California Wives
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California Wives

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | MAJOR

Chicago, Illinois, United States | MAJOR
Established on Jan, 2008
Band Pop Rock

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Mar
15
California Wives @ Soho Lounge

Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Jan
17
California Wives @ Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts

St. Louis, Missouri, USA

St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Mar
19
California Wives @ TBA

Austin, Texas, USA

Austin, Texas, USA

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

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The best kept secret in music

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Not that they're actually from said state, of course, but California Wives are very much the descendants of a certain kind of Chicago band, namely the new wave/post-punk/shoegaze worshipers that summed up everything that wasn't metal and classic rock about the Smashing Pumpkins, in this case to their huge credit; Art History is the kind of derivative debut album that's a treat worth enjoying rather than a tedious collection of spot-the-influences. If anything, the quartet at points calls to mind the pioneering Midwesterners For Against when it comes to going big and bold, with "Los Angeles" -- not an X cover -- being a prime example, and "Tokyo" and the slow and stately "The New Process" not far behind. Like For Against, California Wives also find beauty in a particular kind of restraint that derives from mid-'80s New Order if anything, making songs like "Blood Red Youth" and the chiming skip of "Purple" also worth treasuring. If still very much finding their feet, California Wives nonetheless have a very good thing going that could really set them apart with whatever they go for next. - Allmusic.com


In the moment of hesitation between the opening chord and the entrance of the entire ensemble lies the enigmatic quality that drives California Wives’ debut album Art History, an album that continually surprises and refreshes its listeners with a soothing juxtaposition of steady rock anthems and new wave electronic vibes. - Paste Magazine


In the moment of hesitation between the opening chord and the entrance of the entire ensemble lies the enigmatic quality that drives California Wives’ debut album Art History, an album that continually surprises and refreshes its listeners with a soothing juxtaposition of steady rock anthems and new wave electronic vibes. - Paste Magazine


This lovely little tune from Chicago new-wave aesthetes California Wives caught our ears earlier this morning; it doesn't look like the band has any major releases planned on the horizon, but you can check out some more songs from California Wives over at their website. (via I Guess I'm Floating)

- Pitchfork.com


It just happens to be New Year's Eve, the final day of 2010, as this essay is being written. There's a steady, driving rain ridding the ground and our roofs of all the snow and ice we've accumulated over the last few weeks. Here at the entrance of a new year, one that carries a consensus feeling that it's going to be better, brighter, more prosperous and just a helluva lot more of a charmer, we're confident in the vagueness of all that is bound to come down the pike. We're confident that we're going to find it to our satisfaction, for it's the only way we know to scrape the sour taste of disappointment out of our lowly mouths - this blind prognosis of hopefulness. California Wives, a Chicago quartet, makes the kind of music that we could plan this particular night around, this night of endless half-dreaming, of the sort of starry-eyed bliss-for-a-second dementia. It's uplifting in its dampened pall - the songs on the group's debut EP 'Affair," in its knowing way of letting the last 365 days go, of believing that the next 365 are going to be champions and still reserving some focus with the rationale that they might not bring with them the same bitter taste, but one that's slightly different, a cockeyed version of that same kind of bitter. None of us here are fools enough to think that all can just transform with the changing of one night to another, one year to another. Within the context of their songs, there are party dresses swishing solemnly and there are fancy shoes squeaking silently on a dance floor, pivoting and shuffling as they dance a slow and soft one, the person wearing them holding tightly onto their partner. "Twenty Three" is a song that specifically calls to mind the ethos of a night like tonight as lead singer Jayson Kramer tells us to have a drink and say our goodbyes for the last time. There's a feeling that we're never going to be or see the person we are right now, ever again. He or she is about to go away for a while, as this night sets in, as we waltz off into the sunset that's actually been gone for quite some time and what we're now faced with is a moon that never sets, but just gets faded out, or phased out - lonely and sad as it hangs in the sky at noontime still. California Wives has the feeling of vulnerability, of the uncertainty of what's going to happen when are youthful days are just starting to become our old man or old woman days. You'll never see a gray hair in any of their skittering, moonlit songs, but you're going to hear them thinking about the possibility of those gray hairs, of what that's all going to mean. Or what it already means for this final run of younger years. - Daytrotter


The new year is a time for new hopes and beginnings. This is no different for local bands. For area artists looking to become Chicago's next big thing, the start of 2011 represents a chance to show why they deserve your attention. We picked eleven artists -- encompassing indie rock, soul, hip-hop, psychedelic pop and more -- whose recent output and organization make them worth watching in '11. - The Chicago Tribune


Despite a name that evokes summer sun and an endless expanse of surf and sand, California Wives possess a much chillier sound. Combining elements of post-punk, dance (at least in those bounding basslines) and dreamy shoegaze, this local quartet, which formed in 2009 and dropped their debut EP “Affair” towards the end of 2010, crafts polished pop nuggets reminiscent of their idols in New Order. Reached by telephone at his Roscoe Village apartment, singer-guitarist Jayson Kramer, 24, discussed his distaste for Harry Potter, his decision to forgo medical school and how the band’s sound is (sorta) like the beat writers.

