Monday, September 30, 2013

10.10 // Cole's // Chicago, I love you FREE WEEK: Launch Party

Chicago rapper Psalm One was born Christalle Bowen in the Windy City suburb of Englewood, where as a teen she sang in her church choir and studied a variety of musical instruments. She discovered hip-hop in middle school, witnessing fledgling rappers like Common and All Natural at local events, and while studying chemistry at the University of Illinois, she made her performing debut at a student union showcase. Adopting the moniker Psalm One, Bowen recorded her 2001 debut EP, Whippersnapper, during her junior year. She also guested on the Nacrobats' "Simply Beautiful," issued on the Pugslee Atomz-produced Chicago hip-hop compilation Network of Stars. Prior to graduation, Psalm One issued her first full-length effort, 2002's Bio: Chemistry, before returning to Chicago to work as a chemist in a food safety laboratory. She nevertheless continued to moonlight as a rapper, in the fall of 2002 joining the Nacrobats full-time in addition to issuing a solo EP, Personal Surplus. After the group dissolved the following summer, Psalm One continued collaborating with fellow Nacrobats alum Overflo, beginning work on her first record for new label Rhymesayers, 2006'sThe Death of Frequent Flyer. In the interim, in late 2004 the Birthwrite label issued a revamped Bio: Chemistry, titled Bio: Chemistry II: Esters and Essays, while the rapper toured as an opener for Del tha Funkee Homosapien.

Vivian McConnell formed Grandkids with guitarist Evan Metz, whose acquaintance she made during mandatory alcohol awareness class at the University of Illinois; Adam Gorcowski, a classically trained cellist who lived above her dorm room freshman year; and drummer Phillip Sudderberg, a friend of her two older brothers who she convinced to join the project while they were washing dishes together one night. Grandkids took shape quickly, with each member’s particular skills and contributions creating a lush and buoyant base for McConnell’s evocative vocals. Chris Davies of Champaign-Urbana culture outlet Smile Politely noted that McConnell’s “voice has a deep, sultry quality to it, like Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards or Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak. McConnell possesses wider range than either of those two, however, which makes Grandkids’ music a bit gentler and even more pleasing.”
Grandkids produced three EPs of material, honing and focusing their various influences into a unique and gradually maturing sound, and with the recent release of their debut full-length Timeshare, Grandkids have crafted a fully-fleshed-out and complete work, about which Buzz Weekly wrote, “Timeshare [is] less of a culmination of past efforts and more a cohesive coming-of-age mantra.”
The band is hitting the road this September to promote the physical release of Timeshare on vinyl and CD through Heirship Records and Jurassic Pop. praised the debut, saying that “bright imagery combined with a vast, expansive sonic landscape produces a charming confidence without being pretentious.”
Grandkids performed at SXSW this past March, have been interviewed by Paste Magazine for a “Best of What’s Next” feature in the August 2012 Issue, were highlighted as a one of Paste’s “10 Illinois Bands You Should Listen To Now”, and were recognized by Smile Politely in their annual mid-year best-of awards as Best Band of 2013 with their album Timeshare honored with Best Album of 2013.
They’ve recorded a WEFT session, have performed at Dunn Dunn Fest in Chicago last January and at Pygmalion festival multiple times, and will be closing out their fall tour with another Pygmalion appearance. McConnell admits of the festival, “Sometimes I wake up and it’s all I can think about. I’ve even come to associate Pygmalion with the whole season of Autumn — cider and leaves and sweaters and all.”
The band is known for compelling live performances. In this review of Grandkids’ opening set for Murder By Death, Smile Politely observes that “Vivian McConnell sings with her shoulders; Evan Metz’s guitars got that chillwave-meets-Fugazi thing going; Adam Gorcowski’s deft maneuvering between basslines and melodies enthralls; and of course, Phil Sudderberg’s drumming is so steady you don’t much notice him until he really lets loose — then you very much do.”
McConnell is also a member of Chicago band Santah, in which she plays guitar and sings alongside her brother Stan, which comes with its share of scheduling difficulties. In an interview with Bonnie Stiernberg of Paste Magazine, McConnell reveals “It’s been a trip. I mean, I can say there are some times when I do not want to travel and I’d love to stay in the same place for at least two weeks at a time, but this is my lifestyle right now…I’m really happy for it and grateful for it, because I’m always moving, I’m always meeting new people.”
Timeshare, recorded at Pieholden Suite Sound in Chicago and mastered right in their neighborhood by Jonathon Pines of Private Studios and featuring stunning artwork by A.B. Moore, is the tangible result of Grandkids coming into their own and embodying McConnell’s call to courageousness, as she sings in Timeshare’s title track, “and who is afraid of the glow they are made of? It starts in our humble core and shines through our gentle pores.”
See Grandkids on tour throughout September in support of their debut album Timeshare, available on vinyl, CD, and as a digital download through Heirship Records and Jurassic Pop.

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