Celebrating the release of their debut EP Scratched Out, I spoke with Traumabond guitarist and vocalist Jenn Jilbert about the group's new music, an industrial rebirth in Chicago and much more...
The product of an ongoing industrial resurgence in the city of Chicago, Traumabond began as a duo in 2016.
Vocalist and guitarist Jenn Jilbert had just quit a job when she received a call from her ex-boss, who had suspected she might be into the same kind of music that he was.
“We weren’t intending on playing live shows, just writing,” said Jilbert of her early partnership with Matt Flaherty, who handles synths and vocals in the project. “We wrote a couple of songs and it was like, ‘Hey maybe we should perform this live.’”
The pair actually worked together for about six months, writing songs and arranging vocals, before hooking up with local producer Nicola Palazzo.
“Chicago was kind of an industrial hub,” said Jilbert of the city’s history in the genre. “One of the main record labels for industrial bands was in Chicago.”
In 1978, Jim Nash moved his Wax Trax! record store from Denver to Chicago, opening on the city’s north side on Lincoln Avenue. In 1980, Wax Trax! released it’s first official single as a label and quickly found itself at the center of a burgeoning industrial movement. Chicago was to industrial what Seattle would become for grunge.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, Wax Trax! released music from vastly influential artists like Ministry, Chris Connelly, Front 242, Sister Machine Gun, Meat Beat Manifesto, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult and an incredible assortment of others before issuing their final release during that initial run (a KMFDM live set) as an imprint of TVT Records in 2001.
“The thing about the industrial scene is that those bands are still playing. The ones from twenty years ago that I started listening to, they’re still touring. And it’s amazing. Nine Inch Nails is playing Aragon [in October].”
Jilbert got started early, having guitar lessons forced upon her at a young age by her mother while growing up in the south suburbs. Citing influences like Placebo, Garbage and Skinny Puppy, she honed her craft in a suburban group called Tragic Vitality.
“It was rock with industrial samples,” explained Jilbert. “We bought our first modeling synthesizer and work station and had to figure it out. We were kids and it was like, ‘I think we need this?’”
Since then, technology has led to a brisk advance in industrial sampling.
“Now it’s like street cred. ‘You know how we used to sample back in the day?’” she joked. “We had this rackmount of floppy A drives and we had to load samples into a work station. And now it’s all laptops. Everything’s laptops and midi controllers. There’s more that you can do now. The sky’s the limit.”
Palazzo soon took over on drums and Traumabond began working on music in his Wicker Park studio, Evolution Recording. The group self-records and Palazzo produces.
The three band members come at the music from different angles. For Jilbert, her love of it was born out of a passion for 90s alternative and industrial. Flaherty tends to stick with industrial, while Palazzo has the most eclectic taste.
Lyrically, the process is a collaborative one.
“What’s interesting – and I’ve never had this in a couple of other bands actually – is to sit down and be able to write vocal parts for somebody else,” Jilbert said. “Matt and I both kind of go back and forth with our vocals on most of the songs. I even forget sometimes if he wrote a part for me or if I wrote a part for him – because we’re pretty much on the same page about everything. It’s kind of a healthy mix.”
Traumabond released their debut project last Friday, a three song EP called Scratched Out. From it, “Digital Pretender” was recently featured on 101.1 WKQX’s “Demo 312” show by longtime Chicago music aficionado James VanOsdol.
“It probably took about six months of just perfecting it and changing things – rearranging stuff in the studio – to get all three songs at a point where they sounded good enough to be released,” said Jilbert. “We have quite a few songs. We’re probably going to do some remix stuff in between releases. We’re still in the process of mixing and mastering the other tracks.”
As the industry continues to move away from the full album, the trio plans to release songs as they’re ready. Scratched Out will be available for purchase this weekend when the group takes the stage Saturday night at Underground Lounge.
Saturday’s show features an eclectic mix of live and local industrial music. Lorelei Dreaming dabbles in cyber punk industrial while Programmable Animal veers more toward industrial metal. DJ Rafaleux will spin.
All three bands are part of a new benefit compilation entitled Electronic Saviors: Industrial Music to Cure Cancer which will also be available for purchase Saturday night.
A new Wax Trax! documentary film, spearheaded by Nash’s daughter Julia, entitled Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records screened this week as part of the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Underground Lounge hosts an industrial “Sanctuary” night on the last Saturday of each month and Berlin Nightclub frequently hosts a Wax Trax! night (tonight is one of them).
“Chicago is known for industrial music. So having all these new bands coming out right now is perfect,” said Jilbert. “We’re trying to emphasize a resurgence of industrial music in Chicago.”
- Jim Ryan ( @RadioJimRyan )
(Details on Saturday's Traumabond show at Underground Lounge below)
Saturday, June 9, 2018
952 W. Newport
Also performing: DJ Rafaleux, Programmable Animal, Lorelei Dreaming
Tickets: $8 at the door