Interviews

Concert Preview: Molehill Circles Back to Its Hometown

The Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz has invited Molehill to play a festival in Toronto, The Outlaw Roadshow. But you have the chance to see these virtuosos live first on Saturday at my personal favorite Chicago music venue, Schubas Tavern, as they perform Tin God.

Photo Credit: Cory Dewald

Photo Credit: Cory Dewald

Molehill bassist Trevor Jones will be showcasing his talent in Toronto for the first time since his high school days as a bassist in his school choir. But he’s proud to say that this performance with Molehill follows six consecutive years together. In fact, having been able to stay united is one of the areas in which Jones feels most accomplished.

That’s in reference to a recently common theme of breakups among Chicago bands.

Molehill is a business, just as much as it is a passion. Jones spoke of coordinating the upcoming Schubas show, for which the band mates were in search of a band to perform with. “We were looking for another local band in Chicago…and there must have been five bands in a row that Peter and I were like, ‘we should check in with those guys,’ – broken up.”

Jones even likened participating in a band to taking on a committed relationship. “When issues come up, you try your best to address them head on…you be respectful to each other, their thoughts and you try to be inclusive of everyone,” he said. Part of the success of Molehill in cooperating comes from delegating tasks to one another, especially considering that each one of its members works full-time jobs.

“It’s like dating three other dudes,” he joked. And reading between the lines is an issue the band has decided to circumvent, though the band mates built a thread of 300 e-mails that concerned only one song. Jones said the band has considered enclosing that thread in the liner notes of the upcoming release, also adding that daily phone calls will likely be replacing e-mails going forward in the creative process.

Another important element that keeps the band together is delegating those tasks externally by pooling together their hard-earned money as individuals. Without being specific, Molehill has seen failure in its choice of outside sources. A peaked level of stress has challenged the band to sustain a strong relationship.

Jones emphasized Spotify as one of the media through which he would like to see Molehill’s success. In the past, the band has utilized a radio campaign to have its name and music heard, bringing it to ponder the actual outcome.

“We got played for six consecutive weeks at the largest FM station in Vegas, but what does that mean? Did we get played for six weeks in a row, did we get played six times and was it at two a.m?” He said, breaking down the lucrativeness of the business of being in a band.

But when it comes to the music and tenacity of the band itself, I think the universe will somehow give the last push to make profits. When I first met Molehill, I was a junior at University of Illinois at Chicago, working as a DJ for UIC Radio. Jones approached me, wondering if he could join me for an interview, and I was immediately hooked on the music of Molehill.

The band is similar to Muse, one of my favorites. Although my obsession with Muse has calmed over the years, I still marvel at the similarities every time I listen to a Molehill song again.

Similarities between Molehill and Muse – and many, if not all, musical artists – is that the band explores common themes like love, death and the corporate world. I wanted to pick Jones’s brain on how his band represents these matters in its own way. Molehill frontman Peter Manhart answered my question with emphasis on the theme of corporate America. Manhart’s day job is in finance and the reason he chooses to highlight it in his music is due to his fear of it “rotting my own soul,” referring to it as “the strongest drug on Earth.”

Manhart’s objective in writing about the corporate world is that, “Not only am I trying to tell our audience that money and power should not be their goals in life, but I think that I am trying to remind myself of these things as well.” When it comes to love and death, death is the theme that hits home most for Manhart, having lost his father at the age of six.

Manhart hopes to achieve a sense of community and a safe space with his lyrics. “I think it is important to describe real situations like this sometimes, and try to confront this reality, and let people know that they aren’t alone and that a lot of people suffer in similar ways,” he said.

And when the band performs Saturday, it wants you to recognize the genuineness of its stage presence. At Martyrs’ last March, Manhart strolled through the crowd mid-set to perform “Two Souls” atop a bar.

Jones said, “You have to be aware of your audience. We have a lot of the same people who come out for our Chicago shows. If you do something every time where people know when it’s coming, it becomes less special.” Though Molehill has enjoyed playing music festivals like Musikfest and Summerfest, Jones said his favorite city in which to perform is Chicago.

At Schubas, Molehill will be watching you as you watch it. Jones alluded to the Martyrs’ show in March as one of his favorite shows in recent memory. He identified spectators who were too shy to belt the lyrics, but passionate enough about the music to mouth the words.

Jones said, “That’s kind of cool because it’s like, oh, wow, they’ve listened to this song multiple times…but a lot of the times you can’t even tell what people are thinking from the stage. They’re just kind of looking at you. You’re like, ‘Do they absolutely hate this right now that they want to leave?’ You sometimes think that, along with lots of crazy thoughts, and then they come and buy, like, $50 worth of merch from you.”

Molehill is a group of positive outlooks and thick skin. Join the band as it tells its own unique stories, and be sure to pay attention to the lyrics Saturday at 10 p.m. at Schubas Tavern (3159 N. Southport Ave.) for just $10, 21+.

 

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