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A Conversation with Ray Pate, Owner and Founder of RPM Music

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fulfill your dream? Put all your money, time, and effort into something you really cared about? But then have it taken away? That’s what happened to Ray Pate, the owner of RPM Music.

For those who don’t know, RPM music opened in July of 2016 at 1839 Irving Park. Featuring a selection of vintage, and sometimes rare, copies of vinyl records, shopping at RPM felt like digging through a gold mine. You might pass through records you have never heard of before, records you’ve never seen before, and records you still jam to all the time but never had the physical copy.

In the past year, we here at WLUW have been lucky to partner with Ray and RPM Music a few times. The first: record store day 2018. WLUW staff members woke up early to head to RPM to table during business hours (which were extended due to the music lover’s favorite holiday) and stayed late to promote the station and RPM while Ray offered specific sales and had a variety of bands to come into the store and perform.

The other time we partnered with RPM was hosting our annual spring semester show. This past spring, we hosted one of our favorite local bands: The Hecks. From what seemed to be a very last-minute venue change (originally planned to be held at Ireland’s on Loyola’s Lakeshore campus), Ray let us use his store to host this show, decorate the ceiling and stacks with lights and WLUW merch. We are forever thankful to Ray and RPM for allowing us to host this event at his store.

When I heard about the situation Ray was in, I was devastated. Knowing how much Ray cares about his store, and how much work he put into making it become a successful business, I wanted to meet up with him and to talk to him more about what he was going through, and to share how people can help. Here is what he had to say:

 

Ray Pate:

I was in the bar business for 32 years. I bartended, managed, owned, did it all. And got out of that in 2010. Bounced around, doing different jobs, couldn’t find anything I liked, didn’t like working for anyone, so I opened a record store.

Paul Quinn:

Was that your first dive into retail of any sort?

RP:

Well, I never owned, but I did some research in retail. I actually worked in a couple of retail stores, so I could get the feel for it.

PQ:

Was it a dream of yours to open your own place?

RP:

The record store? Oh yeah, big time. I was waiting for vinyl to return, I knew it would. Because CDs never gave you the warmth, and the internet’s a joke. I mean, the music sounds terrible, and you lose the backup vocals, you lose the instruments, it’s just really bad.

PQ:

When you were thinking of opening the store, were you hesitant at first, were you nervous about owning something?

RP:

You’re always going to be nervous. So, of course I was nervous. I was basically putting everything I had in the world into it. But I felt confident, I still feel confident. I’ve taken my lumps, but I’ve learned a lot.

I fell behind on rent, and I was making weekly payments to catch up, and basically doing the best I could. And then clear out of the blue sky, the landlord called and said I had to give him everything, all at once, and I said I couldn’t do that. He just started making crazy threats saying he was going to put all my stuff on into the street. So, I called some lawyers, and called the city, and did everything I was supposed to do.

Then he turned off my electricity. He turned off my water.

I still operated. Basically, just trying to build up money to move to a new location. Which I have, so now I am sitting with two empty stores.

PQ:

Where is the new store at?

RP:

The new place is at 2026 Montrose.

PQ:

So, not too far from the previous location, right?

RP:

That was the plan: to stay in the area. I’ve made a lot of good connections in the area, a customer base was growing, and I wasted to accommodate to customers if I possibly could. I got really lucky and I fell into this location. Just don’t have it opened yet.

PQ:

Is there a timeframe of when you want it to be open?

RP:

As soon as possible. My issue is money. Which is why I have the GoFundMe to help my fight this battle with the old landlord and get the new store open. I’m out of work now, so I really need to get that store open. So, the GoFundMe is really important, and it’s going okay. If I can draw more attention to that…that would help a lot. There’s a lot more important causes, but, this is my cause, and this is all I got.

PQ:

Would you say RPM Music is your life?

RP:

Oh, it is. I’ve put every penny in the world I had into that store. And, when he seized my possessions, illegally, the police did nothing about it. There is a legal way for him to seize my property, but he has to go to court. He has to get a judge to sign off on it. He has to prove how much money I owe him…and he didn’t do any of them.

