Bottle Of Justus
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Bottle Of Justus

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BOJ plays the House of Blues March 19

Lisa Balde | Beep Staff Writer
Thursday, March 09, 2006

It’s not easy being an indie rock band on Chicago’s fringe, where clubs frequently book '90s cover bands, and an all-ages show means playing in the local church basement.

But Bottle of Justus, the still up-and-coming Bloomington-based foursome, who admits their sound borders on “commercial” pop-rock, quickly learned how to break the barrier between suburban frat band and successful rock group.

Seven years into the fold, BOJ now crosses over into “full-time” job status. They recently released their first video, “Hello”, from the band’s fourth album “suddenly o.k.”, and cross country touring has become a way of life.

Most importantly, BOJ’s following can damn near sell out a House of Blues show.

“That was the first sign,” lead singer Chris Quinlan says. “We played, and people paid attention and talked about us later.”

Not bad for a band whose name is based loosely on Quinlan’s 2nd grand lip synching group.

They’re secret? Shedding the suburban subtitle — whether they like it or not.

BOJ made national news this fall when a 21-year-old Illinois State University student, who made a brief appearance in the band’s video, was found dead in Mississippi. In an effort to identify the girl, friends and news stations spread links to “Hello” and hoped for the best.

“It’s just a shame,” Quinlan says of the fate of the woman, who was a friend of a friend to the guys. “And it’s a shame we live a world where this is going on.”

Thankfully, no press is bad press when it comes to indie rock. And as BOJ searches for a decent label in a sea of rotten apples, nothing can hurt.

The BOJ story begins as many indie tales do, in college. Quinlan and his twin brother Joe met bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer Erik Bogdonas away at school at ISU. Bogdonas popped up after one of BOJ’s first, sans-drummer shows and asked if he could join in.

“We were like, O.K.,” Quinlan says. They quickly fell into the college band trend, playing frat parties and ISU taps.

Since the success of their first album’s single “Caroline is Waiting” in 2002, BOJ has come into its own with a unified sound that’s garnered attention from the post-collegiate set and mainstream audiences around the country. But there’s much left to do.

“It’s so hard to be an unsigned band,” Quinlan says. “Basically, we are our own label.” BOJ has gone back and forth on a lot of labels for years, seeking out a partnership that affectively market the band not sells it out or shelves their songs.

“When we sign with a label,” Quinlan says, “we want it to be a step in the right direction, not a step toward breaking up.”

It’s not easy. Plenty of labels are interested, but few to none are right for BOJ, whose music skews toward mainstream emo and pop rock for an over-21 audience.

For now, the guys can afford to be picky. Coming off of another well-attended House of Blues show, with another one on the way Jan. 5, BOJ has was it needs.

“At that point, when people start paying attention to you, you start getting enough confidence,” Quinlan says. “We’re just a rock band; we just want to be honest.” -

James Osterhout
Issue date: 1/23/03 Section: E-Zone

Alternative rock band Bottle of Justus’ name has been called to the big leagues.

After years of rocking the ISU scene, this up-and-coming group is getting more recognition.

The band is comprised of five members. The two frontmen are twin brothers Joe (lead guitar) and Chris (lead singer) Quinlan. Also in the line up are Jeff Johnson (bass), Mark Kinderman (sax) and Erik Bogdonas (drummer).

Bottle of Justus had originally played numerous houses in the Bloomington-Normal area, including frequent gigs at the men’s lacrosse house. Today, Justus plays in larger venues, typically filling the House of Blues in downtown Chicago. They have played with local bands throughout their tenure, and have shared the stage with other hit bands like Better Than Ezra, Stroke 9, Tonic, Cake, G Love and Special Sauce.

But for singer Chris Quinlan, the college scene is still one of his favorites to play for.

“There are two sides to our band,” Chris said.

“The first is the serious recording and all of that stuff. Then there is the live stuff. I love playing live and I like playing for college kids.

“College kids just love to go nuts. You get a bunch of kids on the weekend and all they want to do is forget. They don’t want to think about papers and teachers. They just want to forget it all.

