B-Sides: Sybris

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Sybris is a lady-led melodic rock band from Chicago, the kind of band that pairs well with true grit and imaginings of standing tiptoe on top of the highest summit wearing nothing but goosebumps. But it’s been a few years since their last album, and quite frankly, it’s due time for the next. Sybris, the rock world needs you.

Hearing Angela Mullenhour’s sweeping vocals is like being chased by your best friend in a game of cornfield tag on a warm sunny day—they are expansive, carefree, alive. She sing-shouts high and low with finesse, making whatever tiny imperfections in inflection or scale all the more real against the chiming, robust guitar riffs and crashing-cut drums, all signature to their sound.

Sybris, debut album, 2005

Sybris released their nine-track self-titled debut album in 2005 on Chicago’s Flameshovel Records. The original lineup included Angela Mullenhour (who also plays guitar), Phil Naumann, Shawn Podgurski, and Bill Bumgardner with Eric Mahle drumming on the eighth track, “The Clowns Were Hilarious,” and resuming Baumgardner’s spot until early this year (Clayton “Louie” DeMuth took over in January). They followed their debut with cross-country tour in early 2006, playing mediocre venues like Scrappy’s, a Tucson Youth Collective (I remember because I was one of three people standing and the only one dancing).

Their first album was a lot about the people you love to hate to love. Mothers, fathers, sweethearts, lovers, and a boyfriend named Neon who calls himself a musician (track seven). Quieter tracks like “The Clowns Were Hilarious” and “Blame It on the Baseball” steady the debut’s overarching chords, splintering percussion, and Mullenhour’s driving vocals; yet, there’s more fast than slow on this one.

According to Greta, a 2009 indie flick with Hilary Duff, featured “Breathe Like You’re Dancing” in its final scene, with Duff trudging on the sands of some beach, mumbling about mom, before diving in the waters and letting go of her troubles and her diary. Needless to note, Sybris saved the scene telling Duff grow up, girl, grow up girl, you are not who I thought you were. Grow up, girl, change, change. You can see the Greta clip here or listen and watch Sybris play it live here (recommended):

In 2008, Sybris released the tender + tough Into The Trees (Absolutely Kosher), their 13-track follow-up LP. Songs such as “Safety City,” “Gin Divides Us,” and “Burnout Babies” echo the signature crescendos from their first record, but are full of that sophomoric refinement afforded to bands with promise. “Got Nothing” and “Hurt Hawk” reveal more of Sybris’ softer side. 

Sybris, Into The Trees, 2008

2008 was a good year for Mullenhour and the mates. They were at live At Austin City Limits Music Festival and left the fest with a recording of their five-track performance. But five shows into their second album support tour, Sybris canceled due to an emergency back home, playing their last show in Portland (I missed it… damn!). They’ve since played here and there, including the small stages of SXSW 2009, and on familiar grounds in their hometown Chicago. But I think we’re all waiting, band included, for that big break, and I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out!

A band blog post from early July says they’ve been hard at work recording, with a possible title for their third album: Gold on Hold. How fitting—good things come to those who wait, eh? In the meanwhile, get caught up with the band’s first two records—so worth it if you dig sky-gaze raspy lady rock—and watch Sybris perform “Oh Man!” the second track from Into The Trees at Fearless Music in NYC from(semi-dramatic sigh), a few years ago:

Previously: “Afrodance” by Les Nubians, A Wild Flag “Romance”

by Nicole Morales
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