PQ:

What is the value on everything he seized?

RP:

It’s over $120,000 worth of stuff. That was all my money. Not to mention the fact he’s got my paperwork; my inventory sheets. He physically has all the files with the inventory of everything I had in the store, and he has all those files. He has all my files, he has checkbooks, he has deposit slips, he has tax records. He has things that he shouldn’t have.

The GoFundMe page, it’s not my last hope. It’s my only hope. I got really lucky having made some really nice connections, and I wanna get back to that. This is what I love doing, and I’m not going to give up the fight. I am trying to start over. I want to start over badly. It’s my job. It’s the only way I can eat. So, this is what I gotta do.

 

WLUW has been very fortunate to work with Ray and RPM music in the past year, and we would love to see us working with him in the future.

The GoFundMe can be found here.

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Halloween With Shannon & The Clams

Yes – Halloween was almost a week ago – we know – but we’d still like to tell you how some of us on the WLUW team spent this year’s All Hallows’ Eve. We got to spend the evening with surf-rock quartet Shannon and The Clams at the Thalia Hall for a Halloween bonanza featuring The Clams’ infectious brand of vintage garage style and a cavalcade of kooky rock ‘n’ roll characters: Dirty Fences, Escape-ism, and Nobunny. Are you familiar with the classic film Hocus Pocus? Well, remember the scene where Bette Midler and the other witches perform for the crowd of costumed adults who will not stop dancing? The show was a lot like that – details below!

ALSO: Keep an eye out for our pre-show interview with Shannon & The Clams!

 

Dirty Fences: Self proclaimed on bandcamp as “NYC’s Rock N Roll Hard Workin’ Band,” the band of long-haired, hard rocking gentleman opened the evening of high energy frivolity with a set of scuzzed-up rock ‘n’ roll reminiscent of the classics from the CBGB scene who once inhabited their city in the 1970s, but infused with a modern garage tone and sense of humor. They revved the venue up just enough with pummeling crunches of guitar distortion and festive costumes. 

Escape-ism: One of the stranger records of this year, but one of our favorites at WLUW has been Escape-ism’s The Lost RecordThis is a musical project of Ian Svenonius (XYZ, David Candy, Nation of Ulysses, etc.) that finds the mop-headed indie rock eccentric reciting snarling poetry and prose in front a backing of minimal synth beats and dissonant electronic boops – with his trademark lisp hidden from no one. Live at Thalia, it was him, big black hair, skinny black suit and tie hopping back and forth, to and fro, spouting his attitude laden, faux-politico lyrics, making sparks of noise from his right-handed guitar played upside down. He was joined by Alexandra, (who we had a very pleasant convo with at the merch table!), who manned the tiny synth, a tambourine once, and clapped a few times – she wore a black pantsuit. And that was it! And it was phenomenal. If you were to zoom a camera in on our group up in the balcony seats during this set, you’d have seen me leaning forward over my crossed legs my hand on my open jaw for the full 30 minutes or so staring at Ian Svenonius doing it absolutely correct. I’d never seen anything like it – I turned to Carolyn, WLUW MD, who arrived at the set’s tail end and summarized it - “That was f*****g insane.” 

Nobunny: I never thought I’d ever see Nobunny. He’s been around for a minute, prancing around the garage rock scene of the 21st Century in his legendary (at this point) tattered bunny mask, jumping around in leather skivvies, but in my mind he’s this enigma of the underworld of music who lurks in the shadows of the basements and bars of Chicago and emerges only late at night to scream into a microphone while his band kicks out the jams – yet there he was, on Halloween Night at Thalia Hall, though honestly I can’t think of a better setting for a Nobunny set. One fuzzed out garage punk song after the other, fast paced, every band member wore bunny ears, it was creepy and kind of grossly sexual at the same time but still rocked so hard. The head bunny – the Nobunny – did his thing, he pranced and jumped and screeched and sang and I’ve never heard a harder cover of Helter Skelter. 

