Brooklyn punk rockers the So So Glos have had a busy 2013. They released the energy filled album “Blowout,” re-issued their early out-of-print records and have been touring nonstop. On Friday, Oct. 25 they will be playing a sold-out show at Chicago's Metro with Conor Oberst's reunited band Desaparecidos. We got a chance to chat with the So So Glos' vocalist/bassist Alex Levine about “Blowout,” the Shea Stadium and what fans can expect from Friday's show.
How's the tour been going so far?
Pretty good. We just picked up with Desaparecidos, but we've been on tour for about two months before that. Now this new tour brings new energy.
How did you team up with Conor Oberst and Desaparecidos for this part of the tour?
To tell you the truth, I'm not 100 percent sure. I know that somehow Conor got ahold of our record and I think he became a fan of it, so when it came time to tour, they wanted to take us. It's been amazing.
I'm not surprised that he loves the album. It's an easy album to love.
To have his respect is just phenomenal, you know.
Definitely. What I really liked about the record is that you were able to capture that punk rock, rage against the powers that be, sound while incorporating uplifting and empowering elements. How do you find that balance?
I think a lot of that comes through subtext and not just lyrical subtext, but musical subtext as well. A lot of the themes are pretty dark and sometimes depressing and I think there's an embedded optimism in all of the songs. There are pretty pop songs, so that dichotomy is kind of like, really bitter sweet and that's my favorite kind of music. You can have a dark song that is about your world feeling like it's falling apart hung over a really happy, catchy melody- running through that. That can kind of, I don't know, check a little light on it. It makes it a little more optimistic. Even though the world is crumbling all around you, you still want to get up and fight it. That's what punk rock is all about.
You guys really captured that with “Wrecking Ball” and I really liked the short film that you made as the video, incorporating great cinematography and an awesome fight sequence. How did that concept come about?
We just wanted to show kind of a contrast, with the song there is a lot of heavy stuff in there, so we wanted to make a fun film to set that off. We took a lot of inspiration from a film like “Warriors” with that gang kind of mentality. Being in Coney Island, waking up and having to rescue one of our band mates and being able to complete the pack at the end kind of thing... I don't know how much, that is close to the actual song “Wrecking Ball,” but we wanted to make it action packed.
I was hoping you could talk a little bit about Shea Stadium. That seems like a really innovative club. How did you get involved with that?
That came about awhile ago. Our oldest friend and producer who's name is Adam Reich, he produces all of our records and he's currently on tour with us right now, playing some keyboard stuff and some samples that we put in the record. It's his brain child and he basically came to us when he started it out and asked us for our help. Helping to build it out and helping to run it because we had some knowledge of the DIY scene in New York and we had started another venue called the Market Hotel before that. So, we got involved with that and he's our oldest friend. It's basically family so that kind of environment was brought about at the Shea Stadium, that fun loving, Brooklyn family type thing. Shea Stadium is a recording studio, but it's basically a public recording studio slash DIY art space. All of the shows are archived online and if you go to liveatsheastadium.com it's all there.
Do you have a favorite live at Shea Stadium recording?
I don't know. It's really hard to pick. So many really great bands have come through and they've all come up from such different places. It's really cool to just go in there and go through the archives. You can find so many of your favorite bands that have played there.
You guys are coming up here to Chicago this Friday to play Metro.
That's going to be great, I love Metro.
Metro is my favorite venue in the city. What can fans expect from the show?
I think fans should expect to have a good old party. I think people should come to our shows ready to engage and ready to participate in a conversation and ready to just wile out. We bring that kind of early hip hop party vibe that is a little bit demanding to the show. What we really want is to get the kids to put their cell phones away and get down with the social boat.
I would love that as well.
It's tough now-a-days.
Definitely, anytime you go to a show it's a sea of cell phones.
Cellphones and so we are competing with all of the world's information right there. People just abuse that so much.
Has that changed how you perform live at all?
Yeah, yeah so I guess people should expect me to call them out. I think a lot of the record, a lot of the songs, some of the lyrical content on “Blowout” deals with that theme of over saturation, over exposure to technology and communication driving someone crazy and the fact that we have so much communication, but we don't really have a generational voice. We have all these conditions socially geared through screens, but we're still not really talking to each other or looking at each other in the eyes. So we're a bit distant from that. It's definitely a theme in our music and on the new record “Blowout” there's a big explosion of emotion and broken cell phones.
Do you have any favorite places to visit here in Chicago when you're in town?
We love Chicago. Our guitarist Matt's mom is from Chicago and his girlfriend too, so it's like his second city. He's in love with the city. So, we've got a bunch of friends in town and I won't say that the pizza's better, but the hot dogs are definitely, probably better. I don't eat the hot dogs, but we love Chicago man. It's all respect. Much respect to the city of Chicago.
You guys are wrapping up your tour in November. What's next for the So So Glos?
We're going to just continue to tour out for the rest of the year and then we're going to L.A. to do another little west coast run and hopefully we'll just keep going into the spring. And then, who knows? I can't say. It's really hard to think more than three months in advance. We're just going to keep going.
Do you have any advice for musicians who are just starting out?
Stay hungry, stay alive, keep going and get involved, get active.