Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Band of the Summer: Logan Square’s Summer Girlfriends

There is something special about an all-female band that goes way beyond the supposed novelty of girls playing instruments (come on, aren’t we past that already?). The Logan Square band Summer Girlfriends is no exception. Just watch one of the band’s shows or spend an afternoon eating pizza with them at their favorite spot, the Boiler Room, and it becomes clear that one of the wonderful things about many all-female bands is that, more often than not, they understand how to play music without expectations.

“The reason that we’ve gotten maybe a little bit of press is because we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” says the band’s drummer Nicole. “Yes, we’re serious about writing music, and yes, we’re serious about playing it, but that’s kind of where it stops. We just enjoy playing shows and we enjoy hanging out together, and that’s the future. Making records, playing shows, and being awesome."

Photo © Dave Rentauskas

Playing shows and being awesome has been the name of the game for the past year and a half that the band, which includes Nicole, guitarists Nikita and Kristin, bassist Sara, and vocalist Caitlin, has been together. Gathered together initially by Nikita’s New Year’s resolution to start a band, the group has steadily been gaining steam. At just their second show,  they received the indie version of being “discovered” when they were approached by Addenda Records.

“One of the owners of the label came to see one of our shows at Pancho’s,” says Sara. “He came up to us after the show and was like, ‘Hey, I really like that. I want to record you guys.” In true not taking themselves seriously fashion, Sara says, “We were like, ‘Who’s this guy?’”

Fortunately the band took him up on his offer--their first record was released on June 5, 2012. They just finished up their first six-city tour to promote the album and are gearing up for their record release party at The Burlington on June 22.

This comes on the heels of the release of their first music video which has only intensified press mentions. The band has been written up on the AV Club Chicago (where the video initially debuted), ChicagoistHuffington Post, and ChicagoVerseUniteD.

“It’s pretty cool to be on Huffington Post, I’ll say that,” says Kristin. “Because I definitely came in to work and all my coworkers were giving me shit, like, ‘I heard your band is famous.’…Me getting an egg on my head and stabbing a boy with a popsicle, that’s what I’m known for now.”

The opportunities only continue to pour in. The band will be playing at Summer Sessions on the Square and West Fest. They also received a request from the Red Eye to play and record an acoustic session. “It’s interesting because you get offered all these things that you wouldn’t necessarily think you’d get offered and people sort of expect you to be this person that you aren’t necessarily,” says Nikita. “Which is interesting and fun because I would have never thought that I would ever be playing an acoustic guitar, ever, or have a need to play it.”

Given the band’s serendipitous history, chances are good they’ll smoothly figure out whatever gets thrown at them. Despite varying levels of musical experience, a name change, and a lineup change, something has unmistakably coalesced, making them the band with the sunny name and lyrics that hint at a darker edge that’s getting press mentions and rocking local jukeboxes.

The band is deeply connected to the neighborhood where they live and play. The bonus to living in Logan Square is, essentially, that you can’t throw a stick without hitting a musician. “You’re always running into other people in bands,” says Sara. “You go out to brunch and you run into somebody from this band, that band, and you start talking and you plan a show.”

Nikita agrees. “It’s very conducive to being in a band. Most of us live in Logan Square...and we all meet up here at Boiler Room every Wednesday and a lot of the conversations we have lead to song ideas and/or meeting other people who will play with us. It’s a great place to actually play shows because there are so many good smaller venues in Logan Square.”

One such venue is the Burlington where, as mentioned, the band will be playing their record release party. If you can’t make it, chances are good you’ll be able to find the Summer Girlfriends sometime at another local venue, playing music, being awesome, and, refreshingly, not taking themselves too seriously.

Summer Girlfriends Record Release Party
June 22, 9 PM
The Burlington
3425 W Fullerton Ave.

--Tamara Matthews

PS.  Don't miss Summer Girlfriends and other great summer music at this year's Summer Sessions on the Square, a community summer music series (and Logan Square's largest picnic). It's returning for a fourth season this Saturday, June 23rd with a great lineup: 

Serengeti (performing as “Kenny Dennis“) *see Pitchfork write up here.
Las Guitarras de Espana
The Sweats *this is Cole (of Cole's bar)'s band. 

All music in the series is curated by Billy Helmkamp of The Whistler and in partnership with CHIRP.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Calling All Knitters and Crocheters!

