It’s a saying you’ll hear bands pass on to each other after a gig, no matter how good a set actually was. For Chicago filmmaker Dan Stewart, the camaraderie between outsider musicians that this phrase represents is often overlooked.
“[Bands] have this language that we all understand. I wanted to use this. The humor and tragedy of being in a DIY group,” says Stewart.
Hollywood loves stories about musicians but tends to shy away from unglamorous tracks. Adjusting to training around tight work schedules, paying your hand on rehearsal space, and not performing in front of anyone are all part of the experience of most underdog bands, but they rarely do on screen. .
Stewart aimed to do those moments justice and he assembled some of the Chicago indie scene’s favorite bands to help out. The result is local banda feature film about a fictional band who, like their real-life counterparts in Chicago, always give their best even though they feel doomed to slip through the cracks.
“This project started in late 2018. I was living in Saint Louis, which is my hometown,” Stewart explains. “I was starting to really get into the local music scene there.”
Stewart and local band co-writer Nick Wandersee frequented underground metal shows together. The acts they saw varied wildly, from mainstream rock and metal bands to truly niche offerings.
“There was a tour noise number where this guy pulled out a folding table and there were VCRs involved, and it was the loudest wall of death and noise. The band was called Terminator 2.
Although the genres varied, the underground shows were consistent in the creative energy on display, and Stewart and Wandersee saw a story that was untold.
“I sat in my basement with my friend Nick and we just came up with this idea for a movie about a struggling band. [It’s] the story of a band that didn’t make it,” says Stewart.
Looking back on Terminator 2 (the band), Stewart says, “This guy clearly isn’t doing this so he can have the ‘Live Aid’ ending of the movie. This guy does it because he loves what he does and he loves to play.
After years of tinkering with the concept and navigating film school, Stewart — who had uprooted himself in Chicago by then — was ready to get the film off the ground. Funding for the film was secured primarily through an Indiegogo campaign that Stewart describes as “an emotional journey.”
“There was an incredible outpouring of support from the scene,” Stewart said. “They say a lot of the funding comes from someone who wants to take your idea and give you a couple thousand dollars. In the end, for us, the average donation was $50, and that was just very generous contributions from people on the scene.
local bandProduction took to the Chicago indie scene in the midst of a minor renaissance, with the end of the pandemic lockdown energizing veteran and new artists alike. As Pinksqueeze’s Ava Marvin says, Time Apart has brought Chicago indie bands together.
“I think it’s just beautiful to see how people show up for each other in this community and really go out of their way for each other’s shows, and really, sincerely support each other. So, it was just special,” says Marvin.
“It was something that didn’t really happen much in the older scene,” says Isabella Martinez, who plays a dual role as the film’s lead and representing Chicago’s Cut Your Losses alternative rockers. “It really feels like a little family now. Seeing the same people at each other’s concerts.
With Pinksqueeze, local bandThe band roster includes scene regulars Superkick, OK Cool, CalicoLoco and Nora Marks, with their contributions ranging from short snippets of sets to full speaking roles, according to Stewart. Stewart himself lends guitar and vocals to the punk trio Damager.
“[Adding] guts and weight, and to ground it a bit in the real scene, it’s going to have this sequence of other bands playing,” says Michael Garrity of Nora Marks. “That was our main role; he filmed one of our concerts.
“Taking us all out of our comfort zones a bit to be actors and musicians was a great feeling. Especially on the last day of filming when we were all at Double Door. It was bittersweet, but we all knew we would meet again. But who knows when we can all collectively be a part of something like this movie again,” says Mike Vaughn of Superkick.
local band Producer Jake Rotger says the team originally anticipated that working the schedules of nearly ten different bands would be herculean in itself.
“And that’s on top of the fake group we set up with the actors,” Rotger says. “We embarked on this project thinking that [scheduling] was going to be a total obstacle to getting around. I thought it would be a constant pain in the ass. But that was not the case. Everyone was very good at being there when they needed them.
“Even bands that are only in one scene, like CalicoLoco, that only play a few songs,” Rotger explains, “they came in, played three great songs and were awesome.”
local band was filmed in August and July of this year. The scenes were filmed in some of the same practice spaces and locations used by bands across the city, all “without a tripod in sight,” Stewart says. The use of actual locations and groups was intended to give the film an unmistakable sense of Chicago. Even the backstage photos were taken by photographer Vicki Holda, a staple at many shows.
“It’s our scene, and yes, they drink Old Style and talk about Beat Kitchen in dialogue, or Double Door. Those are things that we understand as Chicagoans. I think sometimes being very specific may be the most universal thing,” Stewart says.
But as OK Cool’s Bridget Stiebris rightly points out, local bandThe full roster of still represents only a small portion of Chicago’s musical talent pool.
“[The film] is certainly not exhaustive; there is so much music in this town. It’s crazy,” Stiebris says.
local band is currently in post-production, with Stewart aiming to enter the festival circuit eventually.
“I may have an amazing opportunity to, in the tradition of something like The Decline of Western Civilization, document something really magical and cool right now,” says Stewart. “I think maybe that’s the optimism of a post-COVID lockdown world where we realize our angst to get back into the crowd and do things.
“I want the world to see these people, hear their music and love it like I do.”