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(MP3) from Album "Sybris"
Best Day In History In Ever

(MP3) from Album "Sybris"
Breathe Like You're Dancing

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Advanced Alternative Media
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Sometimes lady luck doesn't quite look like lady luck. On a typically dreary Chicago evening in April 2003, Shawn Podgurski (bass) and Phil Naumann (guitar) were hanging out at a neighborhood bar and mulling over the idea that their fledgling rock band was perhaps missing something when they met Angela Mullenhour (vocals, guitar). The three shared a few beers and as it turned out the fake-ID-wielding-then-19-year-old Mullenhour was a musician as well and looking for compatriots. It was determined that the three would jam together later that week with then-drummer Bill Bumgardner. The four were all mutually blown away by the music they made that night, which Mullenhour would later describe as a beautiful kind of "sonic gluttony." When the night ended Podgurski and Naumann knew they had found the missing piece of the puzzle in Mullenhour's impassioned voice. Bumgardner revealed that he actually knew that from the moment Mullenhour walked into the practice space: "She had her shoes duct-taped together. I knew it would work out even before she sang a note." Sometimes lady luck...

Soon after, the now quartet named themselves Sybris (an intentional misspelling of a hedonistic ancient Greek city) and began crafting a sound that's a fusion of ambient art rock, 80s heavy metal and, oddly enough, folk. Dual guitars interlock with a powerful bass backbone, all driven by swirling and lifting drums. To complete it, there's Mullenhour's acrobatic voice that acts as the band's two-headed catalyst - she has the ability to either ground their sonic chaos or run the whole thing right off the rails. At times, the kinetic Sybris sound invokes Slayer fronted by Edie Brickell (the tail end of "Blame It On the Baseball") and at others it feels more like the lovechild of Belly and Swervedriver ("Best Day In History In Ever"). The band even manages to produce songs that could have wound up on the album of an imagined My Bloody Pixies supergroup ("Neon" and "Breathe Like You're Dancing").

Most importantly, the band looks to make music that is epic and beautiful, yet fun, an idea that really began to take hold when the group began to play live. Mullenhour recounts the moment at their first show when "we'd played about three songs and the room just got really quiet. People were paying attention during the quiet parts. I remember my shoe flew off during the show and I remember thinking, 'Yeah, this rocks. This is the most fun ever.'"

It's this "fun first" approach and Sybris' unique blend of genres that soon had them sharing stages with everyone from ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and Har Mar Superstar to Stars and The Thrills. Despite having only been a band for a year, the young and determined Sybris embarked on a few tours, one of which led them to play 2005's South-by-Southwest festival in Austin, TX. Within the same month, the band was picked up by Chicago label, Flameshovel Records (also home to Chin Up Chin Up and Make Believe).

Original drummer Bumgardner gave way to Eric Mahle in February 2005 during the final stages of the recording of their self-titled debut full length. The album was engineered by Mike Lust (Sweep the Leg Johnny, Ten Grand, Atombombpocketknife) at his Phantom Manor Studios and then mixed by John Congleton (Explosions in the Sky, 90 Day Men, Chin Up Chin Up) at the famed Soma Studios, both in Chicago. The album serves almost as a retelling of the band's brief history, containing a survey of material written over the first two years of the Sybris' life. It's an exquisitely crafted synopsis of the recent past and a heady nod to the future of this young band.
Pitchfork 8.0 out of 10"...Mullenhour puts on her best Edie Brickell coo as her band rolls smoothly through understated dynamic shifts, building incrementally to a thrashing middle section, sinking through a quiet descent, then a upwelling to a mountainous, distortion-drenched re-crescendo. "You're Only Confident in Your Insecurities" opens with a fuck-all '90s guitar jangle, then edges crisply to a pop-metal stomp, the music and vocals intensifying as one. Even the coffee-shop strum of "Blame It on the Baseball" is made magnetic by Mullenhour's authoritative vocal turn, a blend of raw emotion and melodic control, and by the shimmering, stormy shoegaze it gradually melts into. ...Sybris's long songs, tonal contiguity, deliberate pacing, and infectious melodies are more than pleasant but less than bracing-- just right. They require no palliative counter-measure, and when the disc ends, there's no compulsion to rush to the changer-- why not just let it spin once more?"
"'The Best Day in History in Ever' opens with a percussive throb and fluid, concise guitar lead that makes one picture Karen O doing judo warm-ups with a mic stand. But this is where the two diverge: Yeah Yeah Yeahs might abruptly ramp the song up to a yowling blues splatter, but Mullenhour puts on her best Edie Brickell coo as her band rolls smoothly through understated dynamic shifts, building incrementally to a thrashing middle section, sinking through a quiet descent, then a upwelling to a mountainous, distortion-drenched re-crescendo." - Brian Howe

UR Chicago"Like their musical ancestors My Bloody Valentine, Smashing Pumpkins and Lush, Sybris is emotive and aggressive, catchy and dissonant, cacophonous and pure."

