When two of its members left on good terms in recent years, Unicycle Loves You reacted in typical fashion: by holding auditions for replacements.
In the end, though, the experimental pop/rock Chicago band decided to leave well enough alone.
“It just felt so strange to try and bring somebody else in,” says bassist Nicole Vitale. “It wasn’t that anybody who auditioned with us wasn’t good enough or wasn’t cool enough or anything silly like that. The three of us felt we could get this done ourselves.”
Doing so meant expanding their roles: More vocals for Vitale, keyboard duties for singer/guitarist Jim Carroll and technical-related tasks for drummer J.T. Baker.
“We rely on each other a lot more,” Vitale says. “Whereas with the five members, we were all just trying to not step on each other’s toes. It was almost like too many cooks in the kitchen. We didn’t realize it [at the time]; we were all just having fun. But once everything progressed the way it did and it came down to the three of us, we just stepped up to the plate in our way to bring more focus to what we’re playing, what we’re doing and how we wanted things to be.”
That degree of control and focus goes beyond playing — it also includes production. After working with notable Chicago producer Brian Deck and getting “the full studio treatment” to make Unicycle Loves You’s self-titled debut album, Vitale says the band members opted to pursue their collective “secret wish” and stay in-house with producing the follow-up, Mirror, Mirror (Highwheel Records).
“We’ve always loved the sound of the recordings Jim was able to come up with in the first place,” Vitale says. “And we knew it would just take a little extra effort to try and figure out how to bring it to that next level where we could actually make it a real album. We did it, and in so many ways it was so much more rewarding. It wasn’t us standing behind somebody saying, ‘No, that’s better.’ It was us with our fingers on the button saying that.”
Using its rehearsal space to record basic tracks, then an apartment for overdubs, Unicycle Loves You took more time making Mirror, Mirror than it did recording the band’s 2008 debut, but the time was well spent.
“We recorded two versions of a song that doesn’t even show up on the album, just because we were experimenting,” Vitale says. “We would never have had that opportunity if we were in a studio paying everybody by the hour. We were in our apartment doing it, screwing around, and if it didn’t work, no harm, no foul.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Unicycle Loves You on tour (schedule subject to change):
* Oct. 20: Spike Hill — Brooklyn, N.Y.
* Oct. 21: Cake Shop — New York
* Oct. 22: The Local 269 — New York
* Nov. 13: Schubas — Chicago