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I’ve thought of a myriad of ways to begin the introduction to this interview. Each time, however, I kept coming back to the notion of an individual being in a league of their own. Initially I opted to shy away from it, thinking of the expression as the ultimate linguistic clichè that would undeniably incite eye rolls. However, I soon realized that this is perhaps one of the rare circumstances where the expression is not a clichè, but rather factual. It is the only language I can construe that properly describes the brilliance that is the work of Katie Ingegneri.
As a writer she, with all intents and purposes, is in a league of her own.
I’ll never forget the first time I read Ingegneri’s work in Houseshow. I was a restless college freshman having difficulty adjusting to my university’s small and southern nature, missing the all-consuming vibrance of Chicago’s artistic community that I had discovered while in high school. It was the time in my life that I was developing a hunger for listening to and reading as much about emerging rock artists as I possibly could. However, I was finding that the material I was reading in most mainstream publications was all too surface level; it did not allow readers to reach the epicenter of the artist and their creative identity.
Early one Saturday morning, I was aimlessly scrolling through Facebook when I saw a post about an interview with Cadien Lake James of Twin Peaks. Being a fan of the band, I immediately clicked on it. The link took me to Houseshow Magazine, and Ingegneri had authored the piece.
There was so much I liked about the piece before I even read it. The title, “Rock n Roll Bodhisattva: Cadien Lake James” was instantaneously intriguing, and just from that alone I got the feeling that Ingegneri’s work transcended that of a typical music journalist. My interest was furthered when I read the bold text written below an image of Lake James hoisting his guitar in the air: “A Chicago hippie brunch and epic conversation with the young musician spreading rock n roll&good vibes across the world.” Insatiable literary talent was displayed before the reader’s eyes even fell upon the opening paragraph.
I was floored. I had never been so excited to read anything in my life.
This particular interview highlights one of Ingegneri’s most impressive strengths as a writer: her unparalleled interview skills. Her style is warmly conversational, and through that alone she is able to extract a wealth of information from her interviewee and really tap into the core of who they are as an artist and an individual alike. Generally speaking, it can be difficult to highlight both simultaneously – but she does it and does it exceptionally.
Another distinguishable aspect of Ingegneri’s work with Houseshow is that she aims to provide in-depth coverage to younger, emerging local artists. This is something that is tremendously important. As most prominent music publications are now digitally housed (or at least partially), they rely on traffic and site hits to stay afloat as opposed to sales from newsstands or supermarkets. This is an aspect of the industry that is prone to becoming plagued by corporate agendas, for ‘mainstream’ artists are favored for coverage over independent and/or emerging artists merely because headlines need names that will serve as a catalyst for clicks.
Ingegneri solves this problem. Not only does she cover these artists, but she does so extensively and with a degree of stylistic flair and sophistication that is truly unparalleled. Not only that, but her work as shined a light on the richness of Chicago’s creative community. She has introduced countless (myself included) to the work of several incredible Chicago-based bands, highlighting the city’s strong DIY community specifically. In the realm of contemporary music media, she is an absolute game changer.
I have no words for how moved and inspired I have been by Ingegneri’s writing. Her work has motivated me to better myself as a writer, created a space where I could read about all the wonderful local bands I loved, and introduced me to new artists who would later become some of my absolute favorites. Her writing style showed me what it meant to truly pour your heart and soul into language. I cannot put into words how exciting it is, as a young writer who is still a collegiate undergraduate, to have someone like Ingegneri to look up to. She has inspired me to work hard, further invest myself in my local music community , and dive deeper in my coverage. With that being said, I’m endlessly grateful to have been able to interview her. Read on to learn more about Houseshow, Chicago’s artistic community, and a writer whose work yields the power to change the face of contemporary artistic journalism.
Founder of AMPLIFY.
AMPLIFY: How did you come up with the concept for Houseshow?
