Red Scarves Debut A Pop-Rock Gem

The now Chicago based pop-rock quintet Red Scarves returns to Bloomington-Normal September 30 for a house show, where they will feature songs from their scheduled late October release “Sort Of Scarlet.”

The group formed at Illinois Wesleyan University over five years ago, though some founding members have since moved on. Bassist and guitarist Ryan Donlin said he, along with lead singer Braden Poole and drummer Robby Kuntz studied jazz and classical music at IWU. He thought those studies were central to creating Red Scarves catchy and at times complex pop songs.

“When I was learning in my classical musica classes, at least when it came to music theory and how music worked, I was definitely thinking about how it could apply to pop songs,” said Donlin.

And how does that theory apply to pop music?

“There’s like five or six parts in a rock band as far as instruments go, we’re all playing different things” said Donlin. “I think studying classical music and just music theory in general helps you have an understanding of how you can get those parts to mix in the best possible way. And just for convincing chord changes and melodies and getting everything to flow just right.”

Donlin said Red Scarves was rooted in folk-rock at its founding and gradually evolved into the pop-rock they’ve become known for in the last few years. The group seems to have found inspiration for the songs on “Sort Of Scarlet” by mining the infectious pop-rock of the 1960’s, though it doesn’t come off as cheap nostalgia.

“In music there have been waves of complication and simplification, where bands will have more complicated chord progressions and melodies and structures,” said Donlin. “And then a general cultural shift will happen where things will simplify.”

He used punk as an example of that simplification.

“Now people are looking back to the 60’s because that was a complication, and people were writing more complicated jazz inspired songs. And I think our songwriting style is a throwback to that jazz tinged pop world, because we’re all into those jazz chords,” explained Donlin.

When Red Scarves play Bloomington, it’ll be at The Rt 66 Roadhouse. It’s a “house show” not unlike gigs the band played during their time in the twin cities. It’s a time honored scene born from lack of venues in Bloomington-Normal willing to book smaller shows. Donlin said during his tenure in Red Scarves, the number of house shows hasn’t changed, but the style of music has.

“When Robby and I joined the band, the house show scene was all about punk, pop-punk, and metal. That’s what everybody who owned the houses and organized the shows were into. So when we started playing shows, I think some people liked our music, but we definitely weren’t who they were there to see,” said Donlin of their pop-rock sound. “But as people moved out and new people moved in, they seem more interested in psych-rock. So shows have been different and have included bands like Spooktacular and China Rose.

And Red Scarves, who along with Spooktacular and Lungfish Strut play the Rt 66 Roadhouse Saturday night. Donlin says you can reach out to the band or the Roadhouse via Facebook for the exact location.

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