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Now many times I’ve had the tendency to think that more than one opener at a show is too much but I’d say at this party, none of these openers were a bore, there was nothing tedious about their sets, it was just enough to get everybody, costumed or otherwise, excited and ready for the main event. Ian Svenonius creeped back onstage, hunched over pretending to wince at the spotlight on him. He addressed the audience consisting of aliens, skeletons and zombies, a mad scientist, a bat, a slice of pizza, bubble gum, and some bunnies. He recounted the night so far and then claimed “rock and roll used to be for the misfists, the outcasts…the NERDS!” and then out came Shannon and the Clams, dressed as nerds, complete with glasses and high-waisted pants.

Shannon and The Clams: Listen to a Clams’ record and you’ll listen to a mix of soul and style rooted in a vintage sound, surf rock and RnB meet with a hard edge and give way to the emotive and sensual croons of bassist and vocalist (and namesake) Shannon Shaw. That’s what I want to distinguish about their live sound first – Shannon KILLS it on the bass and she sings like an otherworldly witch whose screams could give James Brown a run for his money. The band is made of Shannon’s voice + bass, Cody Blanchard’s telecaster twang and solos that actually rip pretty hard, Nate Mahan’s beat making drumming, and Will Sprott’s guitar + keyboard textures. Shannon sings lead and the others sing backup, falsettos like a flock of seagulls on the surf. 

            They ran through some classics from their back catalogue (6 LPs so far). My favorite, the one I wanted to hear the most, came from 2011’s Sleep Talk, a song called “You Will Always Bring Me Flowers,” which has a drum beat intro so recognizable to me, I knew right away it was here. Other cuts came from 2018’s Onion2015’s Gone By The Dawn, or 2013 Dream In The Rat House – songs that elicited dancing from not just the floor, but coordinated moves from those in the opera boxes, and people standing all around the balconies. 

            But what was really cool were to cover songs the band broke out special for the Halloween set. They opened with the song that basically embodies Halloween – Black Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath.” Cody recited the satanic hymn like lyrics and screamed at us. Other covers included CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising,” The Misifts’ “Angelfuck,” The Sonics’ “The Witch,” The Stones’ “Paint it Black,” and Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” (that’s a hard song to nail vocally, Shannon sang the best version I’ve heard after the original.) This set was just spooky enough and just fun enough to make it an A+ Halloween rock ‘n’ roll bash. One for the history books.

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And that’s how WLUW spent our Halloween

^ (Us leaving the show) ^

 

 

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WLUW Talks to Shannon & The Clams

On Halloween Night, WLUW team members Olivia Cerza and Scott Clancy got the spooky opportunity to sit down and talk with Oakland surfy punk band Shannon and the Clams. We spoke backstage before their bonanza at Chicgao's Thalia Hall, discussing topics like their latest album "Onion," touring, painting Hulk Hogan, reading, etc. Give it a read and learn a few tidbits on The Clams and be sure to check out our coverage of the Halloween bahs that night with The Clams, Nobunny, Escape-ism, and Dirty Fences!

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WLUW: Have You guys ever heard of the Movie Open House

Clams: Ya

 

WLUW: What did you think of it?

Cody: Shannon’s the only one who’s seen it.

Shannon: I actually thought it was good…but it doesn’t…button up at the end. You are left feeling dissatisfied. It’s kind of agony at the end. But I thought that the actors were really good and I loved the setting. Which I kept thinking was Tahoe but it’s not I guess. 

 

WLUW: Well the reason I ask is because Rip Van Winkle is in it (Shannon song) and in my opinion was the saving grace of the movie and I wanted to get your take on it.

Shannon: It’s funny cause someone told me that a technical term for the way that they used our song is that it would be called a character, like an important part of the film.

 

WLUW: Was it intentional playing Chicago on Halloween?

S: Yeah we got asked to do it! 

Will: This is the first show we booked for this tour.

S: We love Chicago! our shows are always killer here

 

WLUW: This is a stacked lineup too.

C: We all have the same booking agent.

S: Ian Svenonius, Nobunny, and Clams do, that’s right.

 

WLUW: I have a question about your merchandise. On your website there’s a lot of prints of paintings you did Shannon and we’re curious about your thoughts on painting.

