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Chicago's The Audition faces 'Great Danger' in self-producing its punk pop



The Audition with The Dangerous Summer, Sparks the Rescue and more
6 p.m. Sunday
the Conservatory
8911 N. Western
$10 advance, $12 door

The Audition isn't a typical punk-pop act. Although hailing from Chicago, its style is a lot harder to pin down than Fall Out Boy or The Academy Is"¦, and the band has steadily picked up momentum for the last couple years, since the release of "Champion" in 2008.

The group began in 2003 when drummer Ryan O'Connor and since-departed bassist Joe Lussa started working with a variety of musicians on two EPs. Lead guitarist Bob Morris left on the eve of recording (to start The Hush Sound), and Danny Stevens was brought in to play guitar. Two weeks later, singer Evo Soria quit to return to school, and Stevens became the new front man.

The first album, 2005's "Controversy Loves Company," stuck closely to their punk-pop roots and was greeted with mixed reviews. By the time "Champion" arrived three years later, the act was much tighter and more adventurous. The tempos slowed, and the guitars moved in a funkier, more rock-driven direction, exploring jittery, soul-soaked grooves while retaining some measure of aggression. Other songs strike a balladeering sway that hint at the approach of last year's self-titled release.

Driven by an opening acoustic strum, "It's Gonna Be Hard (When I'm Gone)" is an unadulterated pop song in the vein of Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is," with a swelling chorus and quiet breaks where all the instruments drop out but the acoustic guitar. Four of 10 tracks clock in under three minutes, in the group's most accessible release to date.

"That album will always be my favorite because it's got almost a singer/songwriter feel," Stevens said. "I just think that's our best work."

The Audition is keeping up the ambitious release schedule with its third album in as many years, "Great Danger." Due March 16, the disc is the first the musicians recorded themselves.
Using a small, Pro Tools setup, lead guitarist Seth Johnson captured tracks he and O'Connor wrote on a computer before bouncing them to Stevens " who, unlike his bandmates, lives in Detroit " for feedback.

"I think for this album, you could kind of say we went back to our roots," Stevens said. "We're trying to make some of the songs faster and not necessarily poppier, but more singable. We've got the pop songs. We have the funky, groovy, almost R&B-esque songs "¦ and we've got the fast-rock, pop-punk songs."

The key to the frequent releases is that both Stevens and Johnson are constantly writing, even if it's not always with the band in mind.

"If you do it enough, it comes naturally. You have to condition that part of your brain," Stevens said. "We write just to keep that part of our brain and creativity exercised. Sometimes, we use stuff we've written in the past, but 90 percent of the time, we're like, 'All right, it's work time. Let's get it done,' and we just get it done." "Chris Parker

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