Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The music that Chicago band Yourself and the Air makes seems to be of a time not in the all too distant past, made in the very same area of the country, maybe in the exact same neighborhood as the one they're making it in. It's of those years in the late 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s when there were not all that many more dynamic locations for indie kids than Champaign, Illinois, Milwaukee, Lawrence, Kansas, Madison, Wisconsin and the Windy City. There were influential bands like Cap'n Jazz, Sarge, Pele, The Promise Ring, Braid, Wolfie, Joan of Arc and a whole incestuous and sprawling Kansas scene making the kind of music that you could either weep along too, empathize with in the privacy of your own home or give yourself a hoarse throat by yelling the lyrics back to the ceiling loud and forcefully. It was the dawning of the most sensitive wellspring of emotional and angular rock and roll. It was for the scrawny kids - the cross country runners and the mathletes - who were thinking about being one of those kids most unlikely to ever get a tattoo on their bicep. These were the Midwestern kids who were sick and tired of being reminded that they weren't living in any sort of cultural anomaly, a destination spot for anyone other than other Midwesterners. I mean, WE like Chicago and WE think Madison and Omaha are great, but does anyone else? We always, and sometimes still do, find our corn-fed selves asking. The answer finally was coming back, less silent than before, when these bands were making a dent on America, seemingly all at once in a solid, regional bum rush. Yourself and the Air makes similar entreaties about some of these same concerns and lyrical signposts - how did we get stuck here and why is love such a bitch, to name just a few. In the song, "Less Is Less," on the band's debut EP "Friend of All Breeds," lead singer Erick Crosby asks, "What does it take to leave this town?" and it's the kind of rhetorical question that just gets rolled off the tips of tongues but never really seeks much of a settlement. It just becomes as customarily posed as does the Cubs fans' saccharine statement of, "There's always next year," spiced with all kinds of bittersweet depression that is taken as a different strain of optimism around these parts. Those who leave the areas here tend to find their way back at which point things are different with them, but still the same with the place returned to. Yourself and the Air produces this shimmery kind of guitar-driven rock and roll that feels personal, that feels as if it was written by the buddies you never knew you had, writing about some of these shared experiences and conversations that never become too dated. These are songs about first loves, the sticky situations we found ourselves all in junior year of high school (or just pick a year), about how Spielberg's E.T. still resonates with us in our "old age" and about playing hooky from school. Contained within these slightly faded and yellowed memories are the longings and the excuses, the reasons that were so clear and resolute at the time, but have now been chipped away into fragments of what they once were, deferring to the past for the sense that seemed to be there.