The Upside of the Masked-Band Movement: Chicago's Shapers Was Brought to Our Attention

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Steve Reidell, left, and his band Shapers, play Chop Suey on Saturday night with Tobacco and Beans.
Few trends sweeping through the indie-rockosphere are as insufferable as the masked-band movement. And in our quest to shame bands out of the practice, we've discovered a number of gems, Chicago's Shapers among them. The quartet may have posed in masking tape and scribbles in their press photo, but the music they play is both original and refreshing.

Their debut LP, Little, Big, sounds more like a movie score than a rock record. In place of pop melodies tying together verses, the quartet melds harsh and mellow soundscapes on a record that takes as much mental commitment from a listener as watching a film does. And (somehow) Shapers pulls it off without being self-indulgent.

Here, guitarist/bassist Steve Reidell tells us how the band got its sound, and when they pull the reins back on their public image.

SW: How are things going today?

Reidell: Pretty good. We're at Arby's.

Are you putting away 5 for $5?

The 5-for-$5 deal really isn't happening anymore. They sort of changed it to a combo-menu thing.

Has that taken its toll on the band budget the way gas prices have?

We're trying not even to think about gas prices.

How's the tour going so far?

Well, I mean, it hasn't started, technically. But the first few hours of driving have been great, and we've already stopped at an Arby's.

Are you wearing any masking tape on your face at the moment?

No, we don't do that when we're driving.

You don't poke holes in the tape?

We're not trying to get pulled over necessarily.

Do you wear the tape on stage?

No, we don't. Sorry to disappoint all the fans of masking tape and the masking-tape company's stockholders. That was kind of something we did for a photo, and a video we just put out, too.

The music you guys got down on tape is pretty outstanding, done with almost no melody at all, which is quite an accomplishment. Was that the plan for Little, Big all along?

We had played in this band prior to Shapers and we wanted to try something new. We had been fucking around, jamming at practice a whole lot, and we really felt that those were the best moments of our practices. The idea for Little, Big was to focus on that, record these entire practices and go back and listen to them and find the minutes or 30 seconds that we were like, "OK, wow, we really hit it right there. Let's try to take that and build a song outwards from that idea." While we have a lot of ideas happening on Little, Big, they all came from the same place and time. It goes a lot of different places, but I feel like from start to finish it feels very cohesive to us.

Are you excited to have Rahm Emanuel as your mayor?

Well, here's the interesting thing about that. He's missing part of a finger. And this is a fact, I'm not making this up: He cut it off working at an Arby's when he was a teenager.

It's gotta make you wonder how he feels about the 5-for-$5 situation.

I understand that part of his platform was to bring back the 5 for $5. Not even the 5 for $5.95, but the straight-up 5 for $5.

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