The Talking Heads are a band who've left a pretty tremendous mark, and it reaches far outside the confines of their heyday or time as an active band. The innovation, the eclectic arrangements, and the running in place that David Byrne & the gang created will live on in the hearts and record collections of those who experienced the puzzling '80s firsthand, but also children of the vinyl renaissance. And it will live on tangibly and vividly to anyone who sees a performance by This Must Be The Band.
The Chicago-based cover band is convincing, like, really convincing. Gaining huge momentum from their hyper-detailed recreation of the famed Stop Making Sense live taping, the band has tapped into our nostalgia in the best possible way. Ahead of their performance at the Entry tonight, Gimme Noise chatted with frontman Charlie Otto. And no: he didn't ask to interview himself.
Gimme Noise: What was the first interaction that you had with the Talking Heads?
Charlie Otto: (pause) I have to start this out by asking if you remember Limewire...
CO:Well I was in high school and I was definitely into pirating all sorts of things. So somebody was like "You need to check out Widespread Panic!" And then I was like "OK." So I got a bunch of Widespread Panic on Limewire, and to be honest I wasn't really digging it. But there was this one song that I really, really liked. I even told my dad to check it out because it was really cool. I played the music and my he was like "that's the Talking Heads, man." You know how shitty Limewire was with mislabeling things? I mean, the song was "Burning Down the House." That was my first interaction and then I checked them out further after that.
GN: That's hilarious. Did that propel you into the discography?
CO: The first thing I got into was The Name of This Band is the Talking Heads, the two disc live album. That's still probably one of my favorite things. I listened to that a lot and then started getting other stuff randomly but it wasn't really until I started to form a band that I had to search and really delve in.
GN: So, were you setting out to form a cover band?
CO: Not really. It was originally more like, "this will be a cool show." For a long time I looked for a singer who could sound like David Byrne thinking that I would just play guitar. I just wanted to be the Adrian Belew guy. I just wanted to play his parts. But i couldn't find a singer so I had to start working on the vocals myself. I didn't have any idea that I'd always be playing in a cover band. It was supposed to be a couple of shows.
GN: At what point did you decide to ambitiously recreate Stop Making Sense?
CO: 2008 was the first time that we did it. I had no idea what i was getting into. I booked that first show and then the next three months all I did was eat, sleep sometimes and work on that performance. Luckily now its more automated. There's just so much to it.
GN: What's your favorite song to play live?
CO: Requests are my favorite thing to play. If somebody requests something at a certain moment and it seems like the right thing to do, that's definitely my favorite. Im sure it has to be that wasy because if you play this many shows of what, from the outside, could look like the same songs every night, its important to feel the differences of how a song is performed based on the crowd.
GN: What's your relationship to the music at this point?
CO: I mean if i can be honest i wouldn't play just any song 200 times a year. There's something truly special about this music: it makes people really happy. I don't know why but it does. That's what this is about.
GN: Have you ever met any members of the Talking Heads?
CO: No. But once we played a wedding in DC and somebody from the wedding party knew Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth and they went out to their house in Connecticut or something and filmed them introducing us. That's as close as we've ever gotten to meeting them. I'm kind of trying to stay under-the-radar with David Byrne. I don't want him to tell us we can't do it anymore.
GN: How long do you think you'll continue to do this?
CO: I don't know, I never really think about it. I'll know when it's done. I have plenty of other original music projects
GN: If you could spend a day with David Byrne ...
CO: Am I showing him around Chicago?
GN: No you can be anywhere.
CO: I'm gonna say we're in Africa, just because I've never been there. I'd probably just ask him to go see some music. I'd thank him for letting us play his music and for writing it because it's been such a great gift for so many people in my life. I don't know he thinks its blind luck that his music was selected to last this long, to make such an impression on people. But I would tell him all that, and then I'd shut up.
GN: What's the most rewarding thing you've learned from playing Talking Heads music?
CO: I've found my own voice. I wasn't really a singer before this and then I had to start taking lessons to do it. Playing so many shows and singing for 3 hours a night its like, the only way I've ever found to practice something in a lasting way. My voice has gotten so much better. And besides being better, I've found my voice as a musician. It's a weird concept because it comes from pretending to be somebody else but that's definitely the most important thing that's come out of this.
This Must Be The Band plays 7th St Entry tonight at 7:30 p.m. $10/$12 at the door