Kids These Days taking success one step at a time
BY ROBERT LOERZEL
Kids These Days was a Chicago band attracting a lot of attention.
Kids These Days
♦ 9 p.m. Saturday, March 9
♦ Tickets, $15; (Those under 21 will be admitted if accompanied by a parent.)
♦ FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt Rd. Berwyn
♦ (708) 788-2118;
When Kids These Days first started attracting attention in 2011, they really were just kids.
The seven musicians in the band were finishing up high school when they landed a couple of prominent gigs that year, playing at Lollapalooza and the Hideout Block Party. Since then, they’ve released an album produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, but a lot of people would still call them kids.
But what do you call their music? There’s no simple answer to that question. Kids These Days, who play Saturday at FitzGerald’s, rambunctiously jump from hip-hop into soul and jazz or even a riff borrowed from Nirvana — sometimes within the span of one song. So what genre is Kids These Days?
“I don’t know, but I rap. And there’s horns,” says Vic Mensa, the group’s rapper. “We make all kinds of music. We make good music.”
The name of Kids These Days’ debut record, 2012’s “Traphouse Rock,” refers to the rehearsal studio where the musicians jam on a regular basis, a place they’ve affectionately nicknamed “The Trap.” But the title also serves pretty well as a description of the band’s joyful jumble of musical styles.
“It gets close to starting to tell someone what it is that we’re doing,” Mensa says. “It’s better than hip-hop/soul/jazz/funk/rock/blues, you know?”
Mensa and some of his bandmates attended Chicago’s Whitney Young High School, while others went to Lane Tech and Oak Park and River Forest High School. Most of them studied at the West Loop’s Merit School of Music.
Their next classroom after that was the Chicago band Wilco’s legendary loft studio, where Tweedy guided them through the process of arranging and recording songs.
“The Wilco loft was super cool,” Mensa says. “There was just a crazy wealth of gear and guitars and keyboards and instruments — not to mention that Jeff Tweedy is an amazing musician and producer and a great guy.”
Mensa says Tweedy encouraged the band to break down its songs to the individual parts played by each musician and then build the songs back up, seeking new ways of putting the parts together.
“I don’t know if he knows where he is going to end up with the idea, but (the songs) end up in crazy places,” Mensa says. “He’ll just to say to do something and since we trusted him and respected him a lot, we’d do it. We’d have no clue where this was going to take us.”
With all the press coverage that Kids These Days have been getting — and gigs including an appearance on “Conan” — the group probably could have landed a deal with a record label. But Kids These Days opted to release their album by themselves last fall. They’ve posted it on the www.kidsthesedaysband.com website as a free MP3 download.
“Record label stuff seems to take a long time,” Mensa says. “It takes the fire out. We had been working on ‘Traphouse Rock’ for a long time already and we wanted it to see the light of day.”
Now, the group is getting ready to record a new EP and is hitting the road to play concerts, including at the Coachella music festival in Indio, Calif., in April. “We’re happy with what’s going on and steadily trying to take it to the next level,” Mensa says.
Robert Loerzel is a local free-lance writer.