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"Slings & Arrows' Outrageous Fortune: Bad Deal to Big Appeal"

LOCAL HEROES: A WEEKLY COLUMN ON MUSICIANS AND HAPPENINGS IN THE CHICAGO AREA MUSIC SCENE
Slings & Arrows' outrageous fortune: Bad deal to big appeal

Andy Downing
Published November 24, 2006

In May 2005 drummer Shawn Rios placed a classified ad on a popular Web site in an effort to sell a 1/4-inch reel-to-reel tape recorder given to him by an uncle. Henry Brown made the purchase, but discovered the recorder was defective shortly thereafter and returned it for a full refund. After these initial dealings, Rios and Brown maintained contact, eventually starting a band, Slings & Arrows, that they believed could be far more successful than their failed business transaction.

The pair's faith was rewarded during a sharp, six-song performance at the Metro this past October--the quintet swinging between woozy, off-kilter guitar rock and desert-highway dirges that rumbled like "Go With the Flow" by Queens of the Stone Age.

"It's easy to get absorbed in what they're doing onstage," says the group's manager, Jay Waddell. "They really do something interesting with the sound. It just has this mood."

This atmospheric musical backdrop is anchored by Brown, who channels Blur's Damon Albarn with his powerhouse vocals. On this night, Slings & Arrows has the look and sound of a veteran touring band; every aspect of the set--from the song selection to the pacing--is worked out with military precision.

"We can spend 45 minutes just making the set list," says Rios, crammed in the booth at a Wrigleyville diner with his bandmates several weeks after the show. "There's a point where I just leave the room and let everyone else deal with it."

The group's attention to detail is obvious in everything it does, right down to the 13-month process needed to piece together the current lineup. Bassist Johnny O'Brien joined Rios and Brown in July 2005, recruiting longtime friend and Colorado resident Cyril Nigg (guitar) into the fold four months later. This quartet, originally billed as Public Four, played its first show at Silvie's Lounge in North Center just hours after Nigg's plane touched down. Says the guitarist, "I made it [to Chicago] at 10 a.m., played the show and was back at the airport at 4 a.m. to get back [to Colorado] in time for work."

That first appearance was so well received that Nigg moved to Chicago full-time this past January, making the 1,000-mile trek without so much as a job in place. The addition of keyboardist Jake Fish in June completed the lineup and led to a name change from Public Four to Slings & Arrows.

"Animal Grammar," the band's debut EP (recently reissued with a bonus track, the explosive political anthem "Not My War"), reflects this steady evolution, songs unfolding with the natural ease of leaves adopting a brilliant fall hue.

"The stuff we're doing is very organic as far as the process goes," explains Brown. "A lot of what we're going for is just a feeling we have in our minds."

To that end even the lyrics are generated spontaneously, Brown taking his cues from the overriding mood in the tune. "Sometimes you have to learn what the meaning of the song is as you're learning how to play it," says the frontman. "I'm not at home lying in my bed and journaling. [The lyrics] sometimes seem like they're almost predestined."

This take-it-as-it-comes approach hasn't slowed the band's output. The group, which is currently recording its first full-length with an eye on a summer 2007 release, already has stockpiled more than enough material for two albums.

"Even when it was just two of us brainstorming we knew this band was waiting," says Brown. "And to think, if the tape machine had worked, we never would have seen each other again."

Slings & Arrows, 9 p.m. Thursday, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave. $7; 773-489-3160. - Chicago Tribune


"Best of 06"

ILLINOIS ENTERTAINER
-- Steve Forstneger's Top Tunes of 2006

1. "Daniel," Tortoise & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (Drag City)
2. "The Devil You Know," Todd Snider (New Door)
3. "Steady, As She Goes," The Raconteurs (V2)
4. "MY AMELIA," SLINGS & ARROWS (self-released)
5. "Addicted," Lloyd Banks (G Unit)
6. "There It Go! (The Whisper Song)," Juelz Santana (Def Jam)
7. "Born Secular," Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins (Team Love)
8. "Fergalicious," Fergie (Interscope)
9. "Somethin' Stupid," DeVotchKa (Ace Fu)
10. "Crazy For Leaving," Catfish Haven (Polyvinyl) - Illinois Entertainer


"Slings & Arrows Preview"

Slings & Arrows preview
Posted on February 21st, 2007 in Stage Buzz, Weekly by IE E-Mail This Post/Page Print This Post/Page

Slings & Arrows
Schubas, Chicago
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
slings

Chicago’s Slings & Arrows have a knack for choosing poor monikers — they used to be Public Four — but more than make up for it with a shadowy dream pop/slow-motion pyrotechnic mindscrambler.

