Anyone who shopped at Hot Topic in the early 2000s knows all too well how influential Chicago was to music at that time. So being that Iris Blue calls that spot on the map home, that is where we had to start this back and forth that eventually led us everywhere from their latest single “Unfamiliar to Me” to a roach-infested hotel in Nashville, and everywhere in between.
Kendra: Iris Blue is still getting started with your first single, “Stage Lights” only a couple of years old. Before that, had you been a part of other bands in the area; because I know Chicago is stacked when it comes to music…
Quinn: Coming out of college I was in a couple of bands but when I started to do my own solo act I would play live and loop my own chord progressions and half-written songs. “Stage Lights” was the first cohesive song that I felt should be recorded. Right before I got in the studio I met Dave during his audition for a punk band I myself had just joined (The Neighborhood Threat). After that, I asked him to play drums on the recording of stage lights. At the time, Iris Blue was in its infancy, I had no idea how it would turn out but I just felt the chemistry with Dave and knew he would understand the direction and tonality I was going for.
Dave: I have been playing in bands since I was 16. I said yes to almost everyone that needed a drummer, from metal bands to indie bands, to pop punk bands. With that, I have gotten to play at some of my favorite venues in Chicago and had the pleasure of seeing the country from the backseat of a van. Then I met Quinn. We noodled around one day after practice with The Neighborhood Threat. I pulled up to him at a stop light in the middle of the road and asked him if he wanted to get together just the two of us and work out some funkier, more melodic riffs. From there we began writing and playing together and the chemistry was automatically there, and then from there, we decided to be roommates.
Kendra: Like I said, Chicago is stacked. A lot of my favorite bands growing up came from in and around there like Alkaline Trio and Fall Out Boy. Did y’all grow up being part of that scene at all?
Quinn: Unlike Dave, who grew up in it, I was a spectator to the scene because at the time my focus was sports. I grew up as an athlete and went to college on a basketball scholarship. Even with all that I still felt the pull from those Chicago bands. Fall Out Boy was my first show at 10 or so. They headlined with support from Hawthorne Heights and The All-American Rejects. Wild to think about that lineup now. From then on I had a shitty little toy guitar and I would pretend I was performing to a crowd while listening to ‘From Under The Cork Tree.’ To this day I still revisit their old catalog and Dave will often have to, of course, correct me to not do a blatant Patrick Stump impression.
Dave: While I was involved in the Chicago music scene and listened to Alkaline Trio and Fall Out Boy, I still have nightmares of local bands covering “Sugar We’re Going Down.’ I was introduced to the world of music differently. I got to watch my dad play shows and have the time of his life on stage with his friends. A luxury I still have to this day. My entire family is full of musicians so music was always being played, family members bursting into songs just off a word or phrase. So, when I told my family I wanted to play drums they were more than supportive. At the time most of my friends were starting bands or playing instruments so I would either play with them or go support their shows, or we would wait in line for hours at Bottom Lounge just to get the front row for whoever was playing.
Kendra: Now let’s talk about “Unfamiliar to Me” because it hits home as I’m a very nostalgic person and often find myself yearning for the days when I would spend hours on the house phone watching MTV after school. What things, concepts, or ideas from your pasts helped inspire this song?
Quinn: The instrumentals came off of a jam Dave and I had randomly played as a warm-up before practice. We’ve often felt that some of our favorite stuff has come from jamming and capturing a moment and just feeling out the vibe of a song. If we really like something from those jams we will take them back to our home studio and I will sit with them and feel out a melody and try to figure out what the song calls for. We tracked a very rough-sounding demo and after listening back to it in the car together we truly felt like we had something which would end up being the foundation of our sound going forward. As far as lyrical content Dave and I were going down very similar paths in various aspects of life in the form of relationships, jobs, personal struggles, and our respective futures creating music. I often found myself reminiscing about early adulthood where you’re independent but yet still don’t have the full-on responsibility of being a real adult.
Dave: I’m going to be completely transparent here. I have no clue how this song got made. I feel like it just kinda happened, which is tight.
Kendra: You dropped that single last year and then wrapped up 2022 with ‘It’s Entertainment Now.’ Is it too early to assume you’ve already started working on a follow-up EP? Or perhaps an LP?
Quinn: We actually just finished a single that we are releasing this summer, with plans to record an EP at the end of May. We’re always writing new stuff.
Dave: I mean yeah that pretty much sums it all up.
Kendra: Do you think that the way the music industry is now, there is less pressure on artists to release music at a certain time because the internet is a constant force of nature, or is there more pressure on artists to – not necessarily release new music – but to release new content all of the time because of how impactful social media can be?
Quinn: It’s a numbers game at this point. The more good music you put out the better chance you have to get discovered. Writing and performing new stuff is fun, the socials are what’s a grind. We know how important it is, it’s just hard to be consistent and authentic.
Dave: It’s a mix of both. There’s a lot of pressure to be releasing music and posting content almost nonstop. Sometimes it seems like a constant battle to put out music you’re proud of but also make sure it’s written, recorded, and released quickly enough to not get drowned out by every other band trying to do the same thing. I also still have no idea how those algorithms work. I will say though, it is great for discovering new bands even if it feels like a race from time to time.
Kendra: Now it’s time for a side note – with it being May, I always think of the end of the school year and all those memories of field trips, parties, and yearbooks. With that, I’d love to know what your fondest end-of-the-school-year memory was?
Quinn: My best summer memories were definitely just hanging with friends around a fire or on someone’s boat. Someone would steal some booze out of a parent’s liquor cabinet and we’d spend hours on a boat and cap it off with a fire.
Dave: The day of my high school graduation my first band decided to just pack our shit in a car and drive to Nashville to try and hop on a show that weekend. That was the first time I went to Nashville and I fell in love with the fact that almost every bar you walked into had a band playing. Not only bands but so many talented musicians in those bands. Unfortunately, though, the main thing I remember from the trip was the cockroach-infested hotel room we stayed in.
Kendra: Lastly, what else can fans expect as we continue towards summer?
Quinn: More shows and more music.
Dave: More shows, more music, more drink tickets, more catching olives in my mouth.