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The best kept secret in music


"HUSHDROPS - Volume One (Subspace Platform)"

The ambitious scope of the Hushdrops' debut full-length CD may surprise those who remember the Chicago duo's psychedelic rock tunes like "Snow' and "Myrtle" on local compilations. Volume One, which arrives after more than 10 years of performing finds John San Juan (vocals, guitar, piano) and Joe Camarillo (vocals, drums, guitar) covering a lot of ground without ever losing their sense of direction. A variety of guest musicians and vocalists help create a lush, well-crafted ambience.

The Hushdrops' ability to create catchy pop songs is evident on the hard-hitting though optimistic "Summer People," which was covered earlier by the Webb Brothers. "Spacecraft" provides a short trip back to the duo's psychedelic roots, while "Miami Rap" offers an authentic dose of 1960's style garage rock. "Macho" is a slower, soulful song, and "Cold Harbour Lane" works as a jazz flavored instrumental.

The melodic love song "Emily" is more midtempo and features spirited backup vocals by Carloyn Engelmann, Elizabeth Elmore, and Laura Katter. Engelmann plays viola as part of her strings arrangement on "Divine," a classical sounding piece with religious imagery, as well as on the elegant "Air Chocolate," which would have fit in perfectly on Elvis Costello's latest effort, North. She and Elmore augment the exotic and acoustic "It's Alright" with beautiful harmonies, while Katter's vocals make the spooky lounge music of "Doctor V" even more fun. Engelmann, Elmore, and Katter share lead vocals on "Here She Comes," the energetic final track which recalls the English band Lush.

Ultimately though, it's San Juan and Camarillo who deserve the credit for the success of Volume One. Their tight harmonies and spirited musicianship, along with their ability to compose songs in a variety of styles strongly suggest that the Hushdrops should be recording CDs on a regular basis.

-Terrence Flamm
- Illinois Entertainer

"HUSHDROPS - Volume One"

Soon to be big-in-Japan debut by Chicago duo (now trio) who play timeless pop music that's informed by sixties and seventies rock (Zombies, Lazy Smoke, Wilson, Rundgren, Soft Boys, Costello, to name but a few), sometimes even by eighties or nineties indiepop (e.g. "Spacecraft" sounds a bit Smiths-on-Creation-ish and "Cold harbour lane" Toirtoisesque). Not every single track is a success, even though "Emily", "Doctor V" and "Here She Comes" are true favourites, but it's great to see mature musicians (they've also played in Material Issue, the Webb Brothers and quite a few other bands) go for chamber orchestra strings or sixties harmonies rather than the usual indie alt post lofi and what not clichés. He who dares wins, and in a landscape where dire and depressing music are taken way too seriously all too bloody often, these guys deserve gladiator accolades for pursuing their own vision. The sound production of "Volume One" may not be as hip or top notch as that of Stereolab, the High Llamas, Mellow or who have you, and there may be flaws in the singing (e.g. "Macho"), but then again this is merely a self-financed debut. Hushdrops' talents are beyond nurturing, yet they still deserve your loving care and patient apprehension. Admire their petals by not dictating false expectations upon them. (pv) - Uzine

"Hushdrops Volume One (Subspace Platform)"

Meticulously-crafted pop songs with an edge. So rather than getting all dreamy or garage-y or whatever, Hushdrops simply groove along with a quiet intensity. The songs are pretty, but they've got bite. And that's always a nice delivery. - Aiding & Abetting

"Hushdrops - Volume One"

By Greg Walker

After what seemed like years of waiting, and it was, Chicago band Hushdrops finally have released their debut LP “Volume One.” For those of you who managed to wait out until the final release instead of coming up with their own burned copy, it was definitely worth the wait. The Hushdrops are more proof that Chicago produces some of the best music heard this side of the world. Songs like the warm feeling “Summer People,” the rocking “Macho,” and the amazing closer “Here She Comes” and the rest of the 14 songs will restore your faith in good music, at least until the newest “American Idol” disc. - @ Magazine

"STAGE BUZZ Hideout, Chicago Friday, April 16, 2004"

The Hushdrops have been together more than 10 years. One would assume a band could build up quite a catalog in that time. Maybe three, four records. One would be wrong to assume that about the Hushdrops, who incidentally were the headliners for our first annual AH showcase in 2002. The band has just released its first full-length, Volume One (Subspace Platform), in January 2003.

Why so long? Your guess is as good as anyone's. Maybe John San Juan (vocals, guitar, piano) and Joe Camarillo (vocals, drums, guitar) were happy with the string of singles and compilation appearances. More than likely it had a lot to do with the various other projects both members have been involved in throughout the years. By the end of 1999, Camarillo was putting in significant time with Pruno and San Juan was playing with The Webb Brothers, which interestingly enough, covered the Hushdrops' "Summer People" on its 2000 release, Maroon (Warner Brothers).

