Review: Lucky Boys Confusion – Stormchasers

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By the time I had discovered Lucky Boys Confusion, save for one collection of demos and B-Sides, the band had already released all of their material and the various members had decided to split off to work on their own projects. None of that stopped a large group of us from driving hours to Chicago to see their annual one-off shows.

You can buy Stormchasers on iTunes.

In the time since then, several events, namely divorce and the unfortunate passing of guitarist Joe Sell in 2013, acted as a catalyst to reevaluate and spawn a new spark of creativity for the band. Once known for drinking songs, the group has tempered themselves slightly, finding the same lively spirit in rebuilding themselves once the party is over. Stormchasers isn’t a depressing record. It’s the concept of following the havoc in life and cleaning the wreckage into something new, for better or for worse, while looking back fondly on what came before.

Picking up where the How To Get Out Alive EP left off over a decade ago, Stormchasers forgoes many of the ska and hip hop elements of early LBC in favor of the of the immediate punk and waves of Americana rock of guitarist Adam Krier’s side project, AM Taxi. However, that’s not to say that it doesn’t sound like a Lucky Boys record – Stormchasers is loud, aggressive and quickly gets to the heart of the issues that may have held the group back before breaking free of those constraints to forge a natural progression of the band.

As a concept record, LBC addresses the elephants in the room within the first three songs; feeling stuck at this point in life (“I Slept with the Devil”), divorce (“It’s After Midnight”) and carrying on after losing Joe Sell (“Stormchaser”). However, instead of wallowing in sadness, Stormchasers uses nostalgia as a tool of empowerment to search for a better future (“Good Luck”).

The evolution in sound for Lucky Boys Confusion is obvious to anyone who has followed the band. They have doubled down on the rock aspect of the music, forgoing the hip hop genre that aged their older albums. While it negates the unique draw of their early discography, it verifies the band as an essential punk band and the flag bearers of the modern rock scene in Chicago. Adam Krier’s guitarwork comes in waves of stiff power chords that create walls of sound while maintaining extraordinary melody. Whether loud and erratic (“Insomniac”), gentle and subdued (“Sun in My Eyes”), or a throwback to the band’s classic era (“Stormchaser”), Krier is at his best, carefully bringing the band’s sound back from into the modern age.

Bassist Jason Schultejann has ample time to carry the songs entirely (“Burn a Little Birghter”, “Name In Lights”), providing substance to a genre that can easily out-loud the bass. Drummer Ryan Fergus is a powerhouse, carrying tempo across the spectrum and maintaining a foreboding presence even in the softest moments.

Vocalist Kaustubh “Stubhy” Pandav once again proves himself as one of the best vocalists in rock. Pandav pushes himself in nearly every song, maintaining every ounce of the enigmatic energy that made him a captivating singer two decades ago. His voice was made for pop punk, and the effect carries through effortlessly (“Sun in My Eyes”, “Your Friends Are Whispering”).

Thematically, Lucky Boys delve into finding the hope at the end of the dark moments. “Slept With the Devil” sets the tone, as Pandav chants, “Our dreams are burning, we breathe the smoke / There’s only so much time before we choke / So stop complaining, embrace the thrill / There’s only so much time here left to kill”.

However, the darkness they describe runs deep. Pandav finds the helplessness through the hell of divorce on “It’s After Midnight”, pleading, “You stopped loving me right when I turned around / I wasn’t chaste enough for you / You took the battleground, you won the war in a wedding gown”. “Stormchaser” particularly strikes deep, reflecting on Joe Sell. “Welcome to life as a stormchaser: searching for love and black bitters /… and I’m tired of being cynical, but it’s catching up / And I’m tired of being practical, but it’s catching up / And I’m seeing the possibilities, and they’re catching up to me / But you’re catching up to me”.

However, the use of nostalgia is used as a tool to pave a way forward and creates a message of hope out of the initial depressing lyrics. On “Sun in My Eyes”, Pandav sings, “How did we go from getting so high off of feeling shallow? Most of these days we make it up as we go”.

