Affection, honesty overflow from Violet Crime’s soul-pop single, upcoming EP

Love.

It’s long been a staple in popular music. But Violet Crime has its own take. And it’s not always patient. Or kind. But it’s nothing short of truthful.

“I think it’s important to write honestly and say ‘I have flaws and I do (expletive) things to others and myself sometimes,'” said Geneva native Jeff Mills, one of the band’s two lead singers and the primary lyricist.

In Violet Crime’s recent single, “Paper Queen,” being celebrated at a show in Chicago Friday, Mills and co-lead Selina Doran explore the pursuit of the idea of love. What starts off as a dreamy ballad with rich, silky vocals becomes an indictment of misplaced attraction as Mills and Doran blast off into dancing blues harmonies, punctuated by the talents of Geneva’s Tom Goier on lead guitar, Mundelein’s Kevin Nagel on drums and bass from Kasey Gandham, hailing from Albany, New York.

“There’s this concept in film of the manic pixie dream girl,” Mills explained. “She’s female, doesn’t really have any identity or passions of her own, and really their entire identity and purpose is complementary to the main male character. … It’s all about the pursuit of that woman and not about what that woman wants.”

“Paper Queen” addresses that flawed affection as part of a thread woven through the upcoming EP’s soulful pop tracks.

“The music has this fantastical, ethereal feel, almost out of a dream,” Doran said. “Love that might be unattainable, might be unrealistic, might be based off something that’s not real, but that longing, that passion … you want it but it’s not there. And you can’t quite get there.”

Due out June 14, the “Paper Queen” EP comprises five songs, diverse in style and outlook.

The band’s next single, “(Heard You Like) Rolling Stones,” is a breezy, grooving tale of obsession over someone for silly reasons. Its early May release will be accompanied by a fully produced video directed by local videographer Alex Zarek.

Violet Crime also plans to follow that up in late May with the single “Young,” an exploration of the role adulthood and ego play in our sometimes flagging pursuits of happy relationships.

Notwithstanding the EP’s sidelong glances at man’s inner demons (as far as love is concerned anyway), band members are intensely connected to each other and the local scene, echoed by the band’s popularity on the intimate Sofar Sounds circuit.

Mills, who has shared the stage with a who’s who of Chicago-area performers in his roughly seven years playing in indie and pop-punk bands, was the man with the connections — Goier played in a jazz band with him in high school in Geneva, and Nagel and Gandham knew him from their days at Illinois State University.

But Gandham set the wheels rolling with regular open mics run by his startup Packback, bringing together first the guys and eventually Doran, who grew up playing guitar and eukelele in her hometown of Bellingham, Washington.

“Having the opportunity to play with all of these incredible musicians makes my experience so much better,” Doran said, referencing her pre-Violet Crime background as primarily a solo artist.

With Jeff Mills and Selina Doran behind the mics, Violet Crime's performances are silky smooth on the surface, but raw emotion comes bubbling up from Tom Goier, Kevin Nagel and Kasey Gandham's powerful instrumentation.
With Jeff Mills and Selina Doran behind the mics, Violet Crime’s performances are silky smooth on the surface, but raw emotion comes bubbling up from Tom Goier, Kevin Nagel and Kasey Gandham’s powerful instrumentation. Courtesy of Anh Pham

The band recently announced its partnership with Play Together, an organization founded in part by Gandham, his wife Jessica Tenuta, and their creative team to bring together a musical artist, a visual artist and a charitable component.

A third of the proceeds from Violet Crime’s merch and music sales — along with a soon-to-be-released set of print interpretations of the band’s music by Chicago-based artist Julius Bautista — will go to benefit Intonation Music, a local organization that provides Chicago Public School students after-school opportunities to explore music.

“It’s an incredible organization for kids to not just learn music and theory and how to play instruments, but also puts them in a band and teaches them how to play together,” Doran said. “It’s incredible to me to be able to support those kids and offer mentorship in music.”

• • •

Violet Crime single release with guest Grace Coletta

When: 8:30 p.m. Friday, April 27

Where: The Store, 2002 N. Halsted St., Chicago, thestoretil4.com

Tickets: Free; 21 and older

Visit the band’s profile on chicagosoundcheck.com.

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