Shortly after releasing its debut self-titled album in 2011, Gauntlet Hair packed up and moved back to the band’s hometown of Chicago. On Tuesday, with a few years and Denver behind it, Gauntlet Hair is releasing its new album, “Stills,” on Dead Oceans. Reverb caught up with Gauntlet Hair’s Andy Rauworth ahead of the release of this album to talk about the move to Chicago and why playing in a band is, in some ways, a whole lot easier in Denver. Look for “Stills” due out Tuesday, and listen to the album’s first single, “Human Nature,” below:
What precipitated the move back to Chicago?
That’s difficult to say. There were a lot of reasons for it. I think we just needed a change of pace and we were getting a little stagnant in Denver to be honest. There was some sort of mass exodus out of Denver at that time. A lot of our friends and fellow band people were just on their way out and we felt it was a good time to come home. I think it even comes down to Chicago being centrally located to where we can get to the west coast or east coast easily. It’s not going to be a long-ass trek to get to New York.
Has it turned out that way in Chicago? Have you been able to go on midwest tours and hit good-sized markets pretty easily?
The thing is that when we got out here we were planning for the next record and after the move we had a very brief three-piece tour. It was actually only to get to Portland to record. Outside of that we actually haven’t played at all in Chicago, not even once since we’ve been here. This (Gauntlet Hair’s upcoming Chicago show) will actually be our first gig since we’ve been back. It’s been a lot of down time and rearranging our lives and getting some things straightened out.
Can you go into more detail on why you haven’t played Chicago since you moved back?
I can say that the move was a bit of a struggle. For a lot of reasons. We had a lot of personal issues and a lot of hang-ups. There was a lot that happened when we got back to Chicago that kind of laid us out flat right away. We couldn’t afford to spend the time … it was maybe the furthest thing from our minds to be playing. We were just trying to pick up the pieces and get order back in our lives. We’re still in the process of doing that.
With “Stills” coming out and a small tour coming up, is stuff feeling like it’s back on the rails, so to speak?
It’s so ideal that you call me at this point, because I’m really trying to filter what I say. It’s very hectic right now. You hit those moments in your life where bad luck or all the unforeseeable consequences of your earlier actions are coming back to wreak havoc. There’s something about this time right now where everything is, ugh, everything has become complicated. One thing about Denver was that there was an ease about everything. It was so simplistic out there. It’s such a small city that everything is somehow taken care of because you have friends in every walk of life in that city. It’s so easy to get by. The spread in Chicago, it’s a little harder to network. A lot of things I feel are hindering us from really getting on track, really nailing it right now. Maybe that even came across in the record. When we were writing the record we had just moved and we didn’t even have a space to practice yet or anything. We just worked through it. I wonder if it came across in the record, but it was a trying time for us.
So were you able to play the songs on “Stills” much before going in to the studio?
No. When we got here we weren’t really settled for months it seemed. There was initially a lot of distraction and personal issues right off the bat that pulled us away from practicing or writing as we normally would in Denver. The whole writing process was really on the fly. This record may be special because of it, but I don’t think that we even tapped into exactly what we were going for. We were just winging it. It was just really sporadic.
Even if we didn’t reach our goal with this tonally, I think there is something special about it because it was so disjointed. It was kind of a confusing, soul-searching time. I can say that there’s a couple cuts on the record that I wish I had more time with, but we’re still very proud of it . It was something different. We were trying to pull away from our own stereotype of heavy reverb. We were hoping to redefine it a little bit. I think we did that. It’s a hell of a lot cleaner this time around.
Your shows are notoriously high-energy. Is anything about your live setup going to change for your upcoming tour supporting “Stills?”
It’s definitely going to be a four piece again. We have a new guitar player. We’ll be playing samples and keys on stage, and that’s different. We’re always going to try and maintain the high energy vibe, but in order to pull off some of the newer songs the set might be more eclectic. It’s a better mix this time around. We’ll always try and rip people’s faces off as much as we can, though.
Looking back, how are you going to remember your time in Denver?
Denver was a wonderful experience for us. I have to say that it was such a different environment than Chicago or big city living. We spent enough time there where we just got caught up in it. It was a really tight community and everything seemed very manageable there as opposed to Chicago where everything is so sprawled out. I personally miss it. It was very comforting. I’m sure we’ll make our way back one of these days, and we’ll certainly try and play there more than anywhere else. We both look back on Denver fondly. That was a great time for us to collect ourselves after years of living in Chicago. Going there and finding ourselves, however cheesy that may sound, it brought some peace into our lives and helped us create this band.