Listen to Chicago indie rockers Company of Thieves’ new album, “Running From a Gamble,” alongside their 2007 self-recorded debut “Ordinary Riches,” and the difference is immediately noticeable.
It’s not just the fuller sound lent to the new songs by producer Rob Schnapf, either. All of the elements of lead singer Genevieve and guitarist Marc Walloch’s songwriting from “Ordinary Riches” are there — the soulful vocal melodies and wide whisper-to-scream dynamics.
But while “Ordinary Riches” was written and arranged solely by Walloch and Genevieve, “Running From a Gamble” is the work of a full band, and it shows in the panoramic arrangements.
Company of Thieves, with Erin Harkes and The Rebound, Wild Adriatic
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Jillian’s, 59 N. Pearl St., Albany
How Much: $12 (doors); $10 (advance)
More Info: 432-1997, www.jilliansofalbany.com
Ironing out wrinkles
“The only big difference from [‘Ordinary Riches’] to [‘Running From a Gamble’] is once we had a blueprint of a tune down, we would jam in our basement as a band and work out the kinks,” Walloch said via email, while on the band’s current 21⁄2-week tour of the Northeast and Midwest. The band plays next at Jillian’s on Friday night.
“Our bassist, Chris Faller, has a beautiful imagination and also a great sense of [groove] that helps our tunes flow and feel right. He is the one responsible for the end of [‘Running From a Gamble’ track] ‘Nothing’s in the Flowers.’ It used to be a more upbeat pop song, and he somehow thought of Joe Cocker for the exciting feel change at the end.”
After eight different lineup changes in four years, Walloch is confident the band has found the right mix of people with the current lineup, also featuring keyboardist Eitan Bernstein. New York City-based drummer Matt Rullo is joining the band on its current tour (Faller also handled drum duties on the album).
“This current lineup started in October and it’s the best we have ever sounded,” Walloch said. “It’s hard because [Rullo] is a New York native, so we don’t know how long this can work out for him unfortunately. But maybe you can all knock some sense into him and convince him to stay with us.”
Genevieve and Walloch first met at Union Station in Chicago as teenagers, through a mutual friend. The two began writing songs together and playing open mic nights in the city.
“People heard the songs in a much more stripped-down form,” Walloch said of the band’s early duo incarnation. “The crowds seemed to be captivated by Genevieve’s powerful vocals and her honest delivery. There was always great feedback on the melodies and chord structures as well.”
Eventually the duo dropped out of college, using student loan money to record and self-release “Ordinary Riches” in 2007. The album caught the attention of Wind Up Records, the band’s current label, which re-released the album in 2009 to some critical acclaim on the strength of single “Oscar Wilde.”
Intense touring followed for the next few years, as the band began to break nationally. And at every chance they got, Genevieve and Walloch would write.
“Traveling for hours and hours also allows so much time for us to just sit and reflect on life,” Walloch said. “We don’t have the daily distractions like going to an office or watching TV, so we focus on progressing at a fast rate.”
Being on the road so much helped shape the songs on “Running From a Gamble” into a story arch about a girl who leaves home to see the world — close to Genevieve’s own experiences with the band.
Writing on the road
“Basically, our first album, ‘Ordinary Riches,’ is about the birth of identity and ideas; it involves a lot of social commentary,” Genevieve wrote via email. “Our new record, ‘Running From a Gamble,’ was mostly written while traveling and meeting new people and seeing more of the world. It is about the exploration and evolution of those ‘truths’ from the first record.”
“ ‘Ordinary Riches’ was our first real attempt at songwriting and recording a professional record, so it’s a little more stiff and sterile to us,” Walloch said. “It’s a magical and special album to us, but it’s nice to see the growth from that to ‘Running From a Gamble.’ After touring for years we learned a lot about playing as a band, so there is a much more confident live sound to ‘Running From a Gamble.’”