Nest lead vocalist Stephanie Maieritsch walked over to me, wearing the friendliest smile I’ve ever seen, as I waited in the Old Town School of Folk Music lobby at Lincoln Square. She recognized me instantly from my Gmail image alone.
“The rest are kind of shy,” she said of her band mates, adding that they were still setting up their practice room, and that they likely wouldn’t approach me like she had.
Drummer Noah Vandercook, bassist Eric Unger and Maieritsch all work at Old Town School, which is where they met. Guitarist and child psychiatrist Tommy Owley was classmates with Maieritsch in a post-punk rock ensemble class at Old Town School.
I could sense the collective shyness as I walked into the room alongside Maieritsch, interrupting their preparation. But the band’s overall attitude seems content, and that they are doing what’s right for their souls. Old Town School has a beautiful atmosphere, just right for an up-and-coming band like Nest. They have only been touring the city for the past year.
The adjective, “down-to-earth” doesn’t do this band justice, as they are far more than that. They are caring of each other, and as Maieritsch described her band mates, “not jerks.” That’s in reference to the singer’s ex-husband, whose pessimism toward her passion for music and starting a band inspires some of her song lyrics.
While Maieritsch develops the foundation for Nest’s songs, Owley, Vandercook and Unger contribute their visions when the group meets for practice. However, an Oswego, New York native, and only non-Chicago native of the band, Unger explained to me what he loves about Chicago music. Its “subtlety, musicianship and group dynamics” inspire his contributions to Nest songwriting.
“I’ve always been obsessed with music that came out of Chicago and labels” like, “Drag City, Kranky, Touch and Go, Thrill Jockey…when I was in high school, the post-rock scene was coming out of Chicago…with emphasis on instrumentals and not about solos, not about like, kind of bombastic stuff,” said Unger.
That bombastic stuff is what Owley referred to as “noodling around,” which the band replaces with carefully crafted guitar parts, staying true to the pop genre.
The bassist moved to Chicago right after college so he could get a taste for something new, like many new recent graduates do. But, he also wanted to be a part of a friendly, urban environment, a change from the small town in which he was raised and “stuck.”
“My favorite part about Chicago is – there’s egos anywhere you go – but I think that it’s not so hard to do stuff here if you want to – if you want to write music, if you want to be an artist. Everything is kind of treated equally, especially in music,” he said.
Unger speaks to Chicago venues like The Empty Bottle, or the House of Blues, popular for hosting a diverse range of genres of music. The band agreed that Chicago caters to musicians who want to form bands and grow together, without competing against one other.
In fact, the word, “community,” was a prominent theme in my meeting with Nest, and that’s exactly what you will feel at its Schubas Tavern show Wednesday night. You will likely see Maieritsch crack a smile more than once as she sings of triumph, not only from a detrimental past relationship, but of the satisfaction of being in a group with common goals and similar personalities.
That’s just one element I observed when Nest practiced “Bright” and “Uncovered” in front of me. Those are both songs from their forthcoming album, Mother’s Knife. But Maieritsch is most excited to bring you “Lullaby” as it makes its debut at Schubas.
“We’re going to pour our hearts into that one on Wednesday. We can’t wait to hear what happens when we perform it with the immediacy and energy that a live audience brings,” she shared.
Pay attention to the lyrics and the wavy patterns of dynamics Nest presents Wednesday, as the title, Mother’s Knife, connotes empowerment. “It’s cutting away from something that you loved, but sucks you dry…talking about…my marriage and that I was the caretaker in the relationship,” said Maieritsch.