Friday, January 16, 2015


The Switchboard Sessions ended in 2013, but returned at the end of 2014 for a special run of sessions that showcased bands from the Chicagoland area. This is the second session of that series. Read the first and third session here.

Side-A of Typesetter’s Wild’s End closes with “Sunday Best,” a song that opens with swelling, glaring feedback. The sound is neither pleasant nor painful—at best, it’s endurable—but something throbs beneath the surface that begs the listener to keep listening. Eventually, the feedback gives way to Kyle McDonald’s mumbling chords and leads that dribble behind Marc Bannes’s hoarse tenor. It’s as eerie and ominous and hypnotic.

The song offers almost no warning before launching full-force into its storming second verse. Here, the guitars growl and grumble, claw across each other in time to drummer Stephen Waller’s steady, barreling beat. Bannes’s roar, having climbed an entire octave, rides this stampede, adding power and sentiment to the charge. The plowing pace and clamoring guitars, the vocals that are both weathered and melodic—it epitomizes modern midwestern punk-rock, especially those Chicago bands that built the scene at the turn of the millennium. “[Alkaline] Trio and Lawrence Arms and all that shit,” Bannes admits, “that has been a big influence for all of us.” Indeed, Typesetter’s music possesses that same spark and soil that makes Chicago punk-rock so compelling.

Except this Chicago band isn’t really from Chicago.

“I moved to Chicago to pursue sound engineering,” says Bannes, who does live sound for the revered venue the Double Door and tours with alternative bands. In fact, the members of Typesetter moved one by one from St. Louis to the Windy City with the ambition to start a band. “I moved first,” Bannes adds. “I’m a couple years older than the other guys.”

Though he was eager to leave St. Louis, Bannes admits that the city imparted the DIY values and vision that begot his band. “The scene we were part of when we were in high school was awesome,” he says. “There were these great bands and this DIY space called the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center would have Modern Life is War and Latterman, bands that really exposed me to real underground punk-rock stuff.” For him, though, the Gateway to the West was no place to play punk-rock, especially for an ambitious band. “I moved out of St. Louis because it seemed like no one was really motivated to do anything bigger than be a cool local band.”

“I think [bassist] Alex [Palermo] felt the same way,” he continues. “He was in a band with his brother who moved to LA, and that kind of ended that. He was like, ‘Well, I guess I’ll move to Chicago too.’ And then Kyle graduated from college and he didn’t have anywhere to go, so he was like, “I guess I’ll come live with you guys.’ In the background of all this was the idea to start this band, so it worked out pretty well.”

But Chicago turned out to be challenging site for Typesetter to establish themselves. For Bannes, it was more than the city’s dirty winters and convoluted scene. “To start a band, you have to have the capital to pay for a practice space because you can’t practice in your apartment,” he says, “and you have to work a job to be able to afford to live here. And then you have to find time on top of that to rehearse as much as necessary to do a good job musically. It can be very challenging and requires a lot of time and dedication and planning. I think that comes through in a lot of ‘working class’ aspects of midwestern punk-rock.”

Naming themselves after Mark Twain, who worked at a printing press in his hometown of Hannibal, MO, Typesetter took little time to record and self-release an EP titled Typesetter #1. During those first few writing sessions when Bannes sat down with Palermo, they allowed particular influences to form their foundation. “Both Alex and I were in these in-between spots,” he says. “I was just graduating college and trying to figure out what the hell to do with myself, and he had just moved to a new city. We were like, ‘Okay, we want to sound like Dillinger Four except with these extended spacey parts.’ We’re also influenced by shoegaze and noise rock and stuff, and we wanted all these things culminate in a very cohesive way.” This is evident on songs like “Young Professionals,” where Palermo’s bass burns, hot and smoking, and McDonald’s guitar glints off of Bannes’s pristine arpeggios until that second verse when their chords smolder alongside the charred lower notes.

Lyrically, though, the song also expresses an uncertainty that comes with a new life in a new locale. “So it's the fucking daytime,” Bannes snarls midway through the song. “I’ve been told it's beautiful outside. / Nice day for a bike ride. / FYI, I don't think you'll catch me anymore around here. / We’re all broken records. / Humming all the same songs all the time / rather than change the track / and pretend not to laugh when someone suggests, / ‘You could be anything you want.’” Certainly, these cynical lyrics, along with the song’s melodic inferno, helped Typesetter kindle its sound.

