For Hits and Gigs © 2018

  • Hanna Oliva

Interview with The Dead Licks, New Single Review

The Dead Licks uncovers the retrospective story behind recording their new single “What Happened."

The Dead Licks is a driven and transcendent alternative rock band based out of Chicago, Illinois initially formed in 2016. The band consists of Johnny Mac (bass), Jack Grbac (guitar), Tom Inzinga (guitar, vocals), and Jimmy Gallagher (drums) who all met at the University of Dayton.

The rock quartet shares an acknowledgement towards the early 90’s and 2000’s rock music scene, continuing the resonant, raw, and timeless sound. With the band’s progressive and magnetic guitar riffs, they are no strangers to the energetic and punchy elements that collectively inspired and shaped a generation. They all share the admiration of classic rock bands such as, The Strokes, Radiohead, and Pearl Jam, which becomes apparent in their sound.

After being a band for a short amount of time, The Dead Licks quickly shifted their attention towards releasing their first self titled debut EP during 2016, and later releasing their full length album 'Stay Away from the Aliens' in 2018, paving their way into the music industry. Not having released any new music in over a year, the band is taking control and releasing their new heartfelt single, “What Happened,” channeling the emotions of heartbreak into an outlet of of positivity.

The hard work doesn’t stop there - the band is also set to perform at their first festival show in Cleveland, Ohio at the 2019 LaureLive Festival on June 8th. Performing alongside headliners such as Hozier, Dirty Heads, and Misterwives.

We were so excited to have the chance to interview The Dead Licks about their new single “What Happened," including our review of the track. View the review and full questions below, along with the link to the song.

“What Happened” is a delicate and soulful track that transforms into a classic rock ballad with intrinsic lyricism. The feel of the song is very reminiscent that perfectly describes the sentiment of heartache. The track begins with a mellow piano slowly integrating each instrument into the arrangement. With a smooth and concise flow, it creates a pleasant listening experience.

The foreshadowing vivid imagery in the song starts right away within the first line, “Ten pictures on the floor, You said they’d be up by fall.” The emotionally-rich vocals captures the raw passion induced by Inzinga. It made me visualize boxes filled with photographs that used to carry warm memories that will never see the light of day. The heartbroken tone gives a retrospective feel into what once was a promising relationship.

As the chorus comes along, the rhythm kicks in with cascading guitars and drums coming in full force. The lyrics are uplifting and breaking away from the familiar comfort of your surroundings, “So stay away, light my window. Find a way, to save face and see the world. Ask questions, you’ll find a way.” It is difficult to break a habit, and experience the world first hand but knowing that everything will eventually fall into place.

The instrumentation of the track as a whole was mesmerizing to listen to and presents the idea of constantly trying to be the best version of yourself despite going through a rough patch. The 90’s and early 2000’s influences are shown its true colors with this track, embodying the persona that ties together the restorative sound. It is perfect song to reflect, gather your thoughts, and jam out to.

Now, the interview!

To start off, I wanted to congratulate you on releasing your new single, “What Happened"! It has such a powerful instrumentation. What was it like recording the single? Tom - It was fun. In college, we didn’t spend a lot of time writing songs, as much as we’d like to at least. So, we have a lot of problems with those recordings because live, they work so well, on the record it's very rushed, but we just wanted music out as soon as possible. We spent a long time rehearsing for the two songs we laid down, and they went through many variations. We went into Treehouse and it was pretty simple since we had already spent so much time previously. I really loved recording to tape, as you aren’t allowed the mistakes you have when recording digitally. I am still learning as a songwriter and it being my weakest link, I was happy to have a song that seemed to be moving in the right direction lyrically. Johnny - We had a lot of fun with this one. Tom wrote the progression that the rest of us were able to catch on to fairly quickly. It was clear it was going to be an easier-going song than we usually play so we wanted to keep it simple yet melodic. I was happy with the way the initial takes turned out. Then Treehouse Records let us use their Fender Rhodes, so Jack and I both added keyboard tracks on top of the guitars and drums. It was kind of a pain in the ass to finish the song, but I'm happy with the work we put in and the way the final cut turned out. Big thanks to Barrett and the guys at Treehouse, I look forward to recording there in the future.

The cover art is really striking and eye catching! What was the concept behind the artwork? Jack - We wanted more characters in the mix besides the frog, and right around Halloween is when we started writing ideas for the new songs. I usually draw after we jam and I got in a big phase of drawing skeletons, ghosts and all that. The witch at the bar seemed to fit the warm and cool feel of the song. The simple painting in the room worked well as a cover and I think it catches the eye

Where did the idea come from when choosing your band name? Tom - A few years ago, in probably 2015, I was chatting with Grb as we do quite frequently. We had an old band name called “Downing," which is where my grandparents’ house is in Wisconsin. I enjoy it there, but it wasn’t my band so me and Grb went back and forth and came up with the idea of The Dead Licks, as a way to show we kinda have a throwback feel. Alluding that the style of licks we play is currently dead, which it’s not, it's just much less prevalent in modern music these days.

There are a lot of photos of frogs posted across your social media accounts. Is there a significance or meaning behind it? Tom - When we were Juniors in college I went on a canoe trip which we referred to as “cabrewing”. Everyone would bring a bunch of booze, hop on a canoe, and get loaded floating down the river. Before that, there was a table at that particular location with all these stone animals. I happened to take the frog. And that’s really it. He’s been at almost every show.

You’re set to perform at your first music festival in Laurelive, with some of the biggest artists right now such as Hozier and Misterwives, what was your initial reaction? Johnny - Kidding me? Playing on the same bill as these guys has been exciting us since the headliner was announced in January. We're beyond grateful to be a part of this event, and hoping to see our name higher up at future festivals of course 'Stay Away From The Aliens' was released a short amount of time upon forming the band. How did you come up with the title and was the writing process like? Jack - I remember 'Stay Away from the Aliens' being the title for the album before we wrote any of the songs. We loved the idea of aliens and wanted to make the album cover something other than just the frog. We used to jam and hang out in Tom n Jimmy’s basement back at school, where the album was written. The cover of the alien looking out the door was a drawing that came after jamming the songs for months. It fit with us jamming in that basement but then going out into all the craziness. The writing process for that album was quick and exciting. Tom wrote ‘The Ghost’ and ‘Record Player’ in full and then brought them to the band, the other tunes started from riffs or small ideas and we jammed it until a song came about. That’s how we usually go about writing, sit as a group and jam.

How did you guys know the moment that you were meant to be in a band together? Jack - I’m not sure if there’s one moment in particular, but the fact that we still get to play live and record new music is good enough for us. We love what’s happening in the band and it seems like every day something can happen. Do you have any goals planned for the band in the near future? Johnny - We will continue to write music and play shows over the next couple years. We're all pretty clueless as to what it takes to have a career in music, so we'll keep jamming until something goes our way. What's the most amazing and memorable thing about playing live shows together? Johnny - I love to see people at our shows who don't normally listen to rock n roll having a good time. Things like that demonstrate how special live performances can really be. What celebrity/musician would you be the most starstruck to meet? Jack - Slash Johnny - John Paul Jones What should we expect from your new music? How will it be different from 'Stay Away From The Aliens'? Jimmy - You can expect a much more natural sound than 'Stay Away From The Aliens.' We recorded to analog tape instead of digital which has given us a much more live feel to the tunes.


We would like to give a huge thanks for to The Dead Licks for taking the time to answer our questions! Make sure to stream and add “What Happened” to your favorite playlist.

Cover art single illustrated by Jake Grbac

Tickets for the LaureLive festival here

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