An Intro to Chicago Emo Revival: Part One

Photo by Chris Fowler

PROTO REVIVAL (2004–2007)

Before we jump headfirst into the prime revival years, we must go back a bit. 2004 exists at an interesting point for the genre and Chicago’s scene in general. We’re already several years into the third wave and its commercial boom. Fall Out Boy just released Take This To Your Grave the previous year for example. Fireside Bowl is now just another bowling alley, marking the end of an era for the city.

But there’s still bands going the DIY route, making music that isn’t too far from what we would call 90’s emo. There’s just not as much attention paid to these bands, resulting in a necessary period where the music moves back to the underground.

We also aren’t quite seeing the twinkles yet though. The artists sound more indebted to Hot Water Music and Small Brown Bike than Cap’n Jazz. They all end up fitting in under the amorphous genre that is Post-Hardcore

The Blonde Alibi

We start off this journey with a band who has little to no online footprint. All we have as proof of their existence is one self released EP in 2005. You can hear the Small Brown Bike influence right away but The Blonde Alibi are by no means a copycat band. There’s an energy put forward that makes me want to jump off my couch as I write this. It’s hyperactive in a way that shows off what I’d like to believe are screamo roots for the band, a common thread that constantly pops up in the emo revival.

The Black Print

Though The Black Print doesn’t perfectly match the arbitrary years I put, they fit a little too perfectly to leave them off the list. Similar to The Blind Alibi, Black Print sounds like the 90’s even if they weren’t necessarily birthed out of that scene. The Hot Water music comparison is pretty obvious but it still tracks for me. It’s just a little more muddied up, scaring away the pop punk fans that worshiped Caution.

Oceans (2005–2009)

While Oceans released their only record in 2009, they make more sense in this earlier era. Where many other bands were unafraid to show their hardcore/screamo roots, Oceans was unambiguously indie rock. They trafficked in the kind of post-rock that dominated the early 2000’s, creating long drawn out soundscapes that are only broken up by an occasional vocal passage. It doesn’t always work, missing those intense moments of catharsis that make these songs’ long runtimes pay off. Boy Detective is one of the standouts, giving a peak into what drummer Nick Wakim would successfully accomplish with his other band CSTVT.

MANS. (2006–2008)

In all of my research, MANS. sticks out as an oddity. They don’t seem to have that one release that stands above the rests. Their genre tags are all over the place and even made me laugh with one called “make up your mind.” The first two releases are called Summer Tour 2006 + 2007, and then they break up to only reform for an extra year. MANS. still deserve some attention though as one of the several screamo acts that pops up during this time, even doing a split release with Lion Of The North, whose members would go on to be in La Dispute and Grown Ups.

Lautrec (2007–2010)

This is where I have to admit that the information get a little wonky when doing research. Around 2007 is when Myspace becomes the primary place where bands do promotion, book tours, and all the stuff that happens on Twitter and Instagram now. In March of 2019, all music from the site that was uploaded before 2016 was deleted. That was the death knell for the site and as a result we lost a whole era of music, save for a few captures on the Wayback Machine.

From what I can gather, 2007 is the starting point for a lot of the bands that will begin to surface and make their best material in the coming years. Lautrec begins with a demo in 2007 and fits in a couple different genre boxes. You could call them a screamo band and that would be fine. They’re extremely similar to the bands mentioned earlier as well, fitting in the nebulous box of Post-Hardcore. These distinctions don’t really matter to most people, and are really an exercise in semantics. But for the purposes of this article we’ll say Lautrec belongs to emo by proximity. Their contemporaries were bands who belonged to the emo scene. One of the members was even in Coping, a band that will come up in part two.

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