Interview: Jason Hendrix of Big Science

One of the many things I love about Chicago is the fact that I can still be surprised by the local talent and creativity lurking around the corner. Really, all you gotta do is look. Big Science-a Chicago or more specifically a Logan Square based band- was a nice reminder of the difference a location can make. They will be celebrating the release of their first full length album “Difficulty” on May 30th at the Burlington (another great locale that you should do yourself the favor of checking out).

Big Science embodies the experience of contemporary youth with a fine DIY sensitivity. The band was formed by the natural fusion of friends getting together to explore and explode their talent. They released their first EP, “Coast of Nowhere,” on their own label and worked with Columbia College to release their second EP, “Skyscraper Sound.” Since their inception Big Science has infected local festivals and music venues with introspective dance tunes.

Their upcoming album “Difficulty” takes that core and uses it as a platform for discussing pressing social issues. Its tracks are imbued with enticing beats that promote playfulness as a constructive approach to dealing with the sorrow caused by social inequality and alienation. “All the Heat has Escaped” provides a somber opening to the album with a chorus overwhelmed with affect. “American Gravity” is a fist-pumping anthem to otherness and lost souls, while “No One Ever Wakes Up” renounces blind optimism.

In anticipation of the release of their first full length album, lead singer and guitarist Jason Hendrix talked to Gozamos about “Difficulty.”

Congratulations on your first full length album, “Difficulty.” It seems to me that as a whole it can be read (or better yet, heard and experienced) as an attempt to answer the question of how to deal with trying situations. Where did the inspiration for this project come from and how would you describe it?

A lot of this album deals with what a person does when everything doesn’t work out, when you are left standing on the other side of ‘the plan’ wondering “now what?” We are a generation that went to school for nothing but to rack up debt, we have no careers, our country is in a state of constant war, and we have no real sense of hope. But we also have the rare opportunity that this kind of disillusionment affords, our future is completely open. A lot of these songs attempt to communicate the kind of elation that comes from accepting, sadness, distance, and loss. My friend calls Big Science “Sad Disco.” You can let hardship weigh you down, or you can let it ignite something in you: find yourself a flame and feed it.

It seems we are living in an era of the battle of formats -what with the vinyl purists, the mp3 players and anachronistic collectors. I am intrigued by the various formats in which “Difficulty” is being made available. What role do these formats (vinyl, download, etc.) play in your creative/creation process?

At the end of the day, for me, the most important thing is the music, the format can be whatever, the packaging is icing on the cake.
We are going to be doing one of a kind artwork for each and every LP and CD of “Difficulty” and selling them at a normal LP and CD price. No one I know has any money, so we are going to make our stuff special and affordable.

In considering locales and locations how important is it to be known as a Chicago-based band? What role does a location and Chicago play in your work besides showing up as markers of belonging in your songs (as in “Loose Change Century”)?

I think that the environment that a band forms in, and the context within which they create their music is, even without intention, strongly influential on their sound. Context is not everything, music should have a timeless and nomadic quality to it, but I think that certain ways of comprehending a work stem from understanding where and when an artist was when they were creating it.

I reference Chicago in lyrics because that is where I live and formed these songs. There is a midwestern work ethic and kindness that is balanced by the hard edged urban environment of smokestacks, brick and steel that just seems to foster a sort of cosmopolitan humility in Chicagoans. People in this city have a worldliness without arrogance.

Finally, can you talk about how “Headlight Song” and “All the Heat has Escaped” came about? I can’t quite seem to get them out of my head.

Most of the structure and basic instruments for “Headlight Song” started out as demo recorded at home by our old drummer Jeremy. We were going through a rough time with our lineup, we were losing a member and we were not able to practice as a band as much. It was a really aggravating time because we all were wanting to get to work, but we had to deal with some internal issues.Headlight Song” was formed in this manner. We would just come home from work and someone would have added another layer: the swirling key pattern, a bass line, the ghostly pre-chorus guitar. I came up with the vocal part for the chorus early on.

I like that you are asking about “All the Heat has Escaped”, I really love it, but it is not as easy to get into as the other songs on the record. Jeremy was running tape-op for me and and he had just recorded the simple electric piano loop that is [its] foundation. I listened to it for a minute and asked him to press record. I had these lyrics in my head that I had written a while back and I just started to sing along. Other than punching in to fix a word, my main vocal part you hear in the song is that take: just totally off the cuff. I usually labor long and hard over my vocal parts, but that vocal melody was created and recorded in the same take. I think that that immediacy shows through.

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