“The problem with college bands is that 90 percent of the ones on campus suck. They don’t know how to put on a good show.”

Chris and Joe lamented about their early years and experiences with other bands.

“A lot of our influences come from a lot of things I guess. I mean, remember, we are MTV babies,” Joe said.

“I remember that in high school we were going to play at the variety show. You told the people who were running it the song you were playing and you rehearsed it in front of them so they knew the song was good and clean. So we decided to change it to ‘Hey Jude’ instead at the last moment and things just got ugly,” Chris recalled.

“The woman who was running the show thought that we were singing about drugs or something like that and closed the curtain in the middle of our performance,” he added. “Well, the crowd went crazy. They were throwing stuff up onto the stage and going crazy chanting for us to come back out. The school tried to expel us for two days after that incident.”
After high school, Joe and Chris Quinlan decided to leave the Charleston area and shoot for a degree at ISU.

“I graduated with a degree in sociology and Chris got his in public relations,” Joe said.

“Joe and I started playing at parties and everyone just came along,” Chris said.

Even their parents backed the band.

“My mom loves it. She loves to brag about how her sons are on a CD. My dad changed his mind when I told him that we sold out the House of Blues in Chicago,” said Chris.

Despite the band’s success, they still have the same worries and problems that new bands must face.

“Jeff, the bassist, and I fight all the time. The only time we ever get along is on stage,” Chris said with a hint of laughter.

“We make lots of money but still, it all goes back into the band so you don’t ever see much of it. It’s a business and you can’t forget that. But hey, we are alive and successful. Heck we get paid for hanging out with friends. How cool is that?”

Chris believes that with hard work and determination, the band will succeed.

“In five years from now, I can either be sleeping on a tour bus waiting to go to a show or I can not be in a band. I think if we all just give it a shot we can make it. I know we still haven’t given it our best yet ‘cause we are still in the Midwest.”

“I believe that positive influence, beautiful women and anyone who has lived life to the fullest has influenced me in what I do. This is because I still haven’t been able to do it yet but I’m trying my hardest,” Chris said.

Bottle of Justus’ new CD is available at Campus Station and will be playing at Daddio’s Friday for their CD release party. - The Daily Vidette E-Zone

1. When were Bottle Of Justus formed as a band and how did you all get to know each other in the first place?

CQ- Joe and I came to college in Bloomington, IL. basically in search for guys to form a band with. Our best friend from back home, Justus, came to school with us. Right away Justus met bassist Jeff Johnson and introduced him to us. We got together and showed him our songs and got booked doing an acoustic outdoor party on campus. Our drummer, Erik Bogdonas, was at the party and asked to audition to play drums for us. We met up a couple days later and hit the ground running.

2. Who have been the bands main influence musical and where do the band get it's ideas for the lyrics, are they taken out of everyday and personal experience?

CQ- Our main musical influences would be the Beatles, Beach Boys, Pearl Jam, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and basically any band or performer that appreciates melody driven music done in their own unique way. We absolutely write lyrics about our own personal observations of everyday life. We also are inspired by other people's struggle and overall perception of life.

3. The band recently released it's new album, Suddenly O.K. How well have it done so far and are the band happy with the overall album as it turned out in the first place and how do the band see this album apart from the previously, as progressing as a band?

CQ- We are extremely happy about how the new record is selling and how it has been received. We put a lot of trust in our producer, Jason Elgin, and together we ended up with a record that far exceeded our expectations. This record is far more musically interesting and less poppy than the others. It's always easy to get excited about a new record but this one just feels different to me.

4. Have there been any label interest in the band from from within The States and what about other territories like Europe and Japan?

CQ- There has been a lot of attention in the past couple of weeks. Mostly labels from New York and L.A., there were a couple from Europe. Our management has been hashing out the details with some entertainment lawyers, we'll see how it goes.

5. Could the band tell us a little about the tracks featuring on the new album, just to give us an inside look on what they are about?

