In late July, Chicago's Redwalls found themselves kicking off the Lollapalooza Festival in their hometown in front of a large, early-bird special crowd that filled most of the field in front of their outdoor stage.
"It was fantastic," says the band's bassist-singer, Justin Baren. "We were playing really early on, so we didn't really know if people were going to come out. I mean, it was our hometown and everything, but we didn't know if anyone was going to come out."
Playing a prestigious (or at least once-prestigious) event like Lollapalooza was no small honor for a debut group like the Redwalls, who had only just recently released their first album, De Nova.
The band wasn't fazed by the big crowd, and no surprise there. They had just returned from a three-week tour of outdoor stadiums in the U.K. with Oasis, having been handpicked by the Gallagher brothers.
"There were 40, 50, 60,000 people every night," Baren said. "Our [next] show after that was Lollapalooza. It's like, "This is nothing after playing to 60,000 people.'"
For now, the band is done playing for seas of faces, as they embark on a club tour with fellow Chicagoans and Capitol Records label mates OK Go. But the endorsement from a band like Oasis is an indication that they've got the chance to escape the dive bars.
Though the members-Baren, his brother Logan (vocals/guitar), Andrew Langer (guitar) and Ben Greeno (drums)-are young by any standard (they range from 20 years old on the low end, 22 for the elders), De Nova sounds beyond the their age.
The most obvious influence is early-era Beatles, but the Baren brothers and Langer, in particular, were also drawn to Bob Dylan, the Stones and Otis Redding, as well as Hank Williams Sr., Elvis Presley and other pioneers of rock and country.
Y'know, old shit.
"Most kids do get into the old music," Baren says. "I think we just took it back a lot farther than anyone else. We took it back to the '50s and the '40s.... We thought it had soul to it, and we didn't really like the music that was coming out today."
The Barens and Langer grew up on the same block in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield. As kids, the Baren brothers would get together and sing to their favorite records-a process that has produced the tightly wound harmonies they have now.
By high school, the group-then named the Pages-started playing occasional gigs and writing original songs that would eventually find their way into live sets. When Justin Baren and Langer were high school seniors, they began recording a debut CD, Universal Blues. But they got sidetracked by bigger things, namely a contract with Capitol.
To this day, Baren isn't sure exactly how they attracted all the attention.
"It was my senior year in high school and we were just sitting there and making the record," he remembers. "All we were going to do the next year was go out and try to promote the indie record, all get a place and sleep on the floor. But before that record was even out-I mean, it was still being mixed and we were still adding songs to it-people got a hold of it and started handing it out to friends and that kind of [thing].
"All the other labels... got interested, and before I even graduated, we got flown out to L.A. and did a showcase.... I couldn't even tell you how it happened."The Redwalls open for OK Go and The Colour at the Casbah, 9 p.m. on Sept. 8. $10. 619-232-HELL.