S: I love to do it - I barely have time anymore but I love to do it and it’s my goal this winter to try and get some new paintings done. i’ve always drawn since I was a little kid  and that was basically my only interest for a long time, and I eventually went to art school  and became better at it but I feel like I could learn forever. 

WLUW: How did you choose what people to paint for those prints because it’s a wide array (Marc Bolan, Poision Ivy. Chris Farley, Andre the Giant, Etta James)

S: Usually what I choose is someone I love and admire and whose face I want to stare at for a long time. A lot of them are heroes or conflicted, interesting characters. I really looked up to wrestlers, like I had a crush on Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan seems almost like royalty but he’s got a dark character, like he’s been taken down, he’s racist and not a perfect guy. 

WLUW: And you guys have like a zine type thing up there too?

C: Yeah. We only had a few left so we didn’t bring them. But we gotta print some more - they’re cool they’re printed on this old Japanese color Xerox thing called a risograph.

 

WLUW: How did you guys hook up with Dan Auerbach for your last record? it’s on his label right?

C: He just heard us in a record store. They were playing a record and he loved it and he followed Shannon on Instagram and they started talking.

WLUW: What was it like putting Onion together and working with him?

C: it was cool - he’s a really simple but really focused studio. It’s really efficient and easy to use something is set up all the time. I think his style is like doing tons of layers of instruments so you get a really big sound.

Nate: He also did a whole day of preproduction before we were even in the studio, just prepping everything making sure it sounds good. 

WLUW: And is that the technique you used, all that layering, or did you just kind of go in and do it?

W: I think so, we were recording and Nate had a lot of ideas for overdubs, he was in the control room and Dan was doing the same thing…We had demoed everything ahead of time but they just got richer in the recording process. 

 

WLUW: Is this the first big tour for the album?

S: Oh no this is like the fourth. We did an East coast run, a West coast run, we’ve been touring a lot. Sort of short tours. It’s a lot better than just trudging for a month. 

 

WLUW: Do you guys like to read?

Clams: Yeah

S: I'm in the middle of his book called “Ill Be Gone in the Dark” by Michelle McNamara about the Golden State Killer. It’s really good.

C: I’m reading “The Dispossessed” By Ursula Le Guin. who’s like a cool Sci-Fi writer from Portland.

W: “Arrow In The Blue” By Arthur Koestler - his autobiography. He wrote a lot about space and science, like a popular science writer.

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Milo Greene

Backstage with Milo Greene

A couple weeks ago, I got the amazing opportunity to hang out with indie-pop band Milo Greene. Milo Greene is comprised of Graham Fink, Robbie Arnett, and Marlana Sheetz who are all extremely talented vocalists/multi-instrumentalists/songwriters.The band, fresh off their release of their third full album Adult Contemporary, is trekking cross-country in a van to play some old and new music for their fans. I hung out with them backstage at their Chicago concert at Lincoln Hall. Most of my time was spent with member Graham Fink, as Marlana and Robbie tended to some technical difficulties on stage following their soundcheck, but they did join in later on. We talked everything from their new album to their favorite movies to what it’s like to tour the country with your best friends.

Ally Kvidt: Is there any place that you’re super excited to be playing?

Graham Fink: You know, I’m really excited for Portland. It’s a venue called Doug Fir. Its really awesome. We’ve played there a lot. We’ve headlined there two or three times. We opened up a radio show there with The Hives and Dinosaur Jr. once and it was incredible. But this time, now that we’ve grown up a little bit and realized that sometimes we need to spend money for enjoyable experiences, we decided to rent hotel rooms at the venue rather than drive out of town to a dumpy hotel somewhere. So, we actually get to play, hang out, have some drinks, and just like walk two steps and pass out. So that like feels like the culmination of playing somewhere a lot and finally doing it the right way.  From a comfort standpoint, that’s going to be fun.

AK: Is there any songs that you’re excited to play live, or for your fans to hear live?

