Hailing from the singularly vibrant musical hotbed known as Chicago, CHEER-ACCIDENT has been a creative, vital force in rock music for over 20 years. They constantly strive to surprise their audiences and themselves through relentless reinvention. From dreamy pop to angular art-rock, CHEER-ACCIDENT strikes a powerful balance between personalized and unique studio wizardry and the visceral excitement of a well-honed, explosive live rock band. The band is a quintet at its foundation, fronted by Carmen Armillas, whose powerfully emotive voice has recently led CHEER-ACCIDENT down the path of even deeper connectedness with their already-loyal audience. Presenting itself in various configurations, the band’s core personnel is frequently augmented by some of Chicago’s finest musicians. Their body of work is unparalleled in its ambition and originality, and their two
latest releases, “Fear Draws Misfortune” and “No Ifs, Ands or Dogs” (both on Cuneiform Records), demonstrate how the band continues to improve with each passing year.
After their hugely successful performance in 2013’s Rock In Opposition Festival in France,
they returned to Europe for several shows in July 2014, this time as a streamlined quartet:
Dante Kester- bass
Jeff Libersher- guitar, vocals, trumpet
Evelyn Davis- vocals. piano and its innards
Thymme Jones- drums, trumpet, vocals
So good it was to play (special shows, all of them) in front of friends from over the ocean in Poland, France and Germany. And then they came home and largely focused on the monthly releasing of material for their subscription page. No small feat, and they continue to fulfill that particular promise to this day.
Currently, the lineup would seem to look mostly like this:
Dante Kester- bass, keyboards
Jeff Libersher- guitar, vocals, trumpet, keyboards
Amelie Morgan- keyboards, vocals, oboe
Thymme Jones- drums, vocals, piano, trumpet, noises
Oftentimes, also including:
Mike Hagedorn- trombone
Carmen Armillas- vocals
Jim Drummond- swellness
Andrea Faught- everything
D. Bayne- keyboards
Sacha Mullin- vocals
Teria Gartelos- vocals
Laura Boton- vocals
Greg Beemster- vocals
Scott Rutledge- words
And sometimes Why.
The Long Version…
CHEER-ACCIDENT began literally in the opening seconds of 1981 during a New Year’s brainstorming party which included Thymme Jones on piano, Mike Greenlees on drums, and Jim Drummond on stream-of-consciousness vocals. Three months later, the group found a name via a category of greeting cards that Thymme noticed at a Hallmark store in Palatine, Illinois. The next several years yielded many independently-produced cassettes by CHEER-ACCIDENT (which, during this time, was really a rather fluid community of up to nine musicians ) with music that ranged from quirky pop songs to intricate extended rock compositions to free improvisation and noise. For the most part, the only ones to ever hear these musical adventures were the people taking part in them. On July 17, 1987, at a place called The Igloo in Chicago, this all suddenly changed: CHEER-ACCIDENT unleashed itself to the public in the form of a dissonant, hard-hitting, and bombastic power trio, featuring Chris Block on bass, Thymme Jones on drums, and Jeff Libersher on guitar. CHEER-ACCIDENT (which had most definitely become a band by this point) had (oddly and instantaneously) found itself to be a a very formidable live entity; They were– right from their debut performance– a visceral rock machine. A little over a year later, this lineup released its first full-length (vinyl) album, entitled “Sever Roots, Tree Dies.” The power trio served as a mere foundation for what turned out to be quite a sprawling and mature work which utilized a multitude of instruments (mellotron, trumpet, synthesizer, flute, piano, etc.) to realize these ambitious compositions. A year after that (fall of ’89), the band stripped back down to its basic rock trio format, enlisted Steve Albini as their engineer, and recorded “Dumb Ask,” which was a wholly successful mutation that somehow combined elements of “Red” era King Crimson, “Western Culture” era Henry Cow, ’80s Chicago post-punk, and AC/DC. In early 1990, they recruited Phil Bonnet on second guitar and proceeded to push the polyrhythmic dissonance further and further. However, in the fall of ’94 they shocked the post-punk and avant-rock worlds, of which they had been precariously straddling, by releasing a CD of meticulously crafted and heartfelt pop songs, called “The Why Album.” The public reaction to this CD was (in equal measure) confusion, alienation, anger, and reverence. (A dozen years later, “What Sequel?”, which was its followup, was far more immediately and universally embraced for its unabashed foray into the world of pop.) The classic 90s formation (which, in addition to Libersher, Jones, and Bonnet, included Flying Luttenbacher alumnus Dylan Posa) maintained a commitment to progressing in terms of musical complexity, but also went very far down the path of exploring extramusical possibilities. Some of the shows at that time devolved into absurdist “skits” between band members or bizarre interactions with the audience, causing people in attendance to wonder if the show was still going on or not. The boundary between “performance” and “real life” was oftentimes thoroughly blurred. One particularly memorable Lounge Ax show ended with Thymme (who had memorized an entire 10-minute Buddy Rich rant) berating the members of the band. The auxiliary personnel onstage at that moment (including legendary trombonist Jeb Bishop) had no idea this was going to occur. On January 31, 1999, the band went into the studio and recorded the basic tracks to the classic epic, “Salad Days.” Less than 48 hours later, Phil was found dead in his automobile of what was presumed to be a brain