The Kickback, Billy Yost get emotional on ‘Weddings and Funerals’

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The Kickback — Jonny Ifergan (from left), Billy Yost and Daniel Leu | JACOB BOLL

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Kickback show originally scheduled for Aug. 12 at Thalia Hall has been canceled. Here is the official statement from the band, released Thursday, Aug. 11:

Chicago, we’ve got some crummy news to pass along. We knew our release show had a bunch of real potential gambles when trying to get that many plates to spin, and due to a solid list of real terrible luck, we’re going to have to cancel this Saturday’s show. We apologize for the inconvenience and if you bought tickets ahead of the show, you’ll be able to get a refund at the point of sale. Our west coast leg of the tour starts this week. We’ll see you out there and be back in Chicago for the Bears Block Party on Sept 9. Keep an eye out for more news and eventually we’re gonna figure out a way to make sure someone gets body slammed at our show. Thanks for understanding and think of this as Bruce Wayne turning to a life of crime before coming back to Gotham.

Their next Chicago show will be at the Bears Block Party on Sept 9, day before the regular-season home opener, with Saves the Day. Lucky Boys Confusion and Tiny Kingdoms. Free; noon to 10 p.m., Logan Square (Milwaukee between Spaulding and Kedzie) 

Originally published Aug. 10, 2017:

Since singer/songwriter Billy Yost of The Kickback relocated from South Dakota to Chicago in 2009, the Windy City has become a major part of his musical identity. Besides playing shows around town with his rock band The Kickback, Yost continues to record segments for the band’s long-running podcast chronicling their journeys.

“It’s a cool way to run into a person at the show and have them know seven years’ worth of dirt on you and to remember a story the time your van blew up in Alabama or whatever,” Yost says of the podcasts. “It’s cool to connect with somebody immediately and have them and have them know something about you. And you get to know them a little better.”

When Yost moved, he desperately wanted to make a living playing music. Chicago reminded him of him of his home in South Dakota.

“The more logical move would be to go to Portland. But I grew up listening to a lot of Alkaline Trio and Chicago punk bands,” he says. “I still wanted to feel like I was in the Midwest. Which is what I consider South Dakota. The Midwest mentality transferred pretty well here. Chicago feels like home now.”

The band released its debut, “Sorry All Over the Place,” in 2015, with the help of Spoon drummer Jim Eno. That album’s song dealt with topics like professional wrestling and Twin Peaks. The band’s latest album, “Weddings and Funerals,” however, deals with a much heavier topic — getting divorced.

About a month before “Sorry All Over the Place” came out, Yost discovered his marriage was over.

“I wound up having to deal with everything while we were on the road. As you can imagine, it didn’t work out very well.”

When he wasn’t touring, he spent time in his friend’s basement recording demos of songs that eventually made the new album.

“I didn’t give myself a lot of time to work through it and reflect on it,” he says. “So this is a snapshot of as bad as it gets. It’s a still-right-in-the-middle-of-it sort of record.”

Yost says he’s aware of the cliché musicians have that making music can be healing. But these songs weren’t making him feel better.

“I kept rattling these songs out that were from the bottom of what seemed like this bottomless despair,” he says. “It’s only after you look back on that period that you realize that was the only way, that was probably the only healthy way, that I was coping and trying to cope with that loss. While it didn’t help out at the time, I think was my one, real decent outlet for trying to channel that grief.”

He describes the new album as the band’s “Empire Strikes Back,” since it “doesn’t end with that hopeful, reflective period that you feel that you can walk away once you’ve dealt with something.”

“All that stuff was coming out at a time when I didn’t really see any light at the end of the tunnel,” he says. “It’s not learning many lessons at that point. It was just all hurt and confusion and felt like senseless sadness.”

Yost eventually found additional direction for the songs through producer Dennis Herring. Herring is best known for his work with artists like Modest Mouse, Elvis Costello and Counting Crows. With his help, Yost and the band balanced the sad demeanor of the album’s lyrics with up-tempo melodies and catchy hooks.

“The thing has more hooks in it than a steroid-laden tacklebox,” Yost says.

While the album deals with a sad topic, Yost plans to keep the band’s Thalia Hall release show a light and fun event. Freelance Wrestling, an independent Chicago wrestling outfit, will perform between bands.

“It’s going to be sort of a circus,” he says. “I’m hoping to make the whole night just a surreal, ridiculous celebration of the album that’s otherwise just about getting divorced,” he continues. “So, I’m trying to play up some of the more comical aspects of the confrontation aspects of a relationship. I’m hoping it’s as ridiculous of spectacle as I’m envisioning in my head.”

Joshua Miller is a local freelance writer.

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