Interview: Showoff

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22 years ago I found myself supporting my friend Dave’s brand-new band Showoff every chance that I had –Telling everyone I knew about their new cassette tape Around The Corner Fudge Is Made, or singing along with them at their shows at Chicago’s Fireside Bowl or the local community center on a Friday night. Then they got signed to Maverick Records, released their self-titled debut album, had a video on MTV, toured with Goldfinger, and reached more milestones then you could count. It’s hard to imagine it now, but 2019 marks another career milestone for the band; the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut. I recently chatted with my old pal Dave Envy, the group’s bass player, about this milestone, the hometown Chicago show where they played the album in its entirety, their newest album Midwest Side Story, and more!

Album Review: Midwest Side Story

1. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since the release of your self-titled debut album. Looking back on it now, why do you feel it resonated with kids so much back then and what made it different than other music coming out at that time?

I think it resonated because it was just different enough than other music out then. Of course, we were lumped in with bands like Green Day and we loved, and still love those bands, but set us side by side and we really don't completely fit in. We all brought such an extreme set of influences with us when we came together, and Chris has such an amazing ability to write songs and more specifically melodies... He brings that to the table, and we run with it musically. We don't really consider a style or genre. We just serve the song and where it brings us based on our influences at that moment, and of course Chris's energy that he presents his song or ideas with.

2. “Falling Star” was the lead single, but what song is your personal favorite from the album and why?

Wow. That is tough. I love those songs so much for so many different reasons. 20 years ago, I would say my favorite track on that record was probably “Coalition.” Great message, killer energy, and fun to bounce around a few different playing styles on bass within a single song. Listening to and playing songs off that record in recent years, I would say “Second Chance” is probably the best song.

3. You celebrated the anniversary of the album with a hometown Chicago show in July 2019 where you played it in its entirety. Were songs such as “Bully” and “Backstab” still hometown favorites, and were there any songs that you were surprised people were clamoring to hear that you never really included in your sets before?

It's hard to say. The environment at that show was such a collaborative event between us and that crowd. Like, we all put 20 odd years in on this together and that night the entire thing front to back just went off. It felt so natural and good to perform with that crowd and felt like we all existed in our own special little bubble. Even the super drunk annoying guy high fiving everyone was a pleasure.

4. But as much as 2019 was a celebratory looking back year, you also recently released Midwest Side Story in 2017, the first album from the mostly original lineup of Showoff (less Graham Jordan). Tell us a little bit about the album for those who haven’t heard it yet?

Midwest Side Story felt to me almost accidental. In 2014, Chris, Dan, and I decided to get back together just for some reunion shows. I had always turned down doing them in the past, but this time around felt like a decent time to do it. Plus, my daughter really wanted me to do it so she could see us live. So, the three of us talk through it and put the band together, play a handful of shows, and realize that things still just click when we come together and play. The shows were a blast and we were blown away by the fact that people still showed up and cared about the music we made. Before you know it, we just want to keep playing, and just like always, Chris has this amazing ability writing songs and not only that, but he has these moments in time where these songs just come rushing out at the speed of light. When it came down to making a new record, we had like 70 songs that were contenders to be on a record... and that was with eliminating the duds! And trust me, songwriters and bands making music far more successful than us would kill to have what we consider a dud from Chris. You could take his song writing scraps and have a very comfortable career. Yes, he is THAT good! Anyway, long story already too long, that is where this record came from. A floodgate of Chris gems that made us all really happy to participate in. I think it feels like Showoff and doesn't stray too far from what we have always done, but I also think it comes with a different vibe. An energy of us making music for just us again. No pressure, ya know. We had no label to impress, no expectations from anyone around us. Just amazing songs among friends with instruments just like it was in the mid-90's when we were doing this... only slightly more maturity and understanding of music, performance and each other.

5. Obviously, we develop new tastes and ideas as we get older. How does this newest material differ from that which listeners have come to expect from Showoff, but also what are the major similarities between then and now?

Like I mentioned earlier, I think a maturity of course plays a huge role. Years of experience and new different influences. Even so many years apart and removed from Showoff, then coming back to it. It is an odd feeling to return to something you used to do. A comfort zone. To purposely try and get in your early 20-year-old head and understand the choices you made musically, then tap into that but also grow that with what you have done for 20 years without the results straying too far from what Showoff is. I also feel like the music we have created in the last few years is more fun. Not that it wasn't always fun, but to be a bunch of old guys compared to the kids we were back then... it's just so much fun to do again now and that feel is in the new stuff.

6. The song “Popular Kid” re-debuted your music to a new audience. Tell us about the song. What it’s about, why it works today, etc?

I can't speak for Chris and where this song came from for him. I know when I first got the demo for this song, I believed in it 110%. I knew it had to be on the record and I believe early on, I was the only one pushing for this song to make it to the next level to be developed fully. I think it really is the perfect bridge from our older days to our current days. It speaks to us now, us then, and us with a new generation of people hearing us for the first time. It also not only bridges the gap, but it says goodbye to the old in a respectful sendoff and says here we are right now, and we honestly love to be here and don't give a fuck if you're with us or not.

7. With it being a song/single driven market now, besides “Popular Kid,” what two other songs from the album do you feel are the must listens to get an overall idea of what the rest of the album holds?

“I Don't Hate You Yet,” which is about one of Chris's dogs, and “Midwest Side Story (Better Off).” I think those would be the two. I'll tell ya though, I don't think there has ever been a time in my 30-ish year career in the music world that I have been a part of a record that I have loved every single song on. I enjoy most things I have ever been a part of, but this is the first time I can still listen to a record from start to finish and just love it as a fan of it. Then to think I had any part in it is just unreal.

8. We’ve talked about the then, we’ve talked about the recent now, but what about today! Is there any new music in the works from Showoff? New live dates?

This is the question I always feel so bad answering for people. I think it would be easier to be able to say, "Yes we have all this coming up!" or to say, "No, we won’t be doing anymore". Fact is this... we are all so busy with our own things that it is extremely hard to have a consistent output of music and shows. Every time we play a show and the excitement of doing so wears off, I have this run of depression that I find myself in because I realize it literally might be the last time that we ever do anything again. I hate that feeling. We never say we are done, but we also only do things when something comes up that makes sense for us all. Sometimes it is often and sometimes it has a pretty long gap between it. I have no good answer but personally I now play every show like it is the last but always wait and look forward to the next thing we do! 

9. Showoff has had a heck of a touring ride, sharing the stage with bands such as Goldfinger, Marvelous 3, and The Bloodhound Gang (to name a few). Is there one artist/band who you haven’t shared the stage with yet, that you would absolutely love to play a show with?

There are so many! Some make zero sense and would not be likely unless it was in a fest format where that sort of extreme variety is standard. I think if I limit myself to bands that I love from recent years I would love to play some shows with The Bombpops and The Lemon Twigs.

10. We’re all about helping the next generation at, so we always end all our Q&A’s with this question. What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with their first band today?

Don't be afraid to push limits and try something new. Work hard and when you think you are doing all you can and working as hard as you can.... work harder. Make friends and find time and ways to keep things fun despite all the hard work it takes.


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