Recorded under their former name, “My Amelia” was strong enough for me to vote for it as my fourth-favorite song on my Village Voice 2006 “Pazz & Jop” poll, and the other three songs on their Animal Grammar EP were nearly equal candidates. “Amelia”’s echoy, central guitar figure crosses the night sky like the blinking lights of an airplane, until a rivalling chorus emerges from the earth to set the sky on fire. It gloriously references both Coldplay’s “Yellow” and Radiohead’s “Creep” but somehow sounds like it came before both, like some defunct Suede/My Bloody Valentine one-off.

Elsewhere on the EP, “Birthday” resembles the latter stages of Talk Talk, “Policeman” rattles the Marc Bolan chains, and “Mockingbird,” ironically, is the least referential, creating tremendous space for itself before evoking everything from Southern rock, shoegazing, and mod R&B. Curiously, a new song posted on their MySpace page — or at least not included on the original Public Four version of the EP — “Not My War” follows this blue-eyed soul tangent and nearly runs into another hot Chicago band, Catfish Haven.

Must be some poor-band-name thing.

Lemur headline; Freer open.

– Steve Forstneger - Illinois Entertainer


"Shakespeare goes rock"

Slings & Arrows brings its groove to Metro Saturday
BY TIM SHELLBERG
Times Correspondent

Henry Brown, front man and guitarist of the rising Windy City rock act Slings & Arrows, wanted to apply his band's namesake to his drummer, Shawn Rios, after their first encounter.

"He ripped me off. He sold me a broken tape machine," he said, laughing. "So I came back and was ticked off with the broken tape machine ready to cause some trouble. But we got to talking and exchanged some music. And he called me up a week later and said 'Hey, let's be in a band together.' And I said 'that's a bright idea.'"

Scheduled to perform with a trio of up and coming Chicago-based bands Saturday at Chicago's Metro, Slings & Arrows got its start a year and a half ago. After woodshedding some ideas together, the duo rounded out its lineup with guitarist Cyril Nigg and bassist Johnny O' Brien, and named the band the Public Four.

Finding inspiration in everyone from the Beatles to Radiohead to Franz Ferdinand, the band has turned heads in the Windy City music community. The live shows and limited pressings of its debut EP, July's "Animal Grammar," have drawn praise from the Chicago rock press, Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune's Red Eye.

"The press response has been so overwhelmingly positive that it makes us think that we're onto something worthwhile," Brown said.

"When you're an independent band, it's difficult to see the positive results of what you're doing, and to have that feedback, especially from people whose opinion to me really matters, is great."

Less than a month ago, the foursome became five after adding keyboardist Jake Fish to its lineup, and the band rechristened itself Slings & Arrows. While Brown admits that changing the moniker is a strange thing to do at this early juncture in their career, he said it was something that "needed to happen."

"The name Slings & Arrows was bouncing around while we chose to call ourselves the Public Four and it stayed in the back of our minds," he said.

"One day at practice, we realized that our name was actually Slings & Arrows (to us) the entire time, and now everything feels just right."

Within the next three weeks, Brown expects to have "Grammar" available through proper online venues such as iTunes and CDbaby. The band is also at work at what it hopes will be its full-length debut, which it hopes to have completed by spring.

For more information on Slings & Arrows, go to www.myspace.com/slingsandarrowsrock.