Listen: “Blood Red Youth”


Your song “23” is partially about cutting loose on weekends. What's a typical Chicago weekend like for you?

The typical weekend is pretty relaxed these days. I’m a big fan of smaller bars where they play cool music. I go to the Grafton in Lincoln Square a lot and they play a lot of New Order and bands like that. I like to go to bars where I can hear everyone I’m with, which is a smaller number of places than you might think.

You studied Biology and Pre-Med at Boston University. How close were you to enrolling in medical school?

I took the MCAT and I did really well on it. I was doing my [medical school] applications and had already gotten letters of recommendation, done some lab research and shadowed in an emergency room. Then one day I was sitting around and it was all kind of still. I wasn’t working anywhere. I wasn’t pushing myself to study. And it was just kind of like, “I don’t think I can do this.” At that point I decided I didn’t want to do medicine anymore, which of course my parents were thrilled about.

I assume you say that sarcastically?

[Laughs] They weren’t happy. I think they were a little worried about what I was going to do—especially when I told them I was joining a band. They were like, “Oh [crap].” But it's cool now because the band is doing pretty well. They’re coming to our shows and I think they’re starting to realize that we take this seriously.

When did you get your first guitar?

When I was 13 my dad went, “Okay, I’ll buy you the [crummiest] guitar I can afford, and when you show me you can play ten songs we'll get you a better one.”

How long did it take you to learn those first ten songs?

A couple days maybe? I’d say it took a week at most. I think my parents have always been shocked at my ability to pick up a song when I hear it. It’s all I did, really. I didn’t play video games or anything like that.

You’ve acknowledged being a bit of a bookworm. Is there anything you wouldn’t be caught dead reading?

I tried my hardest to read the Harry Potter books. I got through two of them and started the third and it was like, “I have no idea how people read like six of these.” I had a really hard time. I just don’t think they're that great.

If California Wives were an author, who would you guys be?

That’s a good question. I’d probably say someone with a fresh, light-hearted style. I'd like to say one of the beat writers maybe, but without that hippie mentality. I like the way that Jack Kerouac writes, but not necessarily what he writes about. Basically, we'd be the opposite of Russian literature, which tends to be dark and focuses on one agonizing thing for a really long time.

Andy Downing is a Metromix special contributor. metromix@tribune.com

California Wives personality test
What's the last album you bought? “Keep Your Eyes Ahead” by The Helio Sequence Song you've listened to on repeat recently? Helio Sequence: “Hallelujah”
Song you never want to hear again? Anything by Ke$ha “Worst lyrics ever.”
Best concert you've seen in the last year? The National at the Riv “It was my second time seeing them and it was incredible.”
New band you don't know personally that deserves to be big? Houses “They're going to hit on some awesome stuff.”
Favorite movie ever? “8 1/2”
Chicago's best music venue? Schubas “Just for how intimate it is.” - Metromix Chicago


It doesn’t matter if you’re French Vanilla or a Deathcore Party Shank Freak you want to Double Dip we can tell.

Good afternoon, today’s Double Dip is brought to you by a Chicago four tet by the name of California Wives. The four tet comprises Jayson Kramer on vocals and guitar, Dan Zima also on vocals and guitar, Hans Michel guitar and keys, and lastly Joe O’Connor on the drum sticks.

These new wave synth pop geniuses have created one of the best albums of the year releasing Affair EP produced by Brett Mohr, currently California Wives is unsigned, so for all you flavor makers take a real good listen because this may be bleeding edge sound for the new year. - Earmilk.com


Formed in 2009, California Wives, aka Jayson Kramer (vocals, keys, guitar), Dan Zima (vocals, bass, guitar), Joe O'Connor (drums) and Hans Michel (guitar, keys), have spent the past year working on their 5-song EP Affair. Since then, the Wives have kept busy - they just wrapped a Daytrotter session last week, and are preparing for their upcoming Winter tour.
With a rather simple approach and a sound that sort of taps into that Drums kind of post-80's British pop tradition with out being British or being from the 80's, California Wives make some darn fine indie pop. If they should actually record an album w/in the next two years they could be on to something here. Lets hope that happens. - The POP! Stereo


If you’re looking for a local act to listen to or catch live, but don’t know who is worthy of your time, give Chicago-based quartet California Wives a try. Their debut EP Affairs coils with ephemeral moments of emotionally deep lyrics over steady beats and catchy melodies, then recoils into a necessary zenith of crafty bass lines and rock. The single “Blood Red Youth” rings of genuine indie rockers who like to create music in simple ways. Lyrics like “Now what those people did to you in your blood red youth” allow the listener to tap into their own youthful memories. They never do finish the line, but it doesn’t matter because the tune is immediately likeable. California Wives’ sound could be described as a blend of indie rockers Phoenix and the shoegaze swoons of M83, but they definitely have their idiosyncratic moments that set them apart. (Appearing with The Helio Sequence and Sun Airway as part of the Tomorrow Never Knows Festival at Lincoln Hall on January 12) –text: Angie Martin - Chicago Innerview


SoundSpike's Song of the Day for Thursday (12/16) is "Purple" from Chicago New Wavers California Wives, off their self-released sophomore EP, "Affair," this year's follow up to 2009's "No. 8."

