Guardrail // Courtesy of Alex Zarek

Premiere: Guardrail’s new EP ‘Yikes’ sums up the state of things

Chicago-area punk band Guardrail takes on adulthood in the new EP, “Yikes.”


The social contract. The American dream. The idea that, sure, there will be missteps and sputters, but if you follow the plan and work hard, things will more or less work out.

But for Millennials, that has not proven entirely true.

“A lot of us, we have more, I guess, hardships then generations before us had in a lot of ways. Maybe not more, just different,” said Kevin Andrew, frontman for self-proclaimed “diet punk” band Guardrail. “We inherited this kind of broken system, this broken planet, there’s global warming and all that. And then the health care system is all, you know, let’s just say it could definitely be better.”

Yikes indeed.

In conjunction with the Open Your Ears label they just signed on with, members of Guardrail — Andrew from Streamwood, Schaumburg native Ken Ugel, Des Plaines’ Alyssa Laessig and Doug Brand from Tinley Park — released the new EP “Yikes,” six songs exploring what adulthood means in today’s world, all wrapped up in the band’s signature sound.

With a nod to classic pop-punk albums such as blink-182’s “Dude Ranch” — driving rhythms, highly kinetic guitarwork, clever wordplay and all — the EP launches in convivial fashion with “Really?” Sure, it rages against the system while it laments growing older — most of his bandmates are roughly 30, according to Andrew — but it jokes about it, too: “I’m trying not to throw my back out when I stand up for myself.”

Each song is fun to listen to, especially loud, but that doesn’t belie the messages within. For all the lightheartedness of the opening track, “Shipwrecked” is clearly the centerpiece of the EP, from its placement in the central slot to the cover art.

“Most of our generation, we went to school, we worked jobs while going to school, we did everything that was required of us,” said Ugel, who plays guitar for the band. “We did all the right things, and most of us still are struggling.”

The EP’s cover art shows a boat crashed on the rocks, but there’s a light on inside from a survivor living there.

“That’s kind of how a lot of us feel,” Andrew said. “We’re given this broken planet, so we gotta make do and try our best to have a life.”

Courtesy of Larissa Kaye

And with the title track, “Yikes,” Andrew worked to end things on a positive note with a song Laessig helped write to keep the album from sinking into misery and solitude during these challenging times.

“None of these songs are me whining about personal things, like my girlfriend broke up with me or whatever,” Andrew said. “This record is more like me trying to think of what all of our peers were feeling.”

The new EP follows August’s release of the bright and catchy single, “‘Til We’re Dead,” a song about the rat-race chase for who-knows-what where the end is more a punchline than a finish line. The video, directed by Phil Goode, not only showcases Guardrail but also features a number of collaborators on the music scene: CJ Jarmuth of Glory Days, The Linden Method’s Xack Brame, Natalie Carioti of GOOF and Aida Ahmed and Benjy Wax of Four Stars.

Involving other musicians in projects has been a staple of the band’s pandemic sanity survival plan. In addition to inviting scene friends to the video shoot, Guardrail publishes a weekly Spotify playlist of the top songs members are listening to, including music from other area acts.

“We’re all drawing from so many different influences. I think that contributes a lot to where we are on the punk spectrum because we all bring something different,” Brand said. “And (the playlist) is a way for us to connect with the other bands in our scene, as well.”

“We’ve always tried to make this a thing where we’re working with so many people in our scene,” Andrew said. “That’s always kind of been part of our ethos.”

In that vein, Andrew brought life to a virtual summer version of Snuzfest, the annual January pop-punk pajama party he created at Schubas, with videos submitted from some of their favorite collaborators.

The band is also connecting with fans at a virtual happy hour at 7 p.m. Friday and an acoustic livestream this weekend to celebrate the release. See Guardrail’s Facebook page for details.


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