— by Chris Harris, with reporting by Matt Paco
There aren't many rock bands formed after 1970 that weren't in some way influenced by the Beatles. But although the garage-pop quartet Redwalls certainly evoke the sounds of John, Paul, George and Ringo at times — even opting for moptop hairdos — thankfully, their music is still distinctive enough to separate them from the rest of the herd.
Not coincidentally, the Chicago natives actually started out as a covers band called the Pages, playing Beatles songs along with Dylan, Stones and Chuck Berry tunes. A couple of years later, the Pages — fresh out of high school and, by that point, writing their own material — recorded a demo that found its way into the hands of former Wilco drummer Ken Coomer, who handed it off to a major-label A&R rep. Before the Pages' debut album, 2003's Universal Blues (released on Chicago indie Undertow) had landed in stores, they'd been signed to Capitol, the label home of — you guessed it — the Beatles.
"The Beatles were definitely a huge influence for us," said bassist Justin Baren. "But we're varied in what influences we draw from, so you never really know what the inspiration for certain things are when you hear our record."
The new record, De Nova, was produced by Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith, the Vines) and is set to hit stores on June 21. But before the guys could even think about releasing it, there was the trifling matter of their name.
The Pages were forced to adopt a new moniker because the name had already been taken by an earlier Capitol signing, who later renamed themselves Mr. Mister — something that guitarist Andrew Langer laughingly described as "one of the greatest privileges we've ever had."
"We must have gone through 3,000 names and finally landed on one that no one in the band really hated," said Baren, adding in jest, "We saw a red wall and were like, 'That's it!' "
While it's still early, the band has already had its share of controversy. In the wake of Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime event, Redwalls — rounded out by Justin's brother, guitarist Logan Baren and drummer Ben Greeno — appeared at a Chicago radio station, and a certain four-letter mistake sneaked onto the airwaves.
"We said, 'Ah, what the f---?" Justin said. "I guess the FCC got mad or something and the radio station was like, 'We're going to fine you $500,000.' " While nothing has come of the threat yet, the band is tempting fate with one of De Nova's tracks, "Falling Down." The song blasts the FCC for its tough stance on indecency, with lyrics that say, "In times like these, you better watch what you say/ Watch them take your f---ing rights away."
"We don't care for what they're doing," Justin said. "It seems like America is just going in the wrong direction. It's just going backward over the last three or four years."
"Every once in a while, you feel this obligation to acknowledge some of the f---ed up things that are going on," Logan said. "But we also sing about girls and all that other stuff. What we really do is play rock and roll."
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