Slings & Arrows is sharing the stage Saturday with a trio of fellow up-and-coming Chicago-based bands: Ariel, whose latest effort, a self-titled EP, came out last year, Office, whose "Wound Up" was iTunes' "Single of the Week" earlier this year, and AMFM.
- Northwest Indiana Times


"UR CHICAGO MAGAZINE EP REVIEW"

"Calling Public Four (now Slings & Arrows) the next big thing may be the understatement of the year. The unsigned Chicago quintet has a sound so intoxicating that the thought is definitely within reason. Their self produced EP, Animal Grammar was recorded earlier this year and released July 1st at the Double Door. Frontman Henry Brown met drummer Shawn Rios in the spring of 2005 and the duo immediately began playing together. The group quickly took form thereafter. The four track EP has an extremely varied vocal, lyrical and instrumental sound. On 'Birthday', brown wails like a possible heir to Thome York, one track later he falls into the Strokes-esque 'Policeman.' With the varied Grammar behind them, they'll have time to decide which direction (if any) they'd like to go with future releases. Regardless, Public Four's (now Slings & Arrows) catchy, hook-ridden pop sound leaves you wondering, 'How the hell are these guys still unsigned'?" - Kevin Almasy - UR Chicago


"EP Review in Chicago Sun Times"

Public Four (now Slings & Arrows) is a local group with a much more conventional take on romance: "My heart is a radio/and it plays for me every day," the group declares on "Mockingbird," one of the four strong tracks on its debut EP, Animal Grammar. The quartet owes a clear debt to Britpop and shoegazer bands such as Blur, Supergrass and My Bloody Valentine, but it's never overly derivative, and its smart and hook-laden songwriting marks it as a band to watch. -Jim DeRogatis, Chicago Sun-Times - Chicago Sun Times


"IN CARPAL TUNNEL MAGAZINE"

CHICAGO (October, 2006) -You knew them as Public Four. You saw them all over the press. You heard them on the radio, on podcasts, and onstage. The Chicago quintet has scratched their old band name, added a keyboardist, and have been reborn. Slings & Arrows will make their debut this month on Saturday, October 21st at Metro.

Henry Brown leads the pack with soaring vocals reminiscent of Paul McCartney, Thom Yorke and Chris Martin. Brown's guitar riffs are matched by fellow guitarist Cyril Nigg's brilliant chord changes. The band's unabashedly tight rhythm section features Johnny O'Brien on bass and Shawn Rios on drums, who are complimented by synth-scientist and keys player, Jake Fish. Likened to Muse, Radiohead, and Franz Ferdinand, Slings & Arrows has hit the bullseye with "..catchy, hook-ridden pop sound [that] leaves you wondering, 'How the hell are these guys unsigned?'" (UR Chicago).

Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times writes, "..smart and hook-laden songwriting marks it as a band to watch." Slings & Arrow's contagious music has the likes of the Associated Press, Chicago Tribune's RedEye, Innerview Magazine, The Midwest Beat, Tripwire, WLUW, Fearless Radio and countless blogs all buzzing about the band.
- Carpal Tunnel Magazine


"Around the Coyote Fest Review"

As my nostalgia faded I heard an amp begin to hum fuzz. If you can believe it, I loved it when, with my complete permission, Slings & Arrows (formerly Public Four) punched me in the stomach with out even touching me. No, these guys aren't bullies or vindictive Jedis. They're a gutsy quintet taking several courageous risks. Seeping from every inch of their instruments was an innovative blend of steep fjords of Pink Floyd and unashamed Strokes influences. When I got beyond the obvious inspirations I realized a collective goal and relentless pursuit for reinvention of a classic sound. What I discovered was crisp songwriting that meanders just enough and keeps you guessing when that next Jedi punch is going to come. And believe me; they are well on their way to galvanizing Chicago's already buzzing indie scene.

But Slings & Arrows went even further and reached out beyond the borders of their instruments. Three songs into their set and a little disappointed at an unnecessary spatial gap between them and their fans, lead crooner Henry Brown kindly beckoned the hesitant with a hospitable upward swoop of his pick hand, “Come on, come up now.” A courageous pack did obey. The gap shrinked. “Okay, at least the girls came up, we're fine with that.”

I was surprised at the difference between the live show and band's first collection of songs, The Animal Grammar EP , which was released earlier this year. The EP showcases four songs, one favorite being the beautifully paranoid melodic gear shifting drag race “Policeman,” a perfect tune to have blaring as you tear down any interstate highway in the early morning hours, without, hopefully, any flashing red and blue chasing you.

Animated lead guitarist and Boulder-native Cyril Nigg showed his chops and chugging guitar grooves and especially his entertaining version of Chubby Checker's twist while keyboard chemist Jake Fish volleyed euphoric smiles with his mates. And around and around it went.

