The Fest has come to be a symbol of DIY culture, chaos, and community. It’s a community sustained on supporting people you love do what they love, so we can all do what we love: party, scream, and dance horribly to some amazing songs.
If coordinating a festival is anything like coordinating a house show, I can’t imagine the hellish torture of scheduling more two hundred punk bands over a three day weekend. The coordinators of The Fest are sadistic enough to put themselves through that pain yearly.
Now The Fest has come to be revered as that yearly reunion. It’s where you escape to over Halloween weekend to reconnect with your old pals and meet some new friends. Festivals like The Fest rejuvenate our tiny community. Things might not be perfect and we have to work hard to keep this going, but when we do work together, when two hundred bands flock to this tiny city, it’s a blast. That’s why we do it.
I got a chance to talk Andy Hendricks (Vocals and Guitar), Joe Henderer (Bass and Vocals), and Corey Willis of What Gives and I can’t think of a more perfect embodiment of the good-time feels of DIY culture than What Gives. They radiate that punk-rock euphoria and love for the scene. As Joe Henderer puts it What Gives is, “a band of compliments and high fives!”
Corey describes the shitty shows, lack of pay, lack of sleep that goes into running or living in a punk house. “it all comes fully realized when you’re there together and you’re like, “Wow, this is so much bigger than any of us.’”
What Gives wouldn’t exist without the tight-knit community that we have. Two years ago, the five piece were scattered across the country in Colorado, Ohio, and Chicago. They knew of each other through friends of friends who raved about their individual talents. One by one, through personal reasons or flickers of DIY fate, they moved to Chicago.
Their debut self-titled EP is a powerful collection of toe-tapping guitar hooks and sweet pop vocals. Through the chaos of noisy guitars and synthesizer, Andy and Joe showcase their catchy anthemic vocals.
You can grab a special edition of their debut EP on cassette at The Fest next weekend. The EP includes an extra special cover of “Soak Up the Sun” by Sheryl Crow, which is available to stream below.
Joe: It is the best time.
Andy: It is the best time.
Joe: I’ve gone the past eight years, this is my ninth time. All your best friends, from all over the world, invade a city.
Andy: I feel like when I go down there, I see every band from Chicago.
I’ve never gone, so I can’t attest to this, but I’ve heard from other people that fest has taken a different sound in the last couple of years. Do you agree with that?
Joe: Well, you’ve got to change things up. Music is always a constant progression so you can’t have the same lineup every year. Of course the lineup has changed. Whether that’s a positive or negative is subjective. I loved the people who work down there. They’ve always treated my band well – and they do it for the right reasons. He only books bands that he likes. He’s booking like three hundred bands so if you can’t find something to listen to there, that’s probably your fault.
Andy: When we started going down with Annabel, I felt like there were a lot of punk bands and our band was more indie. I didn’t know how we fit in, but over the years I saw that it didn’t matter. Everyone was having a great time and all the shows are good. I like that it’s a well rounded fest.
So, I’m from Austin so my local “fest” is SXSW, which theoretically gives hundreds of bands an opportunity to play to new crowds. How do you think Fest relates to SXSW and the experience there?
Corey: It’s so big. It’s too big. Fest is just a bunch of different bars that have shows and a few large venues, and one parking lot with a big stage. It feels more like friends just hanging out than the corporate feeling of SXSW.
Joe: I feel like the whole vibe of SXSW is bands trying to get discovered, or people that are brought out there to market talent whereas the goal of Fest is to maybe get drunk and sleep in a bush. I think they are too totally different aims. I think they both have their perks, I’m not trying to talk down on SXSW. I think for bands like us, Fest is more fitting.
Andy: I feel like everytime I go to southby it’s so stressful. There’s so many shows and they’re all free and people are just rushing around. That stresses me out. Fest is so chill.
Seth (http://www.sethengel.org/) tweeted about this new LP being “The summer album of the world’s life,” do you agree with that? Do you think it’s an accurate description of the sound?
Joe: Marcus coined it as smile rock. I think that goes hand in hand with summer. Summer is the best time of the year, especially if you live in Chicago. Weather is such a burden but summer rolls around and you’re like, “YEEEEEEAHHHHH!!” And a lot of these songs were written to focus on positivity. A lot of the lyrics are very intentionally written to have a positive outlook, even if it’s a negative thing.
Corey: I think that we have so much fun together whether it’s playing or hanging out that that naturally comes through the guitar sounds or the drum beat or a bass riff, or Marcus’ drums, a keyboard part or even a vocal melody. That just comes through naturally.
Andy: The working / Unofficial / official title that we have right now is “Feels Good” that’s just something that we’d tell each other throughout recording, “Yeah man, it feels good.” That’s just sticking – it feels good. We’re playing songs that we feel comfortable with and that resonates with all of us.
