Another beautiful, spine-tingling band will be joining us Thursday at Schubas Tavern. Cigarettes After Sex is vocalist and guitarist Greg Gonzalez, keyboardist Phillip Tubbs, bassist Randy Miller and drummer Jacob Tomsky. This band creates sounds so visceral to me that only a select few other bands have ever fostered. And I can’t wait to be among the crowd Thursday evening, when this band riles us up, both with music from I., Affection and K., and with its new tracks.
“It’s completely amazing,” Gonzalez said of the typical Cigarettes After Sex audience. “I feel the music is so calm and sedate, and very often – especially in Europe – crowds will be enthusiastically yelling a lot, clapping and shouting along to songs. It’s what I wanted, though.” Gonzalez highlighted a time when fainting and overload of emotions at Michael Jackson concerts was prevalent.
While music like that of Cigarettes After Sex typically inspires activity within my tear ducts, I’m curious to see how a Chicago crowd will react after hearing from Gonzalez. Oftentimes, falling in like or in love with another human being doesn’t consist of sentimental phrasing every time we’re together with that person. From my observations, it’s after the romance has ended that emotions flood and moral values become questioned, inspiring music that’s slow and intimate to the vest.
But Gonzalez sings for both kinds of love – the achieved, and the lost. “I’d like them to feel love,” he said of his listening audience, and Cigarettes After Sex has achieved exactly that feeling within me.
When I asked Gonzalez why he chose the metaphor, “Baby I’m a firefighter trapped in a burning house in a silent picture/ and there is no way out except to watch the love between us die,” in “I’m A Firefighter,” he explained that he was in the midst of two losses at the time. “I had a friend who tragically passed away at the same time I was going through a very painful break-up from someone I loved, and deeply took for granted. I think I felt the image suited me because I felt like I was going through so much pain that I sort of had to give up. I needed to die and come back to life different.”
Cigarettes After Sex has musical influences spanning from Francoise Hardy, to Bob Dylan, to Erik Satie to Miles Davis, a mix Gonzalez calls magical, gentle, ancient, modern and an evolution of sound. The band’s own sound can be heard in this marriage, from smoky French vocals to soft, evocative piano.
The collaboration that brings together these visceral sounds consists of Phillip Tubbs, whose keyboards Gonzalez says “brings a lush element to the band as if he’s some faraway symphony playing in the distance. Jake Tomsky plays the most simple, swaying unadorned drums, and there’s truly no one that plays like him. Randy Miller brings a lot of the dynamics and movement to the music. He’s the one that really controls the energy of each song. And my voice and guitar give the melody and the story to each song, maybe.”
Another reason why I cannot wait to hear this band play live: the chills I feel crawling up my torso when I hear songs like, “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby.” The steady build-up of the song, created by each facet, each instrumentalist and Gonzalez himself. One of the bands the feeling Cigarettes After Sex reminds me of is The Smiths, whose song, “How Soon Is Now?” reminds me of a train chugging slowly along its track.
Tomsky’s drums bring that passion that sounds like the ticking of a clock that just keeps ticking, but with no time limit. It’s impatient and that’s what brings the music such passion, and sometimes sadness. The crowds are likely celebratory of the band’s ability to evoke every last audience member’s emotions from one time or another.
Gonzalez referred to a Latvia festival crowd whose energy put Cigarettes After Sex in a euphoric place. “The crowd was the wildest we had seen at that point, and it felt like everyone was going crazy at the slightest movements any of us made on stage. After we played, we stood by the stage and literally gave hugs one-by-one to a huge line of people. Later, still so high off of the love we had just been given, we all stared off and laughed into this sort of endless sunset at the nearby beach. It was Heaven,” he said.
It’s an exchange of that feeling of Heaven when listening to the band’s recorded tracks, and I am elated that I have the opportunity to see this new, but successful band live Thursday at Schubas Tavern.