Green Dot Session with Chris Dertz

Dave Anians - December 8, 2013

Chris Dertz is up next! Chris’s current music project is called Bedroom Sons and it is an awesome mixture of acoustic/rock/indie/punk/whatever/it’scool. He hails from west Illinois but currently lives in Chicago playing shows and hangin out. I’ve known Chris since the open mic era of my college experience and have done a split with him and even played bass for a few Bedroom Sons shows.

He’s a cool dude, so I asked him some of the same questions as the previous Green Dots and some new questions and all that so check it out.

B Sons has a new album out as well, and it’s really good, and you can find it here.

Dave Anians 11/24, 7:24pm

alright dude, figure we might as well start whenever. feel free to answer however you want and take as long as you want. the whole point of the facebook messaging part of it is so that its relaxed and easy for evurrrybody.

so without further ado!

fill in the blank:

my name is _____________ and i ________ with _________ and _________ my ________ to ___________.

Christopher Dertz 11/25, 2:20am

Wait huh? is this like madlibs? Cool. My name is Christopher Dertz and I hang with my friends and it rules my life to hang.

Dave 11/25, 2:26am

yeah! niceeee. so lets get through the easy lame ones for some context on ya. howd you get into liking and then eventually playing music?

Christopher 11/25, 2:40am

I don't really remember a time when I didn't like music and it wasn't a huge part of my life. I don't think really had a childhood where my parents had all this awesome music playing all the time, which I feel like is something you hear about often. I will say that they had a pretty good CD collection that was available to me, and whenever they did listen to music it was always something that was a good foundation, in my opinion, for someone to build their "musical identity" from, so to speak. The Beatles, other bands who aren't as good or don't matter as much as The Beatles, etc. The basic foundations of pop music and rock music. As far as starting to play, I started piano lessons when I was like 5 and was pretty good at it. Then I got a bass, then I got a guitar, then yeah okay cool.

Dave 11/25, 2:44am

awesome. what do you think may have pulled you towards the idea of wanting to play music?

Christopher 11/25, 2:51am

Well it was mostly my mom, because she's the one who made me get into piano lessons. I hated them for the longest time, but I was pretty good at playing, and then it was honestly just a general progression from there. Like, I loved listening to music, I had a natural affinity for playing, so of course I was gonna start playing at some point. It was just bound to happen.

Dave 11/25, 2:54am

ah for sure. around what point did you start making your own songs?

Christopher 11/25, 2:58am

I started writing songs when I was 11 for a blink 182 ripoff band I was in called Floater. I wrote three songs for it that like, people found on kazaa back when that was a thing. They were called "Rat-Like Infancy," "Fisherman's Stench," and "Old People." They sucked.

Dave 11/25, 3:06am

hahaha awesome. so fastforward to today. youre still makin songs, playin shows, writin albums. why is that?

Christopher 11/25, 3:19am

Mannnn, who even knows really. Why does anybody do the things they do? I wish I could say "it was the only thing I ever did well" but that's not true, and it's not like it's the only thing I'm passionate about. So I guess the short answer to that is that I don't know. But that's kind of a copout. I'm a person who's okay with a copout.

It's mostly just something that I've always done, or felt like I had to do, and I've never really felt that way about anything else in my life, so it just seems like a necessary part of my life. As far as putting it out or sharing it with people goes, it's just a natural extension of the process of creating art, ya know? It's human nature to want to share our experience. Human life is a shared experience, and culture and art and the sharing of those between people and groups of people is how we learn about ourselves as a species. So it just makes sense to share my music with other people. I hate the necessity of promoting oneself in order to widen the number of people who will take in your artwork; it feels like an obscenely capitalist activity, even if money isn't the driving force, and that disgusts me to a point. I hate seeing bands or musicians who are way better at promoting themselves than they are at making quality work. My dismay at the process of promoting oneself is probably the biggest reason that my music "career" or whatever you'd call it isn't as successful or well-known as it could potentially ne.


Dave 11/25, 1:11pm

do you think its possible to find the right balance of quality/promotion?

Christopher 11/25, 7:49pm

Probably. I don't know, I feel like there isn't really a balance, because quality should never suffer for any reason. The second that you compromise your art or have any ulterior motives for the things that you're creating, you've already lost. In a perfect world, the best art would naturally rise up. That's not to say that it doesn't happen, because music has to have qualities or people wouldn't listen to it. At the end of the day, that's what matters. But I really think that the art should dictate itself and everything else should be periphery.

Dave 11/25, 9:43pm

Good point, for sure. with that in mind, what do you think the role of the musician in society is?

