Simply put, the music of Lever is as sonically electrifying as it gets.
The quartet – comprised of Jon Babin, Jeff Aquino, Brandon Erker, and Michael Reinhold – have mastered the art of crafting an euphonious elixir of vigorous guitars, flourishing drums, rich bass lines, and stylistically advanced vocals. This recipe for musical mastery is immaculately exemplified within the track “Who Cares.” The opening guitar riff is filled with adrenaline, instantaneously calling the ear to attention. Masterfully layered above it is a drum fill that takes on the auditory embodiments of its own thunderstorm, roaring and so potent that it is brimming with a life of its own. After the song’s invigorating introduction listeners are treated to the vocal stylings of Jon Babin, who sings with the ultimate combination of snarl and skill. The first ten seconds of the song alone are so very galvanizing to the point where listeners descend into a rich rock ‘n’ roll reverie. This is what’s so special about Lever: listening to their music isn’t a passive activity, it’s an all-encompassing experience.
People have certainly taken notice of Lever’s seemingly natural ability to generate brilliantly crafted sonic phenomena. They were voted “Best Rock Band” by a Chicago Reader poll earlier in the year, and had their work dubbed “the finest bipolar grunge pop in the Midwest” by We Are The Television. The accolades are well in order, for Lever’s music exudes craftsmanship and tenacity that is deeply palpable. Both the music and the lyrics serve as equalized agents of communication, with each individual entity conveying the heart of the track alone – thus containing vast amounts of pure raw power when combined in a completed song. The music of Lever is vivid and vivacious with a hint of grit, all which are qualities that are not absent from the work of a truly skillful group of musicians such as themselves.
AMPLIFY had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Lever last week about various topics related to their work. Read on, friends, and enjoy getting to know more about one of the most prodigious rock groups Chicago has to offer.
AMPLIFY: What’s the origin story of Lever?
Jeff Aquino (Guitarist): It all started back in late 2011 when I was in search of a band. I had a bunch of original songs that I had written, and I knew that I wanted them to be played in a full band setting. After feeling defeated from the dreaded Craigslist search, I decided to post videos online at Bandmix.com to try and recruit band members. It finally worked out when Mike Reinhold (drummer) caught notice and contacted me. We had a lot of similar influences such as Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin. Things clicked right away the first time we jammed. His drumming was perfect for what I envisioned in a rock band. We knew right away that we wanted to start a band together. After a couple lineup changes, Jon Babin joined in 2014 as our lead singer/guitarist and Brandon Erker joined in 2015 on bass.
The actual name “Lever” was decided on after hours and hours of shouting band name ideas in Mike’s living room. It was the first name that everyone agreed on. I personally liked it because there was a Silverchair song called “The Lever” and that’s one of my favorite bands. So, I knew that was the right choice.
AMPLIFY: How would you articulate the band’s artistic growth?
Jon Babin (Lead singer/Guitarist): Our similar influences combine with our differentiating ones to develop our own sound. You’ll be able to catch sounds such as classic rock n roll, punk, metal, pop, and even some folk.
Jeff Aquino: We don’t really think about evolving or growing our sound. We just let it happen naturally. A lot of the newer songs that we’ve written came out of nowhere. When Lever started I was the main songwriter, but now there’s more of a collaboration between everyone. For example, there’ll be times when Jon will bring a fully finished song to the table, or maybe Erker will add the verse to a new song. Other times I’ll write songs just from random jams with Mike. It totally depends. Our main focus has always been songwriting. We just set out to write the best songs that we can regardless of genre or style. It usually starts off with a guitar riff that I really like, and then we build off of that. Lyrics usually come later.
AMPLIFY: Which aspect of creating new music makes you happiest?
Jon Babin: It would have to be finally hearing a song or a melody that’s been in your head for years. Part of the joy is knowing it finally exists when we play together.
Jeff Aquino: I’d have to agree with Jon. I think having a song you’ve written come to life in a full band setting is one of the best feelings. It’s a feeling of relief to get the song out of your system.
