by Mabel Suen
In this weekly column, RFT Music gets to know local creatives, musicians and their missions. Get a slice of the local scene, complete with a snippet of sound and info about upcoming releases and shows. Stick around to see what St. Louis artists have to say whenever they Fill in in the Blank.
The Funs are Philip Lesicko and Jessee Rose Crane, an inseparable pair that spent their formative years bouncing back between St. Louis and Chicago. They're a couple and a couple of the most down-to-Earth people you'll meet. This Saturday, September 28, they attempt to bridge the gap between their beloved home bases with a rock'n'roll show on wheels, curated to bring together some of their favorite bands in the region.
At a show they closed out earlier this week, the two sit on the sidewalk in front of Blank Space between sets, scratching images of cats and creatures onto the sidewalk with pastel chalk, a testament to how they're always daydreaming and always creating.
When they're not playing shows in Chicago and St. Louis or touring all over the country, Lesicko and Crane spend time rehabbing a 140-year-old family house in New Douglas, Illinois (it's by the Pink Elephant Antique Mall, they say. You can't miss it). In doing so, they're working towards a life-long dream of building up an artist residency and recording studio to house touring musicians. And that's not all - Lesicko also started his own label in 2009, Manic Static. He's released an impressive roster of recordings since, including the Funs' debut self-titled album this past spring.
The Funs were named somewhat ironically. During a turning point in their lives, living in and running a DIY show space in south city, the pair decided to channel frustrations into something positive. The resulting racket they conjured over time blasts its way out through a tower of amps, a fuzzy, buzzy wall disjointed by sharp drumming. The two rotate roles between drums and guitar, both crooning through a reverb-drenched haze, floating flawed and fraught with inescapable feelings through outer space. It's those rough edges that make the Funs' music irresistable and at it's base level, unmistakably human.
For those unsure how to translate this description, it might help to mention a couple of their favorite bands: the Breeders and Sic Alps. We urge you to check 'em out live to get to know them. In the meantime, listen to their album via Bandcamp below and look forward to their next release, already recorded and awaiting a home.
We asked Philip and Jessee to fill in the blanks ahead of their epic skating rink show this weekend. See what they had to say on the next page.
What I like most about St. Louis is... Philip Lesicko: It's still accessible to all types of people. It is a cheap city - food, gas, whatever. It has a lot of charm and a lot of weirdos. The wave of the future hasn't destroyed it...yet. Jessee Rose Crane: STL is home. I've been all over and still get comfort from seeing the Arch. It's big enough that it's got tons of stuff happening but small enough that it's like family. I know for a fact that the City Museum is one the greatest wonders on this planet. When my mom took me there as a kid the first time, I remember thinking that if this exists I can move mountains. You can make things happen in St. Louis if you want to because there is room enough to grow. If you build it they will come, like the house we're fixing up outside the city on the Illinois side. So many musicians and artists have come stayed with us and we are not even close to being done. Eventually, it will be a tiny artist residency fostering bands coming and going from St. Louis.
I make music because... Philip: I have to. It's all I think about: playing shows with Jessee. The intensity and energy bouncing back and forth is really amazing to experience. I don't really know how we write songs. It just happens. I can't see myself doing anything else. Jessee Rose: The songs I write get stuck in my head before I can even play 'em. I've got to get it out of my head. I need to move forward, change, and evolve and music does that for me. It tames demons. I am pretty damn shy and awkward and down on myself sometimes like a lot of people so I know playing out is imperative to me 'cause despite feeling like a super shy weirdo, the drive to play and interact with people is stronger. I'm addicted to the ride.
I've learned the most from... Philip: putting myself out there. I moved to chicago when I was 17 so I grew up there in a way and I definitely learned a lot about myself and the world around me. Also: touring and meeting a lot of interesting intelligent people. Jessee Rose: Playing everyday. Falling in love. Comebacks from breakdowns.
The St. Louis music scene could use... Philip: more diverse shows. I feel like more people would attend if them if they were more interesting. I'm not hating on anything but it seems bleak at the moment. It needs new blood. Suburb kids with a clean slate. Jessee Rose: more of an open door to outsiders to the scene. Fresh meat. It needs the next generation. And different bands from other cities. I have met countless bands on the road that get excited when they find out I grew up in St. Louis. They say, "Oh cool! We really want to play there but can't get on a show. Can you help us out?" And honestly I can't 'cause there isn't enough support and it's a damn shame because you need those underdog out-of-towners to make it to St. Louis and have a good show in order to breathe life into a scene. You must have diversity or die. What I wish more than anything for St. Louis music is for there to be more shows that aren't hardcore/metal, blues/country, or noise. That is what is dominating the scene and it is stagnant. I want straight rock and roll. Where are the young punks and artists that have something to say? It's also a big goal of mine to get the blood flowing between Chicago and Saint Louis because I divide my time between both cities and I am surprised there isn't more of an exchange between the scenes.
The most memorable show I've ever played was... Philip: February 24, 2013 in Chicago at The Dustbowl. It was very cold inside, maybe colder then outside on a week night. About 75 people showed up for Naomi Punk / The Funs / Heavy Times / Bigcolour. The energy and excitement was very present. I pulled the show together last minute and it was rad to see so many people enjoying music and sticking it out in the cold, not just there to party. Jessee Rose: our last tour kick-off at Animal Kingdom with Thing and the Lemons in a basement in Chicago was stellar. I loved bands that night. Thing ripped it and Lemons always double your pleasure. When we played, my friend said we put the crowd in a trance and for sure felt that way. It had everything you want when you're playing a show: dancing, sweating and singing along. One kid was feeling it so hard, he put his hands on the kick drum and then stuck his head inside which I do not recommend because PROTECT YOUR EARS but it felt awesome to see. My face hurt from smiling so much. I was blown away by the crowd and the love in the air. It's a difficult thing to describe. You just have to trust me.
Five current artists worth listening to are... Philip: Coffin Ships, Earring, Skaymaul, Naomi Punk, Weed Jesse Rose: Voight Kampff, Maximum Effort, Kisser, Doom Town, Killer Blow
The most difficult lesson I've learned while playing music is... Phliip: There is a lot of responsibility. A lot of people don't understand what is takes to be in a band full-time, especially now. There are so many bands. Some people get a free ride. Some people have to work really hard. If you are not making money doing it, it's looked down upon like it's a waste of time. That is obviously not the reason we do it. Money isn't everything and the experiences we've had over the years make it that much more enjoyable. Jessee Rose: that the idea killing your idols cannot be truer. Don't keep idols. Nurture your own inspiration. Look up to yourself. I say this because I have been fortunate enough to meet bands and labels that in the past I had put on a pedestal for some reason or another, and I come to find out they are total dicks or hungry ghost addicts or full of shit or worst of all don't give two shits about music or the people supporting it. So experiences like that were a big let down at first but ended up just inspiring me more to be real and grateful and humble and kind. I don't take anything for granted. Oh - and always make sure your gas gauge actually works.
Proceed to the next page to see a couple videos of the Funs and to get info on its upcoming show.
Do you know a project or band that should be considered for this series? Drop a line to email@example.com.
Previously from our Fill in the Blank series: -Brothers Lazaroff - Quaere Verum - Mastermind Einstein - Sarah Bollinger - Little Big Bangs - Everything Went Black - Lions Eat Grass - Kevin Harris - Laika - Heavy Horse - Barely Free Partial Prisoners - The Defeated County - Lizzie Weber - Kenshiro's - B.E.L.L.A. - Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship - Humdrum - The Blind Eyes