Pals since childhood, the bandmates' songs are co-written by Jayson Kramer (vocals, keys, guitar) and Dan Zima (vocals, bass, guitar), with guitar and keyboard arrangements by Hans Michael, and drumming from Joe O'Connor. Although "Affair" was entirely self-produced, the band brought in Brett Mohr to oversee production at Gravity Studios, and Carl Saft for mixing mastery at Chicago's Engine Music Studios (Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Iron and Wine).
California Wives is not the beach pop that their name implies. Self-proclaimed fans of "computer-generated music," the band's sound is a synthier take on New Order via the Police, with their goal being to "mix and match their musical influences" to create a fresh take on New Wave, according to a press release.
Listen to "Purple" by California Wives:

Purple (mp3)
Next up for California Wives are music videos for "Blood Red Youth" and "Photolights," both off "Affair," as well as plans to record two new singles set to drop in early spring of 2011. All five songs off the new EP are currently being streamed at the crew's Bandcamp page, and are available as a package digital download for $5. For more information on California Wives, visit the band's website or on Facebook page. - SoundSpike


Top 5 Chicago Bands

Disappears
Clique Talk
Scott Lucas and the Married Men
My Gold Mask
California Wives - Newcity Music


December is a month for making lists. Shopping lists, guest invitations, New Years resolutions, and so on. It seems pretty natural to list things you need or want to accomplish in the future, but rarely do you list things that were useful to you in the past. The list below is exactly that. At some point throughout 2010, these 10 albums were absolutely perfect for me.

6. California Wives –Affair

This Chicago-based quartet is little known and unsigned; but that shouldn’t last too long. Affair is a quick album whose hi-hat driven pep will get you dancing in three seconds flat. If this Phoenix-influenced EP is any indication of how their first LP will sound, then these guys might be on my list in 2011. - The Nerdist


California Wives’ Dan Zima (bass, vox) and Joe O’Connor (drums), take a few minutes to let you in on their favorite Chicago must do’s.

California Wives “Purple” – listen while you read

Joe – Hot dogs. Chicago takes hot dogs seriously. It is home to Hot Doug’s, the sausage superstore, the only place I know where you can a foie gras hot dog or an elk hot dog. Even if you’re not in the mood for that Chicago-style hot dog, despite having an inflexible and unable-to-be-substituted list of ingredients, it’s easy to reproduce and a good one is pretty easy to find in the city. Just look for the Vienna Beef sign.

Dan – Michigan Avenue. I’m a man who enjoys shopping, and it’s all there, aside from thrift stores. Plus, silver robot guy is usually hanging around somewhere, and he’s top notch.

Joe – Some really smart person whose name I don’t know mandated that all land on the lakefront be public. As a result, the entirety of the lakefront is unblocked by private residences or hotels or crappy restaurants that have nothing to offer but the view. Instead, it’s nothing but public parks, beaches and bike trails. Visiting the lakeshore in the summer makes it worth living in the city, but even in the winter you can drive on lake shore drive and be awed by Lake Michigan.

Dan – Movie theaters. We’ve got some arty ones, some fancy 3D-capable ones, and some hella cheap ones where the seats are broken in a really nice way. Also at least one that I know of where you can drink beer.

Joe – The “L.” Anyone who rides the “L” on a daily basis thinks I’m crazy, but imagine how much more miserable the CTA would be if it consisted entirely of subways. It’s great to ride through the city and be able to see all the neighborhoods from a bird’s eye view. Ride the “L” when you’re not trying to get to work sometime and you’ll realize it.

Dan – Venues. Schubas is my favorite, but which is best is an endless argument. We have them in all shapes and sizes pretty much, to fit acts at whatever level.

Joe – Malört. Made in Chicago, many attempts have been made to describe the taste of this liqueur. There is none I have heard that adequately describes it. Everyone should try it at least once, and if you know someone who hasn’t tried it, be sure to buy them a shot, so you can witness the glory of their Malört face.

Dan – The Harold Washington Library. There’s a library branch about 5 minutes from my place, but I never use it because the Harold Washington is there if I ride the L for about a half hour. Plus downtown has lots of nice places to read.

Joe – Summer festivals. Between May and early September in Chicago, hardly a weekend goes by without a large outdoor festival. They celebrate everything from oysters to bicycles. Most of these festivals also feature excellent musical lineups; without paying for a ticket to Lollapalooza, Pitchfork Music Festival, or North Coast Music Festival, you could have caught The xx, Fucked Up, and Warpaint this past summer. Often, there’s more than one in a weekend, meaning you might have to pick one over the other. What was I doing instead of watching Fucked Up on Chicago Avenue last July? Oh right, playing with my band across town.

