Sybris with Outfit and Anathallo at the Silver Dollar (486 Spadina), Saturday (January 21). $8. 416-763-9139. Rating: NNNNN
Although Chicago's reverb-happy alt-rockers are flying high off the buzz generated by their ripping CMJ showcase in September (Spin.com's band of the day!), the talk about Sybris getting shout-outs from hometown hiphop hotshot Kanye West is hard to believe.
That's not to suggest that their latest self-titled disc for Flameshovel isn't worthy of guardedly oblique praise from Pitchfork - I've got no problem with the way singer Angela Mullenhour phrases her Columbia-poetry-student lyrics over that shoegazey Sybris drone. It's just that the boldly narcissistic West doesn't appear to have much love for anyone but Kanye.
Considering how reluctant he's been to credit producer Jon Brion for saving Late Registration from a Chipmunk-funk-fettered fate just makes the notion of West giving props to some indie upstarts trying to perfect their Promise Ring-meets-Godspeed hybrid all the more ridiculous. So what's the source of the chatter?
Well, it all started with the Jesus Walks remix.
"There's this part in the song where Kanye goes, 'Man, you know how dem strippers was, we was all ghetto fabulous at rooms in the Sybaris,'" rhymes bassist Shaun Podgurski from his Wicker Park home.
"But it's actually the name of an adults-only resort hotel chain in the Midwest. Big-time ballers like to rent huge suites at Sybaris hotels for parties with their hiphop honeys. We just took out the 'a' for our band name so there wouldn't be any legal trouble.
"In doing some research on the name, we found out there was this hedonistic city in ancient Greece called Sybaris, a sort of Sodom-and-Gomorrah-type place with all kinds of decadence going on. That fit us pretty well, because we like to eat, drink and do all the other stuff that goes with a decadent lifestyle."
The fact that Sybris and West are both from Chicago is actually compelling evidence against there being any truth to the shout-out claim.
Anyone familiar with the Windy City's varied music scene will know there's not much interaction between the well-defined cliques.
Alt-rock and hiphop artists in Chicago tend not to mix any more than do the jazz and insurgent country musicians or the house producers and soul artists, even though many of them frequent the same bars, coffee shops, record stores and laundromats.
"It's true - there really isn't much crossover between the different scenes here. Some people here won't play certain venues because they're not considered 'friendly' to their own little scene. We're not down with that.
"We've played every place in Chicago that would have us. It's all part of this plan called Operation Cross-polination that Phil (guitarist Phil Naumann) and I started in one of our previous bands. It sounds kinda corny, I know, but really, why can't a punk band split a bill with an alt-country group?"
Sybris haven't had to worry about where to play in Chicago, since their fast-rising profile has led to more time on the road. According to Podgurski, having a hot disc might get you some gigs, but a hot chick singer will help you score some sweet accommodations when the show is over.
"Lately we've been pretty lucky finding places to stay. With Angela in the group there's never any shortage of guys lined up after a gig saying, 'You can stay with me.'
"So we're fortunate that we can pick and choose now. It's like, 'Let's see, you've got an Xbox, but he's got PlayStation 2 and some weed.' But you know, even when you weigh the options carefully, you can still run into a weird dog or something."