Katie: When I was in graduate school getting my MFA in creative writing, I did a lot of work with our literary journal, which is where I also interviewed my first musician, visiting professor Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. I had always kind of wanted to have my own publication but couldn’t figure out exactly what I wanted to do – I didn’t want to just publish short stories or poetry like most literary journals, I wanted to have a unique angle on more youth-oriented, modern culture and how younger people see the world. Also, from working with the literary journal at school, I knew that physical publications are expensive to produce and distribute and required skills and money I didn’t have.
But I knew about Medium.com nearly since they launched and I liked how easy it was to publish clean, professional-looking stories with great photos that could reach lots of people and be shared easily. I decided that’s where I would publish my interview with Mario Cuomo and my piece about The Orwells when I wrote them, just for the hell of it.
It wasn’t until after I went to my first Chicago house show at Benny of The Symposium’s house and discovered Modern Vices there, and began going to more house shows at his house and other DIY venues, and bars like Cole’s Bar in Logan Square, discovering more and more local rock bands, that I realized a publication about the bands here was a viable concept that I was interested in. After I published The Orwells’ pieces which got a lot of attention, I realized there were a lot of fans out there interested in the same kind of music I was.
Houseshow also began to serve as a place to write about bands that weren’t necessarily getting press coverage elsewhere. Like when I first heard The Symposium and The Walters via Mario’s Facebook, I didn’t realize at first that these were just young, local bands – they sounded so good and they were so talented! Houseshow became the way for me to get to know these bands and publish what they were all about, for a community of receptive fans in Chicago and beyond.
I named the magazine Houseshow because it was how I discovered a lot of these bands (see also my answers to the next question!) and I had never had so much fun as I did at house shows. I love parties, and I love live music, and I love getting to know people in communities, and house shows really brought all that together for me.
I also appreciated the very DIY aspect of it – just setting up and playing your art for your friends, selling your albums to them, not waiting for some big label to pick it up or some press outlet to write about it. And Houseshow is all DIY, which the Internet has really enabled, and I like being able to put my own stuff out there and other people’s work such as up-and-coming writers and photographers.
I really loved how house shows and small bar shows helped me discover really fantastic bands that I really loved and could have direct access to, rather than having to wait for some big touring band to come through some expensive venue, and never get the chance to talk to them. And I never would’ve heard about a lot of these bands because they’re not covered in media outlets. Houseshow is the opposite of all that.
AMPLIFY: How did you first become immersed in Chicago’s music scene?
Katie: I was always a big music fan, specifically rock n roll fan, but I didn’t know what was going on in Chicago for a while after I moved here in fall 2013. Then The Orwells’ “Disgraceland” came out and I got really into them via that and their previous album. I friended Mario Cuomo on Facebook and listened to what he posted about his friends The Symposium, who I was really blown away by as they reminded me of my old favorites The Strokes, and the new DIY band The Walters. I went out to see The Symposium on a very cold January night at the Empty Bottle, my first time there, also Mario’s first time there, and Benny and Mario told me about Modern Vices who were also from their suburban town Elmhurst. I became obsessed with Modern Vices after later seeing them at Benny’s house – a night that Twin Peaks was also hanging around at, who I had started listening to kind of independently from this a few months prior, but didn’t know all the connections yet.
Around the same time I went to a show hosted by local DIY rock label Dumpster Tapes at Cole’s, where American Breakfast, The Rubs and Flesh Panthers played. I had a really good time and started to discover this concurrent, somewhat overlapping scene of slightly older (aka my age) rock bands in their later 20s/early 30s. Interviewing Cadien Lake James of Twin Peaks a few months after starting the publication helped me piece together more about bands like The Yolks (featuring Nathan Johnson who runs local label Randy Records), the now-defunct Smith Westerns and the newly formed Whitney, who had all served as older brother types and inspiration to the younger Chicago scene. I really liked the music all these bands were making so it was easy to jump right in. I also discovered via house shows bands like The Bingers, Slushy, Today’s Hits, and Yoko and the Oh No’s, and eventually Jimmy Whispers, and many others!
