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Sybris @ Silver Dollar

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sybris @ Underground

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Sybris @ Main Hall

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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


The best kept secret in music


Sybris's "Breathe Like You're Dancing" effectively combines shoegazer guitars with punk drums and a vocalist who has the voice Courtney Love has been trying to emulate for a decade -- it's rough, melodic and vulnerable. - Philip Stone

Sybris - Sybris 8.0
[Flameshovel Records 2005]

The "Alternative" tag that often pops up in iTunes seems absurdly dated by now, unless you're downloading Pearl Jam records. But it actually fits Sybris, a new band running contrary to several current trends and instead revitalizing the sensibility of 1990s, singer-oriented alterna-rock.

Many modern indie bands, from Animal Collective to Architecture in Helsinki, revolve around genre-hopping eclecticism and fluctuating band-member duties-- a denaturing of the band-as-hierarchy aesthetic. Sybris hark back to the Smashing Pumpkins model, when bands were interested in making what we used to call the Unified Statement, not rummaging though through genres like a trunk full of costume jewelry, and when roles were more concrete-- less instrument swapping, more stability.

Here in the aughties, we've also seen the regression of the singer-as-driving-force, with more emphasis on whole-band harmonies, multiple singers, and quirky embellishments. Sybris's debut LP is more in the vein of bands that put a charismatic singer in front of strong yet unflashy musicians. The vocals and the music are always clearly demarcated-- while the latter is competent, powerful, and indispensable to the album's success, it maintains a uniform tone that doesn't distract from the centerpiece (vocalist Angela Mullenhour), even at its most thunderous. This singer first, band second sensibility, and the consistent temperament of the songs, is what makes Sybris resonate with Life Without Buildings (without the chirruping vocal tics) and Yeah Yeah Yeahs (without the artitude), two other band who updated this same model for the modern setting.

"The Best Day in History in Ever" opens with a percussive throb and fluid, concise guitar lead that makes one picture Karen O doing judo warm-ups with a mic stand. But this is where the two diverge: Yeah Yeah Yeahs might abruptly ramp the song up to a yowling blues splatter, but Mullenhour puts on her best Edie Brickell coo as her band rolls smoothly through understated dynamic shifts, building incrementally to a thrashing middle section, sinking through a quiet descent, then a upwelling to a mountainous, distortion-drenched re-crescendo. "You're Only Confident in Your Insecurities" opens with a fuck-all '90s guitar jangle, then edges crisply to a pop-metal stomp, the music and vocals intensifying as one. Even the coffee-shop strum of "Blame It on the Baseball" is made magnetic by Mullenhour's authoritative vocal turn, a blend of raw emotion and melodic control, and by the shimmering, stormy shoegaze it gradually melts into.

I like wildly-varied instrumentation and genre-hopping as much as the next musically savvy mid-20s dude. But the stuff can be exhausting, sending me scrambling for a Leonard Cohen comedown. Sybris's long songs, tonal contiguity, deliberate pacing, and infectious melodies are more than pleasant but less than challenging-- just right. They require no palliative counter-measure, and when the disc ends, there's no compulsion to rush to the changer-- why not just let it spin once more?

July 12, 2005 - Brian Howe

TWFS/Sybris Split 7"
...On the other side you’ll find a haunting track from Sybris, a female fronted band with whirling guitars, and oceanic drum crashes, ebbing and flowing in and out of pain and beauty. This is akin to say if a female version of Tim Kinsellas fronting Denali were to make a record, this is great. -

TWFS/Sybris Split 7"
...Backed up on this split vinyl venture by Sybis whose “The Clowns Were Hilarious” is a swirling juggernaut that staggering deliveries the goods on a hand basket weaved of pure unadulterated genius art rock. - J. Sin

TWFS/Sybris split 7" review
..."The Clowns Were Hilarious," a delicate, haunting song that ebbs and flows like a lovesick ghost floating through a lonely haunted house. - Gary Blackwell

The dissonance between Angela Mullenhour and a wll-o-wisp guitar melody propels 'Breathe Like You're Dancing' before it builds into a Dead Meadow-ish climax.
- Dave Chamberlain

Like their musical ancestors My Bloody Valentine, Smashing Pumpkins and Lush, Sybris is emotive and aggresive, catchy and dissonant, cacophonous and pure.
- UR Chicago

There's no such thing as too much reverb for Chicago's Sybris. The nine tracks on the band's self-titled debut album are practically drowning in it. Every component of their sound -- frontwoman Angela Mullenhour's soaring vocals, the massive drums, the buzzsaw guitars -- resonates like it's ten feet underwater. Notes ring out long after their initial attack, flooding the sonic space.

