INTERVIEW: Two Houses Write Words About The Chicago Scene, 9AM Jäeger Bombs, and Where To Get The Best Burritos!

Pictured above: Two Houses struggle to stay upright in a low gravity practice space!

I know what you’re thinking: how are two houses -inanimate structures- a band? Well friends, let me tell you: Two Houses is just the name of a band that is actually comprised of three people! Is your mind blown? I think it probably is. And it may be even more so after you hear their music, which is a power pop kind of thing, that’s not too heavy in the best way. Think the more relaxed moments of the Archers of Loaf or Dinosaur Jr., or like either with less bombast and soaring leads. And Noisey thinks they’re a band to watch, so if opinions other than ours are important to you there is that. They are playing here tomorrow night with Opposable Thumbs and Korea 3 at the Third Street Dive, so you can see what they’re all about live. We sat down with them to ask them important questions about writing music together, their new seven inch, and their thoughts on that ball droid from the new Star Wars trailer.

Never Nervous: How did Two Houses start? How has it evolved since then?

Dave Satterwhite: I met Ryan (Bass) on our first day of orientation in college. We were playing one of those “icebreaker” games where you pair off and introduce one another to the group via some trivial detail about your partner. This one kid introduced his partner as “Steve, and he likes the Mars Volta.” By a thunderbolt of serendipity, Ryan and I rolled our eyes toward one another with an adolescent scorn that I wish I could say we’ve outgrown. And we were both dressed exactly the same, so that felt fortuitous. We got stoned in an alley behind his dorm that night and it’s been rainbows and daffodils ever since.

Mike Boren: I met those two the day I moved to Chicago.  I got drunk at a party and was making fun of someone for not knowing who was Fugazi like a drunk know-it-all 18-year-old when Dave and Ryan came over and we drunk-talked about Dischord Records for a while.

For years, it was pretty much an excuse to get together, get drunk, play music, play a few shows a year, go to Milwaukee and play there and fall down drunk in Ryan’s dad’s place.  Around the time we graduated from college (2012) we were either going to stop playing or get serious.  Ryan got the PT Cruiser, which we tour in, we started renting a practice space, practicing 3 times a week, booking short tours.  

NN: Is there any greater meaning to the name?

DS: Ryan was friends with a lot of the more “bro” types in his dorm, and those guys knew a dude with a lot of money who owned two houses in Miami. He would justify a lot of his depraved behavior with the phrase “two houses,” e.g., “Dude, are you doing Jäeger bombs at 9 AM?” “Two houses, dude.” It was just this pre-established catchphrase that we co-opted, since everyone already associated it with partying and that was about all we cared about at the time. We’ve since cultivated an impressive list of career-oriented goals and interests, I can assure you.

MB: It was not actually clear if it was Miami, FL or Miami, OH.

NN: Should there be objective meaning in art, that people should have a singular take away from artist to observer of said art?

MB: No, art is not objective.  But you can’t just bullshit a meaning either.  Two Houses doesn’t have to mean what that dude at the party was talking about, but it can’t really mean a single plum floating in perfume served in a man’s hat, either.

“No, art is not objective.  But you can’t just bullshit a meaning either.  Two Houses doesn’t have to mean what that dude at the party was talking about, but it can’t really mean a single plum floating in perfume served in a man’s hat, either.”

DS: I had an English professor who defined art as the feeling a piece instills in the observer, not the piece itself. I’ve always liked that definition, as it’s kind of a litmus test for bullshit art. If it doesn’t make you feel anything, it’s garbage. It’s not art.

NN: What is the most difficult song you’ve ever composed and what made it difficult? How were those challenges met?

MB: I think “Geicsman’s Youth?”  It took a long-ass time anyway.  We had the interlude riff for a while and didn’t really know what to do with it.  It took a while for us to figure out how to pace the flow of that song so it made sense.  Then the lyrics weren’t written until after we had recorded it, because I had this very specific sentiment I wanted to get across but just had no idea how to do it.  It probably took 9 months to write that song.

DS: Agreed. Our writing style hasn’t been the same since then either.

