In 2005, a woman attempted to commit suicide by crashing her car. She walked away, but three members of Chicago’s tight-knit indie rock scene were killed. Two musicians closest to the tragedy turned their mourning into music by forming a band.
On finding joy and a reason to play again
REBECCA CRAWFORD: We were actually about to put out a record right when [the crash] happened. And at that time [we were] really so lost. It affected so many people… and all we knew was to just keep on going; life doesn’t stop and music at the time was very therapeutic. It was just being able to go and play music and be with your friends because everything else seemed messed up.
JONATHAN BEN-ISVY: For Rebecca, [she lost] her husband; her life partner. For me, it was my closest friend. Pulling together was the key. We sort of called ourselves the ‘grieve team’.. and frankly, laughed a lot. You know, cried a lot. But as far as making music I did find other bands to play with in the interim. And this was sort of the ethos I took from John: John was always about playing with friends first and foremost. I could hardly play guitar when I started tagging along with him and the fact that he wanted me to kick around just because he wanted to hang with friends, that’s what perhaps the tie-together is.
Has the band found a sweet spot?
JONATHAN BEN-ISVY: Some of the songs definitely came more easily. … In terms of the way we play together, we have a pretty comfortable way of going about it. It’s really all about being democratic about it. … I’m a big believer that the collective ends up better than the individual. I think that’s been our key.
Has there ever been a desire to pull some older Returnables music off the shelf?
REBECCA CRAWFORD: No. It can’t be duplicated.
This interview was edited for clarity and conciseness.