One of the true highlights is “Good Luck”, an AM Taxi-esque rocker that gives guitarist Adam Krier lead vocals. He reflects on memories of the band’s inspiration and career, making a declaration of what drives the band to keep going after everything. “Got a varsity letter? Screw ‘em, we get endless memories / Playing songs together, keeping up all the neighbors on your street / And if we burn out fast, come whatever / Summer songs will last, that’s forever. Now and forever, good luck”.

Stormchasers is a massive return for a band many had thought was more or less put to rest. Without retreading ground already covered, the band picks up where they left off. While the songs may not be the soundtrack for hard drinking, the mature aspect refines the storytelling that LBC are known for that cuts through what would be a sad album and makes it one of that yearns to find hope when there doesn’t feel like any.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has so far seen LBC live twice in 2017. It’s not creepy if you call it “enthusiasm!”

Reviving the Future: An Interview with Ryan Fergus of Lucky Boys Confusion

Last week, Lucky Boys Confusion released their first new single in nearly a decade. “It’s After Midnight” is an aggressive rock song that finds a slick balance of crunching harmonies balanced against a swirling story of a relationship spiraling out of control.

As a long-time fan of Lucky Boys Confusion, the song is a refreshing answer to the curiosity of what a band that hasn’t written a full record for almost 15 years looks to create, and how it balances against the rest of their career. For a smaller band, Lucky Boys Confusion has an exceptionally strong and loyal fan base that follows them from show to show, and “It’s After Midnight” certainly beckons their attention.

With just a month until the release of new album Stormchasers, I spoke with drummer Ryan Fergus about the build up leading to its creation and what it means for the future.

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First off, “It’s After Midnight” is awesome. I’ve been listening to it since it was released and it really feels organic for the band. Do you think it reflects how the album sounds stylistically, or does it branch and venture out more?

Oh thanks! Yeah, we’re really excited about it and it’s been getting a lot of really great feedback. You know, when you go away for as long as we did, and we really created this record in a vacuum, you get a little bit nervous. We really love this, we’re really jacked about this but we don’t know how people are going to receive it. It was such a relief to finally get at least one song out there to kind of show people what we’ve been working on, and the reception has been really positive, which is really encouraging for the rest of the record.

To answer your question, it would definitely be a song that we thought would kind of bridge the gap, so to speak, in terms that it does sound reminiscent of a lot of songs off of Commitment or Throwing the Game. It’s really reminiscent of the How to Get Out Alive EP, but it is a bridge. There are a lot of songs on the record that sound like the older stuff, but there is some modernization and maturity to it and we’re trying different things.

It’s probably our most cohesive record. It’s very fortuitous that we’re talking today, as we just got the final master of the whole record back today. To hear everything together as one rolling, cohesive piece, I’m just on cloud nine right now. We’re really pumped up about it.

That’s fantastic! I was going to say, the single reminds me of How to Get Out Alive. It’s interesting that it’s more cohesive. Closing Arguments, I know it was a mix of demos and B-sides, but it did feel like a patchwork of songs.

Yeah, it wasn’t as coherent. It was basically seeds of what would have been the next record, and obviously that would have changed a lot. And we had a chance to start fresh. We didn’t revisit any of those old pieces so this is all new ideas and arrangements. All new ideas we really cooked up in the last year, year and a half. Once we started working on it and decided that we could do this, it all came together very quickly. It does feel like one piece. There’s no little skips, there’s no 30-second interludes – it’s 12 songs, and it’s a story.

Really, it’s closure in a lot of ways. That’s not to imply that this is the last thing we’re ever going to do, because if anything, we’re more invigorated than ever. What I mean by that is everything that happened to us over the last four of five years, we didn’t really comment publicly on it. Most notably, our guitarist, Joe Sell died suddenly, tragically and very young. I think we left a lot of people in a lurch. We didn’t really have a way of addressing everything we’ve been through in the last few years.

