Right now, Chicago’s garage and punk scene is undergoing a renaissance, spurred by an exciting and talented crop of bands including The Orwells, Twin Peaks and White Mystery. But another band at the center of the movement is Flesh Panthers, a four piece making catchy, fuzzy punk rock. Loud, grimy, and irrepressibly youthful, the band is doing right by the lineage of lo-fi garage rock. We sat down with them – Michael on drums, Nick on guitar, Lucas the bassist, and guitarist/vocalist Ryan – to talk about what’s happening in Chicago’s DIY scene and how it compares to the scene in other cities. We also discussed their back catalog, the creation of their forthcoming LP, and of course their new single “Static,” which was recorded exclusively for LoudLoopPress.com by our own Damian Wiseman, and is available for free download at the conclusion of this post and/or can be streamed in the Bandcamp sidebar to the right.
LLP: You guys are one of the bands at the forefront of the Chicago DIY scene, which is exploding right now. Why do you think the scene is experiencing such a boom?
Ryan: Because everybody’s fucking broke. [Laughs] And everybody wants to have a good time, and when you go out to a club, you don’t necessarily get to have a good time. It’s a lot better to just go hang out at someone’s house and bring your own beer. I feel like it [the scene] polices itself, nobody gets too fucking crazy. At a bar people just get crazy, but not in a good way.
Lucas: At someone’s house or a DIY space, everyone who’s going to go there is going there for the exact same reason, whereas at a bar or a club people go out, they want to have a good time, but it’s a different thing from going to a DIY space. It’s a different atmosphere.
Ryan: You can bring your own booze, you don’t have to stand in line. It’s way more laid back.
Lucas: It’s easier to meet people, whereas at a bar, it’s weird to walk up to somebody. If you’re at a “party” it’s less weird to just walk up to somebody to be like “hey what’s up?”
Ryan: And then there’s the other half of it. Putting your own stuff out, doing tapes and shit like that. And part of that is also economic reasons, it’s just cheaper to put stuff on tapes and it doesn’t take as long. You can just record it yourself for free and then put it out on tape for like, a hundred dollars for a hundred tapes. At that point, do you even care if anyone buys it? [laughs].
LLP: I was at Distractions/Distortions when you guys played, and there was a definite buzz among the crowd as you got ready to go on. How do you feel about that?
Ryan: I think when people go out to a show, they want to see something that’s exciting. You’re not just getting up there and playing guitar for yourself, you’re doing it so people have fun.
Lucas: We’re trying to have a good time, we’re trying to make everyone have a good time.
Ryan: When you leave your house to go out, you don’t want to be disappointed by somebody just staring up there, who doesn’t give a shit.
Michael: We’re just trying to have a good time with all our friends.
Nick: I think it’s because we play a lot [laughs]. I think there are a lot of bands that are equally as popular, and gaining momentum, we just play pretty frequently, maybe more so than other bands. I think we have eight shows in May.
Michael: We’re also really good at partying [laughs].
LLP: I’m sure that helps.
Michael: Yeah that helps.
Ryan: Yeah like, going out to other people’s shows and being a part of it.
LLP: What’s the reasoning behind playing so many shows?
Lucas: I keep reading online “don’t play more than once a month and invite everyone to that one show.” And so we’re like “no! Fuck that!” There’s no such thing as over saturation. We’re gonna be out there if you wanna come out and party with us.
Michael: Basically we’re just a touring band that’s too broke to tour.
LLP: You did just complete an east coast tour though, correct?
Ryan: It was 11 days.
LLP: While you were touring, did you get a sense for how the DIY scene there compares to Chicago’s?
Ryan: I feel like on the east coast, people don’t rely as heavily on Facebook, it seemed like there were way more flyers. Maybe I just imagined it. [laughs].
Lucas: We definitely played a handful of both DIY spaces and bars. This was our first tour and it was obvious that the DIY spaces were better attended than the bars. Regardless of the city, it’s easier to get people to come out [to a DIY space] for something, especially for an unknown band, rather than a bar, where it’s harder unless you’ve been through town before.
Ryan: It has more of an “underdog” feel and people want to take care of these traveling people.
Nick: I think one thing that felt the same is how everyone treats touring bands. Here in Chicago we take pride in making sure they get paid first, that they get the most money. If that means we don’t take money home, we don’t care. To see that reciprocated is cool.
LLP: You guys just put out a tape in February, can you talk about that?
Michael: It was cool. Dumpster Tapes is awesome.
Ryan: Dumpster Tapes is rad!
Michael: They put everything together really well, it was cool.
Lucas: All 50 cassettes were hand numbered and hand decorated with little stars and polka dots. We were like “that’s awesome!” They went above and beyond.
LLP: Obviously it’s very short, did you accomplish what you were hoping to do with the tape?
Lucas: Yeah, totally. We just thought of it as an EP.
Michael: We could only do 15 minutes, that’s how long the tapes were.
LLP: Some of the songs were taken from a previous tape.
Ryan: Yeah, and we did “Poppers” for Chica-go-go, so that was almost a year old, or like, half a year old. We didn’t always know we were going to put it all together, it wasn’t planned out. Two other songs were from a 7” session, so they were going to be unreleased.
LLP: What’s next for the band in terms of new music?
Ryan: We’re working on an LP. We’re putting songs together for that.
LLP: Where are you in the process?
Nick: Somewhere in the middle [laughs].
Ryan: We’ve started for sure [laughs]. Everything is written.
Nick: As far as recording we have at least seven songs. It’s a lot different because we’re used to doing short spurts of recording, and we’re still kind of doing that, but we’re trying to make it one cohesive record.
Lucas: And it’s all stuff that hasn’t been released, so we’re not cherry picking songs, per se.
LLP: How does the writing and recording process compare to that of the tapes?
Ryan: We’re definitely paying more attention to the nuances, even though it’s still going to be simple punk rock. Hopefully it’ll be really cool.
LLP: How does the new material compare to your older stuff musically?
Ryan: It’ll be exactly the same [laughs].
LLP: Finally, can you talk about “Static,” the single you recorded for us?
Lucas: Uhh….we knew that we were going to do this thing with ya’ll, and so we wanted to do something new, and not just take a song that we’d already been playing. This song is brand new.
Michael: We wrote it for Loud Loop.
Lucas: We thought we’d do something cool and fast.
Ryan: I wanted to do a song in drop D, because I thought it would be cool to do something heavier.