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Bloomington, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Bloomington, Illinois, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Rock Blues




"What the heck is That?"

Do You Know About That? by That?

What, you might ask, is That?

For starters, an awfully good band. Though “collective” might be the more accurate term: the group’s eight members play an extensive assortment of instruments, from oboe and clarinet to mandolin and viola da gamba to melodica and (allegedly) “whale sounds.” Add to this collection frontman Eric Novak—whose schizophrenic range of vocal stylings probably counts as seven or eight instruments all by itself—and you get an impressively diverse sound palette, frequently exploited by the band members’ considerable skill and enthusiasm for experimentation.

This variety in and of itself wouldn’t make Do You Know About That? particularly original. (Stubborn eclecticism is itself a category, after all). Many genres are represented here, but there’s little overlap between them. Rather than smashing musical stylings together, That? is content to assign each track its own genre. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Each successive groove is expertly handled—from the dirty blues of “Didgeridoo” to the Latin-jazz/muzak of “Lonely Games” to the spacious folk-pop of “Stove Sensuations”—proving the band’s adaptability, if not its imagination.

What sets That? apart, though, is an irrepressibly ridiculous sense of humor—and a lead vocalist willing to go to any lengths to drag the listener in. “Dynamic” isn’t a strong enough word for Novak, who bellows and croons and whispers and shrieks, reminiscent of Robert Plant and Chet Baker and everyone in between. It’s endearing at first, and then exhausting—but ultimately, just fun and seriously impressive. The only thing Novak can’t do, it seems, is consistently sing on key. But his magnificent enthusiasm just about renders pitch irrelevant, anyway.

More importantly, Novak never takes himself too seriously. A charming, indispensable silliness permeates the band and the album. “A Razor Wicked” deals with the aftermath of an existential crisis related to shaving (“A beard is not an excuse for hate!”). At one point he manages to rhyme “raven,” “caveman,” “stalagtite,” and “underbite” in consecutive lines. My favorite line might be from “Didgeridoo Blues”: “Play me a didgeridoo / Got the heebie-jeebies all night,” Novak sings with hilarious intensity. “When I be a-playin’ it / It make me feel alright!”

While Novak is the dominant force, his interactions with That?’s supporting cast often steal the show. He and lead guitarist Ayethaw Tun conspire for some of the album’s more sensational moments: the coda of “Parallels,” the tipping point of “Bitchin’,” and the epic breakdown of “Razor,” to name a few. Vocal harmonies with supporting singer Abby Lyons on “Parallels” are unexpectedly lovely—Lyons’s clean, lilting voice is a striking counterpoint to Novak’s, potentially a secret weapon on That?’s arsenal. An ascending chromatic passage with violinist Madz Negro and drummer Derek McAnally near the end of “Stove Sensuations” is nothing short of spectacular. You get the sense that this group has a deep reservoir of talent to draw from.

That? is confidently loose in a way few new bands can afford to be. Rather than constantly trying to prove themselves, the group lets their polished musicianship and natural inventiveness speak for itself—and then goofs around. The album loses steam in the final three tracks, which don’t quite pack the exuberant humor of the first three or the harmonic intrigue of the middle three. But this is a promising debut from a relentlessly entertaining band.

Do You Know About That? can be heard and purchased at: Also available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon.

That?, based in Bloomington, Illinois, includes Eric Novak, Ayethaw Tun, Jonas Wightman, Ethan Berg, Madz Negro, Abby Lyons, Ryan Donlin, and Derek McAnally - Will Ejzak


Still working on that hot first release.



Born out of necessity to realize the rock song “A Razor Wicked”, That? is a collaborative band in all senses of the word; no one person writes all the songs, and every member contributes to the writing process. That? seeks to combine each member's many musical influences into one cohesive musical stew. Citing influences such as Chopin, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Joy Division, Sun Ra, The Lounge Lizards, Charles Mingus, Joni Mitchell, Andrew Bird and the Punch Brothers, That?’s music seeks to defy any kind of categorical barrier thrown its way. Hailing from the exotic semi-suburbs of Bloomington from its own Illinois Wesleyan University, each member of That? functions as his or her own musician as well as an integral part of the collective ensemble.

Member Ethan Berg could be regarded as the impetus of the group’s creation. As the keyboardist of That?, he was the one that first brought the original structure of “A Razor Wicked” to vocalist Eric Novak. Having completed a degree in composition, Berg finds himself at home composing the structure and motivic elements of That?. Never one for the spotlight, he uses his strong sense of harmonic foundation to unify the band's sound during performance – bringing cohesion to the otherwise mass-improvisation that is That?.

Eric Novak, the lead vocalist, reed player and occasional keyboardist, provides both the lyrics and conceptual theme to each composition. Pushing boundaries both on stage and off, Novak continually challenges societal norms both in music and in personage. His quirky mannerisms and personification of free jazz embodies the spirit of the band musically and otherwise. Novak also takes to collecting and mastering exotic instruments in hopes of adding new sounds to the band’s sonic arsenal.

Guitarist Ayethaw Tun is the soul of the band. Beginning at a young age, Tun studied guitarists such as Jimmy Page, Eddie Hazel, and Jimi Hendrix. His play style often channels the complex emotion and virtuosity of his heroes. Now a recent graduate with a degree in psychology, his interest has turned to radio and broadening musical influences. Always reminding the group to give their all before taking the stage, Tun's charismatic demeanor spreads through both his words and his passionate solos. Both contemplative and confident, Tun's solo work pushes That? compositions to greater emotional and tonal depth.

Second guitarist Jonas Wightman is perhaps the most subtle and reserved member of the group. His inimitable style of harmonic/counter-melodic finger picking in songs like “Parallels” and “Stove Sensuations” leaves them barren in his absence. Perhaps the most pragmatic of the group, Wightman is foil to Novak's aloofness, and is quick to point out whenever a tune's musical mission has become compromised. Never one for soloing, his exploratory ear and rhythmically intricate style of playing gives each song great textural and timbral interest.

Bassist Ryan Donlin’s addition to the band was integral in expanding That?'s musical range compositionally. His proficiency on the instrument is astounding, and his unorthodox methods and intriguing compositions pushed the band to new heights following his arrival in the fall of 2013. His playing is very rhythmically active, and continually shifts, drawing a lot from bass legend James Jamerson. His lines never distract from the compositional intent, but instead unearths previously hidden and unexpected grooves. Both personally and musically, Donlin is the anchor for all that is That?.

Madz, when not traveling Panama conducting research on the sonic qualities of coral reefs, plays violin for That?. She often adds msucial glue to the songs, typically operating as the final piece of each mix. Drawing in equal parts from classical and contemporary music, her approach to the violin is both experimental and firmly rooted.

Additional vocalist Abby Lyons's smooth, refined voice is supplementary to Novak's rougher tone. While studying composition at the prestigious Cal Arts graduate school, she is moving up quickly in the world of music, and has completed numerous solo works. A bubbly, carefree woman, Lyons is a bright light during late night recording sessions, and is a true talent in front of the mic.

Derek McAnally, the drummer, engineer, etc. etc., works as hard during performance as he does after. His drumming style continually directs the group metrically, providing complex, multi-metered and poly-rhythmic intrigue. Booming and articulate, McAnally switches between musical personalities at whim – from Bonham to Roach and back again.

Band Members