Bridget Stiebris and Haley Blomquist may have embedded some of OK Cool's new EP "Surrealist" in sly nods and movie references, but their frustrations and yearning ring out loud and clear. // Courtesy of Nina Gaulin

OK Cool takes frustrations, connections head-on with sophomore EP ‘Surrealist’

Bridget Stiebris and Haley Blomquist already knew they could play well together, as their years in The Weekend Run Club showed. But with their side project’s second EP, they prove to themselves they can also write.

Bridget Stiebris and Haley Blomquist already knew they could play well together, as their years in The Weekend Run Club showed.

But the indie pop band’s drummer and bass player also wanted to explore something new — songwriting.

Friday, Downers Grove’s Stiebris and Elk Grove native Blomquist continue that exploration as they follow up last year’s debut “Anomia” with their side project OK Cool’s second EP, “Surrealist.”

“Surrealist,” the new EP from OK Cool

“We’ve been playing in bands together for four or maybe five years now,” Blomquist said, “and pretty much from the start we were thinking ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we tried being the primary writers and try singing and doing all that?’ But that’s kind of scary and a little bit out of our wheelhouse, so it’s just been on the back burner for a long time.”

But out of the duo’s friendship, they were both inspired to put pen to paper.

“My entire life I hadn’t really tried writing because I felt like I wasn’t capable of it,” Stiebris said. “I listen to so many amazing artists, and it creates this really high standard. It kind of creates this impossible thing that I want so badly to reach but I don’t know where to start. One day we were just hanging out and jamming and we came up with what would later be ‘Ice Skates’ from the first EP. And we convinced ourselves maybe we are capable.”

OK Cool released “Anomia” in late spring of 2020. The pandemic was raging, and social distancing was the norm, so the two formed a quarantine bubble and continued writing new music.

“Surrealist,” the new five-track EP, tackles a number of different mindsets swirling around many of us today, one of which being a frustration with people buried just below a yearning to connect — “I never thought I’d be so desperate for awkward human interaction” is the first line of the EP’s first song. It sets the tone for what follows: a set of tracks embodying different feelings while remaining cohesively connected. It revels in lo-fi wonder while drawing in modern indie elements — think a blend of the Lemonheads’ catchy rock and the nonchalant punk attitude of a Beach Bunny release.

But with songs referencing swords and death punches and numerous nods to the “Kill Bill” movies, it’s much more than a novelty or a fluffy confection.

“I love those movies a lot,” said Stiebris. “Every time it just gives me such a great feeling, like such an inspired and empowered feeling.”

In other tracks, OK Cool looks deeper into the duo’s psyche, as in “Divers,” the most recent single from the EP, in which Stiebris draws inspiration from an old poem she wrote about a rough night a couple years back.

“It’s just interesting to look back on a very emotional piece and think, ‘Wow, she was really going through it,'” Stiebris said. “I have so much perspective now as an older version of me, but I can still remember it was one of those times.”

While they’re still steeped in the artistic aspects of creating music for OK Cool, Blomquist and Stiebris also recently turned to business as well, creating the Take A Hike Records label, a project they had been planning to help sell The Weekend Run Club products.

“We didn’t really want all this time to go wasted because it’s very disheartening to not be able to play shows and advance your projects,” said Blomquist. “So we wanted to make sure we were really staying on top of that.”

Hammering out details about the financial complications, tax issues, delivery and everything else that goes into creating a business, they’re creating a model with Take A Hike by which they can assist fellow musicians with their merchandising needs.

“Any way we can help is what we’re looking to expand to doing,” said Stiebris. “Meeting bands that live across the country, the world, is very cool. It’s just a very nice experience. It just feels very, I don’t know, wholesome.”

“Like a little community,” Blomquist added.

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