs.
“I’m not going to say there aren’t times when we’ve had those moments where you show up and you’re the out of town band and you’re last on a four band bill, and for some reason the band that hasn’t played together in five years and they’re having a reunion show, they’re playing second, and then they play and everybody leaves, so you’re playing to the sound guy and the bartender. Those are not as fun as other times, but we do the best you can, and we enjoy it. You’ve gotta have fun and hey, it’s better than sitting home and watching TV.”
Sure is. And while this fall burst of shows will get their fans up to speed on the new album, there’s more to come in a 2017 Julian hopes will be a busy one.
“We’d love to be touring on this record for as long as we can,” he said. “We’ve all got day jobs and so we’re scraping up vacation time to go out and do a run. But we’d like to sell out of the run of records that we put together so we’ll have to do more, and have people show interest and get some bigger shows and keep playing.”
– Thomas Gerbasi // KO63 Music