As primarily a rock fan, I don’t think there’s any better city to be in today than Chicago for a compelling, accessible, friendly and exciting scene. And there’s always cool new acts coming up to check out. My latest favorites include Luke Henry, Bunny, and Dehd.
AMPLIFY: In your opinion, what’s the most rewarding aspect of running a music publication?
Katie: I really like getting to know the people making my favorite music, and getting to write about it in a way that feels genuine to being an actual fan writing about real people. Mainstream music media feels very detached and fake to me most of the time, and doesn’t really speak to being a true fan. And after a lifetime of idolizing often-dead musicians, or people I’ve never met like The Strokes, the fact I get to be friends with the people in my favorite bands is very special to me, and I’m glad I can support their artistry with the publication. I also really like being able to ask them the questions I want to ask and not have to wait for someone else to likely *not* do it.
Also I love having a music publication that has a fairly significant social media component because I just love talking and posting about music constantly, which I know not everyone in my personal social networks is into, but now I have an excuse to talk about it in a place devoted to it! And at least a few other people are into it!
AMPLIFY: If you could interview any band/musician – living or dead- who would you select and why?
Katie: Hmm. I would love to interview my classic favorites like David Bowie, Lou Reed and Bob Dylan. But I gotta say, today I think I would love to interview Win Butler of Arcade Fire. We went to the same school as Americans in Canada (albeit a few years apart), and I think he’s super talented as a songwriter and just seems like a pretty nice and down-to-earth dude despite how grandiose their music is and how popular they are. Actually, it was my obsession with Arcade Fire that picked up when their album “Reflektor” was promoted all over the city when I first moved to Chicago, which I associate with that time period in my life, and I saw them on that tour in 2014 a few months after getting into The Orwells, and it was just such an incredible live experience – it reminded me why I loved live music, and rock music, so much. Houseshow was born a few months later.
I would also love to technically interview Father John Misty – but I have had a long conversation with him before so I forget I didn’t publish it, sometimes! My next goal in this arena is writing a book about him – an interview on a grand scale.
AMPLIFY: What inspired you to cover DIY specifically?
Katie: DIY is a really special scene to me and the more I understand about the promotional and press machinery that is in place for larger bands, and how this machinery isn’t in place for smaller, but equally talented and compelling bands, I’m glad to be a part of it. I’m a big believer in the power of the Internet and social media in terms of finding new bands (Spotify and Bandcamp are how I discover and listen to most music), getting the word out and getting people interested and excited.
From a more philosophical viewpoint, I am of the mindset that the former arbiters of musical and cultural taste – white men paid by corporations, whether on a small or large scale, or white men in academia – are not the only voices we should be listening to. I believe in the Internet in this regard too because it is more democratic and more people traditionally blocked from attaining this level of influence are able to put their viewpoints out there. DIY to me is a post-modern, democratic space of creation, discussion and appreciation.
AMPLIFY: What is your creative process like when working on a new piece?
Katie: Writing my big long piece about The Orwells was a special time in my creative life, before the magazine was technically born. It was a brave new world after I left academia and was going to put something out there without a professor editing or critiquing it. And it was my first chance as a fan to synthesize my fan obsession – going on fan Tumblrs, the band’s Tumblr, stalking blogs like guitarist Matt O’Keefe’s brother Eddie’s “The Teenage Head” and watching all interviews and music videos – into a real piece, similar to the research papers I had to do in school, but way more fun. I also realize now that this was a first big deep dive about a current band, and so this information or way of talking about them didn’t really exist yet. I had read things like books about Led Zeppelin’s tour stories and scholarly compilations like when I studied Bob Dylan in academia, but big long articles like mine about a new band weren’t really a thing. I also jumped at the chance to combine facts with a cultural POV, positioning them in a larger musical and historical context.