aneurysm, thus ending a magical and extremely productive era in the history of CHEER-ACCIDENT. Right before the dawn of the new millennium, just when CHEER-ACCIDENT was seriously considering calling it a day, guitarist Jamie Fillmore was kind and gracious enough to magically fall from the sky and into the band. Suddenly, it was once again time to forge ahead creatively, as the band performed more shows together, and wrote more material in a shorter amount of time, than had any previous incarnation. This highly fertile era culminated with the recording of the 74-minute “Introducing Lemon” in 2002, which remains arguably the band’s best work. Immaculately recorded by Steve Albini in his dream studio, Electrical Audio, this full-length (and then some) release explores a dizzying blend of musical styles, from Zeppelin-esque bombast to folk-tinged Americana to Stravinsky-flavored progressive rock to cinematic drama. Shortly after the completion of this epic, Dylan departed for New Orleans. Fillmore, Libersher, and Jones went on to experiment with various different lineups, but existed largely as a trio for the next two years, composing the the music for the comic fantasy “Gumballhead The Cat.” In the summer of 2004, U.S. Maple guitar eccentric Todd Rittmann replaced Fillmore. In typical CHEER-ACCIDENT multiple-personality fashion, the band explored new worlds via uncategorizable, largely improvisational rock with Rittmann on guitar– but they also performed pop music from the (aforementioned) “What Sequel?”, often with Rittmann on drums (along with newer recruits Sheila Bertoletti on piano, Andrea Faught on trumpet, and Alex Perkolup– another ex-Flying Luttenbacher– on bass). This version of the band (which also occasionally included Eorl Scholl on drums) eventually gave way to the trio of Perkolup, Libersher, and Jones, which toured the U.S. extensively in 2007 with Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. During this time, the seeds were being sown for an album idea that the band had been storing in the back of its mind for many years: Their “tailor-made Cuneiform release.” After a successful European tour in the spring of ’08, the band returned home to record perhaps their most compositionally ambitious album to date, “Fear Draws Misfortune.” This sprawling work rivals “Lemon” in terms of its diversity, but it certainly trumps it in terms of sheer musical density and complexity. There is a subtle nod to the band’s very first release, “Sever Roots,” in that it has a definite narrative arc while utilizing myriad instruments, studio techniques, and orchestration. This time out, however, instead of playing all of the instruments themselves, the band takes advantage of a disparate range of musicians, who– each in their own way– bring great musical insight and wisdom to the table. The impressive personnel on this CD includes: Chicago free improvisation hero, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, the brilliant and ubiquitous Carla Kihlstedt on vocals and violin, Aleks Tomaszewska on vocals, Dave Smith of Poi Dog Pondering on baritone sax, and many others. “Fear Draws Misfortune,” released in January 2009, reveals a fortuitous intersection of great vitality and vibrancy between Cuneiform (a record label with boundless integrity that’s been in existence for two and a half decades) and CHEER-ACCIDENT (an essential band with a storied career that’s been around just as long). This long overdue marriage, which neatly coincided with a timely (and quite lengthy) article in Signal To Noise magazine, hurled CHEER-ACCIDENT into deliciously uncharted territories of the international psyche. Spring/Summer 2011 showed the band to be at its most energized, releasing their 17th album, “No Ifs, Ands Or Dogs (also on Cuneiform), while making their third jaunt to Europe. Recent addition, vocalist Carmen Armillas, proved to be a great asset to the band: Thymme was freed up to focus primarily on the drumming, while Carmen inhabited the music so thoroughly that the emotional core of the music was never compromised. The Summer 2011 European tour was followed by a lengthy hiatus from the public eye, as longtime bassist, Alex Perkolup, exited the band in favor of focusing on his role as primary composer/musical director of the stunning Chicago ensemble, Lovely Little Girls. While CHEER-ACCIDENT remained hidden inside its hermitage, writing and recording a plethora of new material, Dante Kester (an extraordinary bass player from Minneapolis), graciously decided to relocate to Chicago, specifically with the intention of joining the band! This move had quite a rejuvenating effect, and his inaugural performance at Mayne Stage in Chicago (6/22/13) was a rousing success, as CHEER-ACCIDENT whipped out music from every phase of its history. The Summer of 2013 found CHEER-ACCIDENT once again embracing ridiculousness, playing three shows in Chicago, each one with different personnel (by design!) and with completely different set lists: There was the aforementioned “smorgasbord” of a show, powerfully fronted by Carmen Armillas; then there was the PRF BBQ performance, displaying the “power trio” approach; and, finally, the half-improvisatory quintet, featuring recent Mills College graduate, Evelyn Davis, on piano innards and voice, was invited to participate in the Summersonic series at ESS. It is this particular lineup that then flew to France to perform at the Rock In Opposition Festival (alongside such luminaries as Univers Zero, Soft Machine and Faust), as well as a few other shows in Europe along the way. Upon returning home, CHEER-ACCIDENT resumed its formidable recording pace, having pledged to release a new song each month via a new subscription page. 2013 turns into 2014 turns into 2015 turns into 2016 and they continue.