Dan – Lake Shore Drive. I never really understood the appeal of convertibles until someone took me down LSD in one. Good times any time of year. - Indie Rock Reviews


By Matt Pais
8 p.m. Jan. 12 at Lincoln Hall

If you like the poppy emotion of the ‘80s but not the cheesiness, these locals’ shimmering indie wave should work for you. They sound like a band that’s going to get bigger. - Metromix Chicago


Artist: California Wives
Hail From: Chicago
Song: 'Purple'
Album: 'Affair' EP [iTunes]
Sounds Like: Phoenix, New Order

In Their Words: "'Purple' came together pretty quickly for us as a band. I think we were looking for a song that had something to say but didn't take too long to get the point across. The lyrics were treated the same way. Each verse is just a quick snap shot of a memory, which is usually how those things manifest themselves in my head anyway. In many ways the song is a condensed version of what we do as a band. Its important to be concise with music, so we were keeping that in mind." - Vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist Jayson Kramer - AOL Spinner


We hipped you to Chicago quartet California Wives a while back, and happily the boys got their self-released Affair EP off the ground without a hitch. So now it’s onward and upward for these lads, who will likely find themselves being wined and dined by more than a few labels in the new year. Guitarist Hans Michel was mensch enough to take a moment and share some holiday insights, as well as make a plea for the record industry. By the way, Hans. When you get the video for Blood Red Youth done, you know where to find us.

MP3 : California Wives – Blood Red Youth

MOKB : Any special musical plans for the Holiday Season? Any specials songs or shows?

Hans Michel : As of right now, we don’t really have anything in the works as far as holiday songs go. I can’t imagine that we’re the kind of band that would do a special holiday song. I hope I’m not too much of a buzz-kill, but I just really can’t hear it happening any time soon.

MOKB : What project(s) have you been working on lately?

HM : Right now, we’re pretty busy. We’re working on putting out a single in the near future. After Affair, we all got into darker, more atmospheric stuff and wrote a lot of songs that have more of an emphasis on texture as opposed to hook. So now we’re working on incorporating that feel with songs that sound a little more like “us.”


MOKB : What was your favorite album or musician of 2010?

HM : In terms of what I really got into this year, my artist of the year has to be The Whitest Boy Alive. In terms of stuff that actually came out this year, I’d say Wild Nothing’s Gemini has been my favorite record.

MOKB : What’s the plan for 2011? Any secrets you can divulge? Teasers you can offer up?

HM : We’ll be working on new recordings, as well as trying to play out a lot more. It would be nice to get some more exposure outside of Chicago, so I’m sure that will be something we work towards. We also have music videos that are set to come out sometime soon. The music video for Blood Red Youth is almost finished, we are just waiting to see the first draft.

MOKB : What was the best holiday gift you ever received?

HM : I got some Lollar pickups for my Telecaster one year. The guitar is a 300 dollar guitar, but those pickups turn it from a cheap axe into an instrument. I’ve been sold on those pickups ever since. Jay actually has some in his guitar as well, they’re awesome.

MOKB : What was the worst holiday gift you ever received?

HM : A tamogachi. I know it’s the thought that counts, but man I hated those things. I’m sure my aunt had to trample someone to get it for me, too, but I was just not feeling it. I still have it in my parents’ basement somewhere. I’m planning on holding on to it for like 30 years and showing up with it on the Antiques Roadshow. It’s still in the original box, so hopefully it’ll be worth something then.

MOKB : Favorite holiday movie? song?

HM : Elf. Elf encapsulates the holidays; it’s silly, dumb (in a good way), childish, and fun. There’s a while where Will Ferrell isn’t in the movie and it gets kind of bogged down with a plot, but it’s still great.

MOKB : Any special Holiday shout-outs, ultimatums or threats you like to share in this public forum?

HM : I’d like to wish everyone out there a very special Festivus! But on a more serious note, I’d like to recommend everyone reading this to buy at least one record as gift this year. A lot of people aren’t buying music and this is a good way to share something you like with someone you love, while still supporting something you believe in. It’s a lot better than a sweater from Macy’s, too. - My Old Kentucky Blog


Loud. Technical. Logical. Passionate. This is how the California Wives have described the individual members of their own band: Joe O'Connor (drums), Hans Michel (guitar, keys), Dan Zima (vocals, bass, guitar), and Jayson Kramer (vocals, keys, guitar), respectively. It is fitting as an overall assessment of their sound, as well. The Chicago based four-piece has just released their five-song EP Affair, and the buzz is already building.

With a mix of influences from post punk to new wave, blended with the chilled-out vibe of California and the danceable, techno-pop sounds of modern-day Brooklyn, the California Wives (who are not from their namesake state) are changing the way Midwest music is perceived.