Christopher 11/25, 11:55pm

I think it's up to the musician. Art has two basic functions; it can either serve to enrich the culture in which it exists, or it can be used as a platform through which people can have a voice that might not be heard otherwise. My songs don't have a lot of social or political implications in them; that's just not what I am inspired to write about. But a lot of what I fuck with is extremely political or critical of societal frameworks in many ways. It's so admirable to be able to suppress the urge to make autobiographical art and to talk about real-world issues, where your words can have real world implications. The protest song is something that should never go out of style, because artists who are willing to use their own voice to give a voice to others are a vital part of holding power systems in check, and have the potential to create real rallying points through which a populous could enact change. This holds true even today; I mean, just look at Pussy Riot, you know? And like, in the 90's, Rage Against The Machine was one of the biggest bands in the world! How fucking nuts is it that they blew up so big with the things they were talking about? It blows my mind to think about it, and it just goes to show you that those ideas aren't lost to some bygone era of Woody Guthries and Bob Dylans.

So yeah, I think that whatever societal space an artist inhabits is up to them, and there is merit in creating things that people can connect to BOTH personally and societally/politically.

Christopher 11/25, 11:55pm

Also I'm very wordy but these things happen so deal with it. You've got eyes, you can read

gross. I'm not going to make any more of those faces either.

Dave 11/26, 8:22am

woo! be as wordy as ya want. i get paid by the page.

not really. i dont get paid at all. that was a lie.

but yeah, good points! since you mention that you tend to not write on the social/political commentary side, what do you find yourself writing about in general?

Christopher 11/28, 12:51am

I feel like, if somebody wants to know what my music is about, then they should go listen to it instead of listening to me talk about it.

Dave 11/28, 5:01am

fair enough!

lets do a fun one. what are 2 or 3 definitive bands/songs that you feel really influenced your life/music? (youtube links to songs are much appreciated). you can also choose to explain your choices if you want

Christopher 11/28, 1:35pm

Oh man, to narrow it down that much is hard. It couldn't be songs, it would definitely have to be bands, and I don't really feel cognizant of bands influencing my music directly (even though they totally do), but to influence somebody's life is pretty much the same thing. I would normally just say The Beatles three times, because they were the perfect band. I would also throw Elliott Smith and Wilco in there as well.

Dave 11/28, 3:55pm

Haha for sure. all solid choices. like you said, i feel like i can hear those influences in your music but only if im conscious of it. which is to say, you do a good job of creating your own sound, whatever that means.

you have a new album out and its really good. its kind of a mixture of older and newer songs, correct?

Christopher 11/28, 9:48pm

To a point, yeah. The oldest song on there was written in 2008, I think. There have been a lot of different iterations it's gone through in my head, and songs came and songs went. It's probably been 3 or 4 different albums, fundamentally, I'd say over the past 5 years. If I hadn't made it when I did, it would likely have kept changing. I think that's how albums, made by certain types of musicians, tend to evolve. It's just a matter of picking out the right time to finally make it. I definitely wasn't ready to make it before this fall, and I would like to think that I hit its sweet spot.

But to answer your question, yeah. Some of the songs date back to 2008, and the last one I wrote for it was written early last year. I think it's important for bands to give their songs time to gestate and evolve inside of their heads, because the longer you allow that to happen, the easier it is to distill the song down to what it is at its core, and then you can reinforce those themes and metaphors sonically when you finally do go to start doing the creating.

Dave 11/28, 10:02pm

interesting, thats a really cool way of thinking about it. what are some things youre really proud of on it?

Christopher 11/28, 11:50pm

Um, I think it's a pretty good record. I think it works how it should. I'm happy that Jeremy (Suman, who I recorded it with) and I were pretty steadfast for the most part in sticking to the rules we laid down. I think a lot of the sounds conveyed the metaphors we meant them to. The narrative arc of the record is something we were unsure about, but the instability from one end to the other I think is something that came together and convinced both of us that it was worthwhile about halfway through recording. I think that all of the melodies and arcs weave through each other and into and out of the foreground of the record well.

Pretty much, I set out to make a record that was supposed to communicate a certain state of being, and I think we did a pretty good job of doing that over the course of 65 minutes.

Dave 11/29, 12:04am

nice! were you concerned at all with translating these songs from the album to the stage and vice versa (i think that's how you spell it)?

Christopher 11/29, 12:11am

Not really. I think that making of a record and playing shows are completely different processes, and should be prepared for in completely different ways. Your songs are never done; how they appear on a record is just one instance of them. They continue to evolve and gestate as time goes on, despite there being this permanent record of it out there.

