The Band Split

Chicago’s The Band Split has just released its debut album, Unimpressive. This assertive, hands-on, four-piece band is anything but unimpressive when it comes to making great music. Ryan Gatenby (vocalist/guitarist) produced the album at home and mastered it on his MacBook in order to release this melodic rock gem on Transistor Sound, a label started by drummer Andy Miles. Alternative rock bands so often wear their indie credentials the same way gangsta rappers brag of hard time served. And in this regard, The Band Split has earned the music business equivalent to a Purple Heart. “It’s the indiest of indie labels,” Gatenby enthuses, “we couldn’t be more underground.”

The variety of sounds this group is able to produce is equally impressive. “Devil Girl” hints at a bit of Faces swagger to it, while “Please, Please Look My Way” incorporates ‘60s jangle-pop, as filtered through ‘90s rock gods like The Replacements. “We all have that love for ‘60s, jangle-y pop-rock in common,” Gatenby explains. “I grew up with my parents listening to The Beatles; you couldn’t escape it. So I think it just naturally comes out through all of us.”

The group has already created a highly professional video for its song “Cheater” (see below). This vignette, with its black and white cinematic veneer, plays out like the combination of an old movie and a similarly dated instructional film. Gatenby -- the entertainment handyman that he is -- did all the editing for it, too. “I really like the video for “Sally Cinnamon” from The Stone Roses, which was just a bunch of stock footage kind of edited together with the band,” he says, when asked to explain the inspiration for this memorable visual. “I was looking around, and I found this old archive of educational films. And one of them was on relationships and jealousy. So I had this song “Cheater”, and somehow just listening to it and cutting the clips together, it just kind of fit.”

How do you describe your music to people, Ryan?
If Lou Reed were the frontman for Husker Du.

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
As a small child, I had worn out my copy of the Muppet Movie soundtrack on my Fisher-Price record player and went looking through my parents' record collection to find something new.  The faces on "Meet The Beatles!" appealed to me.  The sound that came out of the tiny little speaker blew me away.  I didn't know anything about guitars or drums or how they got that sound, but I knew then I wanted to create something like that.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
There's nothing like a rousing game of Wiffle Ball on a hot summer day!

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
The indie rock scene in Chicago is a tough one -- people come out to see their friends' bands and don't really stick around to hear the others -- and a lot of the bands leave at the first chance, too.  If we all cooperated more and there was more of a sense of community, I think all bands would benefit.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I thought I was going to play left field for the Chicago Cubs as soon as I grew up to be six foot six like Dave Kingman.  It didn't take much longer to figure out that wasn't gonna happen.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
Chicago radio when I was growing up was just fantastic.  Top 40 radio really played everything -- rock, pop, country -- and the rock stations played lots of local artists.  Hearing Cheap Trick and Material Issue and other local bands and being able to then see them live all the time was inspiring.

What other artists out there do you love?
Andrew Bird still knocks me out.  That's way too much talent for just one guy.  Laura Barrett from Toronto is unique and original and witty and charming.  I like the Dyes from Chicago -- bringing back the rockabilly.

What does your future hold?
We're going to keep on making music until either the hipsters accept us into their clique, or a new group of hipsters comes along that are slightly less scornful and condescending.