‘Essential’ listening: The Bollweevils drop a new punk banger 14 years in the making
Dr. Daryl Wilson, Director of Emergency Medicine at Naperville’s Edward Hospital, doesn’t put much stock in limitations. At least not those set by other people.
As frontman of Chicago punk rock band The Bollweevils, he holds that no-holds-barred, punk-rock spirit close.
“That was really ingrained in me by my parents. For me, my brother, my sister, the only limits that are set on you are what you set on yourself,” he said. “You only have a do or don’t. This is your time. Because your time is limited and don’t know what the next moment is, did you try your best in that moment?”
It’s an ethos that runs through The Bollweevil’s new album, “Essential,” the first full-length release in 14 years. The 10-song collection of high-velocity punk tracks flies through themes, bounding from a tongue-in-cheek look at being a veteran rocker and music fan (“Liniment and Tonic”) to a deeply heartfelt dive into the importance of cherishing time and relationships.
While society in general seems ready to put COVID-19 in the rearview mirror, the pandemic has its grungy fingerprints all over this album. Its title, “Essential,” nods to all four band members — vocalist Wilson, bassist Pete Mittler, guitarist Ken Fitzner and Pete Mumford on drums — being essential and front-line workers who helped the community throughout the calamity. The uptick in mental health crises during it throws some weight behind the track “The Cutting Solution.” And even though a few of the songs have been simmering for years, Wilson noted the pandemic flagged an urgency for the band to finish it.
“Going through the pandemic actually gave us some time to really focus on what it was we wanted to do, what was important. You didn’t know what the next day was going to be,” he said. “And so I think that with our maturity, with the pandemic letting us know that ‘Hey, time is not always on your side so make sure you do things when you have the opportunity to do it.’ Yeah, it all came together.”
Wilson, who has fronted The Bollweevils since it originally formed in 1989, has led the band to festival appearances across the country and throughout Chicago, including recent gigs at Punk the Burbs in Lisle and Riot Fest. With a family — including three young children — and a demanding career in medicine, he said he found a way to balance his musical life without ever feeling like he needed to make a choice between the two.
“A lot of people will try and tell you that you can’t do these things, that they’re mutually exclusive, which I didn’t find them to be. Music was always a good catharsis away from things and a way to express the creativity that we should all have in life,” he said. “And then, of course, I love my scientific brain and all the things with medicine and what that entailed. And I think you can meld those two together.”
“And being a stubborn punk rock kid, to be told you can’t do those two things together, well, I’m gonna prove you wrong. That was always a good thing. It’s like a chip on your shoulder to say, ‘Hey, you don’t think I can do this because you’re limiting yourself. Look how limited you are. I’m just going to go ahead and do this.’ It’s like a part of what makes me me, and I’m not going to be anything else.”
Living on flip sides of the same coin has sparked some interesting interactions for Wilson, however. While he may not have a Bollweevils poster hanging up in his office, he said patients have recognized him while he was treating them.
“I’m the six-foot-four, African-American guy. I’m a unique-looking unicorn walking around. It’s not like there’s many physicians that look like me that play in a punk rock band. So I’m kind of that one person out there doing it. I’m the Highlander,” he said, laughing. “I try to keep my worlds separate as much as possible, but when you look like me, it’s kind of hard to sometimes hide behind it and shrink.”
Now that The Bollweevils are in release mode, Wilson said the band is moving ahead at full steam. With a few singles and two videos already out, the foursome is looking forward to sharing the new music at some yet-to-be-announced summer shows already on the books, as well as a release show at Chop Shop on Saturday, May 27.
“We have the right people on the bus, and now we are clicking here. I think we became the band we were supposed to always evolve into,” he said. “I never want to brag about stuff, but this is like our moon shot. This is me pointing out to left field and saying I’m hitting it out there. And I think we have.”
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The Bollweevils “Essential” release show with The Dopamines, The Reaganomics
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, May 27
Where: Chop Shop, 2033 W. North Ave., Chicago, chopshopchi.com.