“People expect something when you say you're a Midwest band,” says frontman Kramer, “and I don’t know that we fit that expectation. People think of Wilco, alt-rock with a country influence or something, and we’re definitely not that. We just want to make music that we enjoy, music that we’re not thinking too hard about.”

Affair, which is the band’s first studio recorded release, is danceable, shoe-gazey, and poppy but a tinge dark. They site groups like New Order, the Stone Roses, and the Cure as strong influences. Their minimalist, polished sound comes from being well-trained in their craft and their instruments, but seasoned enough to know when to hold back on their individual talents. Despite the growing notoriety, the guys are taking it all in stride and hoping that all the work pays off.

“I think we’re all ready to do whatever we have to do,” says Zima. “We’re not really waiting for someone to swoop out of the sky to help us. I don’t think that’s a reasonable way to go about this right now. We’re excited about the attention we’re getting, and we’re hoping that it’ll take us somewhere.”

The group formed last year as a trio sans Kramer and played their first show in February. They later brought on Kramer to add an element of electronic sound that they felt was lacking. The combination is working, as blogs—mostly Chicago-based at this point—are plugging the California Wives as people to watch; and they’ve definitely carved out a niche in the town’s music scene. Recently, the group played the Wicker Park Festival with several other up-and-coming indie rock bands, including Gringo Star and Plants & Animals.

“The thing I like about Chicago is that we have a really good infrastructure of clubs,” says Zima. “There’s a lot of places to play; it doesn’t matter how famous you are.”

Adds Kramer, “People are really responsive at our shows. I’m not really sure if we just get lucky or maybe they lock the doors and the only people in the club are the ones that have been drinking all night," he laughs. "But the shows that I’ve been to and the ones we’ve put on ourselves have been really fun.”

As opposed to New York, where musicians often complain that the crowds are jaded, the California Wives relish in the idea of coming from Chicago and find the city's music scene a supportive and rewarding one.

“I’m happy to say that we’re from here,” says Kramer, “I look at the bands that came from here when I was a kid and the bands that are coming from here now, and it's only getting better." - Venus Zine


Since I’ve been contributing to My Old Kentucky Blog, I’ve been receiving emails from a variety of bands that are trying their damnedest to get there name out there. Within the past five days, I’ve been contacted by five different bands all asking the same thing. They all would like some publicity and are seeking a small article about them on my or the other contributors behalf. Many will pass along album files, a few tracks, videos, pictures, etc to use in our write up. Pretty standard stuff, just passing along a press kit and see if they can get some bites.

Most of the stuff I give a listen and realize it isn’t worth my time and delete it without a thought. For example, one band is playing some festival in Canada and passes along a few tracks in hope of being featured. They describe their sound and live performances as “Imagine Janis Joplin and Fiona Apple joined by Radiohead and The Police for a Saturday night out.” If that is what you liken your music to, not only are you making such lofty claims but the combination of those four random artists would sound like crap.

One other example would be a self proclaimed indie pop/folk band from North Carolina via Pittsburgh who met in New York and were deported from Australia. Don’t worry that made no sense to me either and sounds very fishy. So I downloaded the press kit, sent it to iTunes and gave it their EP a listen. Well it certainly wasn’t indie pop/folk. When I think of indie pop/folk bands or artists like Fleet Foxes, Iron and Wine, Local Natives, M. Ward come to mind. This sounded like something you would hear on mainstream contemporary country music radio, which isn’t country music.

Also got a few Electro Pop outfits send me some stuff that was likened to LCD Soundsystem and Radiohead, the former I’m not a fan of and the latter I have a love/hate relationship with. So when I see those names I have a general idea than I’m not going to enjoy it. I was wrong, they were both better than I thought but easily forgettable and it was a sound that I’ve heard before in other bands so not really anything to get excited about.

So sorting through all these emails and not finding one that was even worth a write up. Finally I came across a band that I liked enough to give some praise to, and I’ll go so far as to actually mention them by name. Maybe its a midwestern thing and I like to support my indie region but Chicago’s California Wives took me by surprise. They meant business, because the email I received from them was also sent to well respected music blogs like Gorilla vs. Bear and Aquarium Drunkard. They claim to have a New Wave Indie Pop sound and that claim is justified. They list New Order as an influence and I can hear that in their music. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been so obsessed with Wild Nothing and Beach Fossils lately, but they came across to me like a more clearer sounding version of those bands which is certainly a good thing. I could see them fitting in well on the Captured Tracks label. A tour of Wild Nothing, Beach Fossils, and California Wives is certainly something that would get this music blogging nerd excited. It was just obvious listening to the tracks they provided me from their upcoming EP that they just put in more time than the other bands that contacted me. The production is flawless and the arrangements are very well done. Very simple yet well crafted indie pop. They presented their music better than those other bands, they are indeed indie pop/new wave sounding and can live up to influences like New Order. There wasn’t any false billing, what I read about them was exactly what I got when I gave them a listen. So if I can squeeze it in, I’ll make my best effort and do my part and give them a nice write up for MOKB. If not, I hope this is enough to suffice. I will be contacting the band and letting them about this so they can give it a read. My blog doesn’t get anywhere near as much traffic as MOKB or some of the other big music blogs, but if they can get just one new fan from this then I will have done my service. So click the link and give them a listen and you just might find a new band to listen to.

