Bowl of Dust is “occupying” your ears

By Amanda Murphy

Many people wouldn’t look at losing their job as a good thing. But Kyle Klipowicz, frontman for the band Bowl of Dust, said it was really the starting point for the group. Going on its second year, the band has experienced success with the release of its debut EP, “Sour Mash.” Consisting of Klipowicz as guitarist and vocalist, Brian Lewis-Jones on trombone, the mysterious Johnny D playing upright bass and Kyle Drouin contributing percussion, the band continues to make its way through the Chicago music scene, focusing its attention on political issues, marketing with handmade soap and even recording at Occupy Chicago protests.

The Chronicle got a chance to speak with Klipowicz on the entrepreneurial positives of the recession, the importance of unique marketing techniques and the perks of returning to analog tape cassettes.

The Chronicle: How did Bowl of Dust start?

Kyle Klipowicz: I had worked in a mortgage company when I got out of college. I was an instructional designer with a subprime mortgage lender. And then I started hearing about subprime mortgages in the news and I thought, “How is this going to affect my job?” Well, lo and behold, I got laid off. So I started writing some music, and my time off really fueled it. And I had always had a concentration in electronic music, but I started doing some acoustic sets under my electronic name, Plenum.

And then I met a guy, a trombone player, who started to play with me, and then I knew a guy who played crazy junkyard percussion. We played a few shows like that, but then our former drummer got hit by a truck on his bike and survived, but he was in the hospital for a long time. So we lost our drummer, but I had just acquired a guy who could play upright bass. Then we finally got a guy who could play percussion. So Bowl of Dust as it is has been around for about a year and a half.

The Chronicle: You recently released the album “Sour Mash.” What were some influences you drew upon for it?

KK: We basically recorded that entire album in one session on a 4-track tape with all of the reverb and the real sound. We’re trying to get away from all of the pretenses of everything and be as raw as we can with our deliveries. We’re trying to be very handmade artisans, craftsmen with our delivery.

The Chronicle: How did you come up with creating soap as a marketing strategy for your band?

KK: I firmly believe in the physical. In this day and age, most things are digital. But soap is a tactile thing where you can feel it and smell it. It’s a very holistic experience that you can create for a brand identity.

The Chronicle: So the more physical aspect, is that why you decided to put your album on cassette tapes?

KK: The tapes are very collectible. They’re analog, and everyone loves analog. It gives it that record sound, but records are very expensive to manufacture, so you can take a lot less money and put it into tapes. A lot of people think it’s a gimmick. But [in] a lot of the circles I’ve been traveling in, it’s a pretty happening thing. Teen River, the label that we put our record out with, has been doing huge batches of tape releases. It’s nice to have something in a physical form, and even more so something that wears out as you play it. I have some old tapes from high school, and really, the sound is terrible … but it adds character, like an old leather belt that starts to wear out over time. It’s something that can’t be reproduced.

The Chronicle: What’s in store for Bowl of Dust?

KK: In the future, we definitely want to do some touring. We haven’t really been able to tour a lot yet because we didn’t have the album together. So now that we have this [EP] we can at least send it to different places. We would like to record some more. There are some songs that have been written but haven’t made the cut yet. We would also like to make some videos. I would really like to reach out and find some more bands that play the same “new Americana” elements.

For more information on Bowl of Dust, to view upcoming shows or download its EP “Sour Mash” for a limited time, visit BowlOfDust.com.

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