This year has been anything but a piece of cake for Chicago-area bands. But it’s easier when somebody is leading the charge.
For members of West suburban rock band Piece of Cake, who dropped the new single and video “Black Brain” Tuesday with a release show this weekend in Aurora, that somebody is lead singer and keyboard player Brynn Bixby.
“One of the things that I love about working with BB (Bixby) is she’s got ideas. She’s willing to mix it up and take in what everybody has to say, but she’s driving the bus,” said Kevin McMahon, the band’s bassist and host of “The Indecent Exposure Podcast.” “She’s a strong, capable leader for us, and I’ve been really grateful to be working with her for the last year, plugging away at this.”
Piece of Cake hit a number of the same speed bumps this year that slowed down many up-and-coming musicians: canceled tours, shelved projects and a loss of momentum. But the band — featuring suburban natives Bixby, originally from Elgin; drummer Jason Perez from St. Charles; and McMahon and guitarist Joel Ream, both from Elburn — is fighting hard to bring it back.
The band’s new song, “Black Brain,” was almost ready to go earlier this year, and the video was slated to start filming in March when the music scene ground to a halt. The rescheduled date in May was put on hold as well. So Bixby’s idea for the video had to be reconceptualized.
“I was feeling really guilty about that,” she explained. “It was supposed to be like 75 degrees, our first nice day we’ve had, we’re all gonna be hanging out. And I was like, ‘This just seems like a bad idea. We have to figure something else out.’ … We ended up just shooting in everyone’s house individually, trying to make it a little bit more safe.”
Bixby, who studied classical and choral vocal performance at Northern Illinois University, has been the rock-solid core of Piece of Cake, the constant for a band that has seen a few iterations before locking in its winning lineup last year.
“That’s kind of how it all got started. I started writing songs in college,” she said. “It’s just what I love. I have a respect for classical music and that whole realm, but it’s very much like, ‘THIS is the way you do it.’ There’s not as much room, in my opinion, to add your own spin on things. And when I really started writing songs, it was just a whole new avenue for me to express myself and to get all of these feelings out and whatever’s going on in my life. That’s really what my passion is.”
The new single “Black Brain” sees Bixby channel a Carole King-esque energy, emotionally charged but with class and a touch of bluesy sass, expressing what’s going on deep down without falling prey to it.
“It really stemmed around my own insecurities and my own jealousy,” she explained. “And just that comparison, everyone is always doing that. What’s that quote? ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’ Oh yeah, very accurate. So it kind of is based off of that.”
The new single and video were released Tuesday, but Piece of Cake is also performing the new song live Friday, Oct. 16.
Playing a limited capacity ticketed and livestream event at Batavia’s Kiss the Sky Records this summer, Bixby and the band reclaimed that excitement for live performances and reconnected with friends on the scene, some of whom will be joining them Friday at Mundy Park in Aurora for the “Black Brain” single/video release party.
The outdoor event, hosted by The Venue, will also feature a performance by Hemhora and the Glass Band, including music scene stalwarts Chris Otepka, Steven Mitchell, Brad Showalter and Dylan Dresch.
“It’s working with friends that we respect and are talented, but also in a community that we’ve worked in for years,” McMahon said. “The suburbs really do thrive with as much talent as the city does. We claim to be from Chicago, but we’re all suburb kids. I love playing gigs in the city, but there’s a hometown feel for sure when we’re playing out in the ’burbs.”
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Piece of Cake release show with Hemhora and the Glass Band
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16
Where: Mundy Park, adjacent to The Venue, 21 S. Broadway Ave., Aurora
Tickets: $10; (331) 212-8490 or themusicvenue.org