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Negative Houses by FACS is out now on Chicago label Trouble In Mind, and you can purchase it here:

Chicago’s music scene is a constantly shifting landscape; always holding onto the influences of the past while moving forward in a new direction. In that spirit, from the ashes of beloved Chicago band Disappears comes a new project, FACS. This trio, featuring former Disappears members Jonathan van Herik, Noah Ledger, and Brian Case, ventures into the murky waters of minimalism and atmosphere to create an enveloping space full of abstract art rock for the modern age. Brian Case was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions of mine about the songwriting process, where he hopes to take FACS, and more.

First of all, how did FACS come to be? Case tells me, "Disappears ended and FACS started up the next week. If I remember correctly we were deliberating some on whether to just carry on as Disappears in a new configuration, but in the end decided to start fresh and begin again as a new thing." Very much in keeping with the Chicago spirit, the music of FACS is a breath of post-punk fresh air, with slippery, angular guitars, atmospheric bass and drums, and dramatic vocals.

Their debut record, Negative Houses, was made in Chicago at Electrical Audio, Steve Albini’s renowned studio, with producer Jon Congleton. Case went into detail describing the relationship with Congleton and the music itself:

"Most of the writing was done before we got to the studio. We usually go in with about 80% of an idea of where we want things to go and let the session mood guide the rest. It’s nice to not completely be in control in those situations, leave room for mistakes and inspiration that make things something more than you had in mind. Jon’s involvement is really important, in that he’s someone we trust and he will really push the songs into new spaces. When you’re living in the writing process, you’re so close to the songs that you may not be able to separate yourself and see what you have – he’s really good at helping us realize what we’re working with and giving us an angle to approach it from."

Case did stress, however, that his approach to songwriting remained the same no matter who was involved in the process: "I think the songs change depending on who the players are, but I always bring in ideas not fully formed and see what happens with whoever is in the room. I’m motivated to write for the band in terms of having something to work on, but I try not to bring in full songs. Collaboration is really important to me and always ends up being more interesting than what I was hearing in my head in terms of where I thought a song should go." This would account for the different musical directions that branch out within Negative Houses.

Speaking of songs changing from what they initially sounded like, some musicians prefer to debut material on the road and change it before laying it to tape, some vice versa. Case explained the sort of middle ground that happened with Negative Houses: "With Negative Houses we had everything written beforehand, which was more a result of not being on any type of timeline to get into the studio and record. We had an opportunity to get time with Jon and we just did it. We didn’t have any hard plans to make an album by X date and release it at X time of the year."

Looking toward the future, he elaborated on where he sees the music going: "I think for our next one we’ll leave things more open-ended. I love coming out of a recording situation surprised by what happened or how things finished themselves. It’s so important to let things happen in the studio vs. forcing them into what you think they need to be. I guess we try and balance knowing how certain songs will turn out and leaving decisions to be made in others."

Playing with a new band with new music also means new touring! As Case explains, "As FACS, these are all new clubs and cities. These are the first real shows we’ve done out of town as a band. Over the years we’ve been to all these places multiple times with our previous bands. Lots of new clubs though, will be cool to get into some new rooms to mix it up. Playing a few favorite places as well, so that should be good. Shows start next week, I’d say I’m most looking forward to playing these songs every night and seeing how they evolve. We’re also about halfway done with a new album so I really am excited to play new stuff and see how it fares."

On the topic of "the next one," Case made it clear they were exploring new territory and fresh ideas:

"The new stuff we’re working on is pretty different from Negative Houses. It’s still really fresh so it’s hard to say what it is or what it will end up being but the songs are longer, more space, more melody maybe? I’m trying to sing a bit more…maybe it’s not as dark? I don’t know, it’s coming a bit faster than we anticipated so we’re just letting it all come out and we’re sorting it on the fly. I’m excited, feels pretty different than anything I can place going on at the moment, especially between what the three of us have done in the past."

An exciting new voice in the famously musical city of Chicago, FACS is just starting out on their journey, aided by their experience steeped in writing, producing, and performing music all over the country. Don’t miss FACS when they’re in your area! Tour dates below.

5.20.18 Toronto ON Smiling Buddha Bar

5.21.18 Montreal QC Casa Del Poplol

5.22.18 Boston MA Great Scott *

5.23.18 Brooklyn NY Elsewhere *

5.24.18 Washington DC Union Stage *

5.25.28 Philadelphia PA Boot & Saddle *

5.26.28 Pittsburgh PA Club Cafe *

5.27.18 Cleveland OH The Foundry *

5.29.18 Detroit MI El Club *

5.31.18 Indianapolis IN The Hi-Fi *

6.01.18 Louisville KY Zanzibar *

6.02.18 Cincinnati OH MOTR Pub

! with DIM

* with SUUNS

Andrew Howie lives in Champaign and hides his pretentious music taste behind self-deprecating humor. If you seek radio hits, this is not the column you're looking for. Come here to find the acquired tastes, the obscure albums, the innovative and bizarre.