Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
One can spot an athlete from a distance. They walk differently and seem to be more comfortable carrying those sporting kinds of muscles around with them. They've not gone and atrophied from years of non-use in the way that the running, jumping, climbing and leaping youngster used them for. You don't see many athletes in indie rock and roll, though I think many of us are aware that Doug Martsch of Built To Spill is a b-baller to the core.
Most of those who have gone on to write and play music for a living made a choice to get good at something other than striking at a ball with a bat or perfecting a Tim Hardaway cross-over dribble early on in life. They might still have subjected themselves to the secondary sports such as soccer or cross country or swimming or what-have-you, but the big three sports were for the unwashed jocks, not the unwashed creative types. They kept away the same way those ragtag kids in "The Sandlot" stayed away from that slobbery dog the size of a car - until they had to get that Babe Ruth baseball back.
There have been instances around here recently, where we're getting more and more pseudo athletes making themselves known. Peter, the 7-foot drummer from The Boggs hit balls at the driving range before the band left for tour. Spencer Krug, we have on authority, every so often plays himself a round of golf. Chris from Brooklyn band Yeasayer was a competitive swimmer who competed in the Junior Olympics and David Karsten Daniels met his drummer, also named David, while playing on the same Little League team together.
Illinois lead singer Chris Archibald looks to be the real deal when it comes to athletic prowess. He purportedly has a gun for a right arm and he can prove his superiority in sports trivia, naming Philadelphia Phillies starting lineups through the years with the best of them. Were he to choose a closer, he'd go with Mitch Williams any day of the week and twice on Sunday. The reason this is relevant at all is because of the stigma of the dumb jock, able to make his or her body do insanely improbable things but unable to make the mind do the like. There is a seeming disconnect between the physical and the creative.
Clyde Drexler - known as the Glide when he was playing as a shooting guard for the Portland Trail Blazers - sucked ass as a dancer, so bringing to light a modern case of physicality sometimes not even transferring from one active thing to another. You should - if you haven't already - watch a wrestler jog. You'd never want to hear a band fronted by one. Archibald is a version of a renaissance man that also includes the ability to trash talk and potentially back it up in various gaming arenas. He has the wily and wiry build of an outfielder and a No. 3 hitter in the lineup. He would be an all-time quarterback, should one need to be picked. It's in his writing, however, that Archibald shows his hand and actually stands to give athletes a better shake.
The songs on What The Hell Do I Know?, the band's debut EP out on Ace Fu Records, are in the same vein as the brilliant recent wordings of Annuals and Page France, just with even more meat to it. Archibald will throw "pissed," "sucks" and "motherfucker" into his lyrics and it's almost like hearing a competitive side. But then, if you could see it through your speakers, you'd see the tattoo on the tender side of Archibald's left forearm, indicating that the brains are what get him by. He's got ink that was lifted straight from the cover of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. There's the little boy having the apple dropped into his hands from the selfless tree for both money and sustenance. It's a moral tale where the tree continues to give of itself to a boy as he grows up into a man. It starts with recreation and turns into the desire for financial well-being. The boy as he's grown then wants a house and a boat and the tree gives of its skin and limbs to meet all of these demands. So Archibald's not a real jock. Real jocks get tattoos of barbed wire and fierce eagles on their bodies, not The Giving Tree.
The Daytrotter interview:
*Chris, is it your grandfather's name or your great-grandfather's name? First name, right?*
Chris Archibald: Right. My great grandfather's name was Illinoi Archibald. He named my grandfather Indiana Archibald. He named my father Ed......What the fuck!!! I'm naming my son Dakota!
*Did you just like the oddness of that?*
CA: No, it was just his name they called me - Chris. I called him Illinois!
*Does the entire band hate the Yankees?*
*What's your dream team of MLB players from the 90s?*
CA: Nice question: Catcher Dutch Dalton, pitching (starting) old Nolan Ryan, (closer) Mitch Williams, 1B Frank Thomas or John Olerud, 2B though he was SS, I choose Ozzie Guillen, SS old Ozzie Smith, 3B Chris Sabo cause he wore spoggles or specs!!, LF Kevin Mitchell, CF Ken Griffey Jr, RF don't ask why, but, Paul O'Neill. I understand that I moved the outfielders around, but they don't matter anyways.
*What would be a fair 2-on-2 band football match-up and who's all-time QB?*
CA: I don't know cause most bands aren't that athletic and consider football for jocks, but me and Derek Crew (mgr.) would be more than happy to take on any band in a 2-on-2 game. I'm a good QB...alltime??? I don't know enough to say!
*What other bands have you competed against and what were the outcomes like?*
CA: We had a baseball catch with The Hold Steady and Tad got hit in the face with the ball!! It was actually from his own bandmate Bobby Drake! I do have to say that Eastern Conference Champions are the most competitive band we've come across, but I hear G. Love is an amazing basketball player. I am more than excited to play him! He's pretty smooth! Bring it!
*The EP is fantastic, but the new songs you recorded here seem to be at a different level (ed. Note - meaning good). Do you feel the same way? *
CA: Different level?? Meaning good er bad? They're not new. They're just four from my collection that I felt like tryin' out. I can't wait til I drop the hip-hop record!!!! No jokes. That's my favorite writing!
*What's going on with the songwriting right now?*
CA: I'm trying to record a record of new stuff in the van. It's a lil' noisy but the moments are there!!
*Is it easy, things flowing?*
CA: Yeah, it's easy to write when there's a lot going on around you!!
*You're out with the Hold Steady. How sloppy drunk is every night?*
I've never vomited (consecutively) this much in my whole life!! It's now a routine, I wake up, vomit, have a smoke, vomit, get in the shower and vomit. And that's normal!
*You had a Hollywood encounter right here in Rock Island, catching a glimpse of Dumb and Dumberer/Beer Fest's Eric Christian Olsen eating pizza. Fucking exciting, right?*
CA: The German guy!!!! Hell yeah.
*How is Beer Fest one of your favorite movies?*
CA: I love all of their movies!! This one is about beer and the off season training of beer drinking!! How could it go wrong?
*Now, are there three of you that have been the core of the band for a long time and a couple newbies?*
CA: Well, me, Martin, and Jip have been friends since He-Man and Little League. Dru is not new anymore, but I didn't grow up with him. Dan is touring with us, plus he's cute and he has a soft touch!!
*What do waste the most time doing?*
CA: Ummm..... not sure how I should answer this. Writing songs??
*When can a full-length be expected?*
CA: I'm ready. It's not up to me!! But soon.