Take the Reins rhythm guitarist Dan Duffy had the cool parents — the ones who would take him and his friends to concerts and introduced them to groundbreaking and modern music during his formative years.
One memorable outing for Duffy was when Chicago-area Material Issue opened for The Replacements at Taste of Chicago in 1991.
“That was really fun to be able to see Material Issue,” he said. “Actually we were able to be there during their sound check, too, which was really cool.”
Through that he developed his affection for the power-pop band originally based out of Addison. And while Material Issue didn’t continue intact beyond the death of singer Jim Ellison in 1996 — although founding members Ted Ansani and Mike Zelenko did revive Material Reissue in 2011 — Duffy and Take the Reins are just a few of the countless musicians who have been influenced by the band’s early works.
This week, the suburban-based punk band — Duffy, Matt Benson, Courtney Boyers, David Burke and Erik Hilger — released a tribute cover of one of Material Issue’s best-known hits “Valerie Loves Me” to mark the 30-year anniversary of Material Issue’s breakout debut album “International Pop Overthrow,” tracked at Short Order Recorder in Zion.
“This song in particular is the only song that I ever actually properly learned all the way through when I was taking lessons in middle school,” Duffy said. “It had a lot more unique chords than a lot of the music I listened to. And once I learned how to play it, that’s the only song my mom wanted to hear me play. It kind of stuck with me as a song I’ll always remember how to play, and now it’s really fun to be able to play as a band.”
Their take on “Valerie Loves Me” has already proved to be a success for punk-rock Take the Reins, as the band arranged and tested it out opening for another seminal ’90s act, the Gin Blossoms, at the Arcada Theatre a few years back.
“We’ve all loved the song forever,” said Take the Reins vocalist Boyers. “We were going to be in front of 1,000 people. And Gin Blossom fans. They’re not going to know our stuff, so let’s bring something familiar to this crowd. This was all Dan’s idea. So we learned the song, and I thought we did it pretty well. But we were so nervous to play it, though, because we’re like if we don’t do the song justice, these people are gonna hate us.”
Fortunately, the crowd got to its feet and loved it, prompting Take the Reins to write it into plans for an upcoming EP, due out later this year.
“(Material Issue) started me down the road of the kind of music that I like to listen to,” Benson said. But doing some research before this week’s release, he found more connection with the band. “They were like a West suburban band, and that is almost parallel to us, a suburban band. And that to me, was cool because the song meant something to us. This band that we kind of idolized, and they actually came from the Chicago suburbs.”
In addition to the single release, Take the Reins created a merchandise package ($19.91 at takethereins.bandcamp.com) to celebrate the anniversary, including a limited edition poster and T-shirt featuring a recreation of Material Issue’s iconic “Valerie Loves Me” single art.
“It’s more meaningful to us that it’s a milestone for the album. And it’s kind of a milestone for us, I think,” said Benson. “Not that we’re anybody special, but to be able to be part of our Chicago rock scene and put our little spin on that …”
“To honor the band’s history,” added Boyers.
“Where we came out of or where we were starting to get into music and everything was that time, that era,” Benson continued. “It’s just great to think we kind of stumbled into this, and the more I’ve thought about the song and going down the whole rabbit hole of this release, the cooler and cooler this song gets personally to me. It’s a way bigger song than I got.”