For a while, I wanted to turn the band into a 4 or 5 piece with all the harmonies and more instrumentation in place for shows. On one hand, I think that including all of that stuff live would be great, but blind adherence to the record like that doesn't pay the song the respect it deserves, you know? I'd much rather do a three-piece arrangement that serves the mandate of the band much better, just me playing these songs up there with two of my friends, and the songs being stripped down to a point where more of the raw essence of what the song is about shines through. So to answer your question, I was concerned for like, two minutes before I realized that the songs came from me, so whatever I wanted to do with them live would probably be right.

Dave 11/29, 12:24am

right on! i feel like that gives the listener a cool view of the song as well, especially with a look at what you consider to be the essence of the songs from version to version. its an awesome thing for sure.

do you feel like your overall musical styles/themes have changed or do they differ from song to song?

changed over time, that is

Christopher 11/29, 1:18am

I think with the partially autobiographical nature of the record, the themes have changed but they all play well into the narrative arcs at work. It feels like a natural progression.

The style of my music has definitely changed, but I don't think it's like, a sea change sort of thing at all. I've just learned to incorporate more things that I like and serve certain songs in better ways so that it doesn't sound forced.

Dave 11/29, 1:40am

ah for sure, makes sense. so, now that this album is done, what're the current plans for bedroom sons?

Christopher 11/30, 3:18am

Maaaan, I don't know. We recently had another tour fall through, you got to experience one of those first-hand. Right now my focus is basically on just continuing to write music when I feel like I need to write music, and when an album comes, I'll deal with it then. A couple labels have asked about doing splits and stuff, and while I see the practical benefit of doing those sorts of things, I don't really like when bands do a lot of splits. Or rather, it's just not something I have any interest in doing myself, you know? I think Bedroom Sons is pretty clearly more of a long-form output kind of thing. So going forward I'm pretty much just gonna play shows when I feel like playing them, plan new tours to fall through, and just live my life and try not to think about the idea of "being in a band" as an endeavor that takes over my life.

Also you're sleeping in my living room right now which is cool;

Dave 12/2, 3:58pm

What can i say? i go where the story is!

And for sure, that sounds like a plan. what would you consider some successes or victories you've had with making/playing music?

Christopher 12/2, 7:32pm

I think every release I've had is a success in some way. I'm happy with all of them, you know. For the most part, I made the thing I wanted to create with each, and that's the real victory.

Dave 12/3, 12:42am

What do you think your life would be like without music?

Christopher 12/3, 1:21am

fuckin' dumb.

Dave 12/3, 9:44am

What would 12 year old Chris Dertz think of your current music/band?

Christopher 12/5, 1:25pm

I didn't see this until now. WHOA. Okay sorry haha. Um, I think he'd like it, maybe? I honestly don't know. 12 year old me didn't listen to anything but Blink 182, so maybe he'd think I'm extremely pretentious.

But he'd probably think something closer to like, "eat poop" or something


hahaha for sure.

artistically, where do you think you want to be in 5 years?

Christopher 12/5, 1:52pm

where do I WANT to be? I don't know... I'd like to be writing music that I can still believe in, that I think is still high-reaching and ambitious. Creating things of consequence, even if just to me, is really important.

Dave 12/6, 12:08am

Sounds good, man. on the home stretch!

are there any upcoming shows or things the people should know about?

Christopher 12/6, 12:56am

We are playing a show at Beat Kitchen in Chicago on Wednesday, January 8th. As of right now that's our next show. Brownie Mountain is also playing, and there will be some more bands that haven't been announced yet.

Also you should really be interviewing Nick, if you think about it

just sayin

Dave 12/6, 5:39pm

Maybe that's something i'll do too, mwahaha.

But yeah, looks good.

last question, here we go

what advice do you have for today's music makers?

Christopher 12/6, 6:07pm

Man, I have no advice honestly. I'm one of those and I have no idea what I'm doing. I don't know man... take your art seriously. Try hard. Write music because you feel like you have to, like there's some animal urge inside of you that will not relent unless you exorcise those songs. And if you don't feel that way, don't make music, because asking people to give their time and themselves to something that you're not even fully invested in is insulting.

Be excellent to each other.

Dave 12/6, 6:13pm

Bam! perfect

thanks dude! it is greatly appreciated

Christopher 12/6, 6:13pm

no problem man! sorry it took so long.

Dave 12/6, 6:15pm

its totally cool, ive been way too busy anyways haha

Christopher 12/6, 6:16pm

stop it

Dave 12/6, 6:16pm

okay fine