Chris - In The Basement of My Brain


There are awesome bands in Chicago. The problem is that nobody listens to them. And it doesn’t matter how many times I say the words “Welcome To Ashley,” “Jonny Rumble,” and “Maybenauts” – crummy pop-punk bands will always draw a larger audience. I’ve come to terms with that sad reality. What I absolutely cannot come to terms with is you passing on the new California Wives EP – it’s called Affair, and it will make you fall in love with pop music all over again. From the first chords of “Blood Red Youth,” which conjure weird images of Rush discovering a MacBook in the pre-civilization desert, to the frenzied “wearing your fancy shoes tonight” climax of “Twenty Three,” California Wives deliver the goods.

These guys are one of those bands that seem to spring fully-formed from the ether, even though the secret is always practice, practice, practice. California Wives have practiced; they are tight the way professional bands are tight. They own their shit. I saw them open for Jonny Rumble at Beat Kitchen a couple months ago and they were scarily focused and taut; I overheard their set at a street fest a few weeks after that, while I sweated it out in the Assault tent drinking beers with @eddieftw, and I realized that this was something truly special – what Affair does is similar to what M83's Saturdays = Youth did in 2007. When I listen to Affair, I feel like I am in the greatest John Hughes movie that was never made; I feel like I’m walking not just on the clouds, but amidst the clouds; all my emotions are pink and fluffy, like cotton candy. This band is better than Prozac.

But, seriously: what sets this EP apart from the thousands of others that get released by unsigned bands every year? First, there’s the production – the songs are arranged artfully, with exactly the appropriate amount of bells and whistles. You could break these tracks down to their essentials, play them on an acoustic guitar, and they’d still be fantastic. But dressed up in the fanciest clothes that the band could find, these compositions reach for a different level. Do they grasp it? Yes, of course they grasp it. California Wives are major! Second: this is sensitive, emotional music that still finds the time and wherewithal to rock out – when the guitars start chuggin,’ you know they’re gonna build to a massive, awe-inspiring melodic drone, one that perfectly complements the sophistication and craft on display. California Wives are nice, but not too nice – they do fuck shit up when it’s necessary.

Do you need any more reasons this is great? Okay, here’s one more: they are nice, normal-looking dudes that take obvious joy in creating music. They were not formed by accident at Hair Cuttery. I’ve taken to calling California Wives “the Walkmen of Chicago”; that might not be fair or accurate, but that’s the vibe I’m picking up, whatever they happen to be putting down. Affair makes me want to go back to college and major in poetry. This band is eerily precise and absolutely breathtaking in their ability to create polite, pretty soundscapes that dudes like me want to live in. In a world where everything seems crazy, California Wives make sense; they also make great music, and Affair is incontrovertible proof of that fact. I always say I want more when a band drops a decent EP, but this time it’s serious – my skin itches. - Assault.it


Chicago’s California Wives have a song on their forthcoming EP, Affair, called Blood Red Youth that’s catchy as f*ck! It’s as if Eric Elbogen (Say Hi) or Darren Jackson (Kid Dakota) joined forces with The Cars or Stars. Michael (one of the dudes in the office) stated… “It’s like pop music that doesn’t annoy me”… which means he liked it too right? - What I Heard Today


The new ep from California Wives, Affair, is a perfect end of summer ep filled with create new wave pop. It hard to image that this band just formed back in 2009 and is already releasing their second ep. Affair is much more polished than the band's debut ep, No. 8. The ep was recorded at Gravity Studio where the first ep was self-recorded. Yet, there is also a clear maturing as a band that is taking place.

The band flirts with dance pop, and that could not be clearing than in their hit single "Twenty Three" which appears in a new version on Affair. The band celebrates the release of their new ep on Sept 3rd at Schubas with Panda Riot and Color Radio. The show starts at 10pm and tickets are only $5. - The Deli Chicago


Some say music is cyclical, that we just rehash genres and eras from 15-25 odd years back, with little progression. Those with a keener eye ear, however, will point out that the notable artists and bands from each go-around aren't merely remaking what was then made, rather they use what worked well in the past as a step towards something new, often incorporating select bits and pieces of various other genres, musical "scenes," and eras. Basically, good music is often most like a Katamari Damacy ball.

With that in mind, we'd like to introduce California Wives. The Chicago-based four-piece are a great example of the retro-sourced forward-thinking type of music I'm talking about. Clearly drawing influence many from 80s-era new wave, alt rock, synth rock and post-punk superpowers like New Order and The Cure, California Wives also infuses elements of early 90s shoegaze acts and modern indie rock. The result is supremely easy on the ears, while maintaining the feel of a rock outfit (something most modern synth-driven acts lose).

