December 07, 2006

All City Affairs

Peter Andreadis is the drummer for up-and-coming Chicago rock band Baby Teeth, but when he's not busy pounding the skins, he's making interesting music as All City Affairs. The two bands couldn't sound more different, though. While a certain music website recently proclaimed that Baby Teeth, "sounds just like David Bowie," the music of All City Affairs is mellower, and it's certainly more intricate and delicate, and it doesn't really sound like any one particular band. What's most striking about Bees, the band's second album, is that lyrically, it falls into a narrative pattern about the day in the life of a city, with all sorts of characters populating the landscape--from the busy worker to the failed soul singer. It's an interesting concept, and it's one that's quite enjoyable, too. I had a chance to speak with Mr. Andreadis recently, to get him to talk about his music.

All City Affairs is a side project from your main band, Baby Teeth. What prompted you to start it?

Well, it kind of didn't start off as a side project. It had been a project I'd been working on since about 2000. I was just writing songs, and it was just a songwriting project, really. I had a bunch of friends who were coming in and out and playing--not playing for shows, but just playing around my home and in my recording studio. I released a record in 2001 on a real small Chicago label that didn't do much; it folded after my record was released. I started working on my next record, which is the one that just came out, with some of those same people from the first. As soon as I started working on that, a lot of those people got really busy with their own projects, so it became a solo project almost by default. Then Baby Teeth started, and things with them really took off, so All City Affairs got put on hold for a while. Baby Teeth had a lot of momentum, so I thought that if anything good happened with that, it'd reflect well on me and on All City Affairs as well. So for a lot of people, All City Affairs is a new thing, and it's getting a new birth now.

Bees seems to be a conceptual piece about a city, a sort of slice of life. Were you trying to write a day-in-the-life in the city sort of record?

Yeah, it was pretty intentional. I was trying to challenge myself into not writing songs about being in love or breaking up or something like that. I think that's an easy well to draw inspiration from. I've been writing songs since I was fifteen, and I've written a ton of songs like that. I thought, "Okay, I want to do something that's a little bit more focused on what a daily routine is like>" Just common, every day things, about things I'd see on television or would read about in the paper. All City Affairs is a good vehicle to explore such different concepts. A lot of what I ended up writing about was more about how money plays a role in art, being an artist, and following one's interests, and about money and materialism--when you start to get a little bit older, you start to realize the value of things that are non-materialistic. I wanted to write about those frustrations, and about how what's valuable to one person might not mean anything to another.

On some levels, it sounds like a spiritual quest, about transcending the trappings of the flesh, in search of something higher...

A lot of that did come out in the writing. A lot of that was me sort of looking inward and making sense of some things. I did what I could to not make it so much a first person record. I didn't want it to seem to be about me.

It reminded me of writers from earlier in the Twentieth Century, where they would write a series of things, all using the "I," and the "I" is not the author, and the "I" is not a single personality; in one story, "I" is one, and in the next, "I" is another, and the development of the story transcends a narrative tale. Like on Bees, where on one song you're singing about being a guy who's a soul singer, and the next you're singing about another person; I never got the impression it was the same character throughout.

Hmm, yeah, that's interesting. I don't necessarily feel like another character, but it gives me something to play around with while I'm performing. It gives me an identity to toy around with while playing my songs.

From what I've heard, Baby Teeth is more traditional in its style and its sound. Would you say All City Affairs is more about you experimenting with a sound, or experimenting with lyrics?

It definitely starts with me experimenting with sound. I struggle with lyrics; they're usually the last thing I work on. I guess, being a guitar player originally--I play drums in Baby Teeth, and have only been doing that for about four or five years--but being a guitar playing originally, it's "Write your tunes on acoustic guitar, and as you're strumming you get this acoustic thing building up." The way I work with All City Affairs is I'll take those chord changes, I'll fill them in with a drum and a bass pattern that's interesting and takes away from what a guitar might sound like if you were on stage strumming it by yourself. It definitely starts out on a sonic level with me trying to work out some kind of rhythmic thing that goes under the changes I've written on an acoustic guitar, then backing it up from there and putting in a guitar part. I guess I'm trying to accomplish something where you wouldn't know offhand the source of the music. You might think, "That's an interesting bass line" and "that guitar part must have been the first thing he put down," and it might not be the case at all. I guess the music I really admire has that sense of layers to it, so that every time you listen to it, you hear one or two things that you didn't hear before, so that you have an experience that's a little bit different from listen to listen.

Do you perform live with All City Affairs, or is it just a studio project?

I do play live, but it's been building up over the past year or so. I've been trying to get more gigs and get comfortable with it, because I am just performing by myself, and I'm trying to add things here and there on the backing tracks I perform with. It's kind of like a glorified karaoke revue. For me, if I just picked up my guitar and tried to assemble a band to perform with me, it would be like taking a step back, because I've gotten so used to doing things by myself; waking up in the morning and saying, "Oh! I know what I need to do with this song!" and running over to the setup in my room to lay that part down. It's interesting for me; I am having a really good time doing it, and I love getting up on stage and playing. (Beams) I'm having a really good time, and hopefully, after being off stage and wondering, "Man, is anybody going to like this?" at least if I'm entertaining myself, then that will shine through and that will be what the audience connects with. I just like having fun.

All City Affairs' second album, Bees, is available now on Lujo

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