Chicago band Ne-Hi and D.C. musician Alex Tebeleff (Paperhaus) joining forces for a show is no surprise. Both bands have played big roles in the independent music communities in their cities. Ahead of their show together at DC9 on Sunday night, they asked each other six questions.
Ne-Hi questions Alex
1) If your band were in the Harry Potter universe, and you got accepted to Hogwarts. What house would your band be in?
OK, I know this is treason for our generation, but I really don’t like Harry Potter. I tried. I saw some of the movies too. I was bored. So, instead, I would say that we would aggressively pursue the ring, in order to fight the forces of evil that seem pretty similar to me to the same bad guys in Harry Potter, and I think Harry would still be super thankful even if we aren’t into his approach. We’d start our own house, and probably lazily just call it the Paperhaus like we did with our own actual physical house.
2) How has running a house space informed your playing and booking shows? Being behind the scenes, cleaning up the messes, combating the pa, any experiences you take with you?
It’s been huge, but it’s really been a reciprocal understanding with my experience as a member of a touring band in Paperhaus. You learn to try to treat others like you would like to be treated, how important taking donations are, how important it is to at least try to get the space sounding as good as you can. The experiences being on tour and hosting shows in my living have made doing both better for me.
3) Who are your favorite current D.C. bands and is there a predominant “sound” of D.C. currently?
It surprises me how many bands from D.C. I love right now for many different reasons. Pree just released a really great album, and so did BRNDA. I really like what Babe City is putting out, Young Rapids, The Sea Life, Go Cozy, Witch Coast, Den Mate. Beauty Pill is probably my favorite band in town, their new album sounds like nothing else I’ve heard before. Laughing Man, Br’er, Stronger Sex, The Effects, Cigarette, Wanted Man, and Redline Graffiti are just a few more I really love. Anthony Pirog is probably the best guitarist I’ve ever seen in person. I’m missing like 20 others, it’s an exciting time to be playing music in this town! There are plenty of DIY spots to see them and watch them grow too.
There are a few bands that most encompass the traditional “D.C. sound,” especially the post hardcore feeling from the 90’s, but still make their own version of that sound and really stand out. Two Inch Astronaut is one I really love in particular, and More Humans is also another one I’ve found to be consistently great that feels like they have a debt of influence to that period of D.C. music in particular.
There’s also a really great hardcore scene here right now, obviously with more of a debt to the music from the 80’s in DC. Red Death, Coke Bust, Misled Youth, Give, and Pure Disgust are a few I’ve really taken a liking.
4) Being so close to the political headquarters of the country do you ever feel pressured to write “political music.” Do you write “political music?”
Not really. There are definitely social issues that are addressed in the music, but not really anything directly political. Politics tends to address real issues in very shallow and sometimes entirely backwards ways. It’s not a place that is friendly to radical open mindedness, and that’s how I try to approach songwriting. Nothing should be forbidden, let the unconscious mind take over. Sometimes social themes take over, like in a song on our last album called “Misery.”
5) Describe your version of the perfect show.
Everyone is dancing. Physical movement! I hate that people just stand there at shows. At least move your fucking head! The ultimate goal is that people are listening and dancing. Free your mind and your ass will follow, a wise man once said.
6) If you actually lived in a paper house how would you keep it from blowing away?
I would use the golden ratio to establish proportions of perfection, spending every hour of every day to make sure that I designed the perfect paper structure. Then, I would invite all my friends over and invite some touring bands and do exactly the same thing I’ve been doing for the past 5 years all over again.
Alex Questions Ne-Hi
1) A big part of your history is your involvement in the Chicago DIY music scene. Is it still going strong over there? I know there has been some places that have closed down over the past year.
The Chicago DIY [movement] is still going strong for sure. We had our first few shows in the now defunct Animal Kingdom basement. That place rose and disappeared in a flash but definitely reached a mythical sort of quality for me. There’s a lot of places like that that have closed down over the years, but the Chicago music communities keep replacing them with new spots run by passionate creators and hosters (I know it’s not a word but I dig the ring).
In Chicago and I’d bet most places with an active DIY community, there’s an ebb and flow of activity. But there’s a real desire for performance spaces outside of bars and proper venues. It makes a lot of the amazing weird music I love possible! There’s often less pressure and less formality that make it really welcoming to experimentation and fucking up.
Currently a few Chicago DIY bands rocking our world: Deeper, Melkbelly, Daymaker, Whitney and Deep Breath. To name a few. All solid tunes. Solid hearts. And are furiously creating right now.
2) How do you feel like your involvement in the DIY music scene in Chicago has informed the way you approach being a band?
I think coming up in the house show scene really instilled in us the sentiment that no space or audience is too small. As long as you can do your thing for one person and maybe connect then it’s worth it.
That community also instills a resourcefulness that seriously comes in handy on the road. After we had to junk out minivan we really Tetris’d my car that was too small to tour in and did a bunch of trips with it. You couldn’t see out the window. Or really any of the other passengers, but it got us to the shows :^)
3) What are some of your biggest musical inspirations?
Echo and the Bunnymen, The Byrds, David Berman. For the grooves. The heart. And the sparkle respectively.
4) You are on a desert island and you only get one music instrument for all of you to write your next album on. Which instrument would it be?
We’d probably just use a good old fashioned conch shell and get some truly beachy vibes. If we’re already stuck on an island there’s really no point trying to escape it.
5) Well since you asked who my favorite D.C. bands are, who are your favorite Chicago bands currently?
Deeper is probably collectively our favorite Chi town band. We’ve got to see them come up from the very first show and they have blossomed into the most badass shoegazey flower this city has ever seen. Lead singer Caroline has such an awesome bold voice that she lets rip at all the right moments. The guitars are super trancey and the grooves are undeniable.
Melkbelly is both one of the tallest bands collectively in the city and has some of the biggest hearts. They make weirdo fuzzed out jams that rage from metal thunder to the tenderest most delicate vocals. Another really amazing front woman in this band with really cool lyrics and amazing song titles taboot.
Last one I’ll dig further on is Whitney. First off. They have the sickest sax player. Think Bruce Springsteen or something. Like psychedelic Bruce Springsteen. But maybe psychedelic is too strong a word. Whatever. What ya need to know is that the hooks are strong, the lead guitar playing is a dream and their tunes scratch the same itch as the best oldies on the radio.
6) Do you feel like even though you aren’t close to the political headquarters of the country, is your music political at all?
I wouldn’t call our music political. I tend to stay way from that world too much. The media and the show that the political world puts on for us while doing the complete opposite. It’s quite the bummer cycle. But I’d say our music is political to the point that it tries to be honest and up front. We’re not trying to play some part as rock stars. We’re just trying to do what we’re passionate about each time we’re in front of a crowd. We’re definitely not the first or the only ones though. Plus– we listen to NPR so…..