In 2011, Fall Classic began carving their unusual paths through Chicago’s expansive indie rock scene. Adventurous combinations of the rhythmically-syncopated, socially-conscious African kings like Fela Kuti and the expansive introspection of Radiohead were present even in their debut Nerves. Years of musical refinement, personal tragedy and 3 albums later, one of the must-see Indie acts of this generation continues to look forward.
Ryan Jeffrey Smith (guitar & vocals) and Jonathan Kolar (bass) met at Berklee College of Music in 2006 and performed together on various projects in the Boston music scene. But, it wasn’t until a reunion in 2011 and the addition of Chicago-native Christopher Grandberry (drums) that Fall Classic made their debut.
As a working musician in southern California, Ryan Jeffrey Smith backed up countless artists but never stepped into the spotlight himself. When self-doubt and self-destructive habits prompted a relocation back home to Chicago, he started exploring his own voice as a songwriter, inspired by the styles of Sam Cooke, D’Angelo, and Jeff Buckley, among others. Smith began sharing demos with long-time collaborator, fellow songwriter and Boston-based Andrew Fatato (vocals), and a collection of songs (half penned by Smith, half by Fatato) quickly presented themselves accompanied by the desire to record and perform the fresh material.
Sessions for the debut Nerves began in December, 2011. Nerves reflects the pop-sensibilities of the day (The Kings of Leon come to mind) and the excitement of individuals hearing something bigger than themselves. Fall Classic performed the duration of 2012 and spent the year finding their new voice writing material as a group. Man / Other Beasts quickly came together and was recorded in March, 2013.
Still based in Boston, Fatato began to step away from the project, but the remaining threesome continued their productive writing habits, expanding on their clever lyricism, complex rhythmic structure and angular songwriting styles. Over the next few years, Fall Classic’s trend toward more aggressive guitars, angsty vocals, and gritty production work would lay parallel to the eroding personal demons: drugs and alcohol, health, and issues of self-worth.
While another collection of tunes brewed, the group began to garner attention around town as a hard to describe but no-less exciting live act. In 2014 the group released the successfully crowd-funded album, Gospel, on which Fatato penned his last two tracks with the group (Montreal, Cracks). He amicably left the group later the same year.
Gospel enjoyed some press, but Smith, Grandberry and Kolar (now officially a trio), continued to feel the group evolve. 2016 saw the release of Both Ends of the Rope, a collection of 5 songs accompanied by 5 “short film” music videos.
Fall Classic began laying the foundations for Polarity of Being in the summer of 2017, but soon ran into a brick wall. In October, Smith’s mother died suddenly from complications related to smoking. In the months surrounding her death, the other members of the trio would separately experience a major health scare and a miscarriage.
Derailed by grief upon grief, productivity ceased. But after months of devastation, resolution set in. Smith quit his own smoking habit cold, and this propelled the group to change everything. Fall Classic traded in cigarettes and beer for yoga and water, redefining their image and rediscovering themselves in the process. Smith would go on to lose 150 pounds.
Focus returned to completing Polarity of Being, filled with appreciation for the transience of life. On this new record, Fall Classic addresses the dichotomous sides of social issues of the day, including systemic racism, the importance of self-care, and the Flint water crisis. In the face of constant conflict and identity politics, we are often compelled to choose a side or be washed away in a sea of noise. Knowing what they’ve gone through to get to this point, Fall Classic welcomes the storm and invites you to weather it together.