The Empty Bottle, soft blue light, two guitars, one bass, drums, piano, and the band Lonnie–acting as a jazzy Frankenstein monster, their instruments and bodies moving in one motion. The Chicago-based and-born band brings a new breath around the classic image of the Chicago jazz, indie, and rock scene. If you want candles, low light, and a dirty martini (with an extra olive) head to the Green Mill. Lonnie is giving you something different. The band, as a whole, stitches and electrifies almost every kind of music together–creating their own thing, own sound, own beat to march to. I got to sit down with the band before the show, where the green room acted as the lair to the musical monster that would soon emerge an hour later to the Empty Bottle stage.
I met up with Charlie O’Neill, drummer, and my guide down the stairs (after I said hi to Peg the cat). After that, I quickly met piano man and singer, Aidan Mackie, and Nathan Fervoy, bassist. There, we huddled around my Sony recorder under the fluorescent lights. Lonnie is a Chicago-born and bred band, although they have some “suburban flair” as guitarist Leo Buczkowski puts it (himself and Fervoy are Oak Park and Evanston natives). Lonnie’s roots as a band felt like a puzzle that missed a few pieces and was eventually found through the addition of Buczkowski and their second guitarist, Evan Hirschorn.
The band joined together in April 2022, after Mackie had a music epiphany while opening a show at the Golden Dagger. Fervoy and Mackie grew up in the Chicago scene playing in bands at a young age. Mackie serendipitously met O’Neill at a bar, and eventually Lonnie became what it is today. Mackie said, “We played a single show and then it kind of just evolved” to which O’Neill followed with, “It was originally four of us, and then Leo joined later…Evan was gone–we needed a sub and it worked so well that they are now in the band.“
Being from Chicago, music seemed to swirl Lonnie their whole lives, influencing them individually and eventually together. Jazz bands like Tortoise, and indie Chicago classics like Twin Peaks and Kids These Days, made forming a band seem possible for them Mackie said, “In grade school, you see kids in high school doing it and everyone was on it…he was just going to school and also in a band.” Hirschorn cited growing up in Chicago as “every reason” he is in it now. Chicago’s influence is written all over Lonnie, it is in their style, in their demeanor, in the way they work and move together while having their individual spunk.
When I asked them the classic question of describing their genre, they giggled and formed into a choir of descriptions. Mackie started with, “instrumental for one, jazz” Hirschorn added, “beat music, rhythm,” with Buczkowski adding “indie rock, jazz.” Eventually, Hirschorn decided “We can say a lot of flowery words and genres, but it’s a rock band.” They get their influence around late 90s Chicago rock, Tortoise especially (who they all saw together), Reservoir, and Stereolab (to name a few). Mackie added that these bands are not “always exactly obvious, it’s like ‘oh that’s the shit I fall in love with’ and we all fall in love with, that comes out in our sound somehow.”
At this point, the light tech for Empty Bottle came downstairs, trekking those infamous steps–proceeding to turn off the fluorescent lights and turn on purple and green lamps instead. This move was met with “ooo’s” and “ahhh’s” that I’m laughing at while writing this. O'Neill pointed out that I “have to mention this in the article.” The light tech gave the room the ultimate Frankenstein feel that would consequently remind me of Lonnie itself and the rest of the night. All that was missing was a mad scientist.
Although Chicago ties the band together, each member comes from a different musical background, especially O’Neill and Buczkowski, who are currently at DePaul University in jazz school. Yet, Lonnie finds a way, maybe through Mackie’s band practice snack of “a Yerba and a torta” or their compromise and joking “fights” with each other. Hirschorn said, “We were taking our influences and then channeling them into an actual cohesive thing.” O’Neill added, “learning that just ‘cause you can, you almost never should…learning how to compromise and know that shredding is almost…never…the…answer.” They seem to work and bounce off of each other well, forming these little pockets of agreement, voice memos, and learning how to find that “pivot,” as Mackie says, “We have to try to figure the sound out around that ‘one thing’ and the rest will fluctuate.”
I stomped back up the stairs, leaving the lair, to catch Lonnie’s openers, Noise Shrine, electronic and synthy, and Foundational Orchestra, classic jazz with an amazing saxophone player. Lonnie made their way onto the stage and immediately got to their monstrous duties. This was Lonnie’s first show of the year, yet they got on the stage like it was their second home. They had an ease about them. The set felt like one long wave of conversation and storytelling caught up between shrill synthy sounds from Hirschorn’s pedal and Mackie’s tight and clean voice. Every break seemed to send a jolt of electricity into the bolts of the band (or monster) allowing them to reconnect with a finger pointed and a glance to the side.
Each member appeared in their little world, and you could hear that in the band, yet simultaneously Lonnie had one fluid sound, with the drums and piano anchoring Hirschorn’s words of a “sound collage” into an organized painting. Lonnie is tight and technical while letting themselves move and improvise freely–proving their skill in malleability and producing a unique sound. Even without Mackie’s vocals in most of the tracks, Lonnie provided a space for play, whether that was through O’Neill’s drums or Hirschorn and Fervoy’s bass and guitar synced moments. They moved as one body weaved together through amp cords and a clear view of who they are as a band.
Let me add that Lonnie, as a whole, was one of the nicest bands I’ve interacted with. They were fun, smart, hilarious, and gave the crowd a killer show. In Tonitruale fashion, I had to ask what their loudest opinion was to which Buczkowski said, “Someone needs to be at the merch table.” They were in fact there after the show. I got to say goodbye to a couple of members of the Frankenstein monster that is Lonnie, hoping that the lightning that night would continue to charge their band for shows to come.