JQ- Several of the tunes on the new album stem directly from relationship problems. There are many different things involved when people go there seperate ways. The communication or lack there of as well as the getting over it can be quite interesting and easy to write about. By chance, the writing period for this album coincided with a bad break up for one of the guys. Unfortunate for him but overall beneficial for the whole. Besides the emotional tunes there are some straight up rock tracks that fit in niceley.

7. Hows the local area where the band hails from when it comes to get gigs to play and get played on the local radio stations?

JQ- We try to limit how much we play in our hometown. We usually do about one show every couple of months. It seems that more people will come out to a show if your not cramming it down their throats every couple of weeks. Most of the time we are trying to expand into different markets. However there is always a place to play if we need to. Most of our radio play is generated in different markets. We don't have too many radio stations in our area that are supportive of the local scene. In the bigger cities we have ben able to get some radio play. It's hard getting on the radio here if you are an unsigned band, there's just not enough people here that take risks.

8. What's been the bands best moments in it's time of existence and so far do the band itself feel it's been a struggle to get to where the band is now?

JQ- The best moments for us have been those in which we felt we had accomplished a new goal or project. Getting to play higher profile clubs has always been a highlight. The new album was also a great step for us. Every album has been different the one before but this time it feels better than ever. I suppose we have had some struggle to get where we are but I feel it's been worth it. So far we have been able to support ourselves and play music for a living. That to me is the coolest thing i can imagine.

9. Whats the current future plans for the band, any tour in progress and have the band started writting on it's next album?

JQ- Right now there is no pressure as far as thinking about the next record. It will take some time before we decide what direction our band will go in next. For the time being we are just writing to have fun and see what might be cool for the future records.

10. Any last words to the fans People out there here in the end?

CQ and JQ- Thanks for taking the time to get to know us a little better. Can't wait to tour Europe! -

Fifth album from Illinois pop rockers Bottle of Justus proves that there is no substitute for hard work and old fashioned experience pays huge dividends. This is far and away their finest release. Touring with the likes of Maroon 5, Better than Ezra and more recently Stroke9, has fine tuned the band, galvanising them into a formidable act with the song quality to match. ‘Suddenly O.K’ is far more consistent than previous releases and BOJ have resisted the temptation to re-record songs from their back catalogue. Coming across like a heady mix of Nine Days and Crowded House the songs are edgy yet melodic. ‘Hello’, ‘Easy’ and the exceptional ‘Picture’-currently number one in the unsigned top ten-are all worthy of radio airplay and whilst the remainder of the album might not capture the dynamics of this opening trio there’s still a great deal to enjoy with the Coldplay-like strains of ‘I Know’ through to the mainstream rock of ‘The Enemy’-reminiscent of British outfit UnAmerican. Produced by Jason Elgin(Creed, Collective Soul) and ably abetted by the ever excellent Jacob Bunton(Lynam/Mars Electric) on a selection of instruments, BOJ have produced an album that reeks of major label quality from start to finish, surprising then that no one has snapped them up…….watch this space! -

Reviewed by: Pär Winberg

Here is an album which is FILLED with tons of great soft modern rock (a’la Tal Bachman & Dishwalla) with a more mainstream sort of acoustic approach (a’la Shawn Mullins) which is just PURE PURE heaven. This is SURE an album for all you melodic jerks out there that adore well produced refrain-orgasms… and the voice of Chris Quinlan is nothing less that damn impressing. And so is the production. It’s kinda unnecessary to write about specific tracks here as the album is so freekin’ good all through. This review is not a recommendation. It’s a demand from us here at to you all… surf to their homepage right away and take a listen. And be stunned. I’m sure you all will be. A new hype has started. Join the train today. -

Andy Horonzy
Pulse critic

Slumped on a cracked concrete stump five hours removed from his group's performance inside a sun-kissed SIU Arena parking lot, all Chris Quinlan wants to do is sleep.

