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March 11, 2005
A wooden sign with the faded words "The Hideout" signals the direction to a bar down a street of old, sterile industrial buildings. The sun-bleached pavement leads to a small building that, upon first glance, looks like a backcountry shanty. Upon stepping inside, it even feels like a backcountry shanty-dusty country music crackles over the speakers, natural light from the windows provides dim illumination, wooden floors creak underfoot, and already at 5 p.m. working class folks are plopped down on the barstools. At one of the small side tables sit three individuals-Fay Davis-Jeffers, Butchy Fuego and Rob Doran, or collectively, Pit er Pat-a group of musicians who pride themselves on identifying with this working class but simultaneously find a way to transcend the blue collar attitude with a reposed, artistic optimism.

Such is the dynamic of the twenty-something, urban, aspiring artist. On one side of the seesaw of sustenance is the pressure for paying the bills, and finding and holding onto that elusive dream job. On the other side is the uplifting inspiration of expression.

"That's one of the hardest parts about deciding you want to have a creative life," said keyboard player/vocalist Davis-Jeffers. "The biggest challenge is how to have money and still have time to create."

Sometimes, as the situation currently is for the members of this upcoming Chicago group, both ends are balanced. Doran (28 years old), Fuego (27), and Davis-Jeffers (26) are all occupied in some form of work, whether it is steady employment (Butchy at a pin factory and Rob creating design for art shows and companies) or temporary creative freelance labor (all three individuals create a number of artsy goods - drawings, clothing, and photos).

For Pit er Pat, the work-play seesaw has been recently steadied by the band members' satisfaction for their newest creation, a full length album that was recorded in September 2004 and will be released in March 2005.

"We're anxious to have others hear the record," Davis-Jeffers said. "Without having people hear it, it's not truly finished."

While discussing their pasts, musical interests, and general ideas about life the three members of Pit er Pat talk quietly, laugh, drink pints of draft beer, and smoke cigarettes, generally blending into the surrounding atmosphere. For anyone who saunters into the bar, they appear to be three young friends, nothing less and nothing more.

To a point Davis-Jeffers, Doran, and Fuego could simply be summed up as three young friends. However they were not always close, not even when speaking in terms of the proximity of hometowns. Davis-Jeffers hails from Vermont, Doran from Illinois, and Fuego has made his residence in both Georgia and California - an overall transit accumulation of nearly 3,000 miles across the contiguous United States - before they all came to Chicago. What brought them together was more than fate and friendship but the urge to create and be creative regardless of the struggle involved.

"I discovered a long time ago, that the only thing that makes me happy and makes me want to keep going is making stuff," Davis-Jeffers said. "I just have to have the time to do that kind of thing."

"That's kinda the way it has to be. Full time for me has always been art and music," bass player/vocalist Doran added. "[I do] whatever I can do to avoid being tied down to a full-time job. I would never want a job where I would be part of a team or have to take a drug test."

It is ironic because such an undesired occupational situation was where Pit er Pat was unknowingly birthed. In 1997 Doran and Fuego (drums/vocals) were part of a job team at a telemarketing corporation in the Chicagoland area. Both individuals realized their similar distaste for the line of work and have since been friends. What brought them even closer was a like-minded appreciation for the arts, and especially for music. Four years later, Doran and Fuego teamed up as the rhythm section behind singer/songwriter Josh Gleason. Eventually the group went through musical style changes and after a year looked to modify their sound even further with the addition of a keyboard player. Davis-Jeffers was the first and last person to try out. With the newcomer also came a new moniker-Blackbirds-and soon, after the departure of Gleason, came a new game plan.



The trio was left with songs but without a singer and, even more unnerving, an important performance booked for three weeks later at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. One encouraging aspect for Blackbirds was a newly induced freedom and creative space in which to open up songs into. An encouraging crowd reaction at the Empty Bottle show affirmed that the group's ideas were in fact a step in the right direction. After five months and a name change to Pit er Pat (which is a reference to words found in a Jim Nutt painting) the trio had recorded their first album, the six song 25-minute Emergency.

Released on the independent Overcoat Records label, Emergency slid into the cracks of the underground music scene without even so much as a blip on the radar screen. Pit er Pat was not distraught over their lack of initial recognition however. As they see it, originality and a degree of integrity behind the creation of their art far outweigh the benefits and recognition of retail sales numbers.

"The main reason why we're doing it is because we hopefully make music that people like us would enjoy," Doran said.

Apparently people like them did enjoy the music; Pit er Pat's second release and first full length, Shakey, is slated for a March 8th release on the venerable Chicago label, Thrill Jockey Records (Tortoise, the Sea and Cake). The new album takes the subtly catchy post rock character of Emergency and blends it with a combination of the prevalent experimental stylings of their new label and the preexisting Pit er Pat knack for pop colorings.

"[Shakey] brings you through a huge range," Davis-Jeffers said. "It's like watching a movie that you go through every emotion, and by the end you are OK and satisfied."

Shakey can be seen as an album that takes new steps in a familiar direction for the band. Still present are defining Pit er Pat elements of dark dancing, toy-like keyboards; fragile, porcelain doll vocals; and prancing drums and electric bass. Newly added to the mix are the lead vocal duties of Doran and Fuego, and a greater sense of flow that ties together the album as one body of work.

"Sonically, the songs [on Shakey] are more connected [than on Emergency]," Fuego said. "It has an element that connects the songs much better than on Emergency. There is a darker, more live sound to it all."

Part of what is fresh about Shakey is that it seems as if the band has done their homework; that they realize what works and what doesn't. The album plays out like an Edgar Allen Poe piece, and not just because of the large raven artwork on the back cover. Connections to death and peculiar, internally struggling characters creates a concept that breathes much longer than the disc's 40-minute, nine-song running. The writing style is more imminently personal than Emergency and, in part, exposes the profound personality of each of the musicians involved.

"Each of our experiences in the world is going to creep in," Davis-Jeffers said. "You can't help it because you are expressing something that's coming from inside of you. It's going to involve everything that you experience. Songs come from a subtle place.

"Things that influence me are events that you don't realize. It's not the name of a band, it will be the one thing that I saw happen on the street that one day that was so fucked up that left me with such a crazy feeling and I carried it with me for the rest of my life."

Twilight looms outside the windows of the Hideout and the band is drained from so much talking. What many individuals do not realize is that to be as creative as Fay, Butchy and Rob, the amount of effort spent day in and day out is deep and constant. This particular Friday night is no exception. Leaving the bar, the band hops into their new white tour van, not to meet up with friends or go out to dinner or drink the night away, as many other 20-year-olds are doing. No, Pit er Pat is off to be hard at play, er band practice, that is. Sometimes, when life is balanced, the two can be so easily confused.

SEE ALSO: www.piterpat.com
SEE ALSO: www.thrilljockey.com

--
Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other articles by Josh Zanger.

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