TNK Spotlight: Hey Champ

There’s good pop and there’s bad pop. The music industry is too cluttered to have any middle ground between the two, regardless of any argument that might say otherwise. You either “use it” or “lose it”, and for the most part, pop groups “lose it.” Much like rock, and to a lesser extent rap, pop goes in rotations and today it’s better than ever. Why? Simply because various genres are crossing over. Kanye West has taken mainstream rap to epic arena-like heights, Vampire Weekend and The New Pornographers transformed the sadly labeled indie genre into a near death pop sensation, and techno gurus Daft Punk and Justice have created trance-like pop that almost seems edible. That’s not to say it isn’t a dog eat dog world still, it is. Some have just managed to squeeze by unharmed.

Case in point, Chicago’s own Hey Champ.

Billed as an electro rock act, under the indie moniker no less, this power trio has managed to cull together whatever influences they could scrounge up in Rockford, IL and put them to the test on the Windy city. Whatever they found, it worked, as the three have seen their various mixes and EPs scattered across the globe, blooming to a popularity that exceeds their own expectations. What are those? Well, coming out of Rockford, they only set out to become, as their bio suggests, “the third greatest thing to come out of Rockford.” Given their sound, and their competition (e.g. Cheap Trick and Blossom‘s Michael Stoyanov), they’re being quite modest.

To say that 2008 was good for ’em would be modest too. Not only did they perform a stellar set at this past year’s CMJ in New York City, they also landed a record deal with 1st and 15th Records. Amidst all that, they squeezed in some time for an opening slot on Lupe Fiasco’s month long, autumn tour. Pretty snazzy, especially for a small band with, well, small dreams. But, that’s not all either. No, these three topped the dreamy 365 days of success with a Chicago New Year’s Extravaganza at the Congress Theater, opening up for French megastars, Justice. Now, if that’s not all the success one can ask for, then… well, whatever you get the idea.

But really, to draw back on the pop genre, there’s a reason for this kind of success. Not only does Hey Champ know how to churn up a good sound, they know how to carve up a healthy handful of hooks. How’s that for alliteration? One prime example is “Cold Dust Girl”, a twisting and turning pop conundrum that’s part U2 (“New Year’s Day”), part New Order (“True Faith”), yet somewhat more modern. The sonic flavor builds and builds and this song isn’t alone. “Face Control” is a great counterpart, shuffling almost like a Smashing Pumpkins tune (think Adore b-sides), yet with the emotional turbulence of an Erotica-era Madonna. Nothing is obtrusive which can happen easily in this genre, just ask Ghostland Observatory. No, these three have done their homework, and checked it twice.

If you’re into moving and shaking, shaking and groovin’, then Hey Champ is without a doubt for you. Even if the term “techno” scares you, or sounds cheesy (it can happen), there’s something here to like. There’s no telling what 2009 will bring them, but so far it’s starting off just about right, with a handful of Chicago dates and a confirmed slot at SXSW in Austin, TX. But really, if you’re going to see ’em, why not dance it up Saturday, January 17th at Schuba’s Tomorrow Never Knows Festival.

That’s just the logical thing to do.

Check Out:
“Face Control”

Hey Champ 2009 Tour Dates
01/17 – Chicago, IL @ Tomorrow Never Knows
01/30 – Chicago, IL @ Lumen
02/26 – Chicago, IL @ Darkroom
03/21 – Austin, TX @ SXSW


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