Founded back in 2010, local rockers the Decadents have garnered quite a following, not only in the C-U area, but in the city of Chicago as well. Members Mike Carpenter (Vocals/Guitar), Mike Solomon (Guitar/Vocals), Ben Donaldson (Drums), and Fil Pilatowski (Bass) recently recorded and released the band’s third full length CD, Hard Folk. Crediting their respective parents’ record collections as being the foundation of their songwriting influences, the band continues to push themselves in new directions while consistently delivering the quality of music that their fans have come to expect.
The group is preparing to play a show this Friday at Memphis on Main, which just so happens to coincide with the second anniversary of the release of their second album, Elegantly Wasted. After being invited to a recent rehearsal session for the gig, I had an opportunity to sit down with Carpenter and Solomon to discuss where they are now and what lies ahead.
SP: You guys perform mostly original music. Take me through the song writing process.
Solomon: Usually we start with a simple guitar riff. Sometimes Mike will have one he’s excited to bring to practice, or sometimes we stumble onto it accidentally while screwing around between rehearsing songs.
Carpenter: For the most part, it begins with a skeleton of a song that I came up with. The structure is established, but there’s only so much I can bring to the table when it comes to instrumentation. The collaborative process happens when the four of us hammer out a song, and the other guys start adding their own personality to it.
Solomon: The feel and sound of the song we’ve built tend to inform what kind of story it’s going to be, lyrically. Sometimes it’ll be something Mike had chambered and ready for the right sound and sometimes you’ll get something way out of left field. Between the pop rock songs, the bluesy riff-driven ones, and the occasional darker, brooding track, there’s room to tell all kinds of different stories.
SP: How do you create your set list on any given night?
Carpenter: I write the setlists, and will usually go through 2-3 drafts before we play a show. I’ll try to mix it up as much as I can, but there are certain song sequences that work really well together, so those 3-4 song runs are pretty consistent.
Solomon: We try not to play the same set list twice. Certain songs make good openers and some make good closers, but what happens in between is wide open. We like to pepper in covers throughout and find new ways to tie two songs together that we haven’t considered playing back-to-back before.
SP: You just played your first headline show at the Accord. How was that?
Solomon: It was thrilling to bring the power of that sound system to bear on our songs instead of covering U2 or Queens of the Stone Age. The Great Cover Up is an absolute blast but there’s nothing quite like pumping your own songs loud and hard out under those lights.
SP: What are some of your favorite Decadent memories?
Carpenter: Last year we opened up for the Gin Blossoms at Taste of CU, and it was just fantastic. Any time you can get a bunch of fresh ears to listen to your music, it’s a great feeling. Hundreds of people who had never seen us were all of a sudden our captive audience, and we made the most of it. Out of everything, though, my favorite memories are completing the last two albums in such a D.I.Y. manner. It’s a thrill and the sense of accomplishment dwarfs any academic or professional thing I’ve been a part of.
Solomon: I’d say recording our second album, Elegantly Wasted, in Ryan Groff’s newly-built recording studio as a whole is my favorite memory. We hadn’t recorded in a proper studio before, so setting up in Ryan’s studio was like stepping up to a higher level as a musician. The recording process itself was frustrating, difficult, and super stressful, but hitting the last note of the take you’re going to keep is all the more satisfying as a result.
SP: You’ve established a following in Chicago as well. How did that come about, and what’s it like to play up there?
Solomon: Another Champaign band brought us up to Elbo Room in Chicago. Once you play that room, you want to go back. It hails in an era of music I sometimes feel is dying. Four original bands rocking a professional stage in a basement almost every day of the week – yeah, there’s a cover; yeah, you’re probably not going to know most of the songs, but the sun’s gone down and it’s time to hear some live music! Maybe you’ll walk away with a new CD, or maybe you’ll just walk away and try again tomorrow night.
SP: What is on the horizon, both for the short and long term?
Solomon: We’ve got a few shows lined up this summer and we’re looking at bringing back some older songs so we can put together a set list for a live recording later this year. I’m very proud of our studio albums and I can’t wait to capture some of that live-show lightning to go alongside. Let’s face it. Rock and roll is better live.
Carpenter: We’ll be recording a show of ours sometime in September. The idea is to get a high-quality audio and video document of our live show, mostly for the sake of posterity but also to offer up something for our friends and fans who have seen us multiple times. There’s an energy to live performance that’s very difficult to capture in the studio, so we’re anxious to put a show onto tape.
SP: Talk about your upcoming show at Memphis on Main.
Carpenter: For the June 3rd show at Memphis on Main, we wanted to try something different. We’re playing two sets, and it happens to be the two-year anniversary of when our second album, Elegantly Wasted, was released. Our first set will be the full album, top to bottom and in sequence; the second set will be a grab bag of originals and covers. If anything, it presents a fun challenge for us, along with being a small treat for our fans who know that album well.
SP: Final thoughts. What would you like our readers to know about the band?
Solomon: There’s nothing I can say that the music won’t say louder. And with better grammar. We don’t want to bog you down with footnotes and citations. It’s rock and roll. We want you to know where we’re playing, when we’re playing, and where you can find our music when we’re not.
Decadents will be performing At Memphis on Main on Friday, June 3rd, at 9 pm. For more information, visit Decadents-band.com