AMPLIFY: If Lever had the choice to tour anywhere in the world, where would you decide to go?
Lever: We’d really love to tour Europe. We’ve talked about it a lot actually. A lot of our favorite bands are from there, and their culture just seems to have a great appreciation for rock music. Hopefully, we can do a European tour at some point in the near future!
AMPLIFY: What moves you to create?
Jeff Aquino: Pretty much every emotion moves us to create. Honestly, writing songs helps me to deal with a lot of problems. It’s the perfect way to channel your emotions. Some exercise, play twister, or use punching bags to alleviate stress. We just scream into our mics. Performing is just a great way to get all your frustration, sadness, confusion and happiness out at the same time.
AMPLIFY: If you could change any aspect of the contemporary music industry, what would you select and why?
Jon Babin: I would let it take its natural course and not change anything. Passion and creation comes from within, regardless of what system it is we are in.
Jeff Aquino: Well, there are so many talented musicians/bands that no one hears about, but all it takes is going to a local show to find one. There are a lot of people who think that what’s played on mainstream radio is the only music out there. Just go to a show at The Shack or DZ Records and I think it’ll open your mind to what the underground music scene has to offer.
AMPLIFY: In your opinion, what’s the most unique aspect of Chicago’s creative community?
Jon Babin: A major part of what makes the culture of Chicago’s local community unique is its activism. Feminism, anti-racism, and a sense of personal individuality are a large piece of what glues the scene together.
Jeff Aquino: There are a lot of really great DIY venues and festivals that showcase a ton of local talent including musicians and artists. The hosts of these venues are a huge reason why the Chicago creative community is thriving. I just want to give a shoutout to Dylan and James from The Shack, Danny from Nacho Treehouse, Ben Arguelles and everyone from DZ Records, Nivek from Pillowfort, So Pretty and the Pretty Pit, Katie Dulny, The Drunken Donut, Corey Moondog Myers and Charm School. I’m probably forgetting some and sorry for doing so, but all of these people are a big reason why the Chicago creative community is so unique and special.
AMPLIFY: If you could create the music festival of your dreams, which artist(s) would headline and why?
Jon Babin: The Beatles, Nirvana, Oasis, and Pink Floyd. Why? Because why not.
Jeff Aquino: Nirvana, The White Stripes, Jimi Hendrix, Speedy Ortiz, Ume, and The Vines. They’re just some of the most inspiring musicians to me. Maybe one day it’ll happen when I get my Delorean and buy an Almanac. I’ll have to stop Biff first.
AMPLIFY: As a band, which aspect of your work are you most proud of?
Lever: Probably our upcoming “Ms. Lead” EP. It features four new songs, and two old ones that we re-recorded. We’re just really proud of the songs and the outcome of the whole EP. It also includes our new bass player, Brandon Erker. It’s definitely our most collaborative release so far and I think it’s a really good representation of our sound and what’s to come in the near future.
AMPLIFY: Wild card question! If there’s anything else you’d like to mention in the interview, no matter what the topic, feel free to do so here!
Lever: We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us so far. We were recently voted “Best Rock Band” of 2017 by the Chicago Reader’s Poll and it’s a huge honor to be apart of. So, thank you for all the love.
AMPLIFY: Lastly, what’s coming up next for Lever?
Lever: We’re releasing our brand new EP titled, “Ms. Lead” on August 19th at Duke’s Alehouse in Crystal Lake! It’s our first release in about two years, so we’re super excited about it. We also plan on recording a follow up full-length hopefully in late 2017, or early 2018. We also intend on touring more and playing out as much as we can.
To keep up with Lever, click here to visit their website, here to drop by their Facebook, here to check out their bandcamp, here to view their YouTube, here to get to their Twitter, and here to swing by their Instagram. Ready for some more tunes? Good. We wanted you to be. You can check out more of Lever’s music on iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora.