Chris James: From Computer Science, to Youtube, to the World Stage

By Kaylee Sugimoto

WHEN Chris James answered the Zoom call, I honestly didn’t really know what to expect. We had to agree on an early time, since there was a major time zone difference between central Illinois and Vienna. At that moment, I really wondered which place I would rather be in. 

I immediately apologized for my disheveled appearance, trying to act like I didn’t just roll out of bed. I am a college kid, after all. And landing an interview with RIAA Gold-certified German-American songwriter Chris James, who has over one million monthly listeners on Spotify, was leaving me with a bit of a hungover imposter syndrome. 

Then I couldn’t get the Zoom to actually record. So, I just recorded the Zoom audio on the voice memos app on my phone. 

“Sounds good enough right now,” I say.

But James was cool with anything and everything. 

“Alright, cool!” He replies (with a minor lag). 

Maybe his coolness emerged from growing up in Düsseldorf, moving to California, and then back to Germany to eventually settle in Berlin. For now. 

Or maybe his coolness comes from visiting his friend and surfing on the coast of France whenever the music industry world becomes too overwhelming.  

I’m not really sure. I mean, he was in Vienna visiting his girlfriend when the interview took place. The world is his oyster, literally. 

“I feel like I have the best of both worlds. I write a lot of German pop music for other German artists, but I have the American writing background. And then also the European background, which I feel like has affected me in many ways,” James says. “It’s very different, the music that’s made here than in the states.” 

And then he also throws in that he likes K-Pop. At this point, I’m wondering if I’ve met anybody with so many different interests, experiences, and styles thrown into a human form. 

“Oh yeah,” he adds. “I also like niche video games.” 

Courtesy of @chrisjamesmusic on Instagram

WHEN Chris James first started at university, he was studying computer science. 

“And then I realized, I’m really bad at this,” James laughs. “But I’m really good at making music.” 

From there, he started putting as much of his effort into music as he could. 

“I was like, ‘I’m only 18 so I can kind of give it a go now’,” James says. “And if it doesn’t work out, I can still go back to something else.” 

He never had to go back, despite his only giving it the old college try. 

“I played in bands, I wasn’t the front guy. I was singing but we always needed songs, so I ended up writing songs for a singer,” James says. “And it wasn’t like my parents ever made music. There was not that big of an inspiration from home, it was more just my friend group was very musical. So I just ended up learning an instrument and writing songs as well, just like everybody else.” 

And then he decided to take matters into his own hands and try the whole YouTube thing.

“I started making cover videos on YouTube, not really having defined what my sound would be like. So it took me really long to find that, and I feel like now I have,” James says, “And the fanbase kind of resonates with it as well. It’s like an interesting kind of feedback loop.” 

James’ sound is a mix of lo-fi and indie pop, with a pinch of electric beats. He is usually compared to artists Lauv and Jeremy Zucker, but with his own personal twist of simply being him. 

Courtesy of @chrisjamesmusic on Instagram

PLAYING LIVE  is a completely different experience for James. He recently had his first tour in three years because of COVID. With all of the time gap, he didn’t really know who was going to show up at all. 

“It’s been really interesting to see who shows up,” James laughs. “It’s very different from what it used to be, which I really like. It’s really, really, cool. The people are super lovely…it’s more chill.”

Right now, James says that he’s trying to expand his tour next year beyond his home country. 

“I live in Germany, so it makes sense. We’re kind of figuring that out right now. I would really love to tour Europe, I would also love to tour Southeast Asia, maybe even the U.S.”  

Picking a favorite song is like picking a favorite child—he can’t do it. 

“I mean…I have a couple of songs that I really like. It’s just kind of hard to pinpoint,” he says. 

He likes that his girlfriend doesn’t do music. 

“It’s a very nice kind of balance,” James says. “In a way, she kind of gets me out of that whole thing. Like the whole world is being caught up in you know, ticket sales and whatever.” 

You can listen to Chris James’ music here (the thing that does, in fact, have to do with “ticket sales and whatever”).


Turning Water into Vinegar: A Chat with Great Value Jesus

By Izzy Braico

When I met with Noah Renken-Kapatos in a sound booth tucked in the basement of ISU’s Center for the Visual Arts, my first question was about his stage name: Great Value Jesus.

It had been the question at the forefront of my mind in the days leading up to our chat about his new album, Big Things Coming Soon. Where did the name come from? What did it mean? Was he comfortable comparing himself to one of history’s most famous religious figures? 

When he took his hair out of the bun on top of his head, though, I finally got it.

“With my hair down and my beard, I kind of look like what ‘white Jesus’ is depicted as,” he said.  “Obviously, I’m not as great as Jesus, but…I’m very empathetic, a lot of my friends know that I’m a very giving person…so I kind of thought, Walmart knock-off brand.” 

“I can’t turn water into wine,” he continued. “But I can probably turn it into vinegar.” 

Our conversation quickly turned from his hair to his t-shirt, where several pictures of Kendrick Lamar stared alternatingly at each other and back at me. Lightning bolts exploded in the background. 

“This year, I’ve really delved into [Kendrick Lamar’s] catalog. His lyricism– it’s second to none, at least for rap artists that I’m hearing release stuff today,” Renken-Kapatos said. “When I went to go see him, it felt like I was going to church.”

When Great Value Jesus describes something as a religious experience, you know it’s time to start paying attention. So, Kendrick Lamar easily stole the top spot on the list of Renken-Kapatos’s musical inspirations. Not necessarily shocking, considering the rap elements woven throughout Big Things Coming Soon, but at least a little unexpected. The rest of the list looks something like this:

The Red Hot Chili Peppers: “They’ve been a staple in my life for a long time,” Renken-Kapatos said. He even took his mom to one of their concerts this summer. 

Radiohead: “I love Thom Yorke’s solo work, too. But don’t count that as one.”

OutKast: Yes, the people who did “Hey Ya.”

Renken-Kapatos’s work is as varied as his musical inspirations. Big Things Coming Soon pulls from a variety of influences, including jazz, rock, classical, folk, and hip hop. 

“I like making all those different types of music, and there’s not a lot of representation in mainstream [music] of someone doing all of this at the same time,” Renken-Kapatos said. “I was like, what if I just make music that I like to hear?”

If you listen to Big Things Coming Soon, you’ll understand what he’s talking about. The album swings from songs that make you want to get up and dance (“Chillin”, “Heat”) to “sad boy indie” (“A Guy with Daddy Issues”) to a new wave remix of a 1974 clip of a reporter discussing the coming digital age (“This is a Computer”). Even as the piece bounces from genre to genre, though, it doesn’t lose its focus or its heart. 

“It’s about sharing vulnerable art, but using comedy to break up the segments of vulnerability,” Renken-Kapatos said. “A lot of people in our generation are really good at putting up a fake wall, especially with social media. So, I wanted the first two songs [“Slacker Song”, “Chillin”] to be like, ‘Don’t take me seriously!’ and then I can overshare. You try to use comedy to tell stories that aren’t easy to tell.” 

The title “Big Things Coming Soon,” is, itself, an example of comedy as a rhetorical tactic, attempting to disarm the listener. 

“It’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to local bands who form, and they’re like ‘Hell yeah, we’re gonna make awesome music, and we’re gonna blow up!’, and the next week they announce that they’re separating,” Renken-Kapatos said. 

For someone who had clearly put so much heart into his work, I was genuinely impressed by Renken-Kapatos’s ability to laugh at himself. Not all artists have that gift. And not only was he able to communicate that humility in conversation, but also in his work, which was especially impressive given some of the heavier topics that he tackled. 

The throughline of BTCS is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story, following the various highs and lows of Renken-Kapatos’s complicated family dynamic growing up. Specifically, the story follows his coping with the repeated loss and reemergence of  his biological father, and the presence of a bullying step-father. Renken-Kapatos doesn’t shy away from the hairy details or the difficult emotions. 

Take track 15, “Reflections from the Back of a Train,” as an example. 

“It’s talking about my Amtrak rides to go visit my [biological] dad, who was briefly in my life from 14 to 16, and kind of reflecting on having two homes in that sense,” Renken-Kapatos said. “It still feels really fractured, but my connection with my mom I know is still really strong.” 

Track 3, “Trippy Tiptoe Tango,” deals with some similarly heavy themes. 

This song, according to Renken-Kapatos, describes his relationship with his step-father, and his experience, “growing up in a house where I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells, like I was…tangoing around a horrible human being.” 

The lines in Trippy Tiptoe Tango “Look me in the eyes/ Tell me you love me more/ Love me more than your only son” describe a series of interactions in which Renken-Kapatos’s step-father demanded that his mother tell him that he was more important to her than her son. According to Renken-Kapatos, this ended up “really messing with [his] mom’s psyche.” 

“He was my biggest bully growing up,” Renken-Kapatos said. “And it’s important to share these kinds of stories, because you don’t want the bullies to win.”

Big Things Coming Soon wants to make you laugh, cry, and dance, sometimes all at once. More than anything else, though, it wants to share a story with you. And how does the story end?

For Renken-Kapatos, the answer is simple: “The resolution is acceptance– radical acceptance. It all happened, you know what I mean?” 

If you’re interested in listening to Great Value Jesus, check out their Spotify for more.


Why Goodbye Ranger Is This Generation’s “Beethoven For Gen Z”

By Charlotte Steiger

So what brings this family renown duet here, sitting around a table in a small, Columbian café for? Besides the coffee, of course. (Right?)

They are neither rangers nor saying goodbye; the duo took their name from the ending of “Interstellar.” They’re as real as it gets, except for a portion of Gwendolyn’s hair that’s dyed rainbow, peeked underneath the blonde. Rumor has it they’re strangers, but as guitarist Andrew Saks puts it best, “she’s my niece!”

They’re humble, yet ecstatic. It’s their first interview as a breakout band. “I was in a band for five minutes once,” the vocalist laughs. Gwendolyn, who also plays keyboard, has always wanted to be a part of the music scene since her elementary school talent shows. Now at age twenty, she’s multitasking between interviews, radio shows, and performances straight in western Los Angeles (not including the fact that all three were done within the same 48 hours).

Saks, aka Sway, aka the other half of Goodbye Ranger, has always been musically inclined towards alternative music. His history in audio engineering and heavy appreciation for Robin Guthrie made him a dedicated sound geek from the first listen. Prior to the duo, he made his own music, featuring songs such as “Palos Verdes” reaching past 13,000 streams on Spotify. Stemming his inspirations from 80s goth bands, he would eventually contribute towards a sound as nonconforming as his own.

It’s not as easy as it looks to keep up a band through long distance. With the two being split between Arizona and California, difficulties will always arise with being 437 miles apart. Gwendolyn had never been on a plane until now, and the two have seemed to diminish their fear of stage fright simultaneously. Together, they’ve grown “a decent buzz” in Phoenix, but are still looking into expanding across the west coast.

The band writes collaboratively, having each individual song become “a skeleton getting dressed.” Saks produces the music in advance, while Gwendolyn helps to collaborate when they meet up in person. And yet, they still manage to make it work.

After several years of – no, wait, backup. 

After just two months of mastering the rise of shoegaze, Goodbye Ranger now finds themselves as one of the next leading bands in dreamy, symphonic music. Since starting, they’ve toured all around the West Coast, with Chicago potentially being their next stop. Their debut EP, “Memories and the Sky,” already plans to release next week – and they’ve already given out free stickers as a bonus. In such little time, they’ve already established their sound as one more distinctive than the rest.

Insiders say they “don’t stick to one single genre,” putting emphasis on the type of style that their music has. “The idea of making something exactly like [someone else] makes us kinda cringe,” the band mentions. Taking pride in their impromptu performances, the duo is everything covered in distorted guitars and blurred vocals. Their music’s reminiscent of abstract puzzles, they’re telling us. It’s electronic pastoral hallucinations inspired by twilight and dying (their words). Undertones of the Cocteau Twins, mixed with My Bloody Valentine.

“If Beethoven was Gen Z,” Gwendolyn laughs.

In short, “it’s meant to be, like, dreamy.”

“Every time you look,” Saks explains, “you get something different.” 

Different is right, amongst its synonyms. The rangers are an accurate outcome of listening to all things Mitski and Sonic Youth, split between the two. Their inspirations – like most – led them towards creating one enough songs about murder. More specifically, killing people in your dreams.

“The sky is a vastless ocean,” Sway ponders. “Where does it end?”

Goodbye Ranger is the quintessential duo for all things ethereal – attempting to describe their music would be useless. Filled with “sad songs and blurry, fuzzy little dreamscapes,” the two have gotten a grip on what it means to create music … without having to label a genre next to it. Genre inquiries aside, they’ve become the perfect upcoming band for the alternative scene, combining nostalgic textural wash with a tinge of The Cure in equal measure to create something more defined than just their genetics.

That is, according to their own potential. 

If you’re interested in listening to Goodbye Ranger, check out their Instagram at @goodbye_ranger, or their Spotify for more.

Gwendolyn’s Spotify | Sway’s Spotify

Photos shown taken by Charlotte Steiger | IG: @cssteiger


A Chat With Racoma, From Seattle to my Laptop

By Sarah Levin

Damn. Racoma was just playing in my car last week.

As I see the small square pop up on my laptop screen filled with two faces, my eyes divert to the first — singer Glenn Haider. “We’re actually waiting for a third, our guitarist,” he mentions. Him and bassist Spencer Templeman sit closely together, the two of them surrounded by chic house plants and dainty art pieces, making it no surprise that they’re from The Evergreen State. As Templeman fills the air with inquiries about Chicago winters, guitarist Sean Collopy joins in on the interview. He’s not with the other members, and it’s obvious with the bright green trees in the background. The environment itself is self-explanatory to Racoma’s music: Serene, simplistic, a breath of fresh West Coast air. 

With over 2,000,000 streams on Spotify and over 100,000 monthly listeners, Racoma is on the road to stardom. They released their home recorded self-titled EP in 2018, featuring their hit song, “Get On.” Following this release, they did not hit pause on their releases. In May 2020, they released their first album, This Front Room. After the debut, the band was eager and ready to fully dive into a creative escape to push their writing, production, and recordings of new material. With 2022 single releases like “Concrete” and “Gray,” Racoma begins their takeover of the alternative scene.

From left to right: Templeman, Collopy, Haider.

Although their new single is called “Gray,” Racoma’s sound is far from it. 

This melancholy-induced single shows a new, vulnerable side to Racoma — purging introspection and to-the-bone emotional openness. Lines like, “Don’t wanna leave / I wanna stay awake / Been missing out on things / Been living in a fugue state,” stemmed from Haider’s personal life, hinting at his pre-COVID struggles.

“In 2020, during the start of quarantine, I went through a divorce,” Haider said. “This one is just about that feeling of uncertainty. Waking up and not really knowing how the day is gonna go or how you’re gonna feel,” he added. 

It is quite obvious that Haider poured his heart out on this track, just discussing it alone seemed to not only cause his mood to drop, but his tone. His eyes looked down to his hands, and his mind began to wander. It was apparent that Haider writes from true experience, and he does not hold back on emotional sensibility when songwriting. If you’re going through a tough time, Haider will take the words right out of your mouth with “Gray.”

A creative push in the right direction is what Racoma aimed for, and it’s what they got. 

In early 2021, the band took a trip to the North Cascades National Park in Washington with a plan to settle into their surroundings and solely focus on rolling out new music.  “We just felt that we needed a space without distraction to work on music, so we rented out a cabin and spent a few months just recording and writing,” Collopy began. “The timing kind of worked out. The world was isolating and so were we, so we took the opportunity to work on new stuff,” he continued. 

The band noted that this productive getaway felt much needed, and was very successful with the creation of their latest EP, Concrete. Made up of three synchronized tracks, the March release dove into experiences with depression and the outcome of secondhand grief.  

“We haven’t told anyone this yet, but we have more things coming, we have more things on the way,” Haider laughed.

Who is Racoma?

As the conversation shifted into discussions of musical inspirations and personal favorites, a new question arose – what’s the difference between their inspirations and personal favorites? Racoma wants to be Racoma, and initially they expressed fears of openly admitting who their inspirations are. We discussed how artists often spend too much time thinking of their sound influences and inspirations, which results in a loss of originality in music. Rather than spending too much time trying to sound like another band, Racoma does not want to mix up who they should be, rather than who they are. 

“I’ve been really into Big Thief lately, Adrianne Lenker is brilliant,” Haider said. There are no disagreements when it comes to Lenker’s talent, and her undoubtful presence in Racoma’s lyricism and sound. Meanwhile, Collopy and Templeman mutually agreed on their love for Radiohead, which also caused no disagreement because Radiohead is, well, Radiohead. 

Here lies the fluidity of songwriting … or better yet, “voice memoing.”

The process of songwriting for Racoma is anything but an orderly operation. The fluidity of this process lends itself to a multitude of ways they make music. The birth of a song, whether it is a guitar riff or a chord progression, depends solely on how the band forms their creative expression. The band’s easygoing approach towards production eventually transforms a single line or riff into a polished single. 

“It really depends,” Haider began. “Sometimes it’s a voice memo on my phone, sometimes it’s a melody-” 

“We do a lot of jams,” Collopy said. “And through those jams something happens that we really like, either a riff or a chord progression or a melody.” 

Just by the way the members of Racoma naturally flow together in conversation, it is clear that their dynamic is processed in a way that creates a sense of genuine realness. They don’t have a specific potion for their music, or a special secret to their catchy tunes; they just do what they love — music. 

Either way, it works. Their fluidity and calmness in terms of how they create, where they create, and what they create is very easily noticed, and that is what makes Racoma’s unique alternative rock sound. They are very easygoing, humble guys, and their music reflects that. Their ability to be completely sincere with their craft proves that no matter where life takes them, whether it is the mountains of the North Cascades or my laptop screen, they’re in it for the long run.

If you’re interested in listening to Racoma, check out their Instagram at @racomamusic, or their Spotify for more.

Film photos shown taken by Meg Brady | IG: @megonfilm


Blu Heaven: How “Chicago’s Finest DIY Hip-Hop” Is Just Getting Started

And why they’re not stopping anytime soon

By Kaylee Sugimoto

DIEGO TORRES, known onstage as Roman, burps into the microphone immediately as I start recording the interview. “Welcome to the podcast,” guitarist Zach Schwoebel says into the mic, who himself has admitted to seriously thinking of starting one (after some banter, we came to the conclusion that every white man has considered doing a podcast or stand-up at one point in their life). Amidst the commotion of voices, I’m trying to get the band back on track to saying formal introductions. “Sorry, we’re getting the giggles out now,” Ricky Gonzalez says. “I’ll start. I’m Ricky. I do vocals.” An awkward silence. We can’t keep it together…laughter fills the small, local coffee shop in Chicago. 

This is Blu Heaven. This is how they work. 

And somehow, the goofing off is paying off: the band has released an entire EP, Twin, along with seven other singles, eight counting “prep school” from Torres’ solo work. The group’s most popular single, “coffee eyes,” has over 2,000 streams on Spotify. With an adequate amount of music out, the band has created a solid setlist for their shows, where they’ve become a well-known name in the local university music scene. 

And Blu Heaven doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. With Torres and Schwoebel switching between guitar and beats, and Gonzalez writing lyrics through his own poetry, the band seems to have found their own groove within their own disorganization. 

“Some people are very methodical with their lyrics, but I just start writing,” Gonzalez says. “And whatever works, whatever sticks, I use that.” 

Their self-named genre of “Chicago’s finest DIY hip-hop” continues to interest audiences — what does it mean? To the band, that question is still a developing work in progress. 

“People call DIY music low budget,” Schwoebel says. “We’re like… no budget.” 

Gonzalez agrees. “We do everything ourselves, with no studio or anything. There is really no money being put into this,” he says. 

But the definitive label of Blu Heaven’s music is yet to be determined. Everyone seems to be waiting for an answer, even them. “We’ll figure it out as we go,” Gonzalez says. 

Ricky Gonzalez, Diego Torres , Zach Schwoebel

THERE IS TENSION AND TRANSITION within the way Blu Heaven is guiding their style. When the group first started producing, Bedroom Pop was one of the most popular independent genres at the time. 

“Cuco, Boy Pablo, that shit was hot when we first started,” Schwoebel says. “At the time, we were definitely pulling inspiration from them.”

The band didn’t even try and fight the eventual decline of the short-lived genre. “I think the biggest difference between us and a lot of other bands is that we knew when it was time to grow and change, and not try to keep a scene there that is not alive anymore,” Gonzalez says. 

Torres agrees by simply shrugging his shoulders. “We do what we want,” he says. 

YOU WOULD THINK that with a dynamic this casual and an outcome this productive that Blu Heaven formed from childhood friendships. But, despite the natural creative fluency that the group seems to form, their foundation is built on basic things like similar music tastes and attending the same high school. 

“Sophomore year, we knew this kid who was a drummer because we did baseball with him,” Schwoebel says. “He was a real dick,” Torres says. “But he wanted to jam. So we said…sure.” 

There wasn’t much effort put into that initial group. “After a few jam sessions we said fuck this, and Zach and I started doing our own stuff,” Torres says. 

It was obvious that Torres and Schwoebel had a strong link, since they’ve played in two previous bands together. The first time they hung out one-on-one, Schwoebel says it was “straight jokes for ten hours. Maybe ten minutes of music.” 

Schwoebel met Gonzalez in their shared geometry class through a Tyler the Creator hoodie. Once they began talking more, they realized they shared a lot of common interests. 

“Soon I was like ‘hey, who’s this Ricky fella hanging out with my best friend?’” Torres says.

From there, the music duo shifted — hence, the Blu Heaven trio was formed. 

For a few years, the band “milled around” (in their own words). They didn’t know what they wanted music-wise and jammed randomly. But by 2019, they started seriously focusing on a single project: Blu Heaven. 

“For the longest time, especially at first, I was a little hard-headed with Zach and Ricky and would never ask for their help,” Torres says. “But I realize that just down the line, these guys are like my brothers. A lot of what I learned musically actually comes from Zach. Being able to help each other out…I think that’s kind of what separates us from everybody else.”

IT’S NEARING THE END OF SECOND SEMESTER, and Illinois State students are gathering at the Coffeehouse for “Birdfest 2022,” an entire night of live music from bands all around the Chicago surrounding areas. Crowds come and go as they please, but a large one stays for Blu Heaven’s set. 

“We’ve always wanted to tour,” Gonzalez says. 

Torres agrees. “Our first shows really were post-COVID. We like to travel,” he says.  

And it’s been uphill ever since. Once live music resurged in the post-pandemic college world, the talent exposure for smaller, student-run bands rose. 

“When we first started, our Instagram had around 90 followers,” Schwoebel says. “Now, we have around 300. Playing shows has been a big help in growing, and I think it just goes to show that DIY stuff really helps.” 

When I ask them how much they’ve grown as a band, I get “around an inch or two” as a final answer. 

“I think we’re funny,” Schwoebel says. Torres and Gonzalez agree. At least they like to think they are. 

If you’re interested in listening to Blu Heaven, check out their Instagram at @bluheavenn for music related updates, video, and more.

Kaylee Sugimoto | Co-founder / Editor (she/they)

Hi! I’m Kaylee. Born in California, but raised in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest where I quickly learned how to drive 60 on the freeway and become an effective lactose intolerant. I’m a former Division 1 gymnast at Illinois State University, where I’m now focusing on journalism and mass media. I love to skateboard, play my electric bass and listen to the Beatles on my record player. | @kayleesugimoto

Charlotte Steiger | Co-founder / Editor (she/her)

Some know me as a film photographer, others as the Neuroscience major running a zine from California. Depending on the time of day I’m either inspired by indie skateboarders or the aftermath of mixing krokodil with crack. Music wise I’m within The Cure’s top 0.1% of listeners, so take what you will with that. Welcome to White Noise, where creation cannot be ignored. | @cssteiger


Atheena: The Greek Goddess Trio That’s Rocking Underground Chicago

And the faithful dinner at Denny’s that started the up-and-coming garage punk band

By Kaylee Sugimoto with photos by Charlotte Steiger

A while back, Atheena put up an ad on their Instagram story looking for a drummer. A few minutes later, sixteen-year-old Josh Beardsley sent them a message saying he was interested.

“We were like, ‘alright, you’re in,’” guitarist and singer Dom Malgioglio says. 

Dom Malgioglio, Marcy Avilez, Josh Beardsley

The band was originally a duo with Malgioglio and bassist Marcy Avilez. Once Beardsley joined, they rebranded through an argument at Denny’s, aiming for “something pretty to mask their dirty sound.” 

Atheena with an extra “e” was the final. It was pretty yet distinguished. 

Now, Atheena has released a self-titled EP and their newest single, “Bipolars.” They consistently play live in garage venues all around Chicago, sharing their political views and spreading awareness of certain topics through a common ground that everyone can share and experience together: music. 

Malgioglio has read up on feminism and recently started writing more political songs. Some of these are about the summer riots regarding Black Lives Matter and the tensions between Ukraine and Russia.  

“It’s just all pissing me off,” Malgioglio said. 

Avilez and Malgioglio are both from South Side Chicago, while Beardsley is from Aurora. 

While both Avilez and Malgioglio agreed that growing up in a rough area influenced their sound, Beardsley simply gave us a shrug. 

“I just hit things and it sounds good.” 

As Atheena grows in success, they continue to share their rundown sound while emphasizing real-world events. It’s beautiful, dirty, ugly, loud, and deranged all in one. 

“Who’s the most dramatic?”

Dom Malgioglio: Definitely Marcy. Without a doubt. Bass player is the most dramatic one for sure. 

Marcy Avilez: No I agree, I can be dramatic for sure. Harsh on the bass player line, though. 

Josh Beardsley: It’s always the bass players though. 

Dom Malgioglio: Bro freaks out about everything. 

“Who gives the worst relationship advice?” 

Dom Malgioglio: The bass player. Definitely Marcy. 

Marcy Avilez: I mean, I always give my friends relationship advice and two weeks later they always end up getting dumped. I’m like the last person you want to listen to. 

“Who’s most likely to end up on a reality TV show?” 

Dom Malgioglio: Oh. Um….

Marcy Avilez: Probably Josh! How do you feel about that Josh? 

Josh Beardsley: I mean, I don’t know why…why would you guys…

Dom Malgioglio: I don’t know, you just have that vibe I guess. 

Josh Beardsley: I mean, I try to go out of my comfort zone musically. Like, I was so scared to do this thing with Atheena, but being able to push myself has made me make better decisions. You know? I feel like that’s a good message. But, you would not catch me on Survivor. Maybe Big Brother. 

Marcy Avilez: I could try some Big Brother. 

“Who would be the most likely to get Tik Tok famous? 

Josh Beardsley: Not me! 

Dom Malgioglio: I mean, maybe the bass player. He’s mostly on it. We plan on making a band Tik Tok though. 

“Who’s the most fashionable?” 

Dom Malgioglio: Uhhh…probably Josh? 

Josh Beardsley: Well thank you! 

Dom Malgioglio: I don’t really care what I look like. Bass player is always popping off though. With his sweaters and stuff. 

Josh Beardsley: Thanks….

If you’re interested in listening to Atheena’s latest single “Bipolars”, check out their Instagram at @weareatheena for music related updates, video, and more.

Kaylee Sugimoto | Co-founder / Editor (she/they)

Hi! I’m Kaylee. Born in California, but raised in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest where I quickly learned how to drive 60 on the freeway and become an effective lactose intolerant. I’m a former Division 1 gymnast at Illinois State University, where I’m now focusing on journalism and mass media. I love to skateboard, play my electric bass and listen to the Beatles on my record player. | @kayleesugimoto

Charlotte Steiger | Co-founder / Editor (she/her)

Some know me as a film photographer, others as the Neuroscience major running a zine from California. Depending on the time of day I’m either inspired by indie skateboarders or the aftermath of mixing krokodil with crack. Music wise I’m within The Cure’s top 0.1% of listeners, so take what you will with that. Welcome to White Noise, where creation cannot be ignored. | @cssteiger


Six Things You Learn while Getting Coffee with Blue Car

The eighteen-year-old talks about his hometown, hopes for the future, and why all of his music projects have to do with automobiles 

By Kaylee Sugimoto with photos by Emily Kae

Within one minute of talking with Blue Car, I realized three things.

One. This guy’s way chill. 
Two. His hair is literally huge. 
Three. No way his birth-given name is actually Blue Car. 

It doesn’t take a genius to realize Jake Denny is a young, talented artist with as much potential as innocence (maybe). 

Jake Denny grew up in small-town Mackinaw, Illinois. Born into a musical family, Denny inherently picked up the guitar with ease and full of natural talent. 

“Mackinaw is a small town literally in the middle of nowhere. Like, you can see a cornfield outside of my window,” Denny sighs. “There’s a lot of playing in bars starting out. You have to deal with people playing in bars, so it’s a little bit of an obstacle. Sometimes it can be nice, but sometimes the people there don’t even want to listen to your music.” 

Denny started playing the guitar at only 10 years old. “I started writing music when I was 14. My mom plays music, my brother plays music, my dad owns a guitar, he doesn’t exactly know how to play it though,” Denny laughs. “I grew up in a very musical household. It just got to a point where I just assumed it was a normal thing. It was never a question about if I wanted to do music, but more of a question of what instrument I wanted to play.”

Denny’s songwriting process is a little all over the place with a lot of ADHD, mixed with some type of rhythm, which eventually somehow turns into lyrics. 

“I have a very ADHD songwriting process. There are a lot of bands that are like, ‘I like to do this first,’ and then, ‘I like to do this next,’ but somehow I do everything at like, the same time. If I’m writing the first verse, I’m writing the lyrics with it. If I can’t come up with more lyrics, I usually get halted in the song. First and foremost, I usually do guitar sampling. So guitar, and then lyrics.”

Along with Denny’s disorderly songwriting process, the time period in his life also heavily influences the turnout of his final product. 

“There’s a lot going on in any 18 year old’s life. I live right smack in downtown Chicago, two blocks from The Bean. It’s not the most ideal place in the world. Every band in Chicago is about 20 times better than I am. It inspires me to get better. I haven’t gone to a single show there without being genuinely impressed.”

But also, we can’t forget Denny’s favorite bands. Those play a huge role in the end result of his sound. 

“One of my favorite bands is definitely Foo Fighters. That’s pretty apparent in the style of my music, and usually the first comparison I get in my style of music. But also R&B stuff, since I used to be in an R&B band. So, everything ranging from that to even punk rock.” 