Still recovering from the early-morning trek made to Carbondale after last night's show in Springfield, Mo., the Bottle of Justus frontman is bushed, bleary-eyed and a bit sun burnt. But he's still alert enough to announce which moment of 2004's Spring Thing he will remember most. And it isn't playing bocci ball backstage with the acoustic-pop headliners Guster.

"There was this girl who came up to us and just dropped her pants," says Quinlan, using his hands to mimic the illicit act. "That doesn't happen all that often. I was like, 'Yep, that's pubic hair.'"

Erik Bogdonas, the pop-rock group's drummer, and Quinlan ˜ both operating on three hours of sleep ˜ casually explain the infrequency of indecent exposure at their shows before retreating to the screened-in porch of a Forest Street house to relax. For a band that began as a frat party fan favorite and now headlines famed venues like the House of Blues, sleep is now a luxury, not a necessity.

And as much as that snippet of a female fan's nether regions surprised Quinlan, it also serves as metaphor for the band's rise from Central Illinois unknowns to marquee mates of Dave Navarro, the Bodeans and Better than Ezra.

"It doesn't happen often, but it happens more than it used to," says Quinlan, compiling a mental list of previous fan unveilings.

A lot of things are happening to Bottle of Justus more than they used to these days, no matter how hard the low-key quartet tries to stay grounded.

They're still based in Normal, where they met while attending Illinois State University. Quinlan and his twin brother, Joe, the group's lead guitarist, still play an acoustic set at a rundown local bar each Tuesday night. Even their tour "bus" ˜ devoid of all the usual rock-star trappings ˜ has a hometown touch to it, although Chris admits the beat-up black van could use a mattress.

But outside the twin cities of Bloomington-Normal, an area known more for State Farm Insurance than music, the name Bottle of Justus is one with which music fans and booking managers are finally beginning to become familiar. Now if only they could spell it right.

"We've had it spelled Bottle of Justice like we're police crusaders or some s**t," Chris says. "We've had it Bottle of 'Just Us.' They even spelled it wrong on the first show where we actually had tickets printed up on Ticketmaster. That was nice."

Spelling gaffes aside, Bottle of Justus, with their soulful lyrics and catchy choruses, are starting to make an impression, even if it's not always the one they had in mind.

In early 2001, the band released the follow-up to "Sunday Midwestern Afternoon," its low-budget debut. The album spawned a hit single, "Caroline Is Waiting," and spent over a month on the hot sellers list. Too bad the only thing most music critics remembered about the record was its title: "America Cries."

It dropped in April, a full five months before the events of 9/11, but some album reviewers apparently forgot to do their research.

"The [Chicago] Tribune ran something that said, 'The album is great; too bad they named it after Sept. 11,'" Chris says. "That's the only thing I've seen printed, but I'm sure a lot of people think that. It sucks really."

Their newest release, a six-track EP titled "On Air," has been relatively controversy free. A paradigm of the sibling songwriting tandem's contrasting creative influences, "On Air" is equal parts Chris and Joe. The tracks one might dub "pretty" are pure Joe. Anything with an air of abstract, that's Chris.

"I think Joe likes to write songs that other bands listen to and are like, 'Whoa, I wish I would've written that song,'" Chris says. "That's his motivation as far as lyrics go. I tend to draw most of my lyrics from experiences or something else. I've turned the TV on before and pressed mute and just looked at was happening in the movie, and that'll start me up."

Jeff Johnson, the band's bassist, also finds inspiration from the small screen. Only his muse is more VH1's "I Love the '80s" than made-for-TV flick. Following the formula for success that alt-rockers Alien Ant Farm used with their 2001 cover of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal," Bottle of Justus are also pooling resources from the Prince of Pop.

There was one song during the group's set Saturday that culled a noticeably larger reaction from the crowd ˜ but it wasn't from an upcoming live disc, "Lemon LIVE."

It was "Billie Jean," the milestone single off the embattled pop icon's 26-times platinum "Thriller." Johnson admits retooling massive hits and making them your own isn't exactly a new concept in today's music scene, but it's a reliable remedy for a quiet crowd.