NN: What is the best song you’ve ever written, or at least the one most durable to time and repeated listens?

MB: The oldest song we still play is “Buildungsroman, TL;DR“, but I don’t know if that’s our best.  I really like  “Penguins” which will be on our LP I Feel So Good I Can’t Stand Myself, whenever that comes out, if only because it sounds so different from everything else.  It’s hard to say, we play these songs so much, and hear so many different (mostly rad) things about them.

DS: For me, it’s almost always the newest one in the setlist, just ’cause that’s naturally where you can harness the most adrenaline and feel like you’re playing something dope. “Disappointer” is older now, but it’s easily the most personal for me lyrically, and some of the most important people in my life have said really sweet things to me about it. Like, my dad quoted lyrics from that one to me once. It’s bizarre. You never know what’s going to affect people. It’s hard not to think that’s my best one, if I had to choose.

NN: Is there any track you’ve played on that you dig, but wish you could do differently? If so, how?

DS: I think we’re all getting better at singing, so the vocals on all our recordings sound kinda sub-par to me now. But they’re also a document of where we were at the time, both musically and personally, so to dwell on revision is kind of missing the point. I love what we’re writing now, but who knows what I’ll be cringing at in two years.

MB: I wish I had taken more time with the guitar tone on the quiet part of “Geicsman’s Youth.” That shit bothers me every time I listen to it.

NN: What’s the Chicago scene like? Is there any one Chicago sound, or is the city to big to bear any one stigma?

DS: It’s the best I’ve ever seen it right now. We just played Ian’s Party and it was just this wonderful, supportive display of fun and camaraderie. People really love music here, and it’s not super competitive. It took us a while to break into our scene, but we’re playing shows with some of our favorite bands now and it’s surreal. As supportive as everyone is, though, I think we all kind of band together with a collective scorn for wack and overrated shit. People care way more about quality here than popularity. There’s a real little-sibling syndrome going on here, I think, which gives a lot of bands their character. Mike and I were talking about this the other day, like we’ve got this defensive sense of pride in Chicago with the lingering, fearful suspicion that the other big hubs–Brooklyn, LA, Austin, Philly–might, in fact, be better.

“As supportive as everyone is, though, I think we all kind of band together with a collective scorn for wack and overrated shit. People care way more about quality here than popularity.” 

MB: Ian’s Party was amazing and probably took several weeks off of my life.

NN: How does your environment impact your music, if at all?

MB: I can see great local and touring bands any night of the week   I believe the adage to read a hundred pages for every one you write applies to music as well.  Where I grew up, it seemed like just playing music made you part of some exclusive club, but here, practically everyone you know is in a band.  It challenges you to really try to elevate your game.

DS: Geography is a big part of it. It feels different living in this part of the country–it’s miserable weather most days of the year, but that brings us together in collective defiance. Last winter, I feel like the scene actually gained traction out here. Bands got better, shows were more well-attended. Ian’s Party was slammed on some of the coldest nights so far this winter. It’s inspiring. You can’t slow down in winter. It affects your style, too. Chicago is a big drinking town, so all the best bands play shows that feel like parties. And being in the middle of the country, we’ve just been doing these slow, concentric circles outward when we tour, so we’ve gotten to know a ton of awesome people and bands throughout the upper Midwest. Like minded people who appreciate basement shows and the like because there isn’t much else to do most of the year. But we’ve been a band for years and still haven’t played New York. You can feel kind of confined out here, which really impacts the attitude.

NN: What is the worst practice space you’ve ever played in? What did you do to try and make it less so?

MB: We had that tiny space off Grand about the size of a walk-in closet.  I mean, I think the guy told us it was supposed to be just for drummers looking for a space, not really for bands, but it was pretty cheap.  We shared that with another band. We got one of those Home Depot garage organizer shelving units which we used to stack gear.  Didn’t make it better as much as it became possible to practice there.

NN: Tell us about the Disappointer 7″. What is that name about? How did you hook up with Rad Girlfriend and Let’s Pretend Records?