I interrupted Denny to let him know that his music reminded me of something that would play in a Home Goods, but in a cool way. He laughed. 

“I think that’s my favorite thing I have heard about my music so far.” 

As Denny grew up, so did his transition in making music. But, the traveling and transportation theme to all of his music projects somehow stayed the same? 

“It was not on purpose. It was not on purpose guys. I get that so much.” 

I still didn’t believe him. 

“Uptown Traffic was originally called Crosstown Traffic after the Hendrix band, but then I was like, ‘we’re just going to sound like a Hendrix cover band.’ So I actually changed it because of Uptown Normal. I didn’t name my other band. And Blue Car was just simple.”

Somehow getting into college basements to play shows when he was freshly fifteen, Denny reminisced on the bright-eyed experience of playing in his first band. 

“Uptown Traffic was a two-piece I used to play in. That was practically the same thing as Blue Car, garage rock music where I was writing the lyrics. But, that was my first original band. I started that when I was fifteen. That was probably the most innocent band I was in, I was just fifteen years old playing in college basements.”

I stopped him right there and asked if that seemed a little sketchy to him. I don’t know about anyone else…but at fifteen I was definitely hanging out with other fifteen-year-olds and not college kids in cool garage rock bands. 

“A lot of people thought I was older,” Denny cringed. “I never questioned it. I never mentioned my age. That band was just so innocent, purely playing for fun.”

Transitioning into a solo career was pretty easy for Denny. With years of experience at eighteen, he continues to write music and experiment with new sounds all while carrying an innate flair. 

“It was naturally the next step after COVID pretty much ended my last band. I’ve been writing music for long enough now, the switch to solo work seemed natural.”

I asked him what his favorite song was, not expecting a definitive answer.

“I wrote my first single last summer, but I wrote ‘22’ when I was fifteen. ‘See’ is my favorite song I’ve released so far, I’m the most proud of it. It’s the song I started Blue Car with, so there’s that connection.” Denny laughed and mumbled while he continued to struggle on picking his favorite song. 

“I don’t know actually. It’s like asking a parent to choose their favorite child!”

Kaylee Sugimoto | Co-founder / Editor (she/they)

Hi! I’m Kaylee. Born in California, but raised in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest where I quickly learned how to drive 60 on the freeway and become an effective lactose intolerant. I’m a former Division 1 gymnast at Illinois State University, where I’m now focusing on journalism and mass media. I love to skateboard, play my electric bass and listen to the Beatles on my record player. | @kayleesugimoto


Chuck’s Papas From The Ground Up

By Izzy Braico & Charlotte Steiger

3/4ths La Grange, 1/4th townie. This is Chuck’s Papas.

Self-proclaimed modern poet and ashamed ginger Harrison Gordon has a house with all the charm of an aging rockstar. The front door opens to reveal a living room screaming midwestern hell. It leaves us horrified by the looks of a deer’s head mounted on the wall, wearing someone’s shoes like a scarf. It stares down at us as we sink into the well-worn couch opposite of the band. All four members of Chuck’s Papas are here– as they usually are. They’re already talking over each other, laughing hysterically at an inside joke that leaves us scratching our heads. They’re telling stories, too… 

“We’ve all been hit by cars,” bassist Sophie de Sa e Silva remarks. “Has anybody here not been hit by a car?” 

“Yeah, I got my foot ran over,” drummer Marty Black replies. 

“I’ve been hit by a car, too,” Gordon chimes in. “I was biking when I was a child and then a car hit me. Then a man yelled at me for getting hit by a car.” 

In his bedroom, him and lead guitarist Ryan Tuohy piece together their band’s debut single, “Hold The Door.” 

“It’s such a melting pot song,” he tells us. “It’s kinda dreamy, but at the same time kinda harsh. Bitter but soft.”

The song, written by Tuohy, describes how he felt before he met the band. It shows his feelings of loneliness, regardless of the tons of acquaintances he had at the time. Reflecting signs of optimism in the midst of distress. It’s about him missing his friends from home, not finding people to connect with until the formation of the band in November of last year. 

“I wrote it before the band formed. I just didn’t have a ton of people I was close with at school. It’s kinda funny, I didn’t think about it like that until now. I wrote the song when I didn’t have these guys and now I do. So it’s cool.”

Harrison Gordon (left), Sophie de Sa e Silva (middle), & Ryan Tuohy (right) playing at Nightshop in Bloomington, Illinois

For a lack of better words, groovy could also be used to describe “Hold The Door.” “I’d say it’s spanky,” Gordon laughs. On the other side of the couch, de Sa e Silva throws their hands up in the air at the thought of the new track.

“One time we were all jamming and Ryan introduced the song to us. We all just fell in love. We were like, holy fuck! This is such a fun song. At least I did.”

Mastering a masterpiece isn’t the easiest job in the world. The band describes it as a whirlwind of frustration, understanding, inspiration, and patience. Recording left everyone with different thoughts on the musical process.

“Me and Harrison both recorded a lot before coming together,” Tuohy starts. “We had to talk about how we wanted to split the roles. I think it’s gone well. We each took leads on things we were better at. I’ve recorded live drums before and he hadn’t, so I took a little bit more of the lead on that. We’re using his automation system. He’s been helping me out with understanding that.”

Gordon agrees. “If Ryan’s the producer, I’ve taken up the engineering role.”

But what about the actual recording process? First there’s the drums, which the band describes as being the hardest part about recording a song. As tedious as it is, it pays off– at least according to their drummer.

“I knew it would take longer, honestly. I was just getting mad because I knew I had to do it in one take,” Black explains. “I was getting pissed at myself about it. I was playing it over and over and over and over again. I was getting so defeated. At the end of the day, we got it down. So I’m happy about it.”

Where Black knew the recording process would drag on, de Sa e Silva had different expectations. 

“I thought we’d be done with it in a week,” they’re telling us. “I didn’t know it would take so long.”

For Chuck’s Papas, their backgrounds, just like their expectations, are anything but similar. All four members had musical experience before jumping into the band. Although everyone but Gordon is from the same hometown, they all found their musical start in different places. For both him and Black, no one in their family was a musician– they found the groove on their own. 

Gordon started with the bass. Something drew him away, be it boredom or destiny. Two months later, the root of his current career began with a brand new Epiphone Les Paul Junior that he begged his parents for at the age of 12. From there, the rest is history.

