the names that spell
Gig Seeker Pro

the names that spell


Band Alternative Avant-garde


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



"Grilled Cheese & then some..."

The Names that Spell “A&R” release strides forth as a redefining element that shapes the flux of the hip music culture of today.

Fusing in a polyrhythmic harmony and basking in golden vocal delivery, you have the names that spell’s latest album: “A&R.” Never fail, this album is more than just a bunch of musicians and repertoire—the names that spell bring to life more than just face stealing music. They stand for something artistically aesthetic, redefining the musical shift of musical culture, as we strive to know it today. Think Animal Collective, Stereolab, Tortoise, The Sea and Cake, Modest Mouse and you’re in the right ballpark. Here-ye hear-ye… here’s to good music! - Musicouch


If the strongest musical bonds between musicians are formed at an early stage, then local five-piece The Names That Spell have a serious advantage. Having played together since each member was in his early teens, everything has led to this moment: the self-released “A & R,” an attractive assemblage of countless instruments, a kind-of-indie-pop record with a delirious determination to explore the outer realms. Jazz is definitely an influence—off-kilter sax solos interrupt at various moments—but other elements introduce themselves at assorted intervals as well, electronic and otherwise. “A & R” has its ups and downs, but for a debut record crafted by youngsters who are still writing papers for college, it’s some feat.

“Basically, it all came from a strong desire to experiment, just mess around with genres,” says Lucas Elenitsky, who’s one of the band’s two drummers but, essentially, is a multi-instrumentalist. “The whole album is an anti-concept album; there’s really no one set idea behind it. We were just recording, over the course of four years. When we started we had no idea we were gonna put out an album. We were recording just for the sake of recording. A couple of years down the line, we had so many songs, so we just put them all together.”

To the band, the record seems like a collection of singles rather than a complete piece, and it’s divided as such, into six pairings of what they indicate as A-sides and B-sides. Maybe this all was a result of the longer-than-usual writing and recording process, and that the band didn’t intend outright to make a full-length record, but the album doesn’t seem as choppy as you might expect.

Right now, the emphasis is on shows. “Basically, get as many shows as possible,” Elenitsky says of the band’s current plan. “We haven’t really made a strong attempt to play out, playing out of Chicago.”

Of the band’s live performance, Elenitsky says they’re not concerned with recreating the record. “I can’t stand playing the same thing constantly,” he says. “[We want] each performance to be a different experience, every time. That’s our goal.”

-Tom Lynch - New City Chicago

"...& the Next Step"

Upon first listen, one might come to the conclusion that the Names That Spell has an identity complex. The band rolls through musical styles with complete disregard, whether it is folk, jazz, indie, classical, funk - you name it, they've taken from it and molded it into their own sound. Their eclectic nature is fitting, so to speak. The diaspora of the band members across the Midwest, and the several years and recording locations of their debut record, "A&R" - nothing is linear, straightforward, and simple for this group. The Inferno recently sat down with lead singer/guitarist Chase Staley and percussionist/loop-creator Lucas Elenitsky and discussed the next step for this budding Chicago local.

Matthew Bentel: You guys are coming out with a new record, an EP, correct? Obligatory "how does it differ from A&R?"

Chase Staley: Yes. While most of "A&R" was written before the recording process, this EP, which is titled Accumulation Strategies, was written while it was being recorded, using a loop pedal as our main vessel. Honestly, I wasn't involved until the groundwork had been laid by Lucas on the loop machine. Then I just added some vocals and trumpet here and there.

Lucas Elenitsky: The majority of these songs began as instrumentals. I had an idea of treating the composition like a giant puzzle and would begin each song by simply recording as many loops as I felt necessary. Not knowing how they would sound together I then went back and pieced them together until it made as much sense as possible.

MB: The eclectic "A&R," which took several years to come to fruition, featured a breadth of music seamlessly molded together - a feat still difficult for the most accomplished artists. What do you think is the primary force behind your genre bending? Is it the diverse musical backgrounds of your band mates or was it the temporal longevity of the project?

CS: "A&R" probably took about three years to create, from the moment we thought we could collect enough songs for an album in 2005, then organizing them and recording them and adding sections and removing sections until all 12 songs were finally ready in 2008. It's probably happenstance that A&R sounds like a unified album, because we literally recorded every song in a different environment, with different equipment, instruments, and mindsets. Each song is a mini time warp. Some of them are too hard to play live.

LE: As far as our eclectic tastes in genres, we all consider ourselves open-minded musicians, and if no one can really compare us to anything, it's really the highest compliment we can get. Since both Josh [Johnson, our keyboardist/saxophonist] and Matt [Plaskota, our other percussionist] study jazz they bring those stylistic elements to our sound. Chase has been listening to punk and hardcore music, I've been recently influenced by loop based music, and since we all have different perspectives and tastes, there is a good chance that when we get together we'll create something new and unique.

MB: Your live show features a lot of loops and improvising. You certainly do not subscribe to the notion of precisely replicating the sound created on record. Is that intentional or does it just happen? What are the trials in such execution? The joys?

CS: Most of our recordings have become simply deliberate blueprints of form and structure for our live performances… i.e. I recorded all of "Officer, & You Could Be Officer!" by myself, and we arranged a much more sprawling version to play live. Actually, since we've lost the original audio files to most everything we've recorded (some kind of curse, it must be); there are a lot of songs we've written that are in permanent stages of development. Our live performances... I love improvising, so I feel like the challenges are the joys, and when we're bouncing around our musical ideas, or when we're performing, it's very satisfying for me to make some impossible mistake and discover how to make it fit in and feel right.

MB: The Names That Spell are not only scattered when it comes to music, but also geography. Two live in Chicago, one in the suburbs, one in Urbana and the last in Indiana. This inevitably poses performance issues. Is this a frustrating circumstance or something that makes you guys as individuals grow?

LE: While I would love to play every single show with all five members I do think that playing in different settings gives us different opportunities to play different music. There are times when Chase and I play sets as a duo and this gives us the opportunity to experiment with loop pedals and odd instrumentation. Other times we perform as a trio with Evan [Staley, our bassist] which allows us to play more of our heavy music, and then when all five of us get together we have more complex orchestrations and there's more room for improvisation.

CS: Well, I think it's frustrating as hell/fuck/shit/whatever you can actually print.

MB: You guys have played several of Chicago's premier clubs and have even found yourselves hundreds of miles outside of the city proper. Are any tours in the works or are you guys taking this all in stride, waiting for the right time to break out onto the touring circuit?

CS: Yes. We're planning a little something for the Midwest, the end of summer. We're destined for Missouri. There, we'll be the house band for a cruise ship. We're going to have burlesque dancers, a Bob Saget impersonator, and we're going to play Joe's Garage by Frank Zappa. - Chicago Flame


"Accumulation Strategies" (EP) - 2009
"A&R" (LP) - 2008



We went to high school together and grew up playing jazz and bebop tunes...but our favorite thing to do is invent brand spanking new styles, like off-pop, or calypsoul, or drive-by grindcore ... We've been performing for about 10 years & we've headlined some Chicago clubs.. We are our own record label, sound engineers, producers, designers, & everything... genrefull, yet genreless...