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The Wiitala Brothers stop at Gabe’s

BY ERIC ANDERSEN | APRIL 15, 2010 7:30 AM

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Whether twin brothers Trevor and Christopher Wiitala are recording music for their début album, Bad Blood, or simply loading gear into a venue, tension can run high among the two 30-year-old shaggy-haired musicians.

But there is one thing the Wiitala Brothers can agree on when making tour arrangements — pizza.
While on tour last year, the brothers played at Comet Ping-Pong, a venue directly in front of a pizza place. Needless to say, the food joint stole their focus.

“It was one of those types of brick-oven gourmet pizza places, with mozzarella and fresh basil and stuff,” guitarist and lead vocalist Christopher Wiitala said. “We’ve actually tried to get shows at places that are primarily pizza places, because on one hand, we may not get any money for the show, but at least we’ll get a free meal.”

The Chicago-based indie-rock guitar and drum duo will make a stop at Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington St., at 9 p.m. today, playing a show with the Austin Taft Soundtrack and Nebula Was. Admission is $6.

The Wiitala Brothers, which performed its first show in 2005, is touring in support of Bad Blood, an album that the brothers recorded, mixed, and mastered by themselves.

“Having to focus on how things sound from an engineering perspective to a performance point of view can make it hard to look at things objectively,” drummer Trevor Wiitala said while driving to Chicago from Minneapolis. “It also meant we fought a lot over how things would sound on the album.”

Bad Blood has a heavily layered, yet mellow, indie-rock sound. This requires the brothers to bring a laptop with them onstage to recreate the sound.

“We kind of wondered if we get up there on stage and have the computer play some backing tracks, is that going to be like karaoke or something? And we didn’t really know how people would react, but thankfully, not many people have ever complained,” Christopher Wiitala said. “I’ve always just tried to have the emphasis be on our songs and making them sound as good as possible.”

A key part of the sound can be attributed to emotional vocals. Christopher Wiitala writes most of the lyrics, and Trevor Wiitala contributes backing vocals, both in the studio and onstage.

Most of the vocals on Bad Blood were influenced by Christopher Wiitala’s battle with hepatitis C and the subsequent treatment he underwent while writing the songs.

“The majority of the record is about not having anywhere else to go,” Christopher said. “When I was going through these treatments, I had to take these shots and pills, and basically, for a week or two, I felt really sick … after six or seven months of treatment, it didn’t work, and I think that influenced the songwriting.”

The album cover is a magnified image of hepatitis-C-infected cells, which Christopher Wiitala said he knew was right for the album immediately after finding the photo online.

“Finding that cover really tied everything together,” he said. “I even put in a blood-transfusion slip with the CD booklet.”

While the lyrics and instrumentation on Bad Blood are melancholic and revealing, the brothers are laid-back in person and thankful to be able to tour.

“I love [touring] so much,” Trevor Wiitala said. “We love going to new cities and exploring, and thankfully, our wives are very understanding of that.”


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