Yarn bombing. Maybe you’ve heard about it. Maybe you’ve even seen it. Now come put your knitting or crochet skills to work and help turn Logan Square into a temporary gallery of yarn art!

Installation goes up on July 14th, and trees, signposts, bike racks, parking meters, and trash cans on the 2600-2800 N. Milwaukee commercial corridor will be covered with colorful knit and crochet pieces. Wouldn’t you like to see your own handiwork among these?

To help push projects along, there will be several knit-ins at Uncharted Books and El Cid Restaurant. These will be a great opportunity to meet fellow yarn bomb participants and get some work done. The next one is on June 19th at Uncharted Books from 6-8 p.m.

If you don’t have time to create a project, you can still participate by donating unwanted (but usable!) yarn to our drop-off at Uncharted Books.

For more info on the project, check out logansquareyarnbomb.tumblr.com.

Happy stitching!

Uncharted Books
June 19th, 6-8pm

--Tamara Matthews

Monday, June 11, 2012

From Physics to Balloons to a New Theory of Creating Art: An IALS Interview with Willy Chyr

Last week I had the chance to catch up with Willy Chyr at High Concept Laboratories, where he had his first solo exhibition, systems/process on June 9. High Concept Laboratories is across the street from The Hideout in a large brick building--the perfect spot for focusing and creating art. Willy Chyr is a Logan Square resident, physicist, and former circus performer turned artist. Willy has also recently installed a piece in the Ogilvie Transportation Center as a part of a new artist promotion from Beck's. Willy is one of six artists chosen by Beck's to create an art label for limited edition beer bottles. I sat down with Willy to talk a little about physics, Beck's, and balloons.

I Am Logan Square: So can you tell me a little about your background?

Willy Chyr: It's kind of a long story-- I was born in New Jersey, in Newark. But from 5-10 I was in Taiwan,  and then from 10-18 I lived in Toronto. Then, [I studied] physics and economics at University of Chicago. 

IALS: In addition to your interest in physics, have you always been an artist?

Willy Chyr with one of his pieces at High Concept Labs
W: I was good at art class in elementary, but after 8th grade, I just lost interest and stopped. Then, after my first year of college, I joined the circus. That was just a fun thing to do. We built tall bikes, and I also built a tandem bicycle.  And that was just a fun creative outlet within the context of the circus, and that's where I learned to twist balloons. One time they asked for a balloon guy, and I was like "yea, I'll do it." So I started twisting as a part-time job for the last few years of college.  Then in my senior year [of college], I was trying to figure out what to do next.  We were playing around with electronics…and we wanted to get a school grant. So we came up with the idea of making these balloon sculptures modeled after bioluminescent creatures, with the electronics controlling the lights and then we would fit those lights into the sculptures.  I already knew how to twist the balloons from my time in the circus.  I wasn't intending to do more than what I did on campus, but I did those sculptures the last two months of school and then I graduated. Then the school wrote an article about those and put it on their home page, and the Museum of Science and Industry saw the article.  They were doing Science Chicago at the time and the finale was in Millennium Park, and two days after I graduated from UC, they called me and asked me to do something for Millennium Park and that got a lot of press.

 IALS: So, you kept working with balloons after this?

W:  Yea, so that summer after I graduated, I was doing birthday parties and street performances, like at farmer's markets.  I didn't have a job and I just did farmer's markets on the side and had a street performers license, but I could only do this about 4 months per year. And what happened was that I met with some artists and kind of asked them, "so how does this whole [artist] thing work?" They told me to look at Chicago Artist's Resource and that I could apply for grants. I saw the Midwestern Voices & Visions grant to fund an artist in the midwest for a residency. I sent in the application and got it-- and got to go to Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha.  That was my art school. There were actually people around me making art and I started to have conversations about the art.  

IALS: You seem to be doing well, you've had interviews with WBEZ, Scientific American. etc.  Do you have any advice for artists who are struggling? 

W: I feel it's not like I was drawn out of a hat, but I do feel grateful. I do work really hard, but that's only half the equation. It's people willing to take a chance. I feel blessed and grateful. This isn't totally lucrative. I do apply for grants all the time. But in phases-- it's such an intensive process.  And you lose most, but then you win some. I think you gotta keep applying, but you have to keep doing your own work. It's important to keep working, even when there are no calls. After I left Leo, I kept trying to get jobs. I was trying to fit the advertising style just to get a job. My Dad said to me, "stop trying to make your portfolio about trying to get a job, make it about your work, about what you're interested in."

