Since the dawn of mass media, artistic mediums have been able to serve as sources of inspiration for one another. Literary works have been adapted into films, events highlighted in the newspaper have served as catalysts for brilliant works of dance and visual art, and music has been used as an integrational tool within a variety of other artistic entities or to stand alone as its own. This degree of artistic synergy has resulted in some of the most dynamic rock outfits of recent times having pulled inspiration for their band names from cinematic works. Grunge rockers Veruca Salt pulled their name from the infamously spoiled character of the same name from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, punk band Misfits got their name from the 1961 film The Misfits which starred Marilyn Monroe, and Laverne, one of Chicago’s most electrifying rock groups, got their name after viewing Orange Is The New Black.
“Laverne was formed out of the ashes of my former band, Pinebocks in 2015,” said guitarist and vocalist Cory Clifford. “I had written tons of songs in the year prior that I just kind of wasn’t doing anything with, and after talking about it with [Sam Brown and Ed McMenamin], we finally started to jam on the songs. We threw Michael Santana (of Gross Pointe and Cafe Racer) into the mix for those first batch of songs on bass, and then after some deliberation and binge-watching of Orange Is The New Black, I decided on the name Laverne.”
Since their formation, Laverne released a single entitled “Monsters of Love” and a self-titled album, in which “Monsters of Love” also appeared. Both works display Laverne’s distinctive ability to generate a sound that is invigorating, yet clean and streamlined. The degree of musical precision is both abundant and apparent when listening to their work, resulting in each sonic nuance being completely distinctive.
“A Sad Sad Chap,” the album’s opening track, radiates energy like nobody’s business. The track is inherently catchy, thus commanding the attention from the ear. It displays the band’s skill for executing smooth, successful, and seamless dynamic transitions all while upholding the same electric-like essence that permeates their body of work. “21st Century” touches the pulse of the jadedness that so many young adults today carry like a weight on their backs. The pure realism of the lyrics is juxtaposed by the jaunty tone of the music, resulting in a multi- dynamic musical work. Furthermore, the musical opening of “Monsters of Love” makes listeners feel as if they’re on the brink of something -and one can’t discern exactly what- which makes the track so all-encompassing to the ear and mind alike. The track then evolves to take on a tone that has an element of lightness with a dash of blues. The depth within the music is paralleled within the song’s lyrics, which tells of the rawest of human emotions: pain, love, and loneliness.
According to Clifford, Laverne’s new work served as a catalyst for artistic differentiation.
“ I think we were going for a very Van Morrison’s Them meets Hefner meets Elvis Costello kind of vibe initially, but with our new set of songs it’s totally different. Our new bassist Kinsey Ring is incredibly technical and melodic, and all of us have been kind of listening to a variety of things that change things up in the songwriting process. Lately my biggest influences have been Nina Simone, Roxy Music, Patti Smith and Al Stewart.”
Clifford also cites Mavis Staples and Jonathan Richman as influences as well.
“Their ambition and integrity is incredibly admirable. I hope to be as old as Mavis and/or Jonathan and still be so happy to play music.”
Clifford said that typically, the creative process for developing new material entails him coming up with the songs in his head and then translating the work to guitar. After practicing it for a few weeks, he shows the song to the band.
“I think the most rewarding part about writing songs is seeing something you hear in your head come to fruition in a fairly similar way that you had hoped. It’s a weird thing: not having a lot of musical training, but knowing what sounds great, and then hearing the rest of the band translate that effectively,” he said.
The vibrancy of Chicago’s artistic community is largely due to its tight-knit and self-made nature, something Clifford expresses an appreciation for.
“Chicago’s creative community still seems so small, and so unprofessional, and it’s very refreshing. We’re all affected by the creative community heavily as we’re all friends with different musicians, writers, artists, filmmakers, etc. in the city, and especially considering our guitarist Ed McMenamin runs one of the best local labels, Dumpster Tapes.”
A notable aspect of Chicago’s creative community are the many local venues that welcome the city’s abundance of musical talent, and it was at one of these venues, Schubas, that Laverne had a full-circle encounter with a group of fans.
“It was the first 18+ show we’d played in a while and having a gaggle of teenagers come up to us and awkwardly compliment us was a funny feeling. We all laughed ‘cause we were totally those gawky 18-year olds who are obsessed with music once,” Clifford said.
When considering what aspect of Laverne’s work he is most proud of, Clifford said that it is the band’s ability to work on songs with diligence.
“ I write songs daily, and about half of them I show to the band, and a good amount of them we end up using. The new songs I write, almost always only take one or two practice sessions to really figure out, which is so much quicker than it has been with previous bands I’ve been in. We’re all just very in tune with each other. I think I’m probably the biggest pain in the ass in the process, but the rest of the band are extremely easy to work with.”
Laverne’s lighting work ethic undeniably pays off, as they have several exciting plans for the near future.
“We’ve been working on our follow-up to the debut since last summer, and it’s been a long-road, but we’re hoping to get back into it again by the end of this summer. We have some really great shows lined up with Springtime Carnivore (6/6) and KOLARS (7/12), plus we’re headlining The Whistler for a CHIRP nite at the end of June (6/28). Were kind of always up in the air about touring but we’re always making new songs, so we’re likely to tour soon as well.”