Doors at 7:30 | Show at 8
At its core, Tomato Tree by The Slaps is an exercise in patience that seamlessly showcases the virtues of experimentation. Composed of guitarist/vocalist Rand Kelly, bassist/vocalist Ramsey Bell, and percussionist/vocalist Josh Resing, the band’s latest collection of songs is an achievement – a document of deepening friendship and their collective and personal advancements in artistic maturity.
Though the band formed out of a chance meeting at a party in 2016 during their first year of college at DePaul University, The Slaps are bound together by a spirit of pastoral music making – the notion that collaboratively using the available resources can produce stunning results.
“It’s been about trust – it starts with each other. We trust each other so much. We trust each other to live in different places and keep this thing going,” says Resing, referencing Bell and Kelly’s recent move from Chicago back to their homes in Lexington, Kentucky. “You can’t do that with just anybody.”
Despite Tomato Tree sounding effortless, the record was pieced together meticulously from June 2020 to April 2021 at Pallet Sound in Chicago with assistance from engineer Michael MacDonald. Certain tracks (like the bright-but-distorted instrumental “Fire on Fire”) were finessed during marathon rehearsal sessions whereby a song was played for nearly five hours straight before committing the tracks to record.
Fans know Friko (Bailey Minzenberger, Luke Stamos, and frontman Niko Kapetan) as vital rising stars in the Chicago scene. The music, which freelancer Britt Julious described as “perfect slices of indie-pop” in the Chicago Tribune last January, is complex, layered, and dynamic. Over the band’s time together, it has become clear they are comfortable embracing multiple musical extremes at once. Take a listen to the explosive and hypnotic beat of “In_Out” off their self managed 2022 EP release, Whenever Forever, and juxtapose it against the serene, strings soaked tracks that follow, “Half as Far” and “Can I See U Again.” It becomes even more pronounced in live performance, where a frenzied floor, grinding with wailing guitars and animation, in the very next minutes finds itself collectively holding its breath silently as the band eases them into a spell. Lyrically, Kapetan explores the possibility and risks of a life given over to music, interrogating what a life well-lived means to him. The duality rings out in the compositions, evoking rock and folk icons such as Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake. As Friko plays out sweeping melodies, held up by thrashing guitar and punchy beats, it feels as if Kapetan sings to you. Crooning about stories you know, memories you had but have somehow forgotten.