This is kind of our statement to everything that has gone down and what we’ve been through, and there were some pretty dark times, I won’t lie. But I think this has been really therapeutic for us, and we’re all in a really good place. And we’re excited to be working together. We really couldn’t be more pleased with how everything came out.

Everyone has been kind of focused on their side projects for quite some time. Was it natural to be writing together again? Especially since Stubhy (Pandav) and Adam (Krier) went their own way for a while and wrote in their own ways for so long, did things mesh well when everyone came together again?

Yeah, it felt like home, I think, a lot for all of us. Especially for the two of them from a song writing perspective. What happened after Joe passed, it kind of spun us all out in different directions. For Jason (Schultejann) and Adam, they started AM Taxi. Stubhy had multiple projects that he was involved in. My project was kind of having a normal life. Having a job, getting married, having two great kids and living a more normal day-to-day. To do that and then come back into this, and bring a lot of lessons learned with maturity, the things we’ve gone through and bring those together… It was comforting.

The joke of it is, the creative part of this thing has been the easy part. The songs really came together quick, we didn’t have a lot of knock-down, drag-out arguments about arrangements. Even the recording process was a really smooth situation. Honestly, the difficult part for us has been everything else.

We’re doing this completely self-sufficient. There’s no label, there’s no manager, nobody. If anything, the difficult aspect of setting this up and launching it is that we’re doing everything on our own. Every day is a thousand tiny decisions with a constant text thread between the four of us during all hours of the night, starting at 7:30 in the morning. It’s just an ongoing dialogue for a year of, “Hey, did you call that guy?” or “Johnny K (producer) needs an answer today for the mix.” The difficult part has just been the little technical aspects. The creative part was actually quite wonderful and really did feel like coming home again.

Listening to “It’s After Midnight”, the lyrics are about a pained relationship, and they’re fairly vindictive. Lucky Boys have been known for a slight storytelling aspect as much as you are for party songs. With everything that has happened, is Stormchasers more of a serious record, then?

It’s not a kind record, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. If anything, it’s a celebration record. It’s celebrating life, death, love, losing love. All the aspects that kind of make up the human condition. There are darker aspects and you can make the claim that the world is going in a darker direction than it was five or 10 years ago. It’s definitely a reflection, and I think people will see a lot of things they identify with on the record.

There’s a lot of stuff about Stubhy’s marriage, which he’s been very open about and I’m proud of him that it’s out there. But his marriage ended. He’s since fallen in love again, engaged and getting married this summer so it’s been this roller coaster in a lot of ways. He’s been very transparent about that. There are a lot of lines on the record, where you just go, “Wow, he went there.” And I’m so proud of him for not holding that back and not pulling punches.

In that regard, I think people will be surprised at the lengths we’ve gone with some of this stuff and ultimately, it’s a lot of things people will identify with. We got older, but a lot of the folks that are listening to us have been along for the ride and gotten older too. They’ve got responsibilities, they’ve got relationships they’re maintaining and dealing with, someone in their family that have been through some pretty tough times as well. It’s stuff people can relate to, tear apart and identify with.

Speaking of the fan base, I just moved to Chicago a few years ago, and everyone I’ve met who has any kind of interest in rock music knows who Lucky Boys Confusion are. A lot of them seem to have the same type of story, where it’s almost an urban legend where someone finds a copy of Throwing the Game tucked away in a closet somewhere and just falls in love with it after listening to it. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed being at live shows, it’s a lot of the same people coming again and again, talking about past shows. Do you pick up on that from the fan base in general?

It’s stunning to me. It’s stunning to all of us. I’m not sure that you know this, but this year is actually our 20 year anniversary. We started this band when we were 18 years old and just out of high school, and there are a lot of people who have been there since year one or year two. It’s unbelievable. We’re starting to get to the point where some of these folks are starting to bring their kids. Their kids are old enough to go to shows now. It’s definitely a surreal thing.

