Even though in Chicago we tend to get swept up in the wave of local hip-hop, we also want to spend time to recognize the lush and constantly evolving basement rock scene. With a plethora of young musicians and singers popping up on the music landscape every week, it can be difficult to stay up on it all; especially as genre merging continues to push musical boundaries. It’s important to cover all of the bases when it comes to music, and in that spirit I want to take a moment to recognize one band in particular. The band is called NE-HI, and they’re the next rock band that you need to watch out for.
You may have heard of NE-HI as they’ve been coming up in the underground music scene, playing shows around a variety of Chicago music venues, and even touring with Twin Peaks when they emerged back in 2014. They’ve also garnered quite a bit of local attention, especially after the release of their new album, Offers (right). NE-Hi's second studio album was released just last week on February 24th.
Like many successful bands, NE-HI started out as a formation of friends with a similar passion. The band is made up of four guys who came together in the summer of 2013 due to their friendship, a mutual love for jamming, and a collective invitation to the Harry Potter 7 midnight premiere. Since then, Jason Balla (guitar/vocals), Mikey Wells (guitar/vocals), James Weir (bass), and Alex Otake (drums) have been taking on the Chicago music scene with vigor.
It’s that energy and DIY attitude that has kept me engaged with NE-HI for the last three years. Even when they weren’t releasing new music, they were always playing a live show somewhere around the city whether it was in a friend’s tiny basement or at the Empty Bottle. They bring the same spirit that you hear in their recordings to their live performances; as Jason pointed out to me, “basements are about being a fireball. When you play on a stage you can perform the songs with a clarity that connects with a different place with people. They're both fun.”
NE-HI has progressed a lot musically since their early days as a band. Their new album stands as proof of that. "With Offers, we've finally begun to figure out what it takes to write a song." They make it sound simple, both when they talk about their music and with their buoyant music itself, but we know it’s not.
NE-HI is currently on tour performing Offers and other beloved jams, so if you like what you’ve heard here, I would definitely recommend checking them out live. With over 50 tour dates coming up this spring and summer, they’re crossing the Midwest borders and traveling from coast to coast, so chances are good that they’ll be playing in a city near you! Check their website for more details.