"Well, the bass line rocks on it, so that makes it fun for me," Johnson said. "Bu - Pulse Daily Egyptian Arts & Entertainment - Carbondale, Illinois

Review #1 - Meghan Williams

Bottle of Justus' 10-song album, Suddenly O.K. sounds so familiar it's a wonder they aren't more mainstream. In the style of such popular bands Fall Out Boy, All-American Rejects, and The Postal Service, this CD should just sound overdone. But what is truly refreshing about Suddenly O.K. is that it isn't boring at all. With a little more flare and a little less angst than their counterparts, Bottle of Justus (and no I promise I'm not spelling that wrong) manages to make one of those albums that's hard to ever get sick of.

The opening song, "Hello," starts the album off with a bang. Easily the most infectious on the album, the feeling of "Hello" is precisely what the title suggests. It seems to say, "Hello, we're Bottle of Justus-enjoy." The music is so well timed with the lyrics that at one point singer Chris Quinlan (whose twin, Joe, sings and plays guitar for the band too) sings "slow it down" and the others do just that-the guitar slows and the drums become inaudible. But then it's back to uptempo rock, and it's this ability to produce such a polished sound that makes the band so great.

The first half of the album carries on in this same manner with upbeat rhythms, and heartfelt lyrics. It's this part of the album that carries all the highlights, from the liberating tune, "Easy," to the resigned, "Picture." Smack in the middle of the disc is "Green Plastic Film", a sweet, yet melancholy song. Its comfortable sound feels like it belongs in the classic rock category, with just enough mellow but still a little rock involved to make a great transition into the more subdued half of the album.

The last few songs hold little surprise. After the surge of noise from the first half, this half seems a little tired. But maybe this is just what's needed to balance out the disc. They've got all moods covered in this way-are you happy or sad? is it sunny or rainy?-either way they've got a song for you. Make sure not to disregard these songs; they're worth a listen. With a continually solid sound and great vocals, songs such as "I Know" and "Circles," while far more calm than the beginning, help finish off Suddenly O.K. with an equally impressive sound. This quintet has proven that they deserve a spot in the mainstream world of their counterparts, maybe soon they'll be more than suddenly O.K., they'll be suddenly famous.

Review #2 - Joe Pence

The sunshiny confines of power pop are oftentimes too volatile a box for many bands, but Bottle of Justus manage without sounding ambitiously brittle or dubiously silly.

"Hello" opens up the album with a thrilling uptempo song, a sort of immediate connection. The mixing on this album really heightens the strengths of this band, and nowhere is this more clear than this first song with its sharp, slightly pop-tinged vocals, bright crunchy guitars and compressed drums. "Green Plastic Film" bounces along with a Jimmy Eat World quality, but the real thrill is the Revolver Beatles-esque guitar gracing its chorus. "The Enemy" really changes the tempo with some great angular guitar licks that move it along at breakneck pace. "Circles" feels like floating through the cosmos, the wafting chords and breathy singing seemingly taking a few cues from The Bends.

Still, Suddenly O.K. is not without a few awkward cliche moments though. "Easy" comes a little too close to the silly panged vocal twinges of a certain Fallout Boy chorus, "Rest Stop" can't resist the pop-punk "chug-chug-chug'" guitar under each verse, and "Me and My Friends" seems a little too doting in its lyrical content "we've all seen suffering"/"are you listening?" (Can anyone say Manic Street Preachers?)

The one thing to credit Bottle of Justus with is all these songs are simple songwriting but they work. They know exactly what they want, and it's not corny, watered-down, or forced pop. That in itself is something of a moderate success. -


"suddenly ok" album release 2005
singles "Hello" and "Picture"
"On Air" EP 2002
single "Try it Again" from the movie soundtrack "Winter Break"
"America Cries" album release April 2001
single "Caroline's Waiting" featured on MTV's "Road Rules" and "Real World"
All above albums are available via
videos for "Hello" and "Picture" streaming via our website or myspace

"Sunday Midwestern Afternoon" 1999
Album out of print



For immediate release
Chris and Joe Quinlan grew up in small Midwestern town far away from big city lights. They wrote songs for their mother Barbara Jean who had the sense to expose them to the Beatles as chidren. The brothers Quilnan split for college along with Justus Woolever at the age of 18 and befriended Erik and Jeff who play drums and bass respectively. They embarked on a musical morph from party band to recording artists and quickly became known as Bottle of Justus.