Black’s trajectory looked a little different. She started out with the violin in third grade, but always knew she wanted to play the drums. After a while, she found her calling and started drumming.

Sophie de Sa e Silva (left) playing with bandmate Marty Black (right)

Around the same time for de Sa e Silva, piano lessons became the norm, influenced by the handed-down grand piano parked in their childhood home. “From there I kept going up and playing other instruments.”

“I started a band with my friends in high school. That’s all I did.” Tuohy explains, highlighting Cat & The Curiosity, the startup of his professional group experience. “I was mainly hanging out with those guys doing bluesy rock stuff.”

But there’s more to a band than just making music.

“I’ve had issues with my mental health for as long as I can remember. When I have dark days, what am I gonna do, skip practice?” Black divulges. “The worst part of being in a band is wanting to fold. Just wanting to not do it because it would be so much easier to lay in bed.”

de Sa e Silva sympathizes with Black’s struggles. “Even with that, we can come together and be like, Marty I feel this way, and Marty’s like, I feel the same fucking way, and we’re like, okay! Fist bump! High five! And it’s like, we aren’t happier but-”

“-we’re just pushing through it,” Black finishes.

Wanting to fold is one thing, but acting on it is another. Regardless of her mental health issues, Black has been able to use the band as a successful creative outlet. The struggle of balancing music and self can be a challenging obstacle, but it makes the process worth the effort. Channeling dark days into the drums, transforming her energy into something productive. “I love the band,” she mentions.

Notably, the band has a natural talent for finding the good in the bad. 

“I almost reckon it to being like roommates with somebody. You ever get obscenely frustrated with your roommates just for not cleaning a dish? Because you live with them,” Gordon recounts, describing the group’s dynamic. “Because we’re in the band, it’s not like you can just take a break. You have to figure it out.”

“There’s growing pains in every group.” Tuohy adds. “The bullshit you need to get through. It’s tough to differentiate what’s right and what’s just different people’s opinions.”

You might have never known what Chuck’s Papas was going through if they didn’t tell you. For the most part, they have only good things to say. 

“These are my besties,” de Sa e Silva says. “And I can trust them with anything, I can tell them anything, and I love them. We all love each other…and they buy me food sometimes,” they laugh, shaking their head. 

The feeling is reciprocated for Tuohy, seeing eye to eye about what makes them so close. “I’d say the same thing. It’s also like, this is what we’re all passionate about. Making music and listening to music.”

Working together in such a tight-knit environment has given the group some insight into what makes for a good band. 

“Don’t get super hung up on what you think your stuff has to be. A lot of the time when you start writing, a lot of the stuff that you make will sound super derivative and boring. But your enthusiasm and passion is infectious to an audience and to your other bandmates. As long as you’re fully in it, you’re gonna succeed in some way. Probably not monetarily, but people are gonna like what you do,” Gordon expresses. 

Tuohy agrees, nodding just enough to know he understands. “Don’t worry about skill level and don’t worry about who sounds a certain way. When I first met Harrison I was like, oh he likes punk- we won’t work together. But now I’ve worked better with songwriting with Harrison than I ever have with pretty much anybody else so far.”

“Honestly, if you think you aren’t good enough to be in a band, it’s a crock of shit. You are good enough to be in a band. I was like, I’m never gonna perform live. Look where I am now. You put one foot over the other and you’re already there,” Black admits.

All in all, Chuck’s Papas is a band that has surpassed the expectations of everyone around them. In not even six months, they’ve gained the attention of hundreds of students. Booking shows left and right, the group has successfully been able to pave their way towards becoming the leading symbol for all indie-alternative music fans across campus. 

And as a bitter ginger once said, “If you want a band, you should start one.”

Film photos shown taken by Charlotte Steiger


Nothing Short of Self Expression: The Progression of Becoming an Upcoming Transgender Musician

By Charlotte Steiger

“Y’know, I’ve tried for a really long time to come up with a good way to describe this boy,” recalls boyfriend Lyric Aebi. “But I don’t really know how else except for a little ball of sunshine. Just this little radiant guy and he’s just like, hellooo!”

Andy Wray and I are sitting down face to face in the midst of Omicron. His bedroom according to him is a mess, but coincidentally everything appeared to be exactly where it was supposed to be. Multitudes of Billie Holiday and Beatles posters hung from the walls, in competition with the guitars for wall space.

Parked in the heart of Ventura, California, Wray knows how to get a crowd. His kind of charisma and charm make him undeniably impressionable to anyone he’s ever encountered. 

Born twenty-two years ago to a Montessori school mother and her husband, Wray was always the youngest out of three: A momma’s boy. 

The massage school dropout was always destined to be a musician. A once busy guitarist, his world paused once COVID-19 struck. 

“Before COVID, I went to open mics every week downtown,” Wray said. “Golden China was the first place I ever did an open mic.”

Los Angeles would eventually be familiar with him as the acoustic opener for local punk shows. A consistent performer, he’d walk on stage, bring out his acoustic guitar, and hope for the best. The punks in the crowd would clap for him as they’d wait for their own genre to appear post-intermission. “I did a lot of shows like that,” Wray laughed. “I’m not very punk.” 

Wray didn’t know what to do at first. Was music really going to become his future? While massage school sounded right, that career choice ended up lasting a grand total of two months. 

“I’ve always been around music. My whole family’s musical,” Wray recalled. “I just wanted to be a musician.”

So, that’s what happened. Dropped out, continued with songwriting, and ultimately ended up where he’s meant to be. 

Initially wanting to play the cello, that dream eventually faded as the guitar became a more reasonable goal.

“I started playing guitar because my brothers were,” he admitted. “I’m glad I did it.”

With the support of his siblings, Wray has been learning Taylor Swift chords ever since.

Ironically, Taylor Swift did not influence his sound much. The Beatles, as much as Nina Simone, did most of the work. Blues did the rest, with the inspiration stemming from his grandfather. A handed-down stack full of his favorite musicians did the trick, with him listening before he even started making music at all.

Eighteen years later from his first guitar lesson, the upcoming artist now has plans on releasing The Moon EP. It’s about, well, the moon. 

