"Gordon Robertson is that guy who could sing the menu at the corner deli and still move me."
- Independent Clauses
The Damn Choir’s Gordon Robertson has a saying that encapsulates his worldview. Laughing, he shares it: “I have no problem with God, but I don’t like his fan club.” Robertson grew up with a sincere fear of hell and damnation – he was home schooled in a fundamentalist household, the result of a brother who was cured of an inoperable brain tumor via faith healing. Despite his growing skepticism as a young boy, his fear of eternal flames kept him compliant until high school, when he found music. “I disliked the music in our church because it seemed insincere. I wanted to write a proper hymn about what really goes on.” Robertson’s quest resulted in 25 new songs, pared down to 13 for Creatures of Habit, out February 7th, 2014. Produced by Bryce Goggin (Antony and the Johnsons, Apples In Stereo, Swans, Dean & Britta), it was recorded live to tape at Trout Recording in Brooklyn during the fall of 2013.
Creatures of Habit was mastered by Fred Kevorkian (Willie Nelson, The Walkmen, The White Stripes, Iggy Pop). The album features sparkling tunes with off-kilter rhythms and warm guitar/cello accompaniment to Robertson’s rough-hewn vocals, delivered with a slight quaver that belies his heartache. Standout tracks include the title track, “Radiator,” and “Violet,” named for the producer’s daughter. “Radiator is about a cold, lonely Chicago winter. The song is based on me telling the story of a broken relationship to my broken radiator. The song also touches on the Carl Sandburg's poem ‘Chicago’ with a line I borrowed, ‘The City of Big Shoulders,’ explained Robertson. ‘Violet’ was originally written as a punk rock song—as punk rock as The Damn Choir can get. We were demoing all tracks and sending them to Bryce. He heard the song, and wanted us to change the lyrics and the melody. We changed the whole feel of the song thanks to our new drummer, Marty Kane.”
In addition to his production duties, Goggin also sang back-ups and played keyboards on the album. The band spent months doing pre-production with his guidance, polishing the songs and arrangements. Arriving at Trout, the band was greeted by a large open room (no control room or isolation booth for vocals) and recorded everything live, augmented by Goggin’s array of outstanding vintage gear.
The Damn Choir is Robertson on vocals and acoustic guitar, Katy Myers on cello, Otis “The Bearded Angel” Duffy on electric guitar, Brandon Stein on bass guitar, and Marty Kane on drums. Robertson formed the band in 2009, the year after moving to Chicago from Cleveland; after some early line-up changes, The Damn Choir has solidified into a cohesive unit whose players harbor genuine affection for each other. The band has attracted critical approval, with Chicago blog Gapers Block describing them thusly on the release of their first album You’re My Secret Called Fire: "Elegance. It's the overwhelming quality that’s present in the music of The Damn Choir.”
The son of a Scottish boxer, Robertson exceled at competitive BMX bike racing and soccer before music captured his imagination and the majority of his spare time. A self-taught guitarist, he began by writing songs and performing solo, inspired by artists like Pedro the Lion and Frightened Rabbit. These days he immerses himself in food and wine culture (and will take the sommelier exam soon) as well as being heavily involved in Pit Bull advocacy. The band supports the New Leash on Life foundation, donating $5 of every shirt they sell to the organization.
Guitarist Otis Duffy hails from Garland, TX; his inspirations include wine, Japanese food, and ‘60s psych music. Cellist Katy Myers is from Indianapolis; she has played in many bands, including Scotland Yard Gospel Choir and Panoramic and True. Bassist Brandon Stein is from Minneapolis, and loves Fugazi, Squarepusher, Les Savy Fav, and his other band, the Minneapolis Henrys. Keyboardist Gwen Klemenz is the latest member of the band and is a Chicago native. She was classically trained at Loyola University Chicago and loves everything from female singer-songwriters to noise pop. Chicago drummer Marty Kane is also a member of national touring act Dot Dot Dot (who were finalists on Fox TV’s “The Next Great American Band”). He loves punk rock, jazz, and singer-songwriters.