Chicago’s Maps and Atlases have been called many things. All of the members are graduates of Chicago’s Columbia College of Arts and they bring a distinct perspective on the world of music and each funnel a variety of personal influences into their sound.
We had a chance to shoot the guys a few questions via email to give our readers a better view of what to expect when they tackle the Courtyard Cafe Friday night with Rodeo Ruby Love and Withershins.
The show starts around 7 p.m. and the cover is $3 for students and $5 for the public.
Smile Politely: You guys have a few shows in Champaign under your belt (including a recent stint at the Pygmalion Festival this year, if I’m not mistaken). How has Champaign-Urbana treated you so far?
Erin Elders (Maps and Atlases): All of our experiences in Champaign-Urbana have been amazing. Each time we have played down there it has been wonderful. It seems like a great place! We were also very honored to be a part of the Pygmalion Festival this past year. We got to share the stage with some great musicians.
SP: How would you describe your sound to a person who you don’t think will like your music?
EE: This is a hard one. We are the worst at describing our music. We like to think of it like if Genesis had to record a bunch of songs without any money or nice instruments. Although I’m not sure if that would make people want to listen to us…
SP: Your sound draws a lot of different comparisons from sleek art rock to prog rock. Is there anything you’ve been compared to that you don’t particularly agree with?
EE: I think its always tough for bands. No one really wants to be compared to anyone else but unfortunately that is how people categorize things. I’m glad that we get a lot of different comparisons though. It would kind of be a bummer if people always said the same thing about us. We get called a “math rock” band a lot, which we understand, but we don’t really consider ourselves that. I think we get that because sometimes our songs have a lot going on in them, but that is never the end goal. We try to only do that when it benefits the song.
SP: Are there any major influences in your sound that people might not expect (country, hip hop or even non-musical influences)?
EE: We have always been influenced by soul music and Motown. I’m not sure how apparent that is when you listen to our songs but I like to think that if you stripped away some stuff you would find a little Otis Redding in there or a James Jamerson bass line.
SP: What are the primary factors/influences/motivations that keep you doing what you’re doing?
SP: I think mainly we keep making music because it is still really exciting for us to get in a room and play together.
SP: What is the best (or worst) thing happening in music today (either local, national or international)?
EE: There are a lot of great musicians and bands out there right now. We feel lucky to have gotten to tour with some really amazing people in the past year. This is sort of hard because we always feel like Chicago is full of great bands and that we are constantly surrounded by great music. Cass McCombs was living here for a while but unfortunately we were out of town every time he played. He is a brilliant songwriter. Also, our friends Vacations, who are playing with us later this month, are making really great music
SP: Tell us about the worst show you have ever played.
EE: I think this was on our first tour and somehow we got booked to play at the Mad Hatter in Convington, KY. When we got there we thought it was pretty bizarre because it is sort of a large room. This was our first time every playing outside of Chicago and we figured that no one in Kentucky had ever heard of us. But luckily we had nothing to worry about because it turns out the show was a private party for the owner and his friend for her birthday. We played in front of the owner, five girls who had never heard our music before and our dear friend Marcus. Chris did a drum solo.
SP: What do you have coming up on the horizon?
EE: For the next couple months we are just finishing up our first LP and playing a show in Chicago at Lincoln Hall on November 18th. Hopefully it will be out in the spring time!
SP: What can people expect from your show at Courtyard Cafe if they have never seen or heard you before?
EE: We invested all of our money from the tour into a killer psychadelic light show. It’s going to be a lot like the Pink Floyd laser light show. But without the Floyd. And we will be playing some new songs.
SP: Anything else you want to emphasize or get off your chest?
EE: We are really excited to be playing in Champaign again!