By Andy Downing
RedEye special contributor
2:39 PM CST, February 14, 2014
On “Obsessive Compulsive Distraction,” one of the standout cuts on Into It. Over It.’s recent album “Intersections,” Evan Weiss sings of “thinking simple and putting life to ink.” Fittingly, the life taking shape on the page is often his own--the Logan Square resident (who appeared a couple weeks ago on “Last Call with Carson Daly”) packs his heartfelt, emo-leaning tunes with the myriad people and places he encounters every day.
“Sometimes you just have to let it all hang out and hope the person you're writing about will understand,” said Weiss, 29, reached by phone during an early February swing through the Deep South. “Generally people who know me and know what I write about are prepared to be the subject of a song.”
First: Did you actually request a phone number that ends in 666?
No, no, no. I just got lucky [laughs]. I've had this number since I was a teenager. I remember going to the T-Mobile store, and before telling me what the number was the woman asked if I was superstitious. I said, “Why?” Then she told me what the number was, and I got so amped in the store I slapped my hand on the table like, “Yeah!” I think she thought that was a little weird.
Were you a metal fan at the time or something?
No, I'm more of a Satan fan [laughs].
Your music is often tagged with descriptions like “emo” and “sensitive,” so I thought I'd ask you about the last time you took a punch.
It was early 2011 and it was outside Archie's in Humboldt Park. I got punched in the face by this skinhead because I had apparently disrupted his game of pool, which I hadn't. I actually recorded an album a few months after that, and there was a song on the record about that night.
Have you ever had something happen to you that you wouldn't be comfortable exploring in song?
I was really ruthless when I started, then I toned down and now I'm getting back to being brutally honest again. I don't think there is anything I wouldn't explore, but then again I don't know how dark my thoughts really are.
You've always spoken about embracing brutal honesty in your music. Can you recall a time you got caught in a lie?
No, I can't — unless it was a white lie or something. When you start wearing everything on your sleeve publicly it's hard to start making things up. I was definitely a total idiot when I was in my late-teens and early-20s, and I've been trying to better myself. I guess it comes with growing older.
You mentioned the 52 Weeks project [Weiss wrote and recorded a new song every week in 2007] really helped you hone your work ethic. Prior to that undertaking, did you struggle with your motivation?
Before I started working on that project I wasn't doing anything. I was completely unmotivated. It set something in motion, and since then I haven't stopped. It helped get my life back on track and helped me evaluate decisions I'd made in previous years. I learned to not be afraid to live or to take chances. It was the perfect way to figure out what kind of human being I am and what I want and don't want out of life.
Your songs tend to reference very specific states and cities and even neighborhoods. How are you with geography?
I think I'm pretty good with United States geography. However, there's an area of the country I'm totally clueless about — the southern, bible belt area of Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi — and it's the one we're driving through. I really have to work harder to figure it out because I really don't even know where the hell we are right now.
Into It. Over It., 6 p.m. March 1 at Bottom Lounge. $13.
Evan Weiss personality test
Last album you bought? “The new Mogwai ['Rave Tapes'].”
Song you've listened to on repeat recently? “I'm really bad at this because I always just put my iPod on shuffle. Can I just say that? My iPod on shuffle?”
Song you never want to hear again? “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney
Best concert you've seen in the last year? “When Dave Bazan did all of 'Control' at the Metro.”
New band you don't know personally that deserves to be big? Radiator Hospital
Favorite movie ever? “My instinctual response is 'The Shawshank Redemption,” but an honorable mention needs to go to 'Groundhog Day.'”
Chicago's best music venue? “Schubas, without a doubt.”
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