GF: I mean all the new stuff is really exciting. We’ve kind of crafted some instrumental jam outros on a couple of songs on the new album which are really fun for us to play because we traditionally haven’t expanded our songs for the live setting. We kind of usually play them just the way they are. So to have just kind of instrumental sections, we can just groove out and dance around with each other. It’s just fun, something a little different. Yeah, so like “Slow” and “Please Don’t” are two that are very, very fun on this tour so far.

AK: So, this is your tour in almost three years right?
GF: Yes, first proper tour in almost three, yeah. We did the west coast in the beginning of 2017, but other than that we haven’t done a full national tour since spring of 2015.

AK: How does it feel then to be back on tour with everyone again?

GF: It’s, uh, it’s good. It’s been fun. In the same spirit of what I was just talking about in being older and valuing our comfort, we’ve been getting our own hotel rooms on this tour which is really a game changer. We’re spending a little bit more money for it, but like having time at night for everyone to have their space, get their sleep, and not have to talk to anybody has been really great. And it’s just been fun. It’s been long enough where it’s exciting to play shows and to see people singing along to the new album its very gratifying.

AK: And you guys have been together for so long it must just feel like family by now.

GF: Oh, we are very much a family. All the good, all the bad, all the ugly. We are all siblings. We know what makes one another tick, and what gets one another super angry, but we love each other a lot. We’ve been a band for 8 years so, it’s pretty wild.

AK: In an older interview, you talked about how you wanted to create music that could be played for TV or movies. Is there any movie or TV show that you remember the soundtrack being so good you were like, “yeah thats what I want to do for the rest of my life?”

GF: That’s a good one. I mean, tons. I’m sure each of us would have a different answer for that one. I mean it’s interesting. I think we’ve always looked at the cinematic aspect of our music in a few ways. There’s the concept of scoring music for movies that we all dabble in a little and want to do more of. And then there’s just the appeal of making songs that are good pop music that have a home in TV shows and movies, and we’ve had a lot of luck having our songs be put in stuff like that. As far as a TV show or movie that really nailed it, I loved There Will Be Blood, and Jonny Greenwood scored that. The percussive elements, and the anxiety he can induce with his use of non-traditional instruments that he’ll introduce to scoring is really cool. I don’t know that’s a good one to have Robbie and Marlana chime in on.

Graham and I took a quick intermission to talk about movies he has been watching on the road. According to Graham, Robbie has been watching most of the movies and is not sharing, but he does recommend Leave No Trace. Now, back to the regularly scheduled programming.

AK: If Adult Contemporary was a movie what would it be?

GF: Definitely a John Hughes’ movie. I think like some collaborant of Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and honestly everything from that era. That's really what we were drawing on for the music. Those movies all have soundtracks that are so much that era, and so on the nose. They’re fun, they’re emotional, they’re kind of cheesy, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. That's definitely the cross section we were shooting for on this album.

AK: When you guys write new material, what is that process like? Is it more of an individual thing, or is it more of a collaborative effort?

GF: It’s super collaborative. In this band, there’s three of us who write a ton of music constantly, but for this album we really made an effort to do it together. We went to Nashville, and wrote with some collaborators, and got in some different studios with some different producers, and we just did it together, and that gave way to a super cohesive album that we are all really excited about. It's always a different experiment, but that was the story for this album.

AK: Your sound has obviously evolutionized since Milo Greene and even control. We talked about movies you drew inspiration on but is there any specific artists you drew on or genres you wanted to capture with this album?

GF: The entire realm of adult contemporary, and all the artists that were big in that day, like Rod Stewart, Sting, Bryan Adams, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion. That was the stuff we were like, “Fuck man. They write really great ballads, and really great power pop songs.” I think we just tried to draw on that, and just have fun with it. Not over think it, not complicate it, which is great. Just good songs that felt good and sounded wholesome.

Member Robbie Arnett rolled into the greenroom, so he got the opportunity to chime in on the next few questions.

AK: How would you describe Adult Contemporary to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

GF: I mean I almost feel like the answer is the answer to the last one. It feels like a John Hughes movie. If a modern day pop band payed homage to late 80s cinema soundtracks. Just like a lot of sincere harmonies.