I worked REALLY, really hard on that article and Mario’s interview, probably more than most things I had ever written before or since, and I felt so productive and energized working on and creating something about my favorite creators – I even powered through coming down with the flu after the Orwells’ New Year’s Eve shows at Lincoln Hall to transcribe Mario’s interview because I was so excited to get going on it. It was definitely a feeling I wanted to follow. Sometimes it’s hard for me to really get going with my interviews since transcribing these conversations is really annoying to me at the get-go because I hate listening to my voice and vocal and conversational tics – and you can’t listen to music while transcribing – but then I remember how it’s fun to remember what we discussed and then position it in a larger piece and decide what I want to say about it. It’s pretty empowering to write what I want to write. And when I’m feeling unsure, I just lean into that and try be honest about my feelings as a fan and as a “critic” and a creator myself. That was what I dealt with when my interview with Ought’s Tim Darcy didn’t go exactly as I had hoped so I just decided to talk about how I felt about it, and I think it ended up working out.
After going to school for creative writing, I realized working directly within the confines of my imagination – aka fiction – is still fairly difficult for me. But through my obsession with music, literature, history, and popular culture, I like to position my work and creativity within that realm.
AMPLIFY: What do you love most about Chicago’s creative community?
Katie: Everyone for the most part is really friendly here! Whether the bands or the fans at shows, it’s really pretty easy to get to know people. Even for an introvert like me – and even as someone who is a good deal older than most of the original scene I got to know, as I was in my late-20s when I met the Orwells’-age scene of primarily college-age kids – as long as you’re a reasonably chill person, it’s easy to be a part of everything. And everyone I’ve asked for an interview has always been nice to talk to, because most people are happy to discuss their work. Most creators, while they can be occasionally be catty behind the scenes, are really supportive of each other here and glad to build each other up and play together, and it’s cool that bands like The Orwells and Twin Peaks who have found more mainstream touring success bring new up-and-coming Chicago bands on the road with them.
Also, really cool shit happens in Chicago, which people sort of overlook because it’s not New York or LA – and then it’s accessible, cheap and easy to be in the right place at the right time – you don’t have to be some trendy, rich person hanging out in Brooklyn to see the good stuff. Twin Peaks hopping up on a tiny stage with Madrid’s Hinds in the middle of their set? Father John Misty hanging out at a random bar in Wicker Park and talking to fans and most people not even recognizing him? Getting in on the ground floor via private buzz in the community for a band like Whitney that is now totally blowing up? It’s really great to be here.
AMPLIFY: If you could change one aspect of the contemporary music industry, what would it be and why?
Katie: I think I would change simply how it’s all so corporate-owned – and specifically how music media is so corporate and driven by press releases and employing writers who don’t really care about the bands they’re talking about. Legendary music writers like Lester Bangs would not fit in today’s mainstream model. And neither would I, since I lean into the cultural/literary style with longer pieces that dive deeper into history, context and nuances – which a mainstream publication would never publish. I know everyone has ADD now, and I do too, but I think we need to value art more and not treat it as a throwaway commodity.
AMPLIFY: How do you think this distinctive creative period within Chicago’s music community will be reflected upon in the future?
Katie: Assuming the world doesn’t end in the relatively immediate future, I think this is going to be looked upon as a really special time and location in American music history. Besides the well-known, Chicago-originating hip-hop artists like Kanye West and Chance the Rapper, the rock music here is fresh, innovative and genuinely exciting. I think if the bands that are doing well for themselves now keep at it, more and more people will understand and take notice. Part of Houseshow’s mission is to celebrate this special era and generation in Chicago.
AMPLIFY: Which aspect of Houseshow are you most proud of?
Katie: I’m really proud of being able to use my skills as a writer and editor and publisher to put my own work and other people’s work out into the world and support creators in various regards. Unfortunately that doesn’t involve me being able to pay anyone yet, but hopefully that will be possible someday. I would also love to run an accessible, all-ages show space, I would be really proud of that. In the meantime, I’m proud of creating these articles, and specifically my interviews, that are unlike any other profiles about musicians out there, especially younger ones.
To read Ingegneri’s (impeccable) work, click here to visit Houseshow Magazine. Happy reading!