So the Beck's bottles launched in May, and between January and April, I began The Collabowriters. I launched it in March. At the end of April, I sent an email to Galleycat and they posted about Collabowriters.  There were days when I would do a Beck's interview in the morning, and then the Collabowriters at night. 

Willy's digital fractal art, © Willy Chyr
IALS:  Tell us a little about The Collabowriters.

W: I started with the sculptures. When I was at Bemis, I thought about my creative process. Why am I using balloons? Balloons are colorful, but I wanted to focus on shape. And now what I'm doing is having the idea of emergence. I have initial parameters and procedures that I follow. I follow these rules. The Collabowriters is the same application of that idea, but applied to writing, It's a crowdsource novel. Anyone can submit, then we vote on the submissions and the winner becomes a sentence in the novel. It's the same idea as with my fractals [in my digital work].

I wrote The Collabowriters to have another manifestation of the idea. 3D in sculptures, 2D on the screen, and then with writing. This is the way trees, mountains, etc. happen,  and the result just stores the process.  The thing with balloons is that they are so physical. The other stuff involves more thinking--it's two different mindsets. The sculptures are a little disruptive - I need a period to think through some ideas and not be doing.  There is also a video game I want to write.  I'm not 100% sure how to apply the theory to the video game, but there will be an additional aspect of interaction. The Collabowriters is a "make your own adventure".  The last page is just the latest sentence. 

IALS: How do you know when you're done with a piece?

W: I don't think too much about the end result, things have an ending because they have to. I finish a balloon sculpture because I just can't keep working on it. Sometimes it's intuitive. I have no idea where The Collabowriters is going. But these are all iterations of the same idea. I don't worry so much about whether it's finished. Every piece is part of the process. They are byproducts of the process. I am having the process and the works are just nice byproducts.

IALS: So, finally, for our readers, what do you like about living in Logan Square?

W: That so many people I know are there. It's really residential and you just feel like you're going home.  I really think the best part about Logan Square is the community. After college, you want to be able to get together with people.  In Logan Square, it's easy to get together and make things happen. 

To see more of Willy's work, visit his website at www.willychyr.com
Willy will be exhibiting a public art installation at Ogilvie Transportation Center, 500 W. Madison, from June 4th through June 17th.  The opening for systems/process was Sat, June 9.

To find out more about what Beck's is doing to help local artists, check it out here.

--Interview and photos by Brooke Herbert Hayes

Friday, June 1, 2012

IALS' June Gallery Opening: Inspired by the Book of Imaginary Beings!

We are excited to kick off summer with our June gallery opening,  Inspired by the Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges, an art exhibition featuring seven artists  who have translated the well-known myths of Borges into visual representations. The exhibition will open on Friday, June 8th from 6 to 8:30pm at the I Am Logan Square Gallery, located at 2644 N. Milwaukee Avenue. Food and drinks will be provided by IALS’s official gallery sponsors, Revolution Brewing and Paper Moon Pastry.

The Book of Imaginary Beings was published as El Libro del los Seres Imaginarios in 1967 and contains 116 written entries of “Imaginary Beings” as interpreted by the legendary Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges.  The work in this exhibition explores the views and artistic styles of seven different artists: Isak Applin, Carl Baratta, Inga Comer-Keene, Shannon Lunkes-Goldman, Sheryl Orlove, Neal Retke, and Peter Reynoso, who each translate these words into visual stories. Each of the artists has read the book and has chosen six “Imaginary Beings” to represent, for a total of 42 various works. Copies of the book will be on hand so the viewer can interact by comparing the written and visual interpretations of each “Imaginary Being” represented. You can also pick up your own copy anytime at Bucket O'Blood Books and Records.  

“This has been a wonderful, unique and challenging experience for us, and a chance to explore the boundaries between literature and art,” says exhibition curator, Sheryl Orlove.

Inspired by the Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges will be on display from June 8, 2012 to June 27, 2012. The gallery is free and open to the public on Wednesdays from 2-6pm and by appointment.  We are rolling out new gallery hours this month--info coming soon! 

Want to help IALS have more open gallery hours? Do you have spare time during the day to volunteer as a gallery sitter? It's great experience and usually lots of fun (we promise). Send us an email to amanda@iamlogansquare.com to get involved!