Friday Pilots Club — Drew Polovick, left, Sean Burke, Eric Doar, James Kourafas and Caleb Hiltunen — regroups in Chicago to play Lincoln Hall Saturday, Feb. 18. // Courtesy of Lauren Nieves

Friday Pilots Club returns to Chicago with two new singles, Lincoln Hall show

In the chorus of Friday Pilots Club’s newest single, “Life Support,” lead vocalist Caleb Hiltunen emphatically declares: “I don’t need your life support. No, not anymore.”

The song, part of a dual release last week by the Chicago-born fivesome, is an ode to independence and an indictment of holding on to the last vestiges of control after an ending. Both “Life Support” and its partner “Ms. Supernova” seem a product of clarity, acknowledging the ties that need cutting and the urgency to move toward a rebirth of sorts.

In a sense, the band is rewriting its own path through its music.

Friday Pilots Club has faced a tumultuous few years. Having parted ways with the Big Machine label and revamping its support team, for a while the band — Hiltunen, Drew Polovick, Countryside native James Kourafas, Eric Doar of Northbrook and Sean Burke from the Northwest suburbs — was feeling lost.

Two new Friday Pilots Club singles released last week showcase a band growing into its own. // Courtesy of Sam Monendo

“It kind of felt like we were starting over. And it was disheartening in a lot of ways,” Polovick said. “But I think we all collectively decided let’s just focus on music and trying to find songs that feel good. We’re stoked about the music so we can let that let us be stoked about everything else.”

Hashing out a solid production plan while working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be both a challenge and a strength. Polovick had relocated to L.A. and Hiltunen to San Diego while Kourafas, Doar and Burke stayed back in Chicago. As restrictions loosened up, they sometimes commuted to write and play together, but often their work was done virtually.

“Being in different places, when we do meet up it’s cool because it’s so hyperfocused compared to when you do live in the same place and you’re linking up all the time,” Kourafas said. “We really get it on the schedule. We’re very committed to the time that we do have when we get together and we’re really in the same place grinding, getting done what we have to do, be it writing new songs or just rehearsing for shows. It’s focused.”

The result was last fall’s “I Love You, Robot Superstar!” EP, an explosive powerhouse of a collection gleaming with slick production and riddled with the demons the band was trying to expel.

“Bit by bit, we’ve built the thing back,” Polovick said, joking that this was Friday Pilots Club 3.0. “I feel like a mainstay of this band is that we’re the caterpillar that turns into the butterfly that turns back into a caterpillar that turns back into a butterfly.”

Friday Pilots Club’s “Life Support”/”Ms. Supernova” dual release // Courtesy of Friday Pilots Club

The two newest songs showcase that ever-changing vibe of Friday Pilots Club, leaning into what Hiltunen calls the “band in a room” feeling. They deliberately dropped some of the shiny production tricks, letting Hiltunen’s emotion-steeped vocals and guitar-focused instrumentation sell the pieces.

“When I’m cutting vocals with Drew in the room, we go so deep into character work, where it’s almost like acting,” he said. “It’s finding those little nuances. And I think it really shows on these two songs.”

While a lot of work is done remotely and the band members are also busy with other projects — Kourafas writing and producing new music with his indie-pop band Capital Soiree and many others, Doar out on occasional tours with fellow Northbrook-native artist JORDY and Polovick writing and producing out in California — the fivesome is back together in its homebase Chicago this week, prepping for their first time playing Lincoln Hall on Saturday. They’ll be joined on stage by oft-collaborator electro-pop singer OSTON.

“It’s such a special bill because OSTON’s band are also homies of ours,” Polovick said. “So it’s such a treat for this headlining show for us to be with all of our friends. It really feels like such a cool and special thing.”

• • •

Friday Pilots Club

with OSTON

When: 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18
Where: Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago,
Tickets: $20-$25

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