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When two already prolific artists collaborate, good things usually come of it. In a way, Chicago post-rock outfit RLYR (pronounced “relayer”) represents a best case scenario: Guitarist Trevor de Brauw of Pelican and drummer Steven Hess of Locrian were only supposed to play together as a one-off festival performance — but ended up getting along so well that they decided to form a band.
“We hadn’t met before, we hadn’t played together before,” de Brauw says, “and something just kinda clicked right away. We both had a very open way of looking at music.”
The pair got together for an improvised performance at an experimental music fest in Milwaukee, started meeting regularly to see if they could write some more material, and eventually brought in bassist Colin DeKuiper and let the project take on a life of its own.
That first performance eventually became “Descent of the Night Bison,” the epic 23-minute closer to the band’s debut LP, Delayer
. As far as the writing process for Delayer
developed, de Brauw says that they tried to let things progress as organically as possible in keeping with the project’s improvisational roots.
“[With] RLYR it’s really just like, we show up at practice with nothing, and we all play together and songs just sort of emerge from the ether,” he explains. “Even though the end product is not improvisational, improv is kind of like a means that gets us where we’re going.”
When listening to Delayer
, it almost seems obvious how the songs were written — phrases naturally flow into one another, each musical theme foreshadowing the next. De Brauw’s wailing electric guitar takes the lead, unleashing riff after hypnotizing riff as the rhythm section keeps things moving steadily forward. RLYR being a three-piece, de Brauw also had to work elements of rhythm guitar into his parts which, according to him, wasn’t easy.
“It’s a much bigger challenge for me than in Pelican where you can always rely on the other guitar player to be doing something interesting,” he says. “It’s been a fun challenge for me trying to figure out how to write songs that feel full enough with just three voices.”
“Fun” is the key word here, however. No matter what artistic challenges RYLR may face, its focus will always be on what’s important — making music for the sake of making music.
“This is the music that pours out of us when we have this specific chemistry that the three of us share,” de Brauw says of what the project represents at its core. Fans of experimental and post-rock will likely be wowed when RLYR brings takes that chemistry to the Now That’s Class stage on Sunday.