I’ve been following the growth of Bailiff for a few years now. After hearing the band at Lincoln Hall back in January of 2010 I was eager to get them in for a HearYa session. After speaking with the band, I learned that they probably weren’t ready for a session at the time, but were about to begin work on their first full-length album. We decided to spend an evening cutting a demo together and it was at this point that I learned what an ambitious process the making of Red Balloon would be.
I specifically remember Josh asking me to make sure that his guitar NEVER sounded like it was plugged into a Marshall amp. And Ren wanted to make his snare sound like it was recorded with a crappy little iPod microphone attachment while keeping the kick drum sounding thick and warm, like it was recorded to 2” tape. I did a lot of head scratching that evening and ultimately was not offered the job of producing/engineering the final recordings that would become Red Balloon. However, that one-night-sonic-chase did teach me some new techniques as well as solidify my respect for the creative team that is Bailiff.
Fast forward about a year and I run into Josh at a wedding in Chicago and he tells me the album is done and hands me a copy of Red Balloon from his car. I put it on at the studio the first chance I get and a smile immediately graced my face. These guys had some fun making this record. The sound is thick, crunchy and aggressive, sometimes obliterating the drums with heavy compression and giving them a larger-than-life, but still organic texture.
I’ll assume the guitars are free of any Marshall amplification, but I can’t swear to that. If I had to place my bets I’d say that they used Josh’s mid-60’s Blackface Fender Super Reverb featuring a more wire-y tone that emphasizes Josh’s unique melodic sense. The bass is fuzzy and thick when needed and gets out of the way when it’s not. Songs like Crickets, In The Reverie and Everyday Fire demonstrate a more drone-like eastern influence. While other songs like When I Leave You Will Stay and Little By Little exemplify the blues foundation that Bailiff grew from. But rather than try to categorize their music, I’m just going to say that what Bailiff does best is make music that is unique. They just don’t sound like anyone that I can think of and that is what makes them special.
Bailiff has evolved through a rotating cast of members, but principal songwriters Josh Siegel (Vocals/ Guitar) and Ren Mathew (Drums/Backing Vocals) remain the foundation of the group. At the time of this release, Bailiff is wrapping up their 2011 tour that featured its final stops at The Mohawk in Austin, TX and the Blue Note Lounge in Oklahoma City, OK tonight. 2012 promises to be a busy year for Bailiff so check them out as they make their way around the country.
Scheduling this session was a long time in the making, and now almost two years after we first discussed the idea, I’m very excited to share with you what I feel is one of Chicago’s best up and coming bands.
Video: Bailiff – Eventually
Video: Bailiff – Emptied Out