We met with Eric Liljehorn, singer and frontman of Chicago revelation band Death Pop Radio, for a very nice video conversation across the Atlantic. We’ve loved their debut self-titled album so much (our review), so we couldn’t be more interested in going deeper into their music.
Eric, but you’re not a just a singer, I can see a lot of instruments behind you!
Yeah, I’m not just a singer, but I’m just a singer for Death Pop Radio. I have a couple of other things to do. I have a collection down here and anytime, if somebody’s over, if we wanna play we play whatever we want…
Would you like to introduce the band? I know you started with a song before you started the band …
Yeah, Dee J, our guitar player, and I were friends but we hadn’t seen each other in over 20 years, and we ran into each other at a King’s X live show. He had some songs he was working on for a solo instrumental album, but he wanted to do a song and thought that it would be good with vocals, so he sent me the song and I wrote some lyrics for it. So we did the song called “Ravens”, which is on the album. And made a little video for it, just the two of us.
We didn’t have a full band at the time, we just put the video out and the response was really, really good! So we put the band together, with Mike on bass and Jim on drums, and called it Ravens, because we only had one song which was called the same, and we didn’t think we were going to do anything more than that. We had that name for over a year, and then during Covid we decided to change the name because it was hard to find us online on Google, even with words like “music” or “Chicago”, you would still find football or Edgar Allan Poe and all kinds of other things.
Did you have the chance to play together live before recording the album?
Yeah, we did some of our shows despite Covid time, we opened up for national acts like Powerman 5000 and Hed P.E. and we had a couple of other shows with local bands a little more established than we were. We played outdoors during Covid and then in the last two weeks we’ve had quite a few shows, things are coming back together. Now it might be slowing down again, I hope not.
So you started with a song, then you put together the band, started playing live and write more songs …
Yeah, we started the right way. We wrote songs pretty quickly, we were jamming and finding a lot of common ground, more than we realized… So we wrote our songs, our first ones, and made a little demo before making a full album self published, Early on it was picked up by Dark Star Records, so we had a newer version of it with newer mixes and it’s been really, really great.
Do you all have different musical influences? How did you put together your very personal sound, with many different patterns?
Oh, we have some music that we all listen to and are inspired by. We do a have a common background, hard rock backgrounds. We’ve been playing Hard Rock with different band for years, but we don’t listen to the same things. In fact, I listen to a lot of electronic music these days, but I still obviously listen to had rock stuff, Dee J and Mike have a very common bond with KISS, they love KISS, and all of us love Metallica, Iron Maiden, a lot of that stuff, but we’re not just Metal listeners. I listen to a lot of Prince, Blue October, and even back in the days when I first started doing hard rock stuff, I was into bands like Concrete Blonde and some of the grunge stuff that was coming out in the ‘90s like Mother Love Bone and things like that. So yeah, we’re all over the place and listen to a little bit of everything… Dee J has got a young daughter so he’s listening to a lot of Billie Eilish right now!
We also come from a little bit of metal background, we like a lot of new metal stuff. So I think we just take all the components that we like and at the end of the day we’re really all about hooks. We want things to kind of hook in your brain and stick with you and sing along, give you the vibes of the things we love, right?
That’s possible because you’re experienced musicians, otherwise that wouldn’t be that easy …
We’ve been doing it, you know, we’re not young guys, we all have more or less 35 year experience now, so all cumulative we have over 120 years of experience, but we actually never started writing songs trying to sound like somebody else or follow somebody else’s path. When you’re our age, you really don’t know what your path is, we just like writing music and making music and hopefully having people think it kicks ass, you know, that’s what we really want!
What is your way of writing songs?
For the most part, Dee J will have guitar parts that he will send to me and I’ll start to put melodies, not even words right away. Usually it starts with melodies that I’ll play in the car over and over until I start to hum something, and when I start to hum the same thing a couple of weeks in a row, then I know I have a hook. Because I can’t get it out of my head! Then I’ll put words to that, while Mike and Jim are working on their parts.
We do a lot of our writing separated and for the most part we only get together to lock everything in, so by the time we’ve actually finished a song, it’s usually recorded because we send all our parts to Dee J and he records them all into one. That’s the beauty of being able to have our home studios. Our rehearsal are really just to prepare for live shows.
Your music is extremely energetic, do you pour all the energy in your live shows?
Our live shows are one of the best around here, even the young guys don’t keep up with our energy on stage! We get a lot of compliments live, that’s why we get the opportunity to open for national acts, the word is out! That started when we didn’t even have an album out. We have a new video coming out on August 20, a cover song of “Melt with you” by Modern English and there’s a lot of live footage in it so you can see. We really do good live shows. Covid has slowed things down, but we’re hoping to branch out as much as we can out of our area (Chicago). We’d love to play Italy, that’d be a fantastic trip, awesome!
Article by Francesca Cecconi