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Answering Machines: "I Started This Band To Have Fun and Do Whatever I Wanted"

Chicago's Answering Machines are DIY heroes, from the tasty crunch of their recordings to their hand-dubbed tapes; it's the sort of passion you wish MORE bands had for their work. Following a US tour supporting their new album The Big Catch, I caught up with bandleader Jack Abbott to hear about all the band's latest escapades. I'd also like to mention how jealous I was when their drummer sent me a photo of the band pondering over these questions at In-N-Out. One of the perks of touring...

Paperface Zine: Looks like we're catching you at the tail end of your tour! How'd it go? Any good stories or memories from the road?


Jack Abbott: Tour went really well. It was my first time visiting all of those cities so it was super exciting! In Baltimore there was a Pride fest right outside of the record store we were playing at. Right before we played there was a fight in the crowd and the cops maced everyone and there was a huge stampede. While the stampede was running down the street, this fucked up hippie guy with his balls hanging out of his jeans went up to us and was like, "Where's the flower shop?"


PZ: Sounds like a wild time! For our readers who might not know, how did Answering Machines come together as a band? What are some of your major inspirations/goals with this project?


JA: I started this band to have fun and do whatever I wanted. With the band I was in before it was tricky to get my ideas out so I started AM by recording songs on my phone by myself. Answering Machines is about rockin' and having fun. 


PZ: Your new album, The Big Catch, came out back in April. What can you tell me about how it all came together. Had things changed since your last album, O To Be a Dog


JA: The Big Catch was recorded on a Korg CR-4 with Walmart microphones in the span of a week. The drums and bass were recorded together in a practice space and the rest was recorded in my dorm bedroom. The first record was recorded on my phone with GarageBand, all of the the songs were written as they were being recorded. But The Big Catch was made after a lot of re-recording for over a year. 

Photos by Saskia Lethin

PZ: My favorite song from the album is "Razer Burn." Can you tell us more about that one and how it came to be?


JA: That was the first song I wrote for The Big Catch. It just came to me the night I got my first 4-track in the mail. It's about shaving your ass. The frustration of wanting to appear feminine, but having to deal with products and pain to remove hair. 


PZ: One of the really special things about your sound (and a common quality in a lot of my favorite bands) is the dual vocalists. How do you decide who sings what song? What about the harmonies? 


JA: The vocals on the tape were all recorded in my dorm bedroom, so I just asked anyone who was around to sing with me. "Razer Burn" was recorded during a party in the building. My friend Adelaide, who drums on the tape, was at the party and acting really funny. We recorded them in only three takes then went back up to the party. My roommate/bestie Saskia sings with me on "Dreaming Like a Brat" and Cal helps sing on "I'm a No Show."


PZ: What's it like performing this music live? I know your band lives in different places so the energy must be different when you all get together.


JA: Answering Machines has two live bands. One in Chicago and one with all my buddies from high school. It felt amazing to tour with my high school friends, Mag (bass), Leighton (guitar), Jenna (tambourine), and Humberto (drums), because we grew up playing together. We all started playing shows together so traveling across the country with them was beautiful.


PZ: You also played at one of the coolest not-SXSW showcases earlier this year with Snooper, YHWH Nailgun, and Skull Cult, how'd that opportunity come about and what was it like?


JA: Yeah that show was cool. It was originally going to be in the tunnels but it got rained out so Snooper moved it to the Ballroom at Spider House. Most of the shows like that we've played are because of Ian Teeple from Warm Bodies and Silicone Prairie. He discovered us, and he asked us to open for Silicone Prairie in Chicago. He was a big help to spread the word about us. Ian's a legend. That was a really cool experience


PZ: What's next for Answering Machines? A well-deserved nap, I hope...


JA: Right now I'm working on new songs to hopefully put out an LP. I only have three new songs written. One song is a reworked song from four years ago about my dog Memphis. It was one of the first songs I've written by myself so it's pretty special to me. 




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