Releaser // Courtesy of Alex Zarek

Chicago rock band RELEASE(R) reflects on ‘Vicious Cycles’ single ahead of Friday show with Filter 

With strains of industrial leading off its latest single “Vicious Cycles,” Chicago band RELEASE(R) walks a razor’s edge between hard rock and comforting alternative. The band showcases its new music with Filter Friday at The Piazza in Aurora.

With strains of industrial leading off its latest single “Vicious Cycles,”Chicago band RELEASE(R) walks a razor’s edge between hard rock and comforting alternative.

Tight rhythms and heavy riffs drive the song, carving a path for lead vocalist Stephen Mueller’s intensity as the heart of the piece. But the melody is also welcoming and catchy. That’s a hallmark this trio bears in all of its releases since 2018’s debut EP “Retox”: fiery feelings set to inviting melodies, as suited for driving with the windows down as they are for playing in front of a roaring crowd.

RELEASE(R) will showcase the latter on stage Friday when they play support for Filter — the alt-industrial band behind the mid-’90s hits “Take A Picture,” “Hey Man Nice Shot” and “Miss Blue” — at The Piazza in Aurora. The outdoor Rock the Lot concert also will feature special guests from the Chicago scene including We Killed the Lion, Death Pop Radio and Wunderlich.

“Vicious Cycles,” which dropped in mid-June along with a biting new video by Alex Zarek, taps the Elmhurst-native Mueller’s struggles with addiction. But as lead guitarist Andre Robert points out, all three members of the trio can relate to it through their own trials.

“He’s a very passionate person about whatever he’s personally focused on, whether that might be a positive or a negative vice,” Robert said. “And I think Jeremy (Mederich) and I love writing with Stephen because even though his story does relate to him personally, J and I have our own vicious cycles that might not be the same, whether it’s work or women or family issues. I feel like the whole world has their own personal vicious cycles.”

Mueller and former York High School classmate Mederich, along with West Dundee’s Robert, have been playing together as RELEASE(R) since 2018, but all three members have been heavily enmeshed in the Chicago and suburban music scenes for years. Music fans also may have seen Mederich in his other band Prizefighter as well as a number of solo projects. Robert splits time with Miirrors as well as helping out with Mederich’s projects. And while Mueller’s focus is RELEASE(R), he’s also been seen recently in the revival of ONELIFE at Lucky Boy’s Confusion’s Songs from a Scene concert last year after nearly two decades away. They’re also working with Tom Higgenson’s Humans Were Here label on new recordings. His roots run deep among the intertwining cast of characters of the DuPage-centric scene of the late ’90s and early ’00s, having shared the stage with (and sometimes jumping in on) Plain White T’s, Madina Lake, Lucky Boys Confusion, Showoff, Waiting Game, Morningside Drive and many others.

“It was a special time. It really was. It was great. It was fun. I miss it dearly with all my heart. And now I take for granted how awesome it was because it will never happen again,” Mueller said. “Putting on a show and we can easily get 400 kids out back then because there was a scene, and everyone just wanted to be there to be a part of what was going on. It was almost like they didn’t care who was playing. … It’s what we did on weekends. We went to rock shows.”

“And every one of us has played in every other person’s band at some time,” Mederich added.

Jeremy Mederich, left, Stephen Mueller and Andre Robert head to Aurora Friday, July 8, for a Rock the Lot outdoor show at The Piazza. // Courtesy of Alex Zarek

During the pandemic and lockdowns, Robert tackled recording, building Blume Studios at his Chicago home along with scene comrades Christopher Lee and Anthony Bagnara, who provided help, wisdom and friendship, he said. RELEASE(R)’s newest releases were recorded and engineered there with an assist by producer (and hidden member of RELEASE(R), Robert joked) Nick Radovanovic, including the band’s summer 2020 homage to Richard Marx’s “Should’ve Known Better,” a cover hewed close to the original while bearing its own character and finesse. The trio also played an acoustic in-studio livestream production with Sardis Media, which is available on YouTube.

But now that live shows are the norm again, the guys in RELEASE(R) are excited about the opportunity to play with Filter this weekend.

“We’re very stoked. I think we’ve all been fans of Richard Patrick for a long time,” Robert said. “And our mutual friend Johnny Radtke from Kill Hannah plays guitar for them, so that’s gonna be fun to kind of reconnect there.”

• RELEASE(R) also will be taking the stage at 8 p.m. Sunday, July 10, at GMan Tavern, 3740 N. Clark St., Chicago, with Caterpillars, Painted Light and an acoustic set by Til Morning. $10-$12 at

• • •

Filter, RELEASE(R), We Killed the Lion, Death Pop Radio, Wunderlich

Where: The Piazza, 85 Executive Drive, Aurora,
When: 6:30 p.m. (gates open at 6 p.m.) Friday, July 8
Tickets: $24.50 for general admission; $49.50 for VIP; four-ticket packs are also available

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