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There's somewhat of a paradox inherent in Vundabar's songwriting - a conflicting sense of nostalgia contrasted with the realization that they couldn't sound more current. The music they make feels like something that should have been heard a long time ago, while simultaneously continuing to forge ahead sonically. Vundabar's high energy live show is the stand out quality of this band and is an art they’ve undoubtedly perfected by touring non-stop around the country. Vundabar’s shows never fail to be captivating, complete with infectious jams, guitar moves galore, intricate drum work, and humorous stage banter to top it all off, the band has become known for putting on an entertaining show.
Love is everyday magic. That’s the impression you get listening to Water, the new album by Chicago trio Dehd. Love rises up into the atmosphere like steam off a summer sidewalk and makes you wild. Love breaks your heart and you consider yourself lucky for it. Like water itself, it surrounds us, it supports us; it’s what we’re made of. It takes the shape of its container.
That’s something Jason Balla, Emily Kempf, and Eric McGrady discovered quickly after forming Dehd in 2014. Balla and Kempf are both veterans of Chicago’s increasingly fruitful DIY scene (Balla with Ne-Hi and Earring, Kempf with Vail and formerly with Lala Lala). When they joined forces with first-time drummer Eric McGrady, they discovered they shared a strange and inexplicable chemistry. The music they make — hazy and reverb-drenched, a scuzzy and hyped-up take on surf rock that could only come from the Third Coast — came so intuitively, it made all three feel like they were stewards of something bigger than themselves, even while that very thing is unmistakably drawn from their own personalities. “There’s always been this easy grace about the band because we purely just love doing it,” Balla says of their immediate coherence.
That easy relatability was tested around the time they began working on Water in August 2017, when Balla and Kempf, who had been dating since the band’s inception, went through an agonizing breakup. “Realistically, when you have a breakup, you want to isolate yourself and cut yourself off from one another,” Balla says. Instead, Dehd went on tour. The time in the van did them good, forcing each of them to come to terms with the way they felt about one another — and about the band.
“We processed our breakup through the scope of the band,” Kempf explains, leading them to realize that the music they were making as Dehd was more important than the dissolution of their romantic relationship — and that the musical connection between the three of them was even deeper than they’d imagined. “Every time we write music together or play shows, the chemistry between the three of us seems rare and worth holding on to,” Balla says.
“I don’t take it for granted,” Kempf adds. “We love each other — in the truest sense of the word ‘love.’”
That might be why Water never comes across as cheap or exploitative, and why it doesn’t rely on any Rumours-esque interband drama for its power. Throughout, both Kempf and Balla — who composed the lion’s share of the material in live improvisation with McGrady in their Chicago practice space — sound fresh and alive, like they’ve each returned from a journey and are here to share what they’ve learned; it’s virtually impossible to imagine them on the opposite sides of a conflict.
In fact, Water finds Dehd’s three members united as they push themselves beyond their natural limits and end up in places they wouldn’t have imagined. Balla’s production incorporates flubbed notes and dropped beats, and it emphasizes he and Kempf’s occasionally strained voices. It’s all animated by the red-lining feel-good spirit of the Velvet Underground’s Loaded and the breezy melodicism of C86-era indie rock, with a dash of the Cramps’ spooky-hop bop courtesy of McGrady’s locomotive drumming.
Which makes Water feel like a different kind of record: It’s at once a mature and grounded look at adult relationships, and a raucous celebration of friendship, and a cracked piece of purely musical bliss. It’s a clear-eyed look at the wild nature of everyday life that’s been spun up in sugary sweet melodies and scratched-crystal sounds. More than anything, it’s the embodiment of Dehd’s m.o. from the start: As Kempf puts it, “Work with what you have and make it magical.”
Attending college in Nashville, TN in 2015, Scott Hermo never really pictured himself as a full-time musician when writing and recording songs in various bedrooms. There was no plan, direction or goal. Yet meeting friends John Lewandowski, Tiger Adams, and Noah Miller changed all of that when the songs started to take more form with energy and live drums. Suddenly, there was a live band and like-minded folks with a similar outlook and collective goal to make the best music possible, for no one but themselves. Before ever even playing a show, they finished their debut album in yet another bedroom.
After word of mouth spread, a band was formed so they could play the shows they were offered. — and with that came a love for playing shows, meeting musicians, digesting more bands, and perfecting their craft. Over the next few years, John, Tiger, Noah + countless others moved on, but Scott kept the band going with a rotating cast of over 20 musicians — always friends — who were available and shared the love of the music. And in that rotating cast, Scott met Emma Willer who became a permanent addition to the band, with major contributions to their self titled and first release, Goose Bumps, released November 17th 2015.
Fast forward 4 years and over 100 shows and Goose Bumps has garnered millions of streams, countless sold out DIY physical pressings, all from a self-released record by a small group of friends trying to figure out their place in the world, writing some incredible tunes in the process.
First Unitarian Church
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Philadelphia, PA, 19103