Illinois Entertainer"Sybris construct towering cathedrals of sound on their self-titled E.P. A crashing cascade of guitar, drum fills, and interlocking vocal parts make "Quiet! My Stories Are On" one of the most glorious songs about selfishness and separation one will ever hear... Likewise, "Happy Birthday America" builds from simple strumming into thick layers of syncopated guitar, ala Velocity Girl." -Patrick Conlan

New City Chicago"The dissonance between Angela Mullenhour and a will-o-wisp guitar melody propels 'Breathe Like You're Dancing' before it builds into a Dead Meadow-ish climax." -Dave Chamberlain

Splendid Ezine"Sybris's "Breathe Like You're Dancing" effectively combines shoegazer guitars with punk drums and a vocalist who has the voice Courtney Love has been trying to emulate for a decade -- it's rough, melodic and vulnerable." -Philip Stone
"As songwriters... Sybris are their own beast, dishing out one expansive two-headed monster after another. "Breathe Like You're Dancing" opens with crisp Sunday drive guitars, all clean, pressed and smiling, only to mutate into a lumbering colliseum-sized ball-buster, while "Blame It on the Baseball" poses as a Mazzy Star comedown until its melted vinyl guitars seize control and drip pink goo all over the place. These are pop songs, no doubt, but they rebel against stagnation." -Phillip Buchan

Village Voice"Up-and-comers Sybris sound like the late, lamented Life Without Buildings, with a hiccupy, girlish singer fronting a noise rock assault." -Phillips

Nashville Rage"Female-fronted Chicago newgazers Sybris inherit the chalice once filled with draughts of distortion and blissed-out vocals by the likes of Belly, Pale Saints and Lush.""Sybris isn't one of those bands with more guitar pedals than bright ideas. Having a sound is easy; Sybris has songs too, and catchy, well-crafted ones at that. The low-key "Blame it on Baseball" is a bloody valentine to early-'90s alternative rock, and "Breath Like You're Dancing" sticks around just long enough to get stuck in your head before it explodes into cacophony. The echo isn't there to obscure any compositional deficiencies, just to facilitate the spacey vibe. "Good Internal Clock," the album's climax, begins in Sybris' native Chicago and winds up on Mars." -Lane Brown

San Fransisco Chronicle"Three thousand years ago, the Achaeans -- a group of Greek warriors -- founded Sybaris, a city on the gulf of what's now Taranto. Remember that? Not many rock musicians do, but then, not many have the lyrical insight of Angela Mullenhour, the 22-year-old Chicago singer who leads the rising indie-rock band Sybris -- an intentional misspelling of that ancient Greek city.
"That's always nice," Mullenhour quips, a hint of sarcasm in her voice. But despite the badges of indie-rock pride -- slumming it is an article of youth, for Flameshovel musicians -- Sybris is musically distinct from the swell of indie-rock bands now chasing Bright Eyes to the rock pulpit. Sybris is an epic band.
The epic band, in general, is an artistic notch above the guitar-rock band. Sybris is epic because they write anthems: faraway intros, slashing choruses, runaway climaxes. The album's finale, "Good Internal Clock," leaves the greatest mark. It opens with a percussive click, a somber guitar and Mullenhour's aching, scratchy voice. Soon, the guitars amplify and her voice awakens, building to a tough, go-for-broke climax.
Elsewhere on the record -- and onstage, judging by Sybris' recent Chicago show -- Mullenhour's brink-of-sadness voice combines echoes of Cat Power, Bjork and, if faintly, Pretty Girls Make Graves' singer Andrea Zollo. It's not coincidental either that Sybris' tune "The Clowns Were Hilarious" opens with a texture similar to that of a popular Explosions in the Sky ballad. Both bands' albums were mixed deftly by John Congleton at the famed Soma Studios, in Chicago. "The album is a lot about wasting time," Mullenhour says, "but it's also about basking in the moment; about not guilt-tripping yourself." -Daniel King

Detroit Metro Times"Take a banana peel and throw it down the stairs! Siouxsie Sioux joins the Velvets!" -Jeffrey Morgan

Denver Westword"Shoegazer? Not exactly. Sybris isn't afraid to ratchet up the tempo and volume, ranging in mood from buoyant to wistful to pissed." -Jason Heller