But you’re right, there are so many stories about, “my older brother left the CD with me before he went to college and then I got into you guys.” It’s really been amazing, and what we’ve kind of said all along is that if they keep coming, then we’re going to keep showing up.

Especially for this long stretch here where we weren’t putting out any new content and you start to think, it’s gotta be here, right? You’re gonna start to see a drop off, kids are going to stop coming and we’re kind of back where we started, playing for 30 people. But so far, that hasn’t happened.

That was definitely in the back of our minds, but these folks have been coming out to hear the same older songs for however long now and we owe them something new. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that we wanted to come out with something new, especially for the folks that have been around for so long and have been patient and just waiting. We thought maybe there never would be a record. We’re excited to make that happen for the diehards throughout the many years and we’re just so appreciative of that.

I know it’s a hack question, but do you have a favorite song off of the new record?

[sigh] No, it’s a great question. [laughs]

No, it’s probably changing by the day. Again, it’s a record that finally feels like a whole thing. But we’ve got a song called “Sun In My Eyes” that’s probably going to be our next single. That’s going to come out this month, actually when the preorder goes up on iTunes and whatnot. But I think it’s going to throw some people for a curve ball. It’s a bit more different than anything we’re really tried. “It’s After Midnight” is a call to arms and the announcement that we’re back and Lucky Boys are grown up. “Sun In My Eyes”, I think is something totally different. It’s poppy, kind of a mystical tune but it really crunches, it really rocks. It still feels like us, and I’m really digging that right now.

We close the record with a tune called “Candle in the Window” and it’s the same thing, it’s really different. It sound kind of like an old Elvis Costello B-side or something. It’s really powerful and kind of punctuates the record. And there are a lot of different fields and different directions. Listening to it today as a cohesive piece, it really feels like one statement. I’m really excited to get it out there.

Lastly, what do you think Stormchasers means for the future of Lucky Boys Confusion, especially after you said everyone seems more invigorated now than they have been for a while?

You know, its funny. I like serial dramas on Hulu, like “The Americans” and shows like that, and a lot of these shows are in a bubble. They don’t always know if they’re going to be renewed, so what they do is have this year end finale that wraps up the current storyline and resolves those problems, but it leaves the door open for more story. I think it’s an analog to Stormchasers in that, if it ends up being the last record, I think it’s turning the last pages of the book.

But it’s not a full resolve. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of time, a lot of hard work, a lot of intense moments here and there, but overall this was a really pleasant, really great experience. A lot of that was based on working with our producer, Johnny K, who is just amazing. He produced it, engineered it, mixed it so that this became one single vision.

I would feel very open, and I think the way the guys are feeling right now, that they would probably agree that there’s no reason that this couldn’t be the beginning of a really nice creative era for us. This year is really about the new record, and celebrating the 20 year anniversary. We really want to mark that and will probably be doing some stuff later in the year to mark that. It’s kind of a big deal – not many bands get to 20 years.

But there’s nothing saying that there couldn’t be more in the future, especially with as excited as everybody is right now. It’s definitely viable.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has been to a Lucky Boys Confusion show at least once every year for a decade. Their shows have never once gotten stale in that time. It really was an honor to talk to someone who has kept the attention of myself and my nonsense friends for that long. My apartment suddenly smells like spray paint, and that can’t be great.

Lucky Boys Confusion: Playing Chicago’s signature album

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“All I Ask is You Play Something Good.”

Lucky Boys Confusion’s Throwing The Game is a staple to the Chicago punk scene. Thirteen years after its release, and after several years of minimal activity from the band, it is still wildly beloved and worshiped, a fact proven by the animalistic sold out show at the downtown House of Blues to hear it played start to finish.

“I was standing right here last year when they played Commitment all the way through,” said one random guy I met in the crowd of eager drunks. He throws back a wide gulp of beer before smiling widely, saying simply, “This one of the best albums ever written. They’re playing it front to back acoustically in August. I bought my tickets for that show the day they went on sale”.