“Whenever I write a new Typesetter song,” Bannes says, “I think to myself, ‘Does this song give me the the same feeling that “Young Professionals” did when we first played it?’ And if I answer no, then the song doesn’t really make it to the table.”

A year later, Typesetter released Typesetter #2 on Encapsulated Records, a seven-inch that allowed the band to both refine and expand their sound. Side-A features two fuzzy, ferocious tracks that sizzle hotter than their debut, while “I Can’t Offer Atonement” constitutes the entirety of side-B. Though it starts sparse, with defiant a bass drum kicking beneath delicate cymbals, guitars splash into the song like cans of black paint tossed onto a wall, run and dribble down each mounting measures as McDonald and Bannes’s voices wail in the background. At the end, though, the pace picks up and “Atonement” plows into a frenetic fit of harsh chords and desperate howls, further hinting at the band’s split personalities: The ambient and the aggressive.

But it’s really Wild’s End, the band’s first full-length, that finds the band at their fullest and most focused. Released by Black Numbers in the fall of 2014, the record reveals a band still searching for stability, still struggling to sort it all out, but seemingly accustomed to (if not savoring) the uncertainty.

It’s there on “Sunday Best,” when Bannes shouts “You fell in love with my Sunday best, / a bait-and-switch of my architect. / No ill will or childish jest, but you’re right, / I knew how this might end,” and on “Inbetweens” as McDonald roars, “I guess I could get drunk forever, / look up at the stars and talk or whatever. / It’s been this way before. / This is the last time? There wasn’t even a first time. / So, next time I’ll keep my tongue to myself,” against guitars that seem heightened and tense, like a cat with its back arched.

It’s there on “Wild’s End,” the record’s title track, on which guitars whine and howl and reel, disembodied above Waller’s cascading toms. The song itself gropes for stability, grounding itself only as it approaches its end as the band repeats the record’s apparent theme. “The lyric is, ‘I guess I’ll sleep at Wild’s End,’” Bannes says. “That’s kind of our way of saying, ‘I guess I’ll sleep when I’m dead,’ trying to escape the oftentimes harsh realities of life. [Struggle] has kind of been the theme of every Typesetter song. I think the songs can come off as kind of cynical, throwing your hands in the air like, ‘Well, shit. This is life, isn’t it? Here we are.’”

As a record (and a song), Wild’s End expresses the cynical outlook that steeps through a person as they find themselves stuck to the bottom. “But it’s also about finding camaraderie when it’s freezing fucking cold outside and you feel miserable,” Bannes admits. “Like, ‘This is what we have to deal with, but we’re all in this together.’” Though this sentiment isn’t necessarily expressed in its lyrics, it culminates in the record’s final minute as the song rises into its last climactic chorus; as Bannes, McDonald, and Palermo scream together, confronting their conflicts together, conquering them together; as the band pounds the final four-chords out of their instruments like they exorcizing something painful from their souls.

Wild’s End is a Chicago record cut from the same cloth as Oh! Calcutta and Maybe I’ll Catch Fire—a midwestern record as powerful as Situationist Comedy, as angular as Frame and Canvas, as wild as Kick Out the Jams, as noisy and anxious as 1000 Hurts, as muddy and enormous as You’d Prefer an Astronaut—but only because these born-and-bred midwestern boys immersed themselves into Chicago’s monochromatic streets and dusky bars. They know that the city is neither pleasant nor painful—at best, it’s endurable—and that something throbs beneath its surface that begs its residents to remain. As a band, Typesetter understands that beat, understands how to use it, to read it, and allows it to help them write dark, dirty, dramatic music.

Bannes and McDonald recorded these songs from the office of the Double Door in Chicago during a chilly weeknight. Bannes, a sound engineer for the venue, met up with his bandmate after he got off from work.

“Lapsed Asshole" appears on Typesetter's 2014 record titled Wild’s End. As of the time of its recording, “Death Cycle" is unreleased and intended for a future Typesetter release.

Visit the band's Bandcamp for more music.

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