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Interview: Archie Powell & The Exports

| January 2, 2013 | 0 Comments

Archie Powell calls “bullshit” on any scribe rendered useless by the taunts of that cursor blinking like a ticking time bomb on a blank document. Bathing in the sickly light of a computer screen alone won’t pull a song out from the ether.

“The term writer’s block is a euphemism for lazy,” the bespectacled frontman and namesake of his band, The Exports, sneers. “There’s not a lot of quote, unquote inspiration in the mix. A lot of it is mainly just hard work. The idea is that people romanticize the creative process a lot and they think it’s kind of this magical thing . . . It’s mainly just sweating it out. It’s very lonely work. It’s just sitting there being like, ‘I suck, I suck; I’m so terrible; this is awful; I’m going to start over.’ That’s all it is. And I’ve found that most writers that I respect and enjoy have similar testimony about it.”

Dropping the needle on The Exports’ third release, Great Ideas In Action – a rowdy, albeit caustic take on the fiscal challenges befalling Millennials with wordplay Elvis Costello would tip his pork pie hat to – seems to debunk Powell’s thesis that a touch of the divine isn’t at play. Boisterous, biting singles “Job Fair” and “Crazy Pills” epitomize the band’s self-imposed challenge to progressively get “meaner and weirder” and scare off the Midwestern women who birthed them.

“Our first album [Loose Change] was described to me by a friend as being very mom-friendly and at that point, I was like, ‘Well, I gotta make some changes,'” the 26-year-old Milwaukee transplant admits. “My mom didn’t get our newest music video. I thought that was a success. If your mom doesn’t like it you’re probably doing something right. Nothing against moms, but that’s just a thing. No groundbreaking rock ‘n’ roll artist has ever been popular with the parent demographic. Ever. Not once. Not even the Beatles.”

Appearing: 1/25 at Goose Island Brewery (3535 N. Clark) Wrigleyville to benefit the families of the victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

If only their moms could see them now – day drinking at Big Star in Wicker Park on a Thursday afternoon in November. Drummer RJ Export (“Honestly, it’s branding. We’re an ‘and the’ band, so we’re Archie Powell & The Exports. No one wants to know that my last name is Schillaci and it’s weird and Italian. Nobody gives a shit. I don’t give a shit,” he explains.) and Powell order the hipster haven’s $3 daily whiskey shot (on the menu: W. L. Weller Special Reserve 7-year) with a $1 Schlitz chaser. “This is the thing,” Powell exclaims as a waitress delivers the first round (of three). “We’re very, very broke and drink a lot.” Surely pros, the pair manages to keep a layer of foam from coating the Movember whiskers still tickling their upper lips.

Even with a well-received album, day jobs (Powell: bartender; RJ: retail), and a fairly rigorous tour schedule, the band’s not immune to financial struggles (although, after four years as a cohesive unit, they might have to send the government a check in April for the first time – small strides, right?). “We’re working on functioning,” Powell reveals a few hours shy of a delinquent account forcing the suspension of his phone service. At least no one’s resorted to moving back home. “We don’t mind being poor as long as we have somewhere to live,” RJ chimes in.

Three of the five Exports share a spacious two-floor abode with a “civilian” roomie and the army of tramps taking refuge on “Big Brown, “Deep Purple,” and a red, flower-printed couch they haven’t christened yet, in exchange for six-packs, 12-packs, and cases of bottles or cans. “It’s almost 100 percent democratic,” Powell says, describing the band’s dynamic. “We’ve never really had a weird meltdown yet. Yet. We’re fine. We brew beer together. We’re fine.”

— Janine Schaults

For the full feature, click on the issue cover or grab a copy of Illinois Entertainer, available free throughout Chicagoland.

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Category: Featured, Features, Monthly

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