The Redwalls, a swaggering power-rock quartet from largely unswaggering Deerfield, Ill., produce a sound that’s more suited to your average British pub than a Chicago burb. But the buzz around the band, whose median age is all of about 20, has been fizzy enough to create insistent critical noise about a Chicago alt-rock revival.
Bassist Justin Baren thinks that’s just fine, but seems to be one of those guys who prefers to say buzz-free. “I hope it’s true,” he said midway through what’s becoming an increasingly normal day of interviews and radio appearances in Brooklyn last week. “I really don’t know what to make of it, but it’s good to hear.”
The 19-year-old Baren speaks like a guy bracing himself for a massively busy summer. His band’s major-label debut, “De Nova”, a fully engaging mix of garage stomp, scuzz guitar and the requisite harmonies that spring from a childhood spent absorbing Beatles and Faces records, arrived June 21 via Capitol. The disc will sound quickly familiar to fans of Brit rock, but the fired-up exuberance within should appeal to the lot as well.
“Build a Bridge” conjures up some fine Faces action, and “Thank You” is a great sloppy love song of the late-night variety. But there’s plenty of idealistic, youthful fire in tracks like Falling Down: “In times like these, you better watch what you say/Watch them take your f***ing rights away.”
The CD will be followed by a summer itinerary that includes a stop at Lollapalooza in their hometown’s Grant Park and some slots as the hand-picked opening act for Oasis in Britain.
Baren, his brother Logan (“We’ve gotten into it sometimes,” Justin admits, “but we’ve always been partners in crime”) and Andrew Langer grew up together in Deerfield and enjoyed a fairly traditional Midwestern music introduction, all Beatles/Stones greatest-hits records, Motown tapes and basement jam sessions. All three write and sing; drums are supplied by Ben Greeno. Their work began when Justin was in the 8th grade, but midway through high school it had led them down into the city.
“We decided (Deerfield) wasn’t really where it was at, so we decided to go downtown, and started playing after the headliners at 3 a.m. at a few clubs. At one bar we were kinda the resident band — the manager booked us there to go on before or after the big groups,” he said.
The group quickly knocked out an indie record in 2003 called “Universal Blues,” which Baren says was being passed around before it was even done. Showcases in Los Angeles followed, including one that took place two days before Baren and Langer’s graduation.
Eventually, the band hooked up with Capitol and producer Rob Schnapf, who’s worked with Beck, Elliott Smith and Guided By Voice. The pace out in California, Baren says, was a little slower, but afforded them more room to move.
“We were used to work, work, work, and when we got to L.A. we needed to have things more mapped out,” he said. “But we had complete artistic control over everything; they didn’t try to screw with us. We said we wanted horns on some songs, and a Mellotron on another, and we got all that.”
The album was recorded last summer though, and Baren’s ready for more movement. He said the band already has three albums’ worth of material in the notebooks. “We’re kind of already sick of the songs on [‘De Nova’],” he said. “We’ve been doing those for years.”
He’s cautiously optimistic about Lollapalooza, though the band goes on at a fairly unforgiving 11:45 a.m. “But it’s cool, and there’s a lot of bands I’m interested to see,” he said.
After that is the tour with Oasis, which should take place on a more traditional rock-show timetable. “One of our friends gave them our CD when they were in Hollywood, and they invited us to do one show in London with them,” Baren said. “And we went, and got along great, and they invited us back to England.”
Baren knows the headliners are a brotherly act of a more unpredictable variety, but says he and Logan have never had any long-term sibling rivalries — and he doesn’t see any with the Gallaghers anyway. “They’re just absolutely great guys,” Baren said. “You hear stories about how they’re assholes, but they’re just the sweetest guys I’ve ever met.”