The logistics of education in these quarantine times play a massive role in the lives of Like Language’s Matt and Kristen Murray. The Elmhurst couple behind the band’s dynamic sound — Matt grew up in Chicago’s rock scene, while Kristen cut her teeth as a classically trained vocalist — both work in education.
We jump into week four of our concert/interview series with the duo at 7 p.m. on Instagram Live Friday, May 22. The concert is sponsored by White Claw Hard Seltzer.
“We’re feeling fortunate that we still have jobs and have a place to be and things like that,” Kristen said. “But we’re kind of waiting to see because we both work in schools.”
Kristen, now a teacher and choir director at Aurora’s Waubonsie Valley High School, was in her 10th year as an educator when schools were closed because of the pandemic.
“I tried to sing today with a face mask on in case that’s what we’re doing in the fall, and it’s not the best,” Kristen said.
“I set up a bunch of different units on stuff like vocal technique and music history and theory, really anything other than singing that you could do,” she added. “I am starting a production class in the fall, so if we do have to be remote, that’ll be a little easier to do.”
Matt, on the other hand, just graduated into a career that’s vastly different from the one he was looking at only a few months ago. Earning his master’s degree in social work this spring, he’s been working an internship at New Trier High School and will be starting a new job at Romeoville High School in the fall.
“We’ve been doing Zoom video therapy-type stuff with students and trying to adapt to the whole tele-therapy or tele-social work concept,” he said. “I’m excited about the new career. My job involves a lot of human interaction and face-to-face conversation. It’s worked out great, but it definitely presented some challenges at the start.”
“And then you think of other aspects of it, like the logistics of going back to school,” Kristen added. “You realize how complex of a situation it’s going to be between just eating in the cafeteria and, you know, brass instruments have spit valves. … I keep telling my students, ‘I’m going to have a real new appreciation for things after this is done.'”
While lots of people are casting thoughts to the future, Matt took a step back to bring something special to Like Language’s new single, “Used to Be Something,” coming out Friday, May 29.
“The hook is actually from a song I wrote in the first real band I played in called Hotel Ahead,” he said. “It was like a pop-punk type band from when I was in my teens, and that fit perfectly with this song, like 15 years later.”
Like Language’s catalog is awash in smooth, polished melodies that Kristen glides over with her classical training, but Matt’s rock stylings lend each song a vibrant energy, no matter the subject matter.
The new single follows suit, an exchange between a guy trying to salvage a relationship and a woman trying to shut it down.
“There’s sort of this idea of reflecting back on old relationships and how your memory can play tricks on you, like were you the bad guy or this other person,” he said.
But the alternative pop song carries the upbeat vibe that is a hallmark of Like Language’s music and that has made them darlings of the Chicago-area rock scene. The single, Matt added, is going to be part of a larger EP coming out later this summer.
“We’re excited to get back and put something out,” he said.
Matt and Kristen are joining us for Chicago Sound Check Presents on Friday to support the Beat Kitchen staff through either direct donations to the COVID-19 Closure Employee Relief Fund or through purchases of gift cards, which fans can use for food, drinks or tickets to shows at Beat Kitchen or its affiliates at Subterranean, Underbar and Beat Kitchen on the Riverwalk.
“We’ve played there many times, and it’s always a great experience,” Matt said.