words by Meredith Tucker
photos by Susana Meza
Airiel returned to Engine Studios to grab a (decent) beer with Cheryl Waters and play a few songs from Battle of Sealand. A semi-ambient, melodic noisepop group with lilting vocals and an energetic presence, this four-piece recorded their debut album in this exact space, now seemingly their home away from home. They performed three powerful songs that had the in-studio audience mesmerized. Louder than generally expected from the shoegaze medium and tighter than their genre generally demands, Airiel are innovative, distinct, and by the energy emanating from the room, obviously enjoy creating unique musical experiences for melodic rock enthusiasts. The Chicago-based group produced a vigorous vignette of their melodic sound, providing a little slice of their musical, shoegaze heaven.
I caught them before they went out for brisket to talk about their new record, how they came to be, and why they do what they do even still. The four loud-talking, hyperactive fellas — Jeremy Wrenn (guitar, vocals), Chris Debrizzio (guitar), Cory Osborne (bass), and John Rungger (drums) — gave me the digs on Airiel.
MT: How long have you been together?
Jeremy: The bandâ€™s been around since â€™97.
Cory; If by band you mean guy with a drum machine (Jeremy).
Jeremy: The rebirth in Chicago has been since 2002.
MT: Tell me a bit about your sound. I think that you guys are pretty unique for your genre, and havenâ€™t yet fallen in that ambient rut so many as shoegaze bands seem to doâ€¦
Cory: Where the hell is Kevin Shields when you need him?
John: We were doing an interview with Lima and Jeremy would give a four minute answer and theyâ€™d try to translate but theyâ€™d end up skipping whole sections.
MT: How did you come by your sound?
Jeremy: Weâ€™ve all been listening to shoegaze forever, grew up with it.
Cory: I had run into Jeremy through a mutual friend who was auditioning for bass and she didnâ€™t get the job, and then I heard Jeremy at a party at a house â€“
John: And then we were like come play bass with this band, and I got kicked out of my other band for cheating on them with Airielâ€¦
Jeremy: And then our temp guitar players quit right before a tour and we all just kind of came together.
Cory: Chris actually called Jeremy and then he shrugged and then thatâ€™s just kind of how we got together.
Jeremy: It was more like â€œSo, howâ€™s it going?â€
Chris: I didnâ€™t know what Airiel sounded like until I saw him next week at a Mark Gardner show and decided to give it a listen.
MT: So I saw that one of your pedals was called the Evil Filter. Iâ€™m intrigued. Please tell me more about your pedal setup.
Jeremy: Weâ€™re justâ€¦ pedal geeks.
Cory: Chris operates under the impression that the more pedals you have the more chicks you get.
Jeremy: Itâ€™s like Voltron.
John: The graph is pedals go up and girls go down.
Jeremy: The pedals kind of help our sound become rockier. Death by Audio builds pretty much all of our pedals, and we played on a tour with a Place to Bury Strangers and theyâ€™ve been a big influence.
Cory: They kind of loudened us up.
MT: Tell me about the new record.
Jeremy: We just had a Japanese version of the album come out and somebody sent us an awesome picture of a big display in Tokyo.
Cory: Weâ€™ve been named Lords of Sealand. They seem to be dead set on us playing out there. Look for us representing the Principality of Sealand.
Jeremy: We recorded a compilation for the label and then we ended up putting that song on the album as well, so we had two recording sessions at Engine Studios before today.
Jeremy: Most of the stuff is written in rehearsal; the stuff on the album is a compilation of written, rehearsed songs and then live songs that we rocked out a little more.
Cory: I appreciate this, itâ€™s a chance for clarification. This album is really kind of just a collection of songs that developed during the last four or two years of us playing together rather than a concentrated effort of us doing something. Those that make comments that this is a â€˜bipolarâ€™ album is really that we just recorded music we were listening to and the stuff that we were digging, hearing and coming to practice and playing and this is just the sort of sounds that we like to explore. It was really cool to have a chance to do that and put that out in a lengthier format.
Jeremy: Itâ€™s definitely just what we were liking. The eps were pretty much just me.
Cory: The fifth album was more of a reclamation of some of the older songs upgraded recorded in live forms. Thatâ€™s going to be the exciting, challenging thing about the next record that is a cohesive piece of work as opposed to the fresh on stage making up words stuff as we went along.
John: These guys donâ€™t like to write words. They like to write words last. My mom was asking us what the words mean and my mom likes country. Sheâ€™d be like â€˜I donâ€™t get the wrods, the words donâ€™t mean anythingâ€™. Itâ€™s not â€˜my truck broke down and my girlfriend left me.â€™
Cory: One of the more fun things about the studio experience was that Jeremy would come with these on the spot lyrics and weâ€™d just put them together!