Andy Downing for RedEye
9:06 PM CDT, August 13, 2012
It's appropriate that Videotape's debut full-length "This Is Disconnect" opens with a song called "Static"--the local quintet specializes in dreamy guitar-rock tunes bathed in layers of churning feedback.
Singer and Noble Square resident Sophie Leigh, 23, and multi-instrumentalist AJ Cesena of Logan Square first launched the group as a duo more than two and a half years ago, trading tracks through the mail while Leigh completed a semester abroad at Australia's Monash University. But the project really took off once Ian McDuffie, Sarah Sterling and Jenna Caravello completed the band's current lineup.
"Once we got everyone together, the music ended up being a lot louder," said Cesena, 29. "I've always been in loud bands in the past, so this fits in with it."
In a recent phone interview, Leigh and Cesena discussed the difficulties of launching Videotape while living thousands of miles apart, McDuffie''s "face-melting" guitar solos and which band member is most likely to creep everyone else out.
How'd you two first connect?
Sophie Leigh: Honestly, it was kind of a joke, and it's the only time I've ever done this, but I was looking at these listings on Craigslist (while I was in Australia) and saw AJ's listing for a vocalist. I answered him and said something like, "I'm from Chicago and I'll be back there in about four months if you can hang on for a second."
Is it true toilets flush counterclockwise in Australia?
SL: [Laughs] It sure is. Also, you know that circle on your head where your hairline goes? It's the opposite way there. It's true! Maybe it's the way the stars are aligned or the gravitational pull or something.
AJ, was it odd trying to start a band with someone who was living thousands of miles away?
AJ Cesena: It was kind of weird. Before that I was playing in all these noise-rock bands and I was getting tired of that so I decided to start writing more of my own pop-type music with verses and choruses and stuff. I started by trying to sing, but I'm a really horrible singer, so I was like, "I'm gonna go put an ad on Craigslist."
You mentioned the band has gotten significantly louder since those early days. Had anyone ever called the cops and made a noise complaint while you were rehearsing?
SL: We're about the lamest band, as far as that goes. AJ has a rule we stop practicing at 9:30 (p.m.). We've practiced in the same attic for two years, so we're always very considerate.
The song "No One" really gives off a "Gish"-era Smashing Pumpkins vibe.
AC: Yeah, totally. I'm a big Smashing Pumpkins fan, and Ian, our guitarist, is pretty much in love them. I wrote that song several years ago, before I even started Videotape, and I showed it to Ian one day and he was like, "This is great. We should play it." Then we collaborated on the lead guitar line and it became more of a Smashing Pumpkins-type sound.
Who do you think would win if you could challenge the Pumpkins to a "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World"-style battle-of-the-bands?
AC: [Laughs] Ian's pretty good on guitar. I think he could melt some faces with his solos.
Sophie, on a handful of these songs your vocals take on an almost ghostly quality. Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
SL: I've never had a ghost experience, but I've definitely had things happen I can't explain. I realize that's a really vague answer.
So you've never considered a second career as a Ghostbuster or anything?
SL: If I had some skill there, I would consider it.
AC: Sophie does like really creepy stories. A lot of times after band practice she'll say something like, "I saw this TV show and this guy was hiding under this woman's bed and he had an ax..." When she finished everyone is like, "Uh, now I don't want to turn the lights off."
SL: It's because I watch way too much news. It's definitely become a problem.
You've got a song on the new one called "Between Me & You." In that spirit, would you like to tell me something you've never told another interviewer?
SL: OK. That song was written out of hatred for a roommate. Well, hatred is a bad word. Let's call it discomfort.
Videotape, 9 p.m. Aug. 24 at Township, $6
Sophie Leigh and AJ Cesena personality test
What's the last album you bought?
AC: "I think it was the Broadcast album 'The Noise Made By People.'"
SL: "It's shameful, but I haven't bought anything in awhile—partially because I don't have internet at home."
Song you've listened to on repeat recently?
SL: "I can't stop listening to 'Cups in the Sink' by Emily Cross."
AC: "I really like that song by Kimbra called 'Settle Down.'"
Song you never want to hear again?
AC: "'Call Me Maybe' by Carly Rae Jepsen."
SL: "That's a good one. I agree."
Best concert you've seen in the last year?
AC: "Ooh. The first one that comes into my head is Wild Flag at Subterranean. They were awesome."
SL: "Lykke Li. That was awhile ago, though."
New band you don't know personally that deserves to be big?
SL: "Coffin Ships for me. I've seen them a few times around Chicago and I really enjoy them."
AC: "I'd have to say another Chicago band called Radar Eyes. They're great."
Favorite movie ever?
SL: "I really like this movie called 'Another Earth.' It's was so good. Really I read I a lot and don't watch that many movies."
Chicago's best music venue?
AC: "The best one to play it is the Empty Bottle. It's probably the best one to see bands live, too, because it's not too big."
SL: "I agree with AJ. I really loved playing at the Empty Bottle, and I love watching shows there."
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