You’re all coming from different projects, was this the first time you’d recorded with Seth ?
Andy: No, we did the EP with Seth as well. Our practice space is right across from his old studio so it made sense to do it there, but now he’s moved to Bridgeport. I think we’re the first band to do an LP at that studio and it’s turning out really awesome. He’s super collaborative. He’ll bat some ideas and shape the recording.
Joe: I can’t speak highly enough about Seth and how he guided the whole record. A lot of patience and good ear. He never got frustrated.
The EP has a bit of a 90’s pop sound. Is that coming from guitar effects?
Andy: Not really. With the EP I just used a lot of overdrive. Now, with the LP I added a big muff and a chorus pedal. I keep it pretty minimal. Now that [this dude] works at Chicago Music Machine there’s some more pedals I’m looking at.
Corey: There’s some pretty cool things, but from an outside perspective I think that’s why I liked the EP so much, it was very catchy and didn’t need weird effects
Andy: It was more focused on songwriting and that crunchy tone. Now we’ve developed our sound a little more –
Joe: Flare! We’ve got Flare! We’ve got streamers and sparklers.
If you had to choose a track that was most special to you on this upcoming LP, which one would it be and why?
Joe: Definitely “Feels Good” (laughs)
Andy: I totally agree. We’ve been playing half of them for probably a year and the older half for more than a year, so I’m excited to see how they come to fruition. We have this one track that ends in a “Yeah, Alright!” and it was a blast.
Joe: Sounds like Piebald.
Corey: There’s a lot of really cool harmonies that I heard Joe, Marcus, and Andy singing that just came together for me. Not even stylistically, just how well these three locked in together.
Andy: I think one of the most exciting things is that because we have three vocalists, I’m never bored. I think it keeps the songs interesting
Joe: There’s room to build things out. It’s fun. There’s a lot going on in this.
Seems like there’s a lot of late 90’s early 2000’s influence that’s going on with the Boys 2 Men, and Slime Time references –
Andy: I listen to a lot of 90’s Pop. I love Carly Rae Jepson and the new Bieber record.
Joe: Yeah! I learned how to play Wrecking Ball on guitar two days ago. It’s a great pop song.
Yeah, I think there’s something to say about doing pop well. Literally every part of the song is tailored towards making you want the next resolution and then it delivers on that resolution perfectly. Have you been listening to a lot of pop songs collectively to write the record?
Joe: I always listen to a lot of soul music. I got really into these Numero Records. They basically resurrect these funk labels and put new vibes, and
Corey: I think we all agree on that new Tancred record.
Everyone collectively: Oh, Yeah!
Andy: I like a lot of the new fuzzier bands like Rozwell Kid.
Joe: The new Pup is so good.
Andy: Yeah, I like that sound, but with What Gives I want to take it and make it a little poppier.
Corey: I listen to a lot of Thin Lizzy, and that definitely helped when I was trying to write a harmony with Andy’s guitar.
Was there a definitive moment or person that attracted you to the DIY community?
Joe: For me, the DIY community is the only real way I’ve done thing. Starting from my first band in high school, which was terrible. You go out and support your other friends, which were probably also not very good and that’s the only way I know how music works – Putting out your own records, supporting like minded individuals and hopefully they support you back. At this point, I’ve spent half my life doing this and I can’t picture my life outside of it.
Andy: For me, it was my friend scotty who played in annabel. I would go out and watch Annabel and I was always so impressed that this friend of mine that was younger than me could do so much and have so much fun with music. He invited me on a weekend to hang out with Annabel. I inevitably ended up joining. He took me to a DIY house that’s been running for like ten years, in Akron and I moved to a DIY house in Cleveland. When you fully immerse yourself into something that brings you so much happiness – why would you ever do anything else different?
Joe: When you go to your first house show and realize it’s so much more different than going to these big venues, you turn around and host your own. It’s this constant progression.
Corey: And, circling back to Fest, you see all these bands that come to your house or you play this city and slept on their couch. To fully realize all these connection you made or friends you’ve made throughout the year and all the places you’ve been regardless of these shitty shows, lack of pay, living in a punk house for a few years, it all comes fully realized when you’re there together and you’re like, “Wow, this is so much bigger than any of us.”
Joe: You quickly realize how special it is.
Andy: This band wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for those connections that you guys mentioned. When I moved to Chicago, everyone I knew was because of Annabel. I met Marcus on tour with Dowsing, he introduced me to Joe. Those connections have made a huge impact in my life overall. It’s crazy that we’re able to do that. We can see friends anywhere we go.
Corey: Just last night I saw Prawn and Tiny Moving Parts – We met the guys in Prawn on that first Annabel show which will be 7 years to the day tomorrow. It’s just so crazy. We just pick up right where we left off as friends.