The House Pub in St. Charles has been a stage home to the band Crisp, which will return to the venue to celebrate its debut album with a performance March 25. Three Elburn natives are at the core of the progressive funk group, including Kevin McMahon and brothers Joel and Stewart Ream, sons of the owners of Ream’s Meat Market in Elburn.
In speaking with reporter Renee Tomell, bandleader McMahon said he came back to the western suburbs to help found the band after a stint as an offshore commercial diver in New Orleans, and working at a Louisiana brewery.
“I had no creative outlet [in diving] and never realized how much I needed that in my life,” McMahon said about the impetus to return to musical performance.
Now, his day job lets him be creative as brewmaster for Gino’s East in Chicago, but his other passion remains music. He writes much of the band’s original material inspired by elements of jazz, funk and rock. The following is an edited version of their conversation.
Renee Tomell: Tell us about the album.
Kevin McMahon: We’re really excited about the show and the release of the record – called ‘How Many People Can You Bring?’ Crisp has been together in various forms for three and a half years, [and] I wanted to have a documentation of everybody’s hard work. We cut the record at IV Lab Studios in Chicago. The engineer, Chris Harden, is Grammy nominated. The majority of the album is instrumental. [There are] nine tracks, two of which have vocals. We’re all ready to kind of see what kind of legs this thing has. Our music is not the most mainstream stuff. I just released a nine-minute single.
Tomell: What instruments do the band members play?
McMahon: Myself on bass and vocals; Joel Ream on guitar and vocals; Stewart Ream on lead vocals and keyboards; Ian Letts, who grew up in West Chicago, and Andy Schlinder on saxophones; Constantine Alexander on trumpet; and Greg Essig on drums. On the
album, we [also] have Jerry Williams [on horn]. A lot of these guys tour regularly with other bands [and most] have degrees – performance or educational – in music. I’m fortunate for the amount of talent and solid character these guys possess. They all bring something extremely unique to the band.
Tomell: Will guest artists appear at your album release party?
McMahon: Matt Keen and Drew Doepke of Rebel Soul Revival will be opening the special evening for us as a duo. They are very dear friends [that I] and Joel Ream have been playing music with for over a decade. [And I’ve performed] with Joel for 15 years on and off. He and I had a band when we were kids at Kaneland High School.
Tomell: Do you perform music besides your original tunes?
McMahon: We all have this ridiculous little soft spot for ‘80s music. If we do covers, [it could be] Huey Lewis and The News [or] we drop a Styx tune or Steely Dan tune out of nowhere. It’s a lot of fun to keep people on their toes.
Tomell: Are you working on other art-related projects?
McMahon: I host a podcast called “Indecent Exposure.” The whole focus is musicians having to really hustle and struggle to get a fair shake in Chicago. I wanted to showcase the people I had a lot of admiration and respect for – from country artists to … jazz. I bring a growler of beer from Gino’s. I chat with the artists, and there’s no music. [Shows range] from guitarist Fareed Haque to the owner of Lakland Basses, a small boutique company in Chicago. The podcast is on iTunes, SoundCloud and the Podcast Addict app on Android.
Tomell: Will there be extra touches for the release party?
McMahon: We’ll be doing the album in its entirety, and a couple extra tunes and a new original we’ll debut. We’ll have physical copies of the album for sale and T-shirts.
If you go
WHAT: Three-hour Crisp album release party
WHEN: 10 p.m. March 25
WHERE: The House Pub, 16 S. Riverside Drive, St. Charles
COST: $5 cover
INFO: crispband.com or thehousepub.com