Bouncing off the walls

Chicagos newest stars hyper-tour

August 25, 2005
The Redwalls: four shaggy young men who all see the - same jittery hairdresser.
  • The Redwalls: four shaggy young men who all see the same jittery hairdresser.

In late July, Chicago's Redwalls found themselves kicking off the Lollapalooza festival in front of a large crowd in their hometown.

"It was fantastic," says Justin Baren, bassist and frontman. "We were playing really early on, so we didn't really know if people were going to come out."

A spot at a prestigious event like Lollapalooza was no small honor for a debut group like the Redwalls, who only just recently had released their first album, De Nova.

But if the band didn't seem at all fazed, that shouldn't have come as a surprise. They'd just returned from a three-week tour of outdoor stadiums in the United Kingdom with Oasis, who hand-picked them.

"There were 40-, 50-, 60,000 people every night," Baren says. "Our (next) show after that was Lollapalooza. It's like, 'This is nothing after playing to 60,000 people.'"

And an endorsement from a band like Oasis indicates the Redwalls seem destined to make waves with audiences worldwide.

De Nova is a solid first effort, featuring punchy, hook-filled guitar-pop tunes as well as a couple of solid songs that pull back slightly on the energy.

Though Baren, his brother Logan Baren (vocals/guitar), Andrew Langer (guitar) and Ben Greeno (drums) are young by any standard -- they range in age from 20 to 22 -- De Nova reveals the Redwalls are well versed in music made years before they were born.

The most obvious influence is early-era Beatles, but the Baren brothers and Langer, in particular, also were drawn to the music of Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Temptations and Otis Redding, as well as Hank Williams Sr., Elvis Presley and other pioneers of rock and country. There's even an occasional taste of psychedelic rock.

"Most kids do get into the old music," Baren says. "I think we just took it back a lot farther than anyone else. We took it back to the '50s and the '40s ... We thought it had soul to it, and we didn't really like the music that was coming out today."

The Barens and Langer grew up on the same block in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield. As kids, the Baren brothers would get together and sing to their favorite records -- a process that has produced the tightly wound harmonies they display today on stage.

By high school, the group -- then called the Pages -- had started playing occasional gigs and writing original songs that eventually would find their way into live sets.

When Justin Baren and Langer --the youngest of the band members -- were high school seniors, the group started recording a debut album, Universal Blues. Plans to release the record themselves, though, got sidetracked by bigger things -- a deal with Capitol Records. To this day, Justin Baren isn't sure exactly how Capitol and other labels got wind of the band.

With De Nova in stores, the Redwalls are working to build an audience and hoping fans will hear more than the Beatles influence in their music.

"(The Beatles) are not exactly a bad band to be compared to, I suppose, if they're doing it in a (nice) kind of way," Justin Baren says. "But that is kind of tough for us. We do have a lot of other (stuff) ... to offer people."

-- Alan Sculley

capsule

The Redwalls with OK Go

Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave., Denver

Sunday, Aug. 28, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $8, all ages; visit nipp.com.

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