Jake Denny’s first scheduled Chicago show with his high school band Third Street Down was called off just as COVID started to take over the city in early 2020. But now that he’s up here as a Columbia College student, he’s making up for lost time.
Tuesday’s release of the new single “Posters” marks the start of Denny’s countdown to the May release of a six-song EP.
Heavy with ’90s alt-rock influences and an earworm of a hook, the new song examines our need to keep our minds busy (and sometimes a little disconnected).
“It’s about finding experiences, it’s about just finding distractions on top of distractions just so you don’t have to really confront stuff.”
Long a staple of the Bloomington and Central Illinois music scene, the Mackinaw, Illinois, artist launched his solo project Blue Car about a year ago, using the single “White Noise Static” as his introduction to Chicago when he moved here last fall. This third release since his move sees Denny and Blue Car — now a foursome with Steve Ryan on guitar, Cade Leassner on bass and Mikey Wlodek behind the drum kit — building up a following and playing regular concerts around the city, including recent performances at Beat Kitchen and on Subterranean’s main stage. Blue Car also has upcoming shows at Liar’s Club (March 16), Art Hole (April 16) and downstairs at Subterranean (April 24) on the calendar, with an EP-release show coming in May.
Denny said he got some advice from Red Scarves, a band from back home who headed to the Chicago scene before him.
“Their guitarist told me a good band where we’re from is an OK band up here. And right when I started going to shows, like every band up here is amazing. So it definitely is a good challenge. I was like, ‘I need to get better because there’s a lot more competition up here,’” Denny said. “I feel like it’s more my main focus now living here. So I’m putting more work into it than I did beforehand. It’s Chicago, so you kind of gotta keep up cuz there’s like tons of other amazing bands.”
The self-taught musician, who learned by copying what he heard when he first picked up a guitar around 10, is now well-versed on many musical tools. He played all the instruments recorded on the new EP, which is not a big surprise considering his upbringing.
“Everyone else in my family plays music, so when I was a kid I just assumed that’s what you did. I thought that was a normal thing. It wasn’t really a question of if I was going to play music, just what am I going to play?” he said. “I later learned that not every family does that.”
Denny, who also plays drums in Chicago’s Perfect Candidates, said he’s been fortunate having a network of other musicians from downstate who have helped him out, not to mention the connections he’s made on the scene since moving up here.
“I’m lucky enough that I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities since moving here,” he said, “so it’s going pretty good thankfully.”