“Half of my songs are about the moon,” he described, after mentioning his potential debut album Road Runner with themed grief and the art of processing it behind the scenes. “There’s a lot of songs where I get kind of sad, and it’s depressing.” 

A Day with Wray: Smoking enough weed in Los Padres. Wray (left), me (middle), with friend Jocelyn Parkhouse (right).

Wray’s grief stemmed from the sudden death of his grandfather when he was 18 – less than a year after California’s drastic Thomas Fire. Staying in Seattle with his grandmother at the time contributed to his ongoing depression. They were bonded to the hip, and he needed the time to reconcile with himself. After four devastating months, Wray realized his love for nature and the reconnection it created towards his loved ones, even if they’ve passed away.

That’s when Emerald City became the introduction of his own closure with his grandfather. 

“I would go up this water tower that I loved, I would climb a tree, smoke weed, bring my guitar, and take night walks,” Wray said. “I’d watch the shadows.”

His world altered just as dramatically two years prior, the year he came out as transgender. 

He was scared, he was stoned. All a person wants is to be accepted by the ones they love. Long hair, in time, became shorter with each haircut. Pink hair faded back to brown, and sobriety became the preference. Confusion turned into acceptance. 

“Sunflower,” his latest single, reflected from that time in his life. It was one of the first songs he had ever written. 

“I remember looking at photos of myself when I was younger and I didn’t know who that person was,” he reminisced. “When I came out, I felt like I was connecting with that person again. So ‘Sunflower’ is just wanting, that desire, to be that little kid again. I used to follow trends and do what my friends liked, even if it wasn’t something I was actually passionate about or believed to be true.”

Fully transitioned, comfortable in his own skin, Wray learned what it took to be a good musician. It wasn’t about being able to play the guitar or the cello, but rather the willingness to be vulnerable. 

“I’m glad I’m not dependent on [drugs] anymore when it comes to writing music,” Wray said.

“But that’s how I started, so I’m grateful to not be like that anymore.”

Wray (right) with his current boyfriend, Aebi (left).

His favorite recorded song is one that hasn’t been released yet. Titled “Moon Around my Neck,”  the love song is about the time his current boyfriend, Lyric Aebi, left his crystal necklace behind like Cinderella’s left shoe. Wray put the labradorite on afterward and inevitably fell in love. 

Although live shows are at a pause, love is still in the air. Songs are still being written. Interviews are still being conducted, and weed is still being smoked. For twenty-two-year-old Andy Wray, the future has yet to come.

If you’re interested in listening to Andy Wray’s latest single “Sunflower”, check out his Instagram at @dandywray or AndyWrayMusic on Facebook for updates, music videos, and more.

Film photos shown taken by Charlotte Steiger, concert images taken from his Facebook linked above


“Garage Rock for Hot People” and the Slow Struggle to Rejuvenate Alternative Music Culture at Illinois State University

Illinois State University doesn’t really have a good music scene, but Harrison Gordon is trying anyway.

I was able to hear the bass pounding from miles away. Flashing lights fill the garage and the air feels sweaty. Someone’s hanging from the ceiling, people are jumping and filling every corner of the foul-smelling room, and the lead singer is screaming his lyrics into the microphone. The music’s at a certain volume with the intention of shaking your bones and obliterating your ears, nothing less. 

Somewhere in the tangle of people is a tall ginger with brown-framed glasses. That’s Harrison Gordon, a townie who’s been writing music in his bedroom only several minutes away since 6th grade. 

“That was around the age I begged my parents for a guitar. When I finally got it, I basically played it non-stop,” Gordon explains. “It was kind of the only thing I was good at.” 

Gordon ended up being pretty good. He took lessons from a guitar teacher, stopped, and ended up teaching himself all throughout high school.  

“During my sophomore year of high school, I made a lot of songs. They were really, really bad,” Gordon laughs at himself. “It was nice to get it all out then.” 

Now as a sophomore studying FTK, Gordon recently released his latest EP, SPLIT! 

Loads of Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Modern Baseball, and bad pop-punk all came together and influenced the sound of SPLIT!. Mix that unusual combination with a vague spin on the “original idea of love” and a crippling attachment to the profound feeling, and you’ve got a potential Harrison Gordon single on your hands.

SPLIT! was born from the year everyone spent in quarantine disconnected from the world and each other. 

“You know that completely jaded feeling we’ve all had after the past year of not speaking to anyone?” Gordon shakes his head, looking at the ground. “Now we avoid eye contact, are used to being by ourselves, and even still want to isolate sometimes after all of that.” 

Of course, the EP is not only about the pandemic. 

“A part of the EP is about relationship shit like most music is. And real life. I spent nearly twenty hours writing ‘Denji’s Song.’” 

Now, Gordon’s currently the lead singer in Chuck’s Papas, a band branding themselves as “garage rock for hot people.” The funky slogan seems to almost signify a new movement, just a small branch in the huge effort of striving to make Normal, Illinois a little more abnormal. 

While students continue to support Chuck’s Papas and other local bands by putting on and attending shows, we’re all able to sit back and watch the rebirth of one of the most influential and impactful cultures. Except, this time around it has a modern twist. 

With the closing of popular house show venue Roadhouse in 2019, nothing but silence has seeped through the windows of houses and empty garages on campus for nearly 3 years. Now, a post-pandemic, Gen Z, Tik-Tok using generation is able to pick up their guitars, check their mics, and count in an entirely new sound of what it means to be, well, us. 

Band Instagram: @Chuckspapas | Harrison’s Instagram: @harrison_isbored

Kaylee Sugimoto | Co-founder / Editor (she/they)

Hi! I’m Kaylee. Born in California, but raised in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest where I quickly learned how to drive 60 on the freeway and become an effective lactose intolerant. I’m a former Division 1 gymnast at Illinois State University, where I’m now focusing on journalism and mass media. I love to skateboard, play my electric bass and listen to the Beatles on my record player. | @kayleesugimoto

Charlotte Steiger | Co-founder / Editor (she/her)

Some know me as a film photographer, others as the Neuroscience major running a zine from California. Depending on the time of day I’m either inspired by indie skateboarders or the aftermath of mixing krokodil with crack. Music wise I’m within The Cure’s top 0.1% of listeners, so take what you will with that. Welcome to White Noise, where creation cannot be ignored. | IG: @cssteiger