The only reason to cuff the crowd was their lack of response to such a prime opportunity to let loose on a Friday night. The only excuse for the crossed arms and inappropriate chin rubbing was that Slings & Arrows' sonic and vocal Floyd references, which when mixed with psychedelic layers of guitar and Brown's ponderous lyrics, do give the present the choice between hip shaking or, depending on the song, a kind of clandestine emotional inventory.

Then vines grew and twisted on mic and sampler stands. Leaves poked out from keyboards and drum kits. This was not a high school horticulture class or an in-store Fabbrin's Flowers staff jam session. It was Bound Stems, another local quintet, who are also on the rise and currently touring.

I couldn't help but smile in response to how much they enjoyed playing their music, and similar to S&A, gave off a strong vibe of joy and desire for audience interaction. It was like they were handing you an early birthday gift, begging you to unwrap it. The melding harmonies of lead singer Bobby Gallivan and keyboardist/vocalist Janie Porche drew me in while the heartfelt rhythms stomped their way into my heart.

Both Bound Stems and the still-unsigned Slings & Arrows are due to release full length albums in the near future, so their EPs and live shows will have to do for now. - Being There Magazine


"Slings & Arrows in Ink 19"

Slings & Arrows
Chris Catania

The Metro was once again buzzing on a Saturday night. The spotlight was on Chicago�s indie-scene as local alternative radio station Q101 was in the house to promote the bill of indie talent and, more importantly, to get the local crowd riled up about another member on the night's guest list- MTV, which was visiting the Metro to shoot live footage for a forthcoming documentary on the legendary venue.

I had a brief pre-show chat with one of the night's performers, Slings & Arrows lead singer and Portland-native, Henry Brown. The rest of the Chicago indie-rock quintet simultaneously chimed in as a unified and collective voice about how S&A is on the cusp of sending their innovative rock beyond the perked ears of the Windy City.

Yes, the moniker is pulled from one of literature's most famous Shakespearean soliloquies but the lyrics don�t evoke the cheesiness of watching Romeo & Juliet in sophomore English class but actually make me wish that high school teachers would wise up and incorporate some of S&A�s curriculum-galvanizing grooves into the snore-fest of a syllabus.

I pulled up a chair as we all squeezed into close quarters for the backstage blitzkrieg discussion.
�Not My War� is a sharp protest song almost hidden inside an upbeat pop groove that yanks your head around when you hear the reframed �Give Peace a Chance� lyrics. How did it feel writing a political song that you can dance to?

Henry Brown: I figured why beat around the bush since we�re so past innuendo about the war at this point and people are dying. I definitely wanted the song to say something political but we wrote it with major chords so you can still tap your foot and dance to it. I just had certain things I wanted to say about the war going on so I just said it.

You guys really mine the '70s arena rock and then mix it with a heavy dose of experimentation and psychedelia. Do you talk about what you�re listening to when you're recording together?

S&A: We don�t really talk too much about what we�re each listening to. We just get in the studio and play. Someone brought a Thin Lizzy riff in and then that spun around in our heads for awhile but we all listen to really different music. Some of us like Thom Yorke�s Eraser or OK Computer and then some of us might be listening to the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds.

All of sudden there was a knock at the door. The conversation halted and all eyes rested on the door as it swung open and Chicago rock beat poet Thax Douglas entered, carrying his usual black and white canvas tote bag. Slings & Arrows manager showed concern but the band assured their manager that it was fine. Thax then reached into his bag and pulled out a spiral notebook with curled edges and handed it to the band..

Thax said, �Hey, guys�I wanted to run this poem by you before I perform it tonight.�

S&A passed around the notepad, reading the poem, some of them mouthing it, others nodding their head and scratching their chins and then, eventually, they all wiped concerned grimaces from their faces and handed the tattered notebook back to Thax.

S&A said, "Looks fine, Thax! Yeah, sounds great! You gonna read it before the show?"

Thax nodded his head, yes, and placed his notebook back in his black tote bag, waved goodbye, shutting the door behind him.

So I heard you guys have some labels coming tonight. Are you nervous?