No matter what the reason, the band proves it's well worth the wait on Volume One, an albums that displays San Juan and Camarillo's jaw-dropping range of influences, all of which sound not the least out of place being mashed together on the record's 14 tracks. And we guarantee you've never heard this much xylophone on one rock album. The Hushdrops' specialty is floating pop pleasures like the aforementioned "Summer People" and "Divine." You won't hear many groups capable of crafting such delicately woven harmonies either. This becomes most obvious on songs featuring backup and lead vocals by Carolyne Engelmann, Elizabeth Elmore, and Lauren Katter, who add even more sweetness to the sugary buzz of "It's Alright" and "Here She Comes." "I Get What I Want" thrives on a vibrant, stoner Pink Floyd vibe and is the most obviously derivative song on the record. San Juan and Camarillo also enjoy cranking up the distortion occasionally, especially on the psychedelic swing of "Spacecraft" and the fuzzy garage rock of "Miami Rap."

On the group's website, San Juan admits one of the reasons this LP wasn't recorded and released earlier was that he felt it was an "admission of irrelevance" for the band to put the album out on its own, with no label support. "The idea of putting one's heart, soul, and life savings into something that only your closest friends would ever hear did not suit my ego," he says in the group's bio. Volume One should ensure San Juan that the Hushdrops are going to be heard by more than just his close friends.

Clemente will open.

-- Trevor Fisher - Illinois Entertainer

"Hushdrops - Volume One - Subspace Platform"

First impression:
Delicious pop with just a hint of spacey rock

Where you’re likely to hear this CD:
Smart college radio

Song you should pick to play on the jukebox:
"Doctor V"

Drinking Partners:
The Webb Brothers, Beach Boys

The Morning After:
Finally, it's arrived. A band that takes influences from artists they respect and creates songs that sound as unique as the ones their forebearers created decades ago. From Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys to Burt Bacharach to late-sixties psychedelic pop, Chicago's Hushdrops have it covered. Volume I, released on California label Subspace Platform, is an amalgamation of different styles that all have one thing in common--they are rooted in sweet, sweet pop.

Hushdrops John San Juan (vocals, guitar, piano) and Joe Camarillo (vocals, drums, guitar) spent years behind the Chicago music scene making other good bands sound better. The Webb Brothers covered Hushdrops "Summer People" on Maroon. San Juan has played with Ness and Veruca Salt, among others.

Volume I was a long time coming (demos have been floating around for years), yet it is definitely worth the wait. For music fans sick of hearing the same old thing, or tired of bands that try to be something they are not, Hushdrops will be a Godsend. The songs on Volume I are instantly addictive, and you'll find yourself singing along in no time. Soon enough, you'll be spreading the gospel of Voume I like the rest of us.

San Juan and Camarillo enlist several Chicago guest musicians and vocalists on Volume I, which only adds to the craft of their songs. Songs like the poppy "Summer People," "Macho," and the stunning "Here She Comes" leave you longing for more, while "Emily," "Divine," and "Doctor V" are instant classics.

One can only hope that Hushdrops don't wait as long before the next release.
(David A. Cobb) - Swizzle-stick

"Hushdrops - Volume One - CD - Subspace Platform"

Self recorded, financed & produced long playing debut from Chicago duo. Melodically, inevitable & obvious in the best way. Slicker than Steely Dan, yet every bit as random as early Pink Floyd. Reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine, Zombies, Broadcast, the Who. Band members have worked w/such acts as Webb Brothers, Waco Brothers, Kevin Tihista's Red Terror, & Apocalypse Hoboken. - Tone Vendor

"reviews > 6/14/2004"

Complain all you want about production-obsessed, melody-happy, Brian Wilson-toenail-clipping-collecting melodic pop auteurs; when they actually have a gift for melody and composition, they can make the creation of great songs seem not only effortless, but as necessary as breathing. Hushdrops, composed of longtime Chicago scenesters and background musicians John San Juan and Joe Camarillo, are clearly studio rats whose time has come -- musicians for whom the careful layering of instruments and melodies is not merely an optional effect, but the sole direct route to musical truth. Thankfully, their obsessiveness, their ambition and the two years that it took them to get this album recorded have not dulled or compromised its effectiveness in any way. Volume One is filled with knowledge of its touchstones, worthy of its forbears, and a pure blast of summery fun to listen to.

Full disclosure: the fact that the disc's third track (and one of the album's highlights), "Emily", shares a name with a certain Mrs. McCallon certainly hasn't hurt the band's status in my estimation.

"I Get What I Want" is a good place to start in discussing Volume One's many delights. The opening portion takes a cue from Abbey Road's B-side, mixes in a little of the super-shiny pop sound of, say, Steely Dan, and pins the chorus on a slab of distorted, Smashing Pumpkins-style guitar. There's a whip-lashing effect at work here, exemplifying a personality's poles -- calm and easygoing versus harsh and demanding. "Doctor V" rides a metallophone up the scale to pure pop bliss, where the vocals are taken over by a lovely female guest. The track's gently bouncy tone belies its rather dour subject matter, the pharmacological escape from romantic pain.

