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Young, DIY band Lifeguard has a show at Metro

They may be young, but the teenage local band Lifeguard knows what it’s doing. Perhaps that speaks to their emerging genius, which can be heard in their latest release, “Crowd Can Talk.” Intelligent, motivated and just really, really talented, Lifeguard is part of a relatively new and highly ambitious scene of DIY acts shaking up the city’s eclectic music scene.

Band members Isaac Lowenstein, Kai Slater and Asher Case met during a live show in 2019 where some were performing with popular local act Horsegirl (Lowenstein’s sister is Horsegirl band member Penelope Lowenstein). It was there that they met Slater (who was a member of a different band playing that night), and after the show, they exchanged contact information.

“It was just kind of like, I needed to do it. It was like an outlet,” Case said about creating their band.

“I just thought they were cool,” added Slater. “I think it wasn’t spoken. We just knew that we had that connection together.”

Within the first two days of playing together, they wrote two songs, the result of a “big creative explosion.” Their songwriting was immediate. Unlike other bands that have a singular songwriter to craft the bulk of their songs, Lifeguard works together.

“It’s never changed, and it’s felt so good to sort of do that. I think there’s never much conflict because everyone kind of understands that. Like, we’re all kind of writing it, and it’s kind of about building something that’s all of our input. I think that is the way to be happiest with your music,” said Lowenstein.

“We tend to just like the outcome more when we’re all contributing to it,” added Case.

Learning how to play with each other led to a more unified songwriting process. Improvisation sessions soon led to fully fleshed out tracks. So far, their method of creation has worked.

Since launching in 2019, the group has released multiple EPs, including 2020′s “In Silence” and 2022′s “Crowd Can Talk.” The latter is their debut on the Chicago-based label Born Yesterday. Full of propulsive rhythms and fuzzy guitar riffs from the EP’s first few seconds, “Crowd Can Talk” is a confident record, and easily one of the best local releases of the year. This is a group that knows what they’re doing. Keen listeners will recognize the stealth growth between the two releases in just two short years. From stumbling enthusiasm to assured confidence, Lifeguard has landed on a sound and spirit that matches their youthful energy.

“I don’t think there was ever an idea of what success looked like. I think more than anything, what we wanted to do is just get something out creatively,” Lowenstein said.

But it’s performance, however, that really makes Lifeguard click. Within their first two months of forming, they performed their first gig, a local block party. And as creatives, many of their songs are reworked, written and perfected through live shows. The energy from audiences fuels the art and vice versa.

“I don’t want to speak for the band, but I think we’re definitely a live band first and foremost,” said Slater. “And that’s kind of like where we do stuff. That’s where we write.”

Lowenstein described it as a cyclical process, one that involves writing together through rehearsals, then performing the music live and returning to their next rehearsal to talk through how their improvised adjustments to a song may have worked or not worked.

“We can never sit down and say we’re gonna write a song,” Slater said.

“Oh, we’ve tried,” replied Lowenstein. They all laughed.

“And I think that also helps us avoid being like prog rock, like, we want to have coherent and cohesive songs that do what they need to do,” Slater added. “And you don’t do 10 minute guitar solos, and dragons and whatever.”

Where they’ll go next remains to be seen, but the group is not sweating it. Two EPs (plus multiple singles and an abundance of live shows) in two years is more than most acts twice their age can accomplish.

In the end, what matters most to them now is making music that connects to their young community. Does it make their peers excited? Does it get people on their feet? Does it last beyond the last note? All of that is at the heart of Lifeguard, and ultimately what makes them so compelling for a growing legion of local fans.

“If they’re dancing to it, you know that’s a good sign,” Slater said.

“That’s when you know you’ve written the next hit,” Lowenstein added.

“I mean, we kind of write hits for the kids in a very weird, Frankenstein-ian, clunky way, I guess,” replied Slater.

“It’s just like, when you see all your friends in front of the stage, and you can see that they’re enjoying it, and you’re enjoying it, it’s important because of that sense of community.”

7 p.m. Dec. 8 at Metro with Friko and Cafe Racer, 3730 N. Clark; tickets are $15-$20 at metrochicago.com

Britt Julious is a freelance critic.


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