RIVALS OF THE PEACEMAKER
RIYL: X, The Civil Wars, Gillian Welch, Aimee Mann, The Lumineers
Sometimes the creative process sucks, and no one knows that more than really creative artists. Just ask Alexandrea Pataky, the artistic force behind Chicago’s dark folk quintet, Rivals of the Peacemaker.
Alex, a visual artist, had always used drawing as an artistic break from writing music. As she started writing the follow up to 2011’s self-titled EP, Alex found herself relying more and more on her visual art to give the music time to marinate in her head. So much so that after a while, the difference between the art she was creating for the ears and the art she was creating for the eyes felt almost imperceptible. “As I write, I draw, and as I draw, I write more, so I’d been working on a series of illustrations simultaneously while writing the songs,” she says.
This layering of text and image, music and art, comes, not surprisingly from off-beat sources. Says, Alex, "I watched this documentary called Beauty Is Embarrassing, which is about the artist Wayne White. It inspired me to think of making music and art as a lifestyle and to embrace the idea of tying together the things I believe in, even if they seem disparate. Connecting Americana music and scientific illustration is a little unusual, but it's what I’m interested in."
This process resulted in an ambitious debut - the album released on vinyl, alongside a series of ten art prints inspired by and paired with the music. The work generated interest quickly leading the band to a successful summer tour and slots at Lollapalooza, CBGB Fest, and Red Bull’s Sound Select roster. This might have been a satisfying year of accomplishments, but Alex is not one to rest on any laurels. “I’m never done and nothing is ever finished for me. I constantly think I could be doing more, working harder, ”she admits. This drive has been the propelling force for a diy band made up of ex-husband Billy Watson, longtime guitar player Anthony Rubino and rhythm section Jordan Kozer and Colin Mulhern.
"We don't like any of the same things, or any of the same bands," Alex admits wryly. In the context of an up-and-coming band, this isn't an uncommon scenario. Although an end goal of harmony and memorable songs may be in sight, the sum of the parts hoping to get there can be on quite divergent paths. Luckily, despite the aforementioned differences in taste, "for some reason, we like what we all make together.”
Tying those things together allows Rivals to hold court in two vastly differing approaches that have served country-tinged folk and Americana well over the past 100-plus years: Slimmed down to a duo, they create a stark, intimate mesh of top-notch songwriting and evocative vocals; With a backing band - they craft soaring ballads and fiery, ramshackle stompers.
Don’t expect a slow down - this band has planned a collaboration with street artist Brain Killer for a new Rivals video, a new album is already in the works, a set of east and west coast tour dates booked, and a series of solo/duo acoustic shows in the Midwest are next up, as well as a vinyl listening party this spring that will include an exhibition of the visual art created for the record.