I wrote once before about how literally everyone I’ve met in Chicago knows about Lucky Boys Confusion, and though their entire discography is a magnificent lesson in stylized punk, Throwing The Game is the album that most people refer to when talking about the band. It’s a party album with songs about drinking, getting high, the perils of relationships and outrunning the cops. These themes are the backbone of what Lucky Boys Confusion embodies: making a mess of trying to find yourself and enjoying the hell out of every second of it.

Lucky Boys Confusion from a terrible camera

Lucky Boys Confusion from a terrible camera

Lucky Boys Confusion is set to start at 11:30 p.m. and run until 1 a.m., but the crowd has rushed the pit in the House of Blues well before that and show no signs of getting tired. While the normal teen rockers are crushed in the crowd, it’s filled more with men and women in their upper twenties and early thirties; literally the people who have supported the band their entire career. And they’re lit.

Alcohol of every variation in hand, they’re joined as one excited entity, talking to each other about how many times they’ve seen the band over the years. The same conversation is literally spilling across the floor until the chant of, “LBC! LBC!” fills the air.

By the end of the first song, the crowd is completely drenched in sweat and spilled beer; every single word being sung back to the stage. This sets the stage for the entire night: nonstop jumping, dancing and singing. While I’ve heard these songs played many times by the band, there was an extra energy in the air. Everyone knows that Throwing the Game is the main reason most everyone fell loyally in love with the band and LBC are vividly aware of how important the record is to their fans.

Tiny details are a part of the set to help this feel like an authentic experience of Throwing the Game, such as the full-blown salsa-jazz breakdown in “Not About Debra”, complete with saxophone solo and maracas while the pit shifted from jumping and moshing to dancing, or at least as much as was possible in the cramped conditions of the floor. “40/80”, a song about hiding weed from the cops, was complimented by a fake cop on stage, saying the lines that pop up between verses in the song; “I can smell it, but I sure can’t find it”.

As the lyrics shift from crooning punk to brash, lightning quick rap, the entire crowd knows each line and provides the backup gang vocals while singer Stubhy Pandav plows ahead. These aren’t just songs, they’re the soundtrack to a generation of young adults still finding their own way in the world. Lyrics like those from “Saturday Night” carry an extra weight as the pit opens up, “This room is like a bottle, it’s never full enough”.

Vocalist Stubhy Pandav paced the stage like an expert, owning every inch. Drummer Ryan Fergus blasted away, swaying the tempo of grueling punk beats. Guitarists Adam Krier and Jason Schultejann, also of their incredible side/ main project AM Taxi, crunched out their power chords, easily shifting from punk to ska. As is Adam’s signature style, even in the sweltering body heat and the seeping sweat, he incredibly played the entire show in a leather jacket.

LBC

LBC

The final twenty minutes of the concert though, was a plethora of crowd favorites to close out the night, with Stubhy briefly walking to the side of the stage, only to return with a bottle of Jack Daniels that he chugged. One of the bands’ oldest songs, the appropriately titled “LBC”, made a surprise appearance as one of the hidden gems to celebrate the occasion. Although not one of their most well-known songs, a majority of the crowd knows each word enough to be heard singing over the sound of the music.

“Hey Driver” sent the entire venue into a last minute fury of fist pumps and falling sweat, only to act as the precursor to the finale of their signature cover of Dramarama’s “Anything, Anything”, a guitar heavy song that has Stubhy showing his full vocal range.

Throwing the Game could possibly be one of the biggest records that no one has heard, save for the Chicagoland area. It’s such a large part of people’s lives that it brought out the older crowd that most bands would kill to have, partying and jumping until early in the morning without losing a drop of energy. What could have been just another sold out show for a band that comes around every few months turned into a celebration for the songs that have ingrained themselves into the city itself.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.