Henry Brown: This is what we've been shooting for for awhile now. So having labels come to a show is something we're ready for and after playing some twenty shows we feel we�re more than ready.

So if you had a choice, would you like to play live more or record albums?

Henry Brown: We love to play live. The interaction with the fans is something we love and look forward to but we really want to be a recording band and make albums. We want to create albums that people can get lost in.

You guys released your Animal Grammar EP last year and now you�re working on a full length.

Henry Brown: We put those EP songs together quickly so people could start to get a listen of who we are. This next record we want to again make ourselves in our own studio but since we�re doing it all ourselves it takes longer than usual, being on a label would really speed that up.

So Thax Douglas poetry gave way to Slings & Arrows and Henry Brown�s upwards current of lyrical beckoning seemed to float and hypnotize the hipster maidens in the balcony. For a moment The Metro morphed into a modern Globe Theatre. S&A songs touch all parts of the sonic pallet; some are detached and drenched in angular anguish like �Birthday� and others like �Policeman� fire on all synth and rhythmic cylinders, charging into the depths of paranoia. But then there�s the softer more delicately drifting tune �Mockingbird� which first summons and then tells about the beloved mp3 that perpetually spins in our heart�s core.

Slings & Arrows is, as Brown mentioned, hungry to play live, eager to record and land on a label. You can catch them at upcoming Chicago area shows and hear what you should�ve heard during third period English besides your head hitting the desk.
http://www.slingsandarrowsmusic.com/ - Ink19


"Animal Grammar EP review in Illinois Entertainer"

Slings & Arrows (formerly Public Four) may have picked another poor name, but their music makes up for it. Weaving sweeping dramatic gestures with quiet, delicately composed moments of tranquility, there’s something stately and mannered about their precision. Warped, blurry guitars nestle in a dreamy, psychedelic haze, and the layered instruments swirl together with Henry Brown’s low-slung drawl. It sounds messy and schizophrenic, but if The Animal Grammar is any indication, their full-length debut should be incredible. (www.myspace.com/ slingsandarrowsrock)
– Patrick Conlan - Illinois Entertainer


Discography

Animal Grammar EP

Photos

Bio

"Just a year after teaming up as a
solid unit, Chicago’s Slings & Arrows has
become a band to be seen and heard in
the city’s competitive scene. As one of the newest efforts
in town, they’ve stormed out the gates,
gained considerable fan base momentum, and are already playing the city’s top
local venues and college/internet radio
stations while scheduled to share festival
and club bills with fellow buzz darlings
The Bound Stems, This Is Me Smiling,
Office, Walter Meego, and The 1900s.

Portland-bred singer/ lyricist Henry Brown
and veteran Chicago drummer Shawn
Rios (Cracklin Moth, Alison Breitman,
etc.) had a chance meeting in the spring
of 2005 and the connection was made to
start playing together immediately. Some
months had passed as the pair shared a

love for music’s more dramatic aspects,
working to create a well-rounded sound,
slightly lofty and artistic while still remaining substantial and accessible to different
tastes.

Joined by synth-scientist/ pianist Jake Fish
and anchored by bass guitarist/ vocalist
Johnny O’Brien and dynamic lead guitarist
Cyril Nigg (who moved from Boulder, CO to
join the group), the five-piece has a slightly
schizophrenic sound at times, which works
well for them– leaning in toward the grandiose charm of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the
Moon one minute and brushing up against
an early Beatles meets Strokes-era type of
sound the next, then throwing in the high-
staccato, guitar-burning rave of ‘70s arena
rock contrasted with the more modern
risks of Radiohead. Rock with dance, pop
with conviction, full of momentum. Their

sights are set not on retro gimmicks, but
on innovation. Something much needed
these days.

While already being passed around in the
blogosphere and featured in online and
print publications such as The Tripwire, Innerview Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, The
Onion, and Something Glorious, the group
works to invent songs with gorgeous layered vocals and harmonies, melodic and
rhythmic hooks with excellent songwriting
to back them up, and one of the tightest
rhythm sections around right now. Slings
& Arrows self-produced Animal Grammar
EP, was recorded earlier this year. The
band is currently in the studio with an intense recording agenda ahead of them for
their upcoming full length release." -Ari Bendersky, Associated Press