Nashville SceneAt times, these Chicagoans sound something like a more interesting version of Bardo Pond, whose own music mixes rock and experimental impulses but subsumes them in a deafening roar. At others, Sybris sound like a fascinating and innovative amalgam of their influences. ...Mullenhour singing distractedly over a now-thrashing, now-droning wall of sound—a My Bloody Valentine wall, as opposed to a Phil Spector wall—can be downright incongruous, but then she'll keep riffing and drawing on her inner Yoko Ono, and things will come together in ways that are satisfyingly strange. -Steve Haruch,

Illinois Entertainer"My dad was a left-handed pitcher and baseball was his life," singer and guitarist Angela Mullenhour explains from the back of the band's van. "When he was training for Vietnam in the Army, he busted his shoulder up and he couldn't pitch anymore. Basically, ["Blame It On The Baseball"] is about - I'm not going to say 'not giving up' because that's stupid, I hate that. Basically, it's about being grateful . . . it's about why you do the things that you do. What is it that drives you, that makes you live like fucking bums and sacrifice things? Blame it on that. I blame it on the music."
"We're trying to get out as much as we can without going completely broke or nuts," Mullenhour says. "One of the reasons we do this is the hopes that things get better and easier. Also, the response is so good and we have so much fun playing. Even if it were obvious that people didn't like us, we'd probably still do it. We all sacrificed to be able to tour. We're definitely in it for the long haul. We kind of have to be."
"We go a little van crazy, where it's like you can't get comfortable and all of a sudden your pants don't fit right. Luckily, we don't get on each other's nerves. That would be really bad. For as much time as we spend around each other, there's still a wealth of conversations to be had."
And tour dinners to be planned, like "Mexi-dogs," whatever those are. "I had some really burned hot dogs and some hot sauce from Taco Bell," Mullenhour says of her creation. "It was really tasty. Together they're amazing." -Joseph Simek"I cannot honestly say I've heard anything released so far this year that sounds quite like it. Interesting arrangements and solid delivery propel these songs past what could very easily be their limitations."

Treble Zine"It's somewhat comforting and cathartic to listen to a band that can pack a chunky, distorted power chord punch without sounding hackneyed or dated. ...This is, more aptly put, an alternative to all of the mainstream VH1 crap that the over 40 crowd is passing off as edgy. And that's precisely why Sybris kick so much ass. Fierce drumming and sinister riffage drive "The Best Day in History in Ever." It's not so much that there aren't many bands like Sybris, they just don't really exist anymore. And the ones that even come close aren't half as good.

All Music "When adding Mullenhour's croon and ambiguous lyrics, the song arrangements put Sybris near the top of the current crop of indie rock. And when she sings lines such as 'your boyfriend's name is exotic', it's hard to resist her charm." - Kenyon Hopkin

Chicago Tribune "...swirls with myriad possibilities." "Songs such as "Blame it on Baseball" and "Breathe Like You're Dancing" are almost epic in scope, with drums and guitars building into towering crescendos that evoke a raging nighttime sea."

Chord Magazine "I love nothing more than when a band hits the nail right on the head with its initial release." "Dissonant and sexy, furious and charged is what I hear in this cd."

Crutch "Tight, focused, and fast, Sybris plunge their music with power chords that adeptly counterbalance their peripatetic lyrical imagery." "[W]hat makes Sybris worthy of attention: their ability to consistently contrast angular guitar distortion with melodic, spacey dreamtones." - Julia Simon

Pistil Magazine "Agela Mullenhour, the lead singer for Sybris, has a beautiful voice. She really, really, really, really does." - Sara Bassick

RedisAlltheRage "...a four piece band that blends artrock, folk, and shoegaze into a style of rock that sounds at once distinctive and familiar. Their self-titled debut ... won us over at first play." - Stephanie Trick "This stuff is infectious."
"Every style is played with such cheeky self assurance that pegging a tag onto it just seems an encumbrance. Let's just say the band mixes a playful vulnerability with jagged and sometimes even heavy instrumentation, creating a multifaceted little jewel of an album that might make you wanna dance, or even bang your head."

Venus Magazine "Moody but never weak, Sybris creates eerie soundscapes without losing its rock edge." "With deceptively complex music, the band is slightly similar to U2 and can build a lot of sound around a simple beat." "The driving beats of and purposeful stride of guitarist Phil Nuamann and guitarist-vocalist Angela Mullenhour aren't lost in any tracks, even though each song has a unique tone." "Mullenhour, whose plaintive tone and pop-rock squeal approach reminds of many of the self-possessed female vocalists from the early 80's, packs a punch with a raw emotive quality that never tires. Her band members constantly mirror her energy and tone." - Bill Copeland

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