Hey everyone! Thought I would ask the awesome Alex Reilly some questions for my bloggy blog. You can usually see Alex around at a lot of Madison shows not only as a spectator, but as a guitar player in Wood Chickens and bassist in The Minotaurs. Thanks Alex for being chill and answering some questions!
1. What is your name?
My name is Alex Reilly. I was thinking about changing my name to ‘Alex Chicken’ because that’s how a lot of people list me in their phone to remember who I am.
2. Where are you from and where do you live now?
I’m from the tiny town of Milton, WI. These days, I live in Madison for the most part, but spend some time at my folks’ farm in Milton. Sometimes I live out of a backpack and sleep wherever.
3. Tell me what bands you have played in and who are you playing with currently?
My first band, Village Idiot, was formed by myself and 3 friends in middle school. We were active for a few years and I’m lucky to have been able to share the stage with those dudes at events like Summerfest and the Milwaukee stop of Warped Tour. In fact, that’s how I met Katy Perry that one time. But that’s another story…
Currently, I’m in Wood Chickens and The Minotaurs. Wood Chickens is like my little baby flower that I’ve been watering excessively since it was a seed. The Minotaurs formed more recently and I’m really happy with what each band has grown into.
4. I think you are a pretty swell guitar and bass player. Exactly how long have you been playing for? Who are some of your biggest influences and why?
Why thank ya! I started playing guitar at age 11, so at this time I’ve been pluckin’ the strings for longer than I haven’t been. I picked up bass just over a year ago for The Minotaurs as a way to try out a different role in a band.
Various punk bands from the 80’s have had a huge influence on me, including JFA, The Queers, The Dead Milkmen, The Feederz, and nearly everything put out by SST Records during that time. I never got to live in the 80’s, but a lot of this stuff makes me feel strangely at home. Bands like Rank & File and the Meat Puppets covered traditional American folk tunes, which I think is really important. Songs from before the era of recorded music were just simply passed along from person to person, and I think it’s cool to keep some things going through the ages. The Byrds experimented with a ton of different musical styles and they opened me up to the genres of both psychedelic and country music. Country singers like George Jones and Hank Williams really knew how to utilize their voice as an instrument and wrote great songs. As arrogant as this may sound, I think country is a genre that really needs to be saved, since that genre label itself has been tarnished for most young people by the clowns wearing cowboy hats on top 40 radio. Country is not glamorous music and if you’re just singing about your money and cars, you’re probably doing it wrong.
5. What are some of your favorite records and why?
“The Notorious Byrd Brothers” by The Byrds is the aforementioned material that sparked by interest in psych/country, and I love how they shifted to straight old-timey country for their next album, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” the debut 7″ from JFA, “Blatant Localism,” is still among one of the most hardcore records I’ve ever heard. It’s raw and fast, with some songs as short as 7 seconds. “Eat Your Paisley!” by The Dead Milkmen is one of the records that introduced me to the style of “cowpunk” and is somehow both light-hearted and fierce. I like almost any record by Buck Owens & The Buckaroos (since most of them sound pretty much the same) and I think Don Rich was one of the greatest country pickers. Some of my favorite current bands are Leche (from Austin, TX) and Scrimshaw (from Milwaukee). They’ve both released some fantastic records over the last couple years, but one must catch a live show to truly understand the magic of those bands.
6. You are a very prolific songwriter. Out of all of the songs you have written, which ones are some of favorites?
It’s difficult to pick favorites, as the more songs I write, the easier it is for me communicate ideas through music. I write most of my songs in first person perspective from the point of view of someone else. For example, I recently wrote a rather sad but upbeat song about abandonment called “A Lost Cat,” using the metaphor of someone whose cat ran away. The Wood Chickens song “Flesh ‘N’ Blood” is about the triumph of being alive. If you’re reading this, you’re not dead yet and you’ve survived every hardship that life has thrown at you, and hey, that’s great! I consider Wood Chickens a blues band in the way that most of the songs contain lyrics about frustration, but are conveyed in ways that are meant to make one feel better. Playing a song is a creative and constructive way of “letting it out.”
7. You have toured a TON in the last year or more with both of your bands, Wood Chickens and Minotaurs. What advice can you give to bands who are thinking about taking that next step and touring?
Touring is something you kind of just have to jump into. Experience is the best teacher. You have to take some leaps, just make sure you’re doing it in the right direction. Brooks Nielsen from The Growlers said it best, I think, so I’ll relay his advice:
1) Pick bandmates with good character. 2) Tour as early as you can.
It’s important to be in a band with people who have focus and want the band to do well. And the more you get yourself out there, the easier it is to keep getting out there and keep the momentum going. My advice to bands that have never toured is to start with booking weekend runs (2-3 dates in a row) and go from there.
8. What are 5 essential things you bring with on tour? Exclude your instruments!
5 things I bring on every tour:
1) A blanket thick enough to double as a mattress
2) Coffee (in some form)
3) A couple notebooks
5) Plenty of tapes
I also bring a fire extinguisher and first aid kit, after hearing some horror stories from other bands on the road.
9. Any plans for more future releases for your bands?
There has been some talk with both bands about future releases, but nothing for sure yet, so I’ll keep that behind the curtain for now.
10. I ask this question a lot to Madison musicians, but what is your take on the Madison music scene? Pros/Cons??
I am incredibly grateful and proud to be a part of the music scene in Madison and I’m glad to have made so many friends in this supportive community of artists. Some have said this is a peak time for the music scene in this city and it’s all thanks to how passionate and active people are in creating things. I’ve been inspired by bands that have been actively touring and recording like Fire Retarded and The Hussy (heard of ’em?) and it’s great to see new bands popping up all the time. Honestly, not much comes to mind for cons, but sometimes I wish audiences were less concerned with looking ‘uncool.’ I’ve played cities across the country, some as close as Milwaukee and Green Bay, where strangers will dance their hearts out for a band they’ve never seen and really be a part of the show, rather than just standing and observing. However, I find a lot of Madisonians are also a part of a very loyal network of bands traveling through, and it’s also good to see musicians working hard to make this city a warm and welcoming place to stop on tour.
11. What is your favorite pizza, god dammit!?!?
Hmmm.. I’ll have a large stuffed crust pizza with chicken and bacon, please. Maybe some jalapenos on there as well.
Thanks Alex for taking the time out of your schedule to answer these questions! It’s always appreciated. In the meantime, check out these links that Alex was kind enough to include.
Solo Alex Reilly recordings from 2013-2014:
Wood Chickens Bandcamp: