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The Race

A few years back, the group The Race seemed on the cusp of breaking out, but ended up breaking up.

It was 2004, and the band had released its third album, If You Can.  The Race had toured with several prominent indie groups, but frustration in the band ultimately led to it dissolving.

It was then that singer Craig Klein found support in what he knew best: making music.  It took years to work through, but the result – the new album Ice Station – finds The Race back together--sort of.

This time around, it's Klein taking pole position.

Music critic Althea Legaspi says the new sound was more than worth the wait.

She recently sat down with Klein to talk about the trials and transformations of the band.

He began by talking about the calm before the proverbial storm.


Craig Klein: We were on the road for about 6 months pretty diligently, things went well, we had a lot of great opportunities we played with some pretty amazing bands, we played with Interpol, we played with the Walkman, we played with The Arcade Fire all these bands that went on to just blow up and be huge, it was a great opportunity but at the same time none of it kinda came filtered down to us so it was tough, we weren't making much money

AL: Eventually two of the members of the band decided not to do it anymore and that just left me in the position to try to figure out what I was doing.  I just did the only thing I really had ever known how to do is which is basically keep writing songs so that's basically what happened.

Althea Legaspi: Klein began with a song called “The Shortest Way to China.” It's a song he penned during the If You Can sessions, but it's one the band had rejected. A concept for what would become The Race's new album Ice Station began to crystallize.

SONG: The Race – “Shortest Way to China” – Ice Station (Flameshovel Records, 2007)

CK: First it was just kinda a phrase, “digging a hole to china,” those things, sorta lyric is where it came from, it just sounded good and then later on as I had this whole other batch of songs that I realized as I was putting into a larger framework in an album I thought it would be really neat to it's not a literal story, but to put together a loose narrative that I could tie things together with, have sort of repeated themes.

AL: Ice Station developed into a story of travel and romance, a search for escape and love, all set in the extremes of Siberia

SONG: The Race – “Evil Love” – Ice Station (Flameshovel Records, 2007)

CK: Part of my family is from Russia I mean that's going way back, but I'd hear stories from the old country from my grandparents and great grandparents though it's somewhere that I've never been, I have imagination for it and I picture it in my mind what it would've like whether it was through something I read or films or things like that and yeah for me it was just it's as a way of telling a story, it was just this sort of canvas that I could paint my story on, particularly Siberia just the idea of this vast blank space on the map that sort of one of the few places that it seems like people don't know much about. Maybe it's because they haven't or the harshness of the climate, things like that but I thought what a perfect way to tell a story about, maybe it's about two people who are separated, trying to get to one another and that would be the ideal backdrop for how those two people would try to come together.

AL: At his day gig, Klein prepares, designs and constructs exhibits for Chicago Public Library. This allowed him to fully delve into his subject matter.  As he immersed himself in the stacks, the concept for Ice Station became clear.

SONG: The Race – “Feathers” – Ice Station (Flameshovel Records, 2007)

CK: When I was doing the research I was coming across all these things about Gulags and I was reading also a lot about um island off the coast of Russia called Socalin (sic), which was essentially a penal colony where both convicts lived and when they were done serving their time a lot of them would stay.

In my mind when I think of gulag I picture this in Siberia I picture this it's almost ridiculous to picture a prison in the middle of nowhere, the whole the whole space of the continent that whole part of the world of the earth is so vast, so empty that where are you gonna run away to.  I was thinking more in terms of that whole space being a mental prison where you sort of stuck in the world of your own thoughts. And a lot of times in the narrative of the story there's it seems like the protagonist is stuck in a world of his own thoughts and there kind of going off the rails of being reasonable delving really deeply into this inner world and it's hard to do that when you're in the bustle of the city or what you think of as every day life, but if you're in wandering this landscape I was thinking about what would you do, the only thing you'd have is your physical body and the thoughts that were in your head.  The sort of only thing they have to go on is the thought of times before or the remote possibility of finding this other person again.

AL: One song, “Odessa,” encapsulates the themes that were emerging.

SONG: The Race – “Odessa” – Ice Station (Flameshovel Records, 2007)

CK: It's the most narrative kind of song where it tells a story and it talks about traveling, it talks about essentially it's a person who's going around looking for something and they go in all different directions it references directions I went South I saw this I went North and this happened and so on, but then it the chorus it goes back to Odessa which could either be the actual place or it could be a person, the person maybe that you're looking for and at the end of the song it ends without any resolution where the persons still looking traveling trying to find Odessa.

AL: As Ice Station came together, some of the band members for The Race were finding their way back to each other as well.

CK: We had played music together for so long that I could never separate the playing music from the friendship aspect of our relationship with the band members, but um once that time had elapsed where we weren't working on it anymore I really missed it and I know they really doing it to and there was a lot of enthusiasm.

AL: And while Ice Station deals in imaginary situations, in the end it was art imitating life.

CK: This record was a way to get outside of myself and use other voices but those other voices are always rattling around in my head anyway it's part of who I am so when I look back on it now, I guess would say it really is personal to me. Having to do with what it took make, but also the content the lyrics things like that they do have.  In addition to going through the trouble of having and keeping the group together and then the breakup of the band, I was also at the start of a long distance relationship a relationship I had been in for many years, but was about to become a long distance relationship and it was a way to pour some of those feeling into it. And I don't think I found what it was that I was looking for but it helped me the process of making the record and finishing the songs and seeing it in the form that it is now um this helped me tremendously personally to just know that I'm against with some adversity get something done finish what I started and it wound up being more satisfying I guess than anything that I've ever worked on previously.

SONG: The Race – “Stand By” – Ice Station (Flameshovel Records, 2007)

AL: Through all the distance and searching, Craig Klein and The Race found the right direction.

For Eight Forty-Eight, on Chicago Public Radio, I'm Althea Legaspi

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