"BOJ" release a few CDs and tour around the country playing in front of lots of people. They know they are on the right track when Wesley Willis records a song about them whipping a Llama’s ass.

Bottle of Justus churn our heartfelt original music fueled by the toil of twin brothers with an unbridled independent spirit. They will come to your town and grind out a show to remember, drink all your beer and share the deli tray with the crowd. BOJ care not about the how many brown M&M's are in the bowl backstage. They will however, bring the backstage back to the hotel with the latest afternoon checkout in your town. God forbid they find your home first.

BOJ continues to pull off the great Rock and Roll swindle by doing it all themselves and answering to nobody. They'll even tell you a story or two. So make sure to ask them about being strapped in Iowa City with Evan Dando.

The Quinlan brothers vividly remember the first time their big bother brought home his first drum kit. The boys were barricaded out of the family recreation room while BJ pounded away with the big kids on their Peavey guitars. Chris and Joey were not deterred and instead plotted their eventual revenge while listening to the racket outside. The story pinpoints the inception of Bottle of Justus.

Growing up “small town” with “big city” dreams caused a near Footloose style uprising at Charleston High in the winter of ‘96. The debacle began at the school Christmas program. The trio, brothers Chris and Joey Quinlan and best friend Justus Woolever, broke into “Hey Jude”, which garnered hurrahs from the crowd. The school administrators tried to stop the uprising by drawing the stage curtains but the audience wouldn’t have it. Students and parents came to the side of the boys and in the end the band played on with apologies from the principal. The power of a Paul McCartney song was all it took for the boys to affirm they were on to something.

Quinlan-Quinlan and Woolever came to the campus of Illinois State University in the fall of ’97. The freshman from Chucktown initially submitted to lonely college life and spent many hours sulking in their dorm rooms. But they soon found that a pair of six strings makes for incredible ice-breakers when placed in the right hands.
Jam sessions lead to playing parties where the Quinlans met drummer Erik Bogdonas and bassist Jeff Johnson. The group quickly solidified during rehearsals and the quintet began performing at late night college parties. They decide on the name Bottle of Justus and dove into the ISU frat and nightclub circuit where the band flourished. Woolever opted to pursue acting during this period. He left the group with his blessing and the rights to his name were passed to Chris. The price was a pizza and a twelve pack of beer.

BOJ released Sunday Midwestern Afternoon during this time and the short run of 1000 CDs were sold at a head spinning pace. The band decided rather than reprint SMA they would move on to a bigger sound. Mark Kindermann was recruited on sax while BOJ began work on the next album. The sophomore BOJ CD was produced by Edwin Pierce and Chuck Fudge at Shiny on Top Studios in early 2000. Nine months of odd hour recording sessions combined with rigorous shows and school nearly pushed BOJ into oblivion. But the end result became the April 2001 release of the ironically named titled America Cries. The album garnered college and Midwest airplay with the single “Caroline is Waiting” which also was featured on MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge.

America Cries was paramount to the grassroots success of the band as they began touring the Midwest. Bottle of Justus moved from the college circuit to medium sized clubs and even caught the eye of a few Chicago event promoters. The Quinlan twins proved they fronted a fantastic live band and began networking with acts in other areas. The House of Blues began calling and the boys quickly established themselves as a headlining act. During this period the guys were also sharing the stage with many established acts such as The BoDeans, The Why Store, Freddie Jones Band and Stroke 9. So it didn’t take long for the band to set their sights higher and aim towards a more powerful artistic direction.

Chris and Joe met producer Jason Elgin via an association with the Freddie Jones Band in 2000. Elgin was known for engineering duties with Collective Soul, but the Chri