Like most young and thriving bands, The Foster-Walker Complex met near a college campus, specifically Chicago’s Northwestern University. With a lineup of Danny Leavitt and Marcus Ricci sharing guitar and vocal duties, Jon Echt on bass, and Dave Moyer on drums, a fundraiser for the university in 2004 marked the band’s first gig, with a warm reception that gave the four-piece their first initial aspirations to write songs together. Judging by a bit of research, I would say that the name of the apartment they played at that night was called none other than Foster-Walker Complex, which apparently is an undergraduate housing complex that houses 627 students at Northwestern. After the premiere gig, the band went on to reach efficient local success, playing in a variety of reputable Chicago venues and performing with the likes of The M’s, Gavin DeGraw, and The Wailers. Just like an ordinary bunch of college kids, they recorded their debut EP, The Eleven-O-Three EP, using pocket change, a laptop, and a couple of cheap microphones. Making the most of what little production materials they did have, the band eventually released the EP in the spring of 2004 to local critical acclaim. Though it did not receive a level of large distribution or promotion, the copies that were published sold out almost immediately after publications such as the Chicago Tribune and Illinois Entertainer praised the band for their catchy, raw, and energetic sound. Such acclaim eventually earned them the recognition of Chicago producer Matt Allison (best known for his work with Uncle Tupelo and Alkaline Trio), who helped the band record their full-length debut in the summer of 2005. That album sold relatively well in Chicago as well, landing them gigs at venues like the House of Blues alongside features on popular Chicago radio stations like WXRT. Though the band’s success remains relatively local, they plan to open up some new eyes with their newest release.
Earlier this year, the band headed into the studio to produce their second EP. This one is five tracks long and demonstrates their new-founded professional production techniques and matured songwriting to a fuller extent than their full-length. As stated on their web site, The Foster-Walker Complex create music mainly for “a good time”, even if it is done professionally, which means I suppose it’s not surprising that four of the five tracks on their new EP can be downloaded for free on their MySpace. You can find three below, including the fantastic opener, “Batteries”. Personally, I find the style of The Foster-Walker Complex to be very similar to early Matthew Good Band. In “Batteries”, a steady fill of distorted guitar riffs are complemented by a series of introductory hi-hats. When Dave Moyer’s percussion picks up pace with the allotted snares and crashes, the vocals match the given rising intensity. It’s quite a typical alternative rock affair until the bridge signals a smooth passage to an explosive chorus of delightful proportions. With a slight showing of frivolousness, the vocals burst out excitedly over an abrupt instrumental pause, “And I think it’s gonna be like you want it to be, anybody can see what they wanna see”. The lyrics are certainly not defiant or poetic and the music isn’t anything new to followers of the scene, but the Foster-Walker Complex deliver just enough catchiness and intensity to divide themselves from the rest of the casual Chicago alternative scene. The guitar work on the more dramatic and slower-paced “Right on the Money” reminds me slightly of The Wrens or even Pavement, mixing together a series of singular lines with distorted riffs. “Right on the Money” holds the same tone as “Batteries”, exposing a very catchy chorus, though the preceding verse on the song is not as repetitive as the opening “Batteries”, a trait that comes off as quite admirable. “Enemy” is another strong track off of the EP, being the song that should boast my Matthew Good Band comparison the most. The vocals are presented nicely here over the lively rhythm section, with a likable tonal transition between the chorus and the assorted verses. The Foster-Walker Complex live off of traditional song structures, inescapable hooks, and natural charisma. As the band states themselves, their music sounds like several capable musicians having a good time. Though most of us have heard the style before, The Foster-Walker Complex happen to be one of the more interesting alternative acts out there.