The year was 1998. The five young musicians in Lucky Boys Confusion — Stubhy Pandav, Adam Krier, Ryan Fergus, Joe Sell and Jason Schultejann — were just learning to navigate post-high school life and the local music scene when they released the debut full-length album, “Growing Out of It.”
The release — a mishmash of reggae, ska, punk and alternative rock tracks — drew heavily from Krier and Sell’s punk rock-heavy days in Spinning Jenny and folded in hip-hop and grungy hard rock from Fergus and Pandav’s previous band Farmboy.
What could have felt like an overly eclectic assortment of styles — fun shout-along vocals, raps, smoky spoken-word grooves and aggressive rebellion — made the West suburban rockers an everyday name on the Chicago music scene. They’ll celebrate that legacy when they revisit “Growing Out of It” this weekend at the House of Blues.
Back then, the bouncy single “Dumb Pop Song” was already in heavy rotation on Q101. And labels were starting to sniff around with interest. But band members were more focused on the music they were making and the parties that came along with it.
“I wanted to try everything I could,” said Pandav, who grew up in Downers Grove. “We were still not at the place where the music industry told us we needed to fit in a hole. ‘You don’t fit in this box. How are we supposed to market you?’ We had this really strong attitude of ‘We don’t care.'”
“And you know what? It worked,” he said, adding that in that first year they sold nearly 10,000 CDs from the trunk of their car proverbially.
Without the help of social media, Lucky Boys Confusion had to build a following from the ground up, first in their hometowns of Downers Grove and Naperville, then spreading through Chicago. All by being relatable.
“For a band that had no background in anything, just doing everything DIY, we didn’t realize what we were doing at the time. But it was some really creative marketing,” Pandav said. “We were just having fun, just being the guys we were offstage on the stage. … The way we acted on stage was the same way we’d act at a party. People just liked the fact that we were real.”
With Pandav and Krier at the helm writing the songs — “doing the Lennon-McCartney thing” — “Growing Out of It” hit home lyrically with lots of young suburban and Chicago fans. Sure, some songs are what Pandav describes as “bratty;” but others veer deeper, such as “Fred Astaire” and “One to the Right,” which explore the pressures of growing up and avoiding the path everybody seems to be laying out in front of you.
“One thing we never had an issue with was saying how we feel,” Pandav said. “Of course that changes in time, but as 18- to 20-year-old kids, we just wanted to be us. We were concerned about putting out an honest and genuine album.”
“We weren’t even 20, and we put out a concept album that flows from the second you put it on to when it’s done,” he said. “I’ve been chasing that for years.”
Of course, now that the band members are creeping into their 40s, the album takes on a more nostalgic feel for Pandav and the band. Family lives, careers and other priorities have stepped into the spotlight. And the four remaining founders are still feeling the 2012 death of Sell, who would have turned 41 this month.
“That’s probably the hardest thing about this whole show,” Pandav said. “Not that Joe wasn’t a big part of everything, but he really was a big part of ‘Growing Out of It’ and ‘Soapbox.’ Those early days, he was a special part of my life. We all were attached at the hip.”
“This whole show is about Joe.”
But Saturday’s show is an opportunity for the band — including guitarist Brian Sherman and a few special guests from back in the day — and longtime fans to look back with fondness.
At a recent practice, Pandav said, “Ryan pulled me aside and said ‘Thank you. … You make us do these things, and we fight you tooth and nail, but then we go back and listen to these records and remember how much fun it was.’ And yeah, you forget that was the best time of our lives. You move on. You move on from the music and you grow as an artist, but, man, those times were pure. That was the real deal.”
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Lucky Boys Confusion celebrates “Growing Out of It” with Much the Same, Hot Alice, The Dead Woods
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26
Where: House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, (312) 923-2000 or houseofblues.com