The above tracks were praised pretty much at random: anyplace your laser lands, the output satisfies. Even "Miami Rap", thankfully, turns out to be a Blur-style rocker (think "Bank Holiday" from Parklife) rather than an ill-conceived hip-hoppification of the Hushdrops' sound. Closer "Here She Comes" takes its sweet time getting started, with well over a minute of wind-up before the twin female vocals take over, drifting over the track's insistent drumming and careful distortion. The result is what you'd get if you locked My Bloody Valentine, Ivy, and possibly Magnapop in a room and forced them to agree on how a song should sound. Oh, and the careful mix-through of the rhythm track and the overarching wave of distortion in the closing minutes is a real treat.

This album is brilliantly good. If you're jonesing for a new pop band to call your own, or you're just looking for a great new tune to sing for the Emily in your life, you'll find it here.

-- Brett McCallon
- Splendid



"Volume One"
Released: 2004
Label: Subspace Platform (SPR1002)


"Divine" b/w "Emily" 7"single
Released: 2001
Label: Sunshine Sheen (sss-112275-3)

"Summer People" b/w "Radio 1990" 7"single
Released: 1998
Label: JSJ (JSJ001)

"Transmission" b/w "Miami Rap" 7"single
Released: 1998
Label: JSJ (JSJ002)


Various Artists
urbs in horto (CD)
Hushdrops "Emily"
Released: 2003
Label: johann's face

Various Artists
Whodunnit (CD)
Hushdrops "Sensation" and "Melancholia"
Released: 1997
Label: No Cigar Records

Various Artists
Raspberries Preserved (CD)
Hushdrops "Overnight Sensation"
Released: 1996
Label: Ginger Records

Various Artists
Random Acts 2 (CD)
Released: 1994
Label: Q101

Hushdrops receive frequent airplay from "Volume One" on Chicago stations WXRT and The Zone, as well as on numerous college stations throughout the US.


Feeling a bit camera shy



John San Juan (vocals, guitar, piano) and Joe Camarillo (vocals, drums, guitar) formed the group in their native Chicago sometime in the mid-90s. Though both Camarillo and San Juan have found plenty of work (often together) with various groups over the years (among them Material Issue, The Webb Brothers, The Waco Brothers, Pruno, Ness, and Kevin Tihista's Red Terror), it has always been the Hushdrops that best captures the musical chemistry between the two. Chief among their collective attributes are an ability to write "inevitable" songs that seem like they've always existed, an uncanny knack for equally obvious (yet neither "clever" nor ineffective) vocal harmony, an experimental streak that never seems to rob the music of it's most basic impact, and an ensemble dynamic that recalls the powerful yet subtle aesthetic of groups like the Who or Led Zeppelin at their best. Their earliest work can be heard on such singles as "Summer People" (later covered by the Webb Brothers with some international success), and "Miami Rap". Though their first long player was recorded as a duo, any number of bass players came and went before the arrival of Jim Shapiro (ex-Veruca Salt) shortly after the completion of Volume One.


Volume One is their debut long player.

Recorded in Chicago over a period of two years (mostly by engineer Neal Ostrovsky at his studio, B-Side Audio), the album takes in 14 gorgeous and varied gems of childlike simplicity in little over 40 minutes.

San Juan: "Recording the album before seeking a licensee may be the only smart thing we've ever done. Our experiences with other bands had taught us just how poisonous the influence of various moneymen and/or label and management politics can be to the actual music. We'd both seen many a potentially great work of art absolutely neutered to the point of irrelevance by several different varieties of brain trust or committee-often within a band. If existing completely under anyone's radar has offered any advantage, it's that it allowed us to actually make the record that we've always wanted to hear. 'Playing the game'-as it were-has landed plenty of our acquaintances and colleagues in the unemployment line (or worse) without so much as a decent record to show for it. Making this record without focusing on the peripheral aspects of this particular industry seemed like the only sensible option."


Tacitly (or explicitly, depending on one's perspective), the boys owe an enormous debt to acts like The Who (the Hushdrops' recent performance of Tommy was, dynamically, not atypical of their concerts), My Bloody Valentine, Led Zeppelin, The Descendants, The Smiths, The Buzzcocks, Joni Mitchell, The Zombies, Pink Floyd, Broadcast, Black Sabbath, Todd Rundgren, Lush, Cheap Trick, The Beach Boys, The Soft Boys, Stereolab, The Beatles, Cardigans, Burt Bacharach, Sonic Youth, NRBQ, as well as many a lesser known talent.

Be that as it may, the Hushdrops don't appear to have embraced any specific style, genre, or movement. Least of all, anything as limp as "power pop" (a charge that has occasionally been hurled at the group). As anyone who buys records will know-claims of "timelessness", "depth", and "stylistic breadth" are routinely made on behalf of many a wretched or dull act or album. However, such hyperbole accurately describes the magic of the Hushdrops and Volume One.