OK Cool addresses the blurring of time during the pandemic in the new dual-single release "Songs From the Spare Room." // Courtesy of Tracy Conoboy

OK Cool’s new singles, video are a fitting reflection of time gone askew

Two recent releases showcase the duo dabbling in its grungy, gritty, dreamy pop influences.

As Chicago and the suburbs close in on the two-year mark since falling into a COVID-19-induced slowdown, it’s only natural for artists, the mirrors of society, to chronicle how that time collectively made people feel.

OK Cool, a Chicago indie-pop duo born during the pandemic, explores how time and life have shifted with the dual-single (and a fun video) project “Songs From the Spare Room”; the lead single “Time and a Half” dropped two weeks ago, with the other single, “Self-Sow,” hitting streaming and online sites on Friday, Feb. 4.

The songs are awash in the fresh sound the pair cultivated during the shutdowns — bright and upbeat melodies over jangly guitar riffs and a lo-fi indie-rock base.

“Because of our influences, we’re kind of walking the line between stuff that’s a little bit more grungy and gritty and then a little bit more dream-pop, more lush and reverby,” Bridget Stiebris of Downers Grove said. “It’s like two sides of the same coin we like to tap into.”

Together, the songs explore the different facets of life as it’s changed since March 2020.

“I was just thinking about time, and everything I thought was holding the walls up around me just weren’t there anymore,” Elk Grove Village native Haley Blomquist, who wrote “Time and a Half,” said. “It’s about grappling with that and how uncomfortable that felt.”

“I liked writing the drums for that song because I wanted to convey that inner need to ‘hurry it up, hurry it up, hurry it up,'” Stiebris chimed in. “I wanted it to feel like a ticking clock kind of a thing. But at the same time, with the current situation, everything moves so slow. It’s like the outside perspective and the inside time is no longer coordinated. So I thought that was really fun to hone into.”

Together the songs deconstruct what people held on to — whether they meant to or not — and give listeners an opportunity to let their minds dance across what’s really important now.

“It’s a good reflection of the time last year,” Bloquist said. “And we’ve been playing them live for a while, too, so it’s good that they’re out there. It feels like a good time stamp for the band.”

Fans can catch OK Cool at two upcoming shows:

•Friday, Feb. 4, the duo joins Damager, Nora Marks and Superkick at The Book Club in Chicago; since it’s a DIY venue, fans will have to contact band members for time and location details.

• OK Cool also joins the SNÜZFEST lineup with Guardrail, Much the Same, Hi Ho, Splits, Won’t Stay Dead, Burn Rebuild and Eddy and the Arsons at Beat Kitchen (2100 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, beatkitchen.com) Friday, Feb. 19.


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