Uneasy Listening

by Staff

By Jeff TerichAssistant Tempo Editor

Once every so often, a band comes along that has a sound sounique, no one can decide on a genre under which it should be filed.Sweep the Leg Johnny is such a band.

The Chicago quintet has been called everything from jazz and punk,to post-rock and noise. Even the press release to their most recentalbum, Sto Cazzo! gives the dubious distinction that they “exemplifyblue-collar Chicago.” But if that’s the case, the Chicago workingclass must prefer Ornette Coleman, Slint and Fugazi to Mellancamp andthe Boss.

“There are a million different descriptions out there,” saidbassist John Brady. “Not just one of them fits. There are jazzelements, different time signatures … it really depends on what thewriter has in mind. No one description pegs down what we had inmind.”

Theband’s combination of complex rhythms, alto sax squalls, angularriffs and spoken/shouted vocals makes for an unusual, yet intenselisten.

“We all have different tastes,” Brady said. “We all like differentthings, which often makes us take a long time to write songs.”

Brady, along with drummer Scott Anna, guitarists Chris Daly andMitch Cheney, and saxophonist and vocalist Steve Sostak make up theWindy City five-piece, and each member having different tastes may bedue, in some part, to his respective background.

“I’m from San Diego, but the band lives in Chicago,” Brady said.”Scott grew up in Chicago, but it started with Steve and Chris inIndiana at Notre Dame. They’ve known each other since junior high.They moved up to Chicago and started the band, while I was playing intwo other bands — Swing Kids, then Spanakorzo. I met Steve, Chris,and Scott in Atlanta on tour about five years ago, and I needed achange of pace so I decided to move to Chicago. Their old bass playerquit and they knew I played, so they asked me to join.”

They recently added new guitar player Mitch Cheney to the mix,just in time for their current U.S. tour, which will circle the westcoast for two weeks, stop in the band’s hometown, then hit the eastcoast for another two weeks.

Aside from touring, Sweep has its hands full with other projects.Steve and Chris are also in a band called Check Engine, which will bereleasing a new album in January.

“They’ll be going on a mini-tour, and just getting out more,” saidBrady. “They’re more … sitcom rock (laughs). They’re mellower, morestraight ahead, more of a pop band. They have more sung vocals asopposed to soft, then louder, then yelling.”

In addition to side projects, Sweep the Leg Johnny has a few splitreleases in the works before coming out with a new full-length.

“We just did a cover of the Police’s ‘Synchronicity’ for aseven-inch series on Mikado records,” said Brady. “The other side isHaymarket Riot doing ‘Synchronicity II.’

“We’re also working on a split EP with a band from Prague calledLumen. It’ll probably be out in spring. We’ll probably record anotheralbum for Southern (Records) soon, but it takes us a while to be ableto concentrate. Sometimes it will take us weeks to work on just acouple seconds of a song.”

A band that precise must have a serious motive in mind. Whatexactly that motive is can’t be fully understood, but rather,experienced.

Perhaps the best description for a band of this caliber can beexplained in the title to Sweep the Leg Johnny’s current album, StoCazzo!

“It’s Italian for ‘wow’ or ‘holy shit’,” Brady said. “It doesn’treally translate well. There was this Italian guy who worked at thisclub we played at. He didn’t really know how to tell us what hethought. He said he would just hear us and say ‘sto cazzo!'”

Sweep the Leg Johnny will perform at the Casbah on Saturday.