DS: We wrote that record during our first year out of college, which was both an exhilarating and miserable time, for me at least. It’s a really uncanny feeling, to go from everyone in your family being supportive and interested in your education, in your future, to just falling off the conveyor belt and into the workforce and in a nanosecond, you’re less than zero. You’re another dipshit in the big city with a liberal arts degree. I was working at a high-volume grilled cheese restaurant/bar at the crossroads of Wrigleyville and Boystown, clocking out at 6 AM and just feeling like an exhausted ghost. So that title and that song, “Disappointer,” came from feeling pretty lost and worried that, in spite of my parents being infinitely supportive of this band thing, they might be disappointed in my not pursuing a “real” career. I was doing exactly what I’d planned to at 22, but the reality of it was more daunting than I’d anticipated. I was scared that I might’ve taken the wrong direction in life. In retrospect, it all sounds a bit like naïve, spoiled whining, but that’s where I was at the time. I’m over that now, though. I couldn’t be happier with where we are as a band.

“It’s a really uncanny feeling, to go from everyone in your family being supportive and interested in your education, in your future, to just falling off the conveyor belt and into the workforce and in a nanosecond, you’re less than zero. You’re another dipshit in the big city with a liberal arts degree.”

MB: Pete Shaw runs Let’s Pretend Records, while Josh Goldman and Brandi Smith run Rad Girlfriend Records.

Pete put out records by some of our favorite bands (Rad Payoff, Sass Dragons, Prizzy Prizzy Please, Tenement, Purple 7, Meat Wave and many others) and we met up with him when we played Bloominton, IN, where he lives.

Josh has been in a million bands (Raging Nathans, Rad Company, he’s been touring member of The Queers, The Slow Death, Iron Chic, and a bunch of others, it’s hard to keep track), we’ve played together a bunch.

The three of them were both interested in the demo we gave them, but being a new band and 7-inches have a tendency to turn into a money pit, none were totally stoked to pay for the whole thing, so a co-release ended up making sense.

NN: Speaking of, I understand you all are touring in support of said seven inch. Where all are you going? Where do you wish you could go, that you aren’t currently?

MB: This tour is through Indiana, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, Memphis, Denton TX, Tulsa OK, Wichita KS, Springfield MO, Columbia MO and then we are playing the Dudes Weekend Fest in St. Louis, which we did last year and was insane.  In March, we are going to hit the East Coast.  We are still booking that, but Boston, Connecticut, Brooklyn, Jersey, Philadelphia and DC are the core dates there.

NN: What are the challenges inherent to touring and how do you plan on overcoming them?

MB: We tour in a Chrysler PT Cruiser which makes things difficult.  We have no extra room.  So, not suitcases, no coolers, no way in hell we can sleep in that thing.  But we have a super small set up that is easy to load-in/out and we get better gas mileage than any other band on tour, so there are some perks.

NN: Where is the best place in the world to get a burrito and why?

MB: I’ll say La Patron, a shop by our practice space.   I fucking love that joint.  Someone tell me I’m wrong.  (tell me i’m wrong or something)

DS: Man, no contest. I do have a soft spot for Arturo’s in Bucktown, though. And Taqueria Moran in Logan is probably my favorite sit-down spot. But L’Patron is the best quality, bar none.

NN: Do you think that soccer ball Droid from the new Star Wars movie seems at all practical? I mean, wouldn’t you need a lot of space to transport that thing to begin with? And how well would it do on inclines?

MB: Do you think it can go on water or something cool?  I’m really not sure why they don’t have hoverdroids? I mean, they have artificial gravity and hover cars, it doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult. Maybe it’s a measuring tool for surveying or something.

NN: What non-musical things have you stoked lately? Tell us what’s worth reading, watching, eating, or drinking, etc.

DS: Mike and I had a creative writing professor, Hannah Pittard, who just put out an awesome second novel called “Reunion.” I read it in less than a day, which I’m never capable of doing. Highly recommended. I’m also in love with the Eric Andre Show and most stuff on Adult Swim. And 25 oz. Bud cans.

MB: I’ve given up and decided that Old Crow is the finest whiskey in the land.