Robbie Arnett: It’s right in that line of the earnest sincere to that grandiose vibe of the early 90s/late 80s that every balladeer was kind of channeling.

AK: You guys are obviously all extremely talented musicians and songwriters, so is there any advice you can give to someone who maybe wants to pursue songwriting, or performing their own music?

RA: I mean, to write like a decent song, you have to write a thousand songs. So as many hours, and as much time you can put into listening to different songwriters, and learning different variations of structure, and honing in on that. I mean, there’s so many different types of songwriters, lyric based, melody based, players. It sounds like a dad, but you can’t really go around just not practicing and not writing.

GF: I mean, we must’ve thrown away what, 50 songs in the process of making this album? And even now that’s a really hard thing to do. You write something then get attached to it, and think it's special, and coming to terms with the fact that not everything you write is as good as it could be, and being willing to ditch stuff is a hard thing to do, but an important thing to do.

Marlana Sheetz strolls in after finally solving the tech issues on stage. The playful sibling banter starts with Graham telling her I have a question for her and her immediate response is, “Do I get my period? Yes.” Finally answering that toilsome question, we decided to circle back around to the previous question of if there was a specific movie or TV show that inspired their drive to create cinematic music.

Marlana Sheetz: I mean, I think like, we didn’t realize it, all of us didn’t realize it growing up, but a lot of times a soundtrack to a film is what makes the film, and give it the right mood and the emotion for that scene or what have you. I think we knew we liked film already, and we realized later that it had a lot to do with the emphasis on the music. You try watching a movie without the score in it, and it’s just fucking weird. Does that answer your question?

It sure did answer my question. My time spent with Milo Greene was time that I will truly cherish forever. I told this to them, but I fully do believe that they are reminding people of what music is all about. Creating a space full of love, acceptance, and just a place to be vulnerable with yourself. Their love for their craft and their genuine passion for what they do is inspiring. They were the same people on stage as they were off stage. They are just having fun and playing music they love for people who love it just as much. Also, if you are looking for any TV show/movie recommendations, Marlana recommends Godless, and Robbie says that Rest in Bone, Holy Motors, and Heat are all good ones to check out.

 

------> Adult Contemporary is now streaming on all platforms. Check out Milo Greene on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, or on their website.

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Low Cut Lonnie at the Empty Bottle

After several long Halloween-filled days, the weekend was perfectly capped with a performance by Ruby Boots and Low Cut Connie at The Empty Bottle.

Hailing originally from Australia, the bandmates of Ruby Boots came on stage around 9:30 to tune their instruments before fully rocking out in this intimate setting. With a style similar to a mix of Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty, lead singer Rebecca “Bex” Chilcott (i.e. Ruby Boots) poured her heart into each word, with a powerhouse of a voice to match. An iconic moment of the night was her acapella rendition of her song “I Am a Woman”, which resonated with the crowd as she made sure to connect which each person in attendance. Playing their hits such as “Don’t Talk About It”, “Infatuation”, and “Believe in Heaven”, Ruby Boots guided the audience through a range of emotions, preparing us for the headliner, Low Cut Connie.

Originally from Philadelphia, Low Cut Connie formed in 2010. They began to make a name for themselves due to the large personalities each band member has, specifically the likes of lead singer and pianist Adam Weiner. Coming out in his signature vintage red windbreaker, white tank-top, suspenders, and a large Versace-esque chain, he managed to incite the audience to untapped energy levels throughout the show.

Each song a build-up from the last, Weiner played new and old hits, such as “Controversy”, “Beverly” and “Revolution Rock and Roll.” Members James Everhart, Will Donnelley, Larry Scotton, Lucas Rinz, and Saundra Williams aiding in this chaotic explosion of music. The relationships of each musician to one another shows how they are really having fun on stage doing what they love, and the audience just so happens to see their dynamics. With high flinging leg kicks and the spontaneous booty shake on top of the piano bench, Adam and the band manage to pull of a concert with the ferocious energy and unwavering love similar to Freddie Mercury’s performances. The sold-out Low Cut Connie show at the always intimate Empty Bottle was an old family reunion full of true rock and roll.

 

 

 

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