But Sybris isn't one of those bands with more guitar pedals than bright ideas. Having a sound is easy; Sybris has songs too, and catchy, well-crafted ones at that. The low-key "Blame it on Baseball" is a bloody valentine to early-'90s alternative rock, and "Breath Like You're Dancing" sticks around just long enough to get stuck in your head before it explodes into cacophony. The echo isn't there to obscure any compositional deficiencies, just to facilitate the spacey vibe. "Good Internal Clock," the album's climax, begins in Sybris' native Chicago and winds up on Mars.
- Lane Brown

Three thousand years ago, the Achaeans -- a group of Greek warriors -- founded Sybaris, a city on the gulf of what's now Taranto. Remember that? Not many rock musicians do, but then, not many have the lyrical insight of Angela Mullenhour, the 22-year-old Chicago singer who leads the rising indie-rock band Sybris -- an intentional misspelling of that ancient Greek city.

The epic band, in general, is an artistic notch above the guitar-rock band. Sybris is epic because they write anthems: faraway intros, slashing choruses, runaway climaxes. The album's finale, "Good Internal Clock," leaves the greatest mark. It opens with a percussive click, a somber guitar and Mullenhour's aching, scratchy voice. Soon, the guitars amplify and her voice awakens, building to a tough, go-for-broke climax.

Elsewhere on the record -- and onstage, judging by Sybris' recent Chicago show -- Mullenhour's brink-of-sadness voice combines echoes of Cat Power, Bjork and, if faintly, Pretty Girls Make Graves' singer Andrea Zollo. It's not coincidental either that Sybris' tune "The Clowns Were Hilarious" opens with a texture similar to that of a popular Explosions in the Sky ballad. Both bands' albums were mixed deftly by John Congleton at the famed Soma Studios, in Chicago. - Daniel King

Sybris construct towering cathedrals of sound on their self-titled E.P.. A crashing cascade of guitar, drum fills, and interlocking vocal parts make "Quiet! My Stories Are On" one of the most glorious songs about selfishness and seperation one will ever hear... Likewise, "Happy Birthday America" builds from simple strumming into thick layers of syncopated guitar, ala Velocity Girl.
- Patrick Conlan


Sybris [Flameshovel 08.09.05]
Split 7" w/Ten Words For Snow [Boyarm Records 2005]
A Time For Hollerin EP [Self Released 2004]


Feeling a bit camera shy


Sometimes lady luck doesn’t quite look like lady luck. On a typically dreary Chicago evening in April 2003, Shawn Podgurski (bass) and Phil Naumann (guitar) were hanging out at a neighborhood bar and mulling over the idea that their fledgling rock band was perhaps missing something when they met Angela Mullenhour (vocals, guitar). The three shared a few beers and as it turned out the fake-ID-wielding-then-19-year-old Mullenhour was a musician as well and looking for compatriots. It was determined that the three would jam together later that week with then-drummer Bill Bumgardner. The four were all mutually blown away by the music they made that night, which Mullenhour would later describe as a beautiful kind of “sonic gluttony.” When the night ended Podgurski and Naumann knew they had found the missing piece of the puzzle in Mullenhour’s impassioned voice. Bumgardner revealed that he actually knew that from the moment Mullenhour walked into the practice space: “She had her shoes duct-taped together. I knew it would work out even before she sang a note.” Sometimes lady luck…

Soon after, the now quartet named themselves Sybris (an intentional misspelling of a hedonistic ancient Greek city) and began crafting a sound that’s a fusion of ambient art rock, 80s heavy metal and, oddly enough, folk. Dual guitars interlock with a powerful bass backbone, all driven by swirling and lifting drums. To complete it, there’s Mullenhour’s acrobatic voice that acts as the band’s two-headed catalyst – she has the ability to either ground their sonic chaos or run the whole thing right off the rails. At times, the kinetic Sybris sound invokes Slayer fronted by Edie Brickell (the tail end of “Blame It On the Baseball”) and at others it feels more like the lovechild of Belly and Swervedriver (“Best Day In History In Ever”). The band even manages to produce songs that could have wound up on the album of an imagined My Bloody Pixies supergroup (“Neon” and “Breathe Like You’re Dancing”).

Most importantly, the band looks to make music that is epic and beautiful, yet fun, an idea that really began to take hold when the group began to play live. Mullenhour recounts the moment at their first show when “we’d played about three songs and the room just got really quiet. People were paying attention during the quiet parts. I remember my shoe flew off during the show and I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, this rocks. This is the most fun ever.'” It’s this “fun first” approach and Sybris’ unique blend of genres that soon had them sharing stages with everyone from …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and Har Mar Superstar to Stars and The Thrills. Despite having only been a band for a year, the young and determined Sybris embarked on a few tours, one of which led them to play 2005’s South-by-Southwest festival in Austin, TX. Within the same month, the band was picked up by Chicago label, Flameshovel Records (also home to Chin Up Chin Up and Make Believe).

Original drummer Bumgardner gave way to Eric Mahle in February 2005 during the final stages of the recording of their self-titled debut full length. The album was engineered by Mike Lust (Sweep the Leg Johnny, Ten Grand, Atombombpocketknife) at his Phantom Manor Studios and then mixed by John Congleton (Explosions in the Sky, 90 Day Men, Chin Up Chin Up) at the famed Soma Studios, both in Chicago. The album serves almost as a retelling of the band’s brief history, containing a survey of material written over the first two years of the Sybris’ life. It’s an exquisitely crafted synopsis of the recent past and a heady nod to the future of this young band.