Weathering the stormPublished 5:11pm Monday, August 6, 2012
Blake Burgess, 2000 Niles graduate, is the rare accountant who writes songs.
“Songs About the Weather” collects 12 that are interconnected, including “Goodnight Niles.”
“I have an affinity for Niles,” Burgess says. “A lot of my friends moved away, looking for bigger and better things. I’m more of a small-town guy. I like Chicago for two days. Then it’s too much.”
Empty Invitation, Burgess’ somewhat loose group of musicians, plays 1960s throwback pop with some reggae flavor with “Island in the Sea” to “Gone Too Fast,” in which Laura Martin Wreggelsworth is reminiscent of the Cranberries with strong electric guitar throughout by David Taylor.
“I don’t want to give too much away,” Burgess said, “because I want listeners to interpret it their own way, but the album’s kind of got a theme of personal loss and tragedy, overcoming it and finding redemption towards the end.”
The final tracks are “Redemption” and “Goodnight Niles.”
“There’s some vagueness in the lyrics because I don’t want to tell a completely black-and-white story,” Burgess said. “I want some gray, so each person can pull out what it means. That’s been cool since the release because as people tell me their interpretations, they’re completely different from what I was thinking.”
Burgess recorded downtown starting in September at Gene Michael Productions, 306 E. Main St., with Gene Ort producing and on keys.
Burgess, who played trumpet in the high schol marching band and guitar in jazz band, said he recruited some of his buddies.” Bassist Todd Bouwkamp is his uncle. Drummer Allen Carr has been a friend since elementary school. Clint Rhodes provides vocals.
“It’s a studio collaboration,” the 30-year-old acoustic guitarist said. “There are no plans to tour or play out. I am writing songs for a follow-up record that goes in a completely different direction. I’ve written songs since I was 15. I wrote most of these songs within in the last four to five years.
“Dark, sarcastic lyrics are my trademark,” he said of a line like what doesn’t kill you may leave you weak. “I felt we had to go to some dark places to make the turning point that much lighter, like Batman saying it’s always darkest before dawn. A lot of the tracks have allusions to the weather, which is a metaphor for whatever personal struggles you’re going through.”
The name of the group, Empty Invitation, was inspired by a friend who invited him to something to be nice, even though she knew he wouldn’t be interested in attending.
“The first thing people ask is what is your band name and what do you sound like,” I’ve actually had a hard time explaining that,” said Burgess, who grew
up in the alternative rock ‘90s listening to Green Day and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
“We’re on Facebook, but I’m in the process of getting a website up to post lyrics,” he said. “I like the creative side, but marketing is tough. I liken it to trying to start a fire with rocks, trying to get that spark.”
He was last in the studio in 2004, while attending the University of Notre Dame.
“When you’re younger you have these dreams of a big hit that changes everything. This is not about that. Let’s make something great and, if a handful of people enjoy it, it’s successful. If it goes further, great, but we do this for no other reason than we love music. We did this in Niles, which surprises people. I kind of like that reaction,” Burgess said.
Blake Burgess’s “Songs About the Weather” is available for download on ITunes and Amazon.com. Compact discs are available downtown at Majerek’s.