Exclusive 10 After Interview with Sidewalk Chalk

The proverbial “fusion sound” is one that is elusive in music today but Chicago-based band, Sidewalk Chalk, presents a masterfully crafted sound that is the exception to this fusion deficit. Weaving intricate pieces from brass, keys, and guitar harmonies with the vocals of both Rico Sisney and Maggie Vagle, Sidewalk Chalk balances delicate melody with energy from the hip hop and rock elements of their sound.  The combination of dichotomous sounds illuminates the depth of their poetic lyrics – often discourse about social issues. The enchanting riffs mirror their musical and poetic purpose.

Sidewalk Chalk 2

We stopped by Sidewalk Chalk’s most recent show in Detroit at the Northern Lights Lounge and asked them some questions about their tour, Chicago, and their upcoming album.

How did Detroit compare to the rest of the tour?

Rico Sisney: “It was great.  Detroit is definitely one of the cities that we look forward to every single time.  And this is the first time we’ve played at not a jazz club.  The places we play at are dope, but normally they are kind of a sit down, have a nice dinner, relaxed feel, but this is just like people were clearing tables to make a dance floor.”

Charlie Coffeen: “It’s kind of like a sixth sense now where we can walk into a place and tell it’ll be a good one, and it was like that tonight.  As soon as we came in, it was just good energy.”

What has been your favorite moment of the tour thus far?

Charlie: I think Montreal for me.  Montreal felt like Europe, like a whole other thing.  We got shut down at the border the last time we went to Montreal, so this time we made it across and got to play a show.  They were so receptive, kinda like this, it was just different.  As soon as we walked in the door we knew it was going to be a good show.

Rico:  “I think mine was Princeton.  We played at Princeton, New Jersey at an Eden club, which I didn’t even know existed.”

Charlie: “Like a fraternity without all of extra stuff”

Rico: “Like a frathouse where you aren’t afraid of blue drinks.  It was dope and the energy was awesome and the sound was surprisingly good considering it wasn’t really a venue at all.”

Charlie: “They were so rowdy from the beginning”

You have such an array of sounds and yet it’s so synchronous, so in tune.  What do you think is that thing you all share that blends it so well?

Rico: “I think it helps that for all of us this is our thing.  It’s no one’s ‘oh I play in this group,’ it’s ‘this is my group.’  I think that goes along way and there’s a lot that could never have been accomplished if that wasn’t the mindset.  And I think a willingness to leave space for everyone else – nobody feels like they have to do everything they know how to do on every song that we ever do, which is really nice.”

Charlie: “There’s also just a respect as adults that are creating music together, and maybe four or five years ago it may have been different.  To let you into our circle a little bit, there will be days where in the morning we will realize that ‘yo we  are not really clicking right now’ like we will get on the bus or grab some food and feel like something is weird right now, and we make sure we make it right so that that weirdness doesn’t happen at ten o’clock on a Saturday onstage.  There’s no other way to do it than to do it – to figure it out and make sure everyone is talking and creating together.  It’s a delicate thing, ya know, when figuring out how to communicate and create and coexist..  I think that’s it for me, just respecting each other and listening, being open.”

You guys were introduced at the beginning of the show as being a part of the “pulse of the city” (Chicago), what do you think some of those things are from Chicago that have inspired some of your sound?

Rico:  I think because Chicago is segregated, because Chicago is cold, because Chicago has crazy crime rates and crazy systemic issues, the artists there are so hungry to transcend all of that.  I helped start this artist collective called The Gala and its for all of these artists across the city – it’s poets, it’s musicians, it’s dancers, and it’s not the only one of its type.  There are a lot of things like that where people are just trying to connect.  I don’t think we really sound like any other group in Chicago that I know of, but the thing that is similar, I think, is an approach to say ‘this is us’ and allowing whatever it is to come together and come out in the music.  We don’t worry about what is already out there and trying to fit into a mold, because we don’t like all of the molds that there are to fit into.

What can we expect from Sidewalk Chalk in the future or on your upcoming album?

Charlie: “So we recorded a live album across seven cities, all cities like Detroit that we’ve come to and built up a relationship with the people there.  So as much as it was for us, it was for the people there – to say thanks for sticking with us and building us up.  So we recorded a bunch of brand new tunes in new cities, brought our own stuff and did our own thing and are kind of piecing together a new album from that, which will be released on Ropeadope records on February 3rd, 2015, and then we are going to tour.  We are kind of laying low in December and January and then we will put that out.  The sound of the album is kind of like the evolution of us.  That’s what we’ve been doing from the beginning.  The second album sounds like the evolution of the first, this one feels like the evolution of the second.  It’s just us in a room playing together and this time we just have a bunch of people to share it with.  So the idea of doing it was to get the feel of those cities and I think we did that.  Maybe not for everyone, but certain songs will feel like ‘ya that’s what Cincinatti felt like on that night or that’s what St. Louis felt like on that night and that’s giving back to them as much as it’s for us.  Those are people that have thrown down for us for like four years.  So we’re excited – there are some songs on there that are overdue that we wish we could put out today because of the story they tell, so we are getting that out as quick as we can.”

Check out Sidewalk Chalk’s newest album, Leaves:

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