The band is set to self-release their new EP, titled Affair, in early September. Fans of 80s new wave and/or post-punk, 90s shoegaze, or 00s indie pop (Just about everyone in the classroom should hopefully be raising their hands at this point), you're definitely going to want to keep your eyes on these guys. - In Your Speakers


The Chicagoans known as California Wives are aimed at winning hearts and young love with their debut EP, “Affair”. The late John Hughes would’ve found room for them on the “Pretty in Pink” OST between the Psychedelic Furs and Echo & the Bunnymen. After several spins of their five track EP, I became instantly smitten with their promise and what future efforts hold. According to their blog, the guys are hard at work on new material and will be hitting Daytrotter next month! - Cause = Time


I felt a slight twinge of importance when I received the email introducing me to California Wives.

It was sent without BCCing all of the other blogs it was being sent to, and at the top of the list was little old me, followed by some of the biggest and best blogs on the planet. It felt good to be in a group with those guys, all being the sent the same immense new music. When I first saw the name of the band, something told me they’d be good. But good was an understatement.

The four-piece from Chicago have a nice range of sounds influencing them, from Smashing Pumpkins-inspired vocals on the song “Twenty Three” and a modern take on Joy Division’s New-Wave, Post-Punk sound on “Blood Red Youth”, to nostalgic 80s reverb-laden vocals on “Purple” and an infectious, electronic and sparse intro on “Photolights”. They’re currently unsigned but I really don’t see that lasting for long, these four guys seriously have what it takes to be huge.

It’s one of those rare moments where you’re introduced to something special, but you just can’t quite put your finger on what exactly makes it special. All you can do is enjoy it and say you were there from the start.

Marcie was unbelievably kind enough to send me their entire debut EP “Affair” before its official release date of September 3rd (you’ll be able to get it from iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby), but not only that she let me post the whole thing for you to listen to as well as download “Blood Red Youth” for free. If you enjoy this, then thank her and the band. - Listen Before You Buy


It would be a surprise if Chicago’s own California Wives are still unsigned in the near future. Coming off of an impressive set at the Wicker Park festival this summer, the band’s new five song EP, Affair, is subtle yet catchy. It’s the kind of EP you listen to eight times in a row, not for a specific song, or a particular verse. It’s because all five songs are just well done.


The local quartet comprising of Joe O’Connor (drums), Hans Michel (guitar, keys), Dan Zima (vocals, bass, guitar), and Jayson Kramer (vocals, keys, guitar) are making waves in the Second City. The EP is crafted in their own way, stressed with synthetic keystrokes and hazy lyrics, and the listener almost addictively, absentmindedly bobs along.

It’s a giant smorgasbord of sound; some songs pull from The Cure, some The xx, some like their song “Twenty Three” sound like a softer Smashing Pumpkins jam. It’s the kind of song you wish you could always listen to through headphones, just completely immersed in it, without distractions.

The EP immediately shows its colors with a strong opening, “Blood Red Youth”. Its simple, cyclical lyrics yield to the higher concentration of blended guitar solos and drums kicks. This band doesn’t build songs in the typical format of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. Instead, California Wives’ paradigm tends to be more repetitious in nature, lining a small handful of lyrics to a punctuated beat over the course of a five-minute song.

This redefined style, this inventiveness, is a large part of their appeal and uniqueness. A perfect example would be their closing song “Photolights”, which comes in with a 1:42 musical intro, and ends with a 1:24 outro, but still manages to have minimal lyrics in between.

Affair is a well-rounded, thoughtful EP, which leaves the audience yearning for a longer, full-length CD. But for now, we’ll have to settle with the five songs as a little taste of what is hopefully yet to come. - Loud Loop Press


Chicago-based California Wives excel at making calming, thoughtfully arranged music that slowly soars on the wings of its identifiable influences. (Like-minded local brethren The Changes are a good reference point.) On their latest EP, September’s Affair, California Wives deliver five tracks that often begin unassumingly—see the ringing guitar chords and soft, but persistent drum beats in EP opener “Blood Red Youth”—but eventually build to a well-earned catharsis. The band does so by laying out each musical element in their sound simply: a sighing vocal here, a jangly guitar line there, and all glued together by taut bass lines and atmospheric keyboards.

The results of this approach can be quite fetching, as on songs like “Twenty Three” and “Guilt.” Additionally, California Wives know when to kick it up a notch. Thanks to a solid bass line, the propulsive “Purple” sounds like a punchier Death Cab For Cutie. Later on, both ambient soundscapes and a fuzzier guitar crunch are showcased on EP closer “Photolights.” But even when California Wives introduce new textures into their sonic palate, the results often feel the same: vaguely wistful and melancholic. Were Affair an album length, well, affair, the musical outcome could have been monotonous. As it is, though, California Wives’ EP is a breezy, tuneful record local music fans should definitely remember. - The Chicagoist


Despite their name, this band is actually comprised four dudes from Chicago with an uncanny sense of melody. Not sure if they have or desire West Coast women, or maybe they’re something like Don Draper in that they have ‘secret’ Californian wives… but one thing’s certain - they know how to write pop songs. This is the lead single from their self-released Affair EP, a nostalgic affair that hints at influences like New Order and Phoenix. I bet you can’t listen to it without at least tapping yr toe under yr desk. I was. - yvinyl


"Twenty Three," the first track from California Wives' new self-released EP, Affair, has an electronic tinge—a blippy synth that sounds something like an 80s-era Casio approximating a harpsichord—but otherwise it's a lightweight but structurally sound indie-pop tune that's about as breezy, chilled-out, and effortless-sounding as they come. You'd never guess the group arose out of its members' shared taste for booming electro.

