Outer Minds takes Pitchfork audience to another era

By Sophia Coleman

By  Heather Schröering & Sophia Coleman

Get ready to pile into the old Volkswagen Transporter because Chicago’s Outer Minds are always ready to take you on a trip straight back to the flower-filled, dreamtastic decade of the The Sixties. And that’s exactly what they did at their first-ever Pitchfork Music Festival performance on July 13 for a crowd of more than 100.

The five-member band—which was born more than two years ago—is composed of  Zach Medearis on vocals and guitar, A-ron Orlowski, bass, Brian Costello, drums, Mary McKane, keyboard and vocals and Gina Lira on vocals and tambourine.

After the show, The Chronicle had the chance to kick back with Lira to talk about her Pitchfork experience, personal inspirations and how it feels to be one of only four Chicago bands on the bill.

The Chronicle: How does it feel to be at Pitchfork for the first time?

Gina Lira: Crazy! Overwhelming. We never really thought of ourselves as a band that would play Pitchfork, so we’re kind of nerds about it. We want to see a bunch of other bands, too. It’s a great opportunity—we know that—but we had worries. It started to rain. We were like, “No one knows who we are. There’s gonna be like 30 people there,” and we were going to be totally satisfied with that.

Who are some of the bands you’re looking forward to here?

GL: I would like to see A$AP Rocky, Willis Earl Beal, Danny Brown, Wild Flag. I want to see a lot of them…I’m going to try to see as much as I can.

How does it feel to be one of the four Chicago bands here?

GL: I feel like that’s too bad. There’s definitely a lot of music in Chicago that is really awesome, and if a festival is going to have its roots in Chicago, there should definitely be more representation of Chicago bands. But at the same time, I’m very honored that we were considered to participate. But yeah, totally have more Chicago bands.

How did you all decide on the name Outer Minds?

GL: It was kind of forced upon us. We were named Other Minds, and we had to change our name. We didn’t want to dramatically change our name because sometimes people aren’t savvy enough to realize it’s the same band, so we wanted it to sound the same. Outer Minds was the closest we could find to Other Minds.

Have you been in the band from the start?

GL: No, actually. At the start it was a different group of people, and I came in after they had already played some shows together.

Were you and the other band members friends before?

GL: Zach’s girlfriend and I are really good friends. We’ve known each other since high school, and he came to see me play in a girl group that I was in. Then we started meeting up sometimes to work on songs together. When he put [Outer Minds] together, he asked me to become a part of it. He’s known A-ron for years and years and years, and Brian for years and years and years and Mary he kind of knew but still we’ve known her for a while. I didn’t know the rest of them. I only knew Zach, but the others have known each other for a while.

Why did you guys head in the 60s-pop, psychedelic direction?

GL: That’s a genre of music we all really like, and I feel like everybody else in the band would agree, some people have interesting tastes and really great taste in music, and then they make music that sounds nothing at all like they would even listen to. So someone’s like, “I love Rolling Stones,” and then they make music that sounds like some whole other s—. So it’s like, “Would you listen to your own album?” I think that we try to make music that we would want to listen to, and we all really dig different sub-genres within the ’60s music conglomerate.

Personally, what are your inspirations from that time period?

GL: It really goes all over the place. Really it’s bits and pieces for different instruments. Sometimes there’s something that someone’s like, “Oh, this sounds like the intro to a Stooges song.” Sometimes I’m thinking about Grace Slick when we’re trying to do vocals. Harmonization wise, I’m thinking girl group a lot of the time because we’re three-part harmony, and I feel like there’s no excuse for there to be three singers and no three-part harmony. I like girl group and soul. So really it’s different for each.

What other genres of music outside of ’60s pop do you like?

GL: I just started getting into ’60s and ’70s folk, which I thought I was too good for. I thought I was too good to dip my toe in the hippy-dippy waters, but I’ve been listening to Vashti Bunyan. I’m really digging that right now.

I heard Zach has a Master’s degree in classical composition. How does that come into play?

GL: [Mary, A-ron and Zach] together are really able to talk music with the terminology, and know what they’re talking about and be able to pull out that nerd part and use it to our advantage. A-ron has been playing guitar forever. Mary has been playing piano since she was a kid…I don’t think we would be able to do what we do without it sounding sloppy if everybody didn’t have this great background in music. You don’t want to be too neat though. Then it loses its edge.

What’s your favorite song to play?

GL: My favorite song to play is “Charlemagne” [from the upcoming LP “Behind the Mirror”]. It’s different from what we used to do, and I just feel like it’s like our head banger, thrasher song. We all get to bob our heads up and down and act foolish to that song. That’s my favorite song to play.

Any plans after Pitchfork?

GL: Really, nothing. There are a lot of personal events coming up in people’s lives. Mary’s getting married, and we’re trying to take it easy so we don’t bombard her with too much s— to worry about while she has to take care of that. But we’re not the type of band that sits down and makes goals, like, “This is what we’re going to accomplish. Let’s work towards it.” I think just trying to be good, and not too sloppy and honest to the music is enough to make other people give us opportunities.

For more on Outer Minds, visit OuterMinds.Bandcamp.com.