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States Crossing
Lying in States Leaves Home

by Jamie Gadette
Woah. The members of Chicago-based rock band Lying in States are trying not to get boxed into any confining categories—or boring press photos.
The RED Interview

ark Benson is preparing to enter the wild, wild west. The drummer for Chicago’s Lying in States

—currently on tour in support of its debut album, Most Every Night—has curiously strange perceptions of what it will be like when the band hits Utah for an April 11 performance.

“I have a friend who lives in Salt Lake City, but I can’t remember—does it look like Mars?”

Benson’s confusion isn’t a sign of ignorance, but rather indicative of an eager desire to explore uncharted territories. He hasn’t seen the Red Planet—or the Wasatch Front for that matter—but he’d love to visit both. Like the group itself, he is ready to branch out.

Lying in States only recently began journeying forward in its career. The group released its first effort in early January, prompting fawning critics to label it as a contender for record of the year.

Although the band has garnered comparisons to such musical giants as Smashing Pumpkins and Fugazi, Benson believes such descriptive qualifiers are fairly useless.

“We don’t want to fit into any categories,” he says. “We’re trying to carve our own niche.”

The comparisons also confuse Benson a bit. He doesn’t see any parallels between his group and Billy Corgan’s dearly departed project. On the other hand, Benson doesn’t mind echoing Fugazi. The Washington, D.C., hardcore band definitely helped inspire Lying in States’ penchant for pure, loud rock. So while the group strives to establish a unique identity, it’s difficult to claim the absence of any musical templates.

“We do have our strong influences to keep us on track,” Benson says. However, the group prefers to look ahead. Evolution entails a mix of electronic dance beats, full-frontal guitar assaults and solid, swift drumming. Blending well-aged basics with post-modern ethics, the group creates a sound that’s both accessible and provoking. It is a refreshingly motley mixture, one reflective of the musicians’ varied backgrounds.

Lying in States might worship a singular icon—Radiohead—but all of its members incorporate their own stylistic biases into the group’s sound. Benson, for example, often imitates Al Green’s principal drummer, Al Jackson, aiming for that trademark Stax Records rhythm. Yet even his personal preferences are wide-ranging. He also takes cues from Queens of the Stone Age.

The creatively diverse musicians initially intersected in 1999. Four of the group’s five members met at Loyola University in Chicago when they were enrolled as sophomores. The house in which Benson was planning on living in was rented out from under him. At the last minute, he ended up sharing an apartment with Justin Trombly (bass), Ben Clarke (vocals) and Jeremy Ohmes (keys and vocals). They hit it off and their shared musical interests soon translated into frequent jam sessions. Fergus Kaiser (guitar) joined shortly after, and Lying in States officially formed. While things seem to have progressed without fail, in retrospect it took time before everyone was completely in synch. “You think it clicks when you first start, but then you go back and it sounds like crap,” he says, laughing about the band’s early days.

Traces of early flaws are absent on Most Every Night. The album races through 43 minutes of tracks tightly wrapped around a conviction to break new ground. Ohmes’ voice layers nicely over, around and under carefully composed instrumentation, evoking a sense of controlled rage often absent in contemporary rock outfits. That calm unity makes frequent bursts of energy all the more compelling. Such explosions come out even better on stage.

“We want people to go crazy, so we really push our live show as much as possible,” Benson says. This is, after all, a group known for its fiery Guns N’ Roses covers.

The group is excited to play Salt Lake City (despite the revelation that it does not, in fact, resemble Mars), resting expectations on Kilby Court’s proportions. “The turnout is generally better at tinier places,” he says. “People just seem more interested.”
Benson has equal faith that a strong scene will generate audience interest.

“There’s good music coming out of the West, so there should be some pretty receptive people out there too,” he says.

Once the tour completes its run, Lying in States will go home. The band, which until recently had practiced in the same place since 1999, is looking forward to the new creative space waiting for them when they return.

“It was getting too routine, too repetitive,” Benson says. And for a band still testing the waters of a possibly prolific career, a change in scenery is always good.

Lying in States plays April 11 at Kilby Court, 741 S. 331 West.. The show starts at 7 p.m.

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