Three of the band's four members—bassist-vocalist Dan Zima, drummer Joe O'Connor, and guitarist-keyboardist Hans Michel—grew up together in north-suburban River Forest, and in late 2008, during a postcollege period when all three lived at home, they made lots of trips into the city to hit the clubs, frequently crashing with a friend who shared an apartment with their eventual fourth, Jayson Kramer. Kramer, who grew up in Mundelein, shared their affection for bloghouse, the noisy, high-energy subgenre of dance music popularized by the likes of Boyz Noise and Crookers.

Zima, O'Connor, and Michel had just decided that their cock-rock-inspired group, Javier & the Bear, was a failure. "We played a retirement home," says Michel. "That was our big accomplishment."

They pulled the plug on it and started the band that would become California Wives, playing one show under that name as a trio, on New Year's Eve 2008 at Lilly's. Kramer—who'd previously been what he calls a "weird electronic folk" band called Within This Forest that had recorded a five-part suite inspired by The Old Man and the Sea—came aboard in January '09, playing synths and some guitar and stepping in on lead vocals. By spring everyone had moved into Chicago. At first the idea was to highlight bloghouse as an influence. "Originally we tried to fit that in with guitars," says Kramer. "At one point we had a Kaoss Pad. That lasted about two practices."

For guidance they looked to bands that had successfully bridged rock and dance music: New Order, Blur, and Madchester acts like the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays. At first they made demos in Michel's basement, but none of those songs ended up among the five on Affair. "We all have pretty strong personalities," says Michel. "And we all have, y'know, a pretty strong artistic vision of where each song wants to go, and I think that's to our strength when we're sitting around a room and trying to work things out. But when you're sitting around a mixing board in my basement, that's not necessarily such a great thing. It ends up with a lot of blowup fights over two seconds of reverb."

For the EP, California Wives ended up recording at Gravity Studios and mixing at Engine, working with Michel's former roommate Brett Mohr. The blend the band came up with is significantly subtler than just throwing keyboards or glitchy electronics in with some guitars—the ratio of organic to synthetic changes from song to song, and the simple, clever arrangements thoroughly blend the scrappy feel of indie pop with the propulsive rhythms and glossy flash of disco. "Twenty Three" and opener "Blood Red Youth" have some of the easy charm of Phoenix, but the band's not a one-trick pony. In among the frothy cuts are relatively moody songs like "Purple," where they indulge their love of shoegaze and come off sounding like a fizzier My Bloody Valentine.

Saturday's show at Schubas, which doubles as an afterparty for the North Coast Music Festival, is a release party for Affair.
- The Chicago Reader


The Chicago four piece, California Wives blend indie pop, post-punk and shoegaze and then couple it with new wave influences like New Order, Stone Roses, and The Cure. Blending those elements and influences, you end up with a band that sounds like a cleaner, polished, and more coherent version of Beach Fossils or Wild Nothing. California Wives would fit well on the Captured Tracks label of which both those contempories are signed with.

The group is ready to unleash a new self-released EP, Affair, this September 3rd. Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing have received a nice amount of success with their debut albums, and given the sonic similarities, and most importantly, if given the chance by you the reader, I don’t see why California Wives can’t do the same. Maybe it’s just a midwestern tug on the heartstrings, but I can only hope that good things happen for these guys from Chicago. So, labels take notice, and I’m talking to you Bloomington, Indiana-based label Jagjaguwar. This could be the next buzz band everyone is talking about. - My Old Kentucky Blog


"Having wrapped up their first EP, the band is continuing to push their sound and genre-fusing blend of post-punk, new wave, and shoegaze to more and exciting directions." - Blank Slate Music Blog


"California Wives aren't from California. They are midwesterners, although their sound does have a sunshiney ring to it, especially their electro/Franz Ferdinandish first track, EL84 - which I was pleasantly surprised by - it has a good, solid rock bass line and just enough synthesizer to let you know we are in the new millennium." - Chicago's Independent Music Review


Discography

Affair EP - 2010
Tokyo single - 2011
Art History -2012

Photos

Bio

California Wives have an uncanny talent of mixing genres - new wave, shoe gaze, and indie pop - into their very own sound. The bottom line is that California Wives' sense of nostalgia has inadvertently created a rebirth of music that makes you feel...alive again.

Band Members