The FLAT FIVE is all about the “group vocal” sound. This is a sound that had many popular exponents in the pop folk country rock jazz of the 60s and 70s—The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Mamas and Papas, Spanky & Our Gang, The Free Design, Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks, Asleep at the Wheel, The Manhattan Transfer, et. al. -- but The Flat Five don’t just resurrect the genre, they make it feel of the moment. There’s proper respect for their forebears, but they don’t feel retro. There’s nothing “precious” or mummified about the music they make. They make you feel like it never went away. -- Ted Naron, Inside the Outside Mind
Chicago’s roots-pop gene pool has been skimmed, and the group calling itself THE FLAT FIVE is the happy result. With the natural gift to blend into almost any musical terrain, these five young-ish masters roam at will from the Beach Boys to the Magnetic Fields, ancient country to neo-cabaret, gently melodic originals to gruesome old Americana. Left to their own devices, they get busy translating feeling into tone, improvising gorgeous harmonic structures and grooves, and poking curiously into posterity’s dusty little corners. -- Robbie Fulks
Who are they?
Guitarist, pianist, charisma geyser Scott Ligon grew up in Peoria under the artistic sway of his mad-genius brother Chris, and went on to serve as bandleader for blues legend Mighty Joe Young, and to found local-hero band The Heatersons. Since arriving in Chicago in '03, Scott -- fluent on a dozen instruments and a great singer besides -- has been put to work by a ton of folks, including The Redwalls, Kelly Hogan & The Wooden Leg, Anna Fermin, The Western Elstons, and The Letter 3. For the past few years, Scott's main gig has been "right-hand man" for legendary piano wizard Terry Adams -- leading Terry's famous band, NRBQ, and co-producing and co-writing songs for the new 2011 NRBQ release, "Keep This Love Goin'."
Bassist Casey McDonough has a voice of silk’s-width interval accuracy and hands of sinister intent. He cites as his main instruments bass, guitar, piano, drums, and throat organ -- whatever that is. Since joining his first band (“Ecology”) at the age of five, he has gone onto grace groups like The Beatle Brothers, The Western Elstons, The Letter 3, and The Possum Hollow Boys (whose CD is #16 on the Euro-Americana chart) -- all the while indulging his fervent love of Memphis soul and Orbisonic rockabilly. These days Casey is touring and playing with NRBQ!!!!!
Atlanta native Kelly Hogan has graduated from punk hipsterdom (Jody Grind, Rock*A*Teens) to a career as a nationally respected singer and sideman. Her solo work showcases an urbane sensibility, a generous good humor, and a voice that is love-worn and tinglingly on-target. Also in demand as a band member/vocal arranger/back-up singer, she has pulled stage/studio stints with Neko Case (longtime and current), Jakob Dylan, Indigo Girls, Mavis Staples, M. Ward, The Mekons, Otis Clay, Andrew Bird, Bobby Conn, and many more. In June 2012 Hogan released her first solo album in 11 years. I Like To Keep Myself In Pain is available on Anti- Recordings and it features an all-star band including Scott Ligon, Gabriel Roth (aka Bosco Mann) of The Dap-Kings, legendary drummer James Gadson (Bill Withers, The Bee Gees), and MG's bandleader, the great Booker T. Jones.
Nora O’Connor is a Chicago-based musician and singer whose vocal talents are the secret weapon behind some of the city’s top performers and recordings. Nora is currently recording with longtime collaborator Andrew Bird, and has recently sung with Neko Case, Jakob Dylan, The New Pornographers, and Robbie Fulks. Nora possesses a sensitive and honey-sweet vocal delivery, and is a solid sender on guitar -- which is why this lady's phone never stops ringing. In 2010, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy enlisted Nora O'Connor and Kelly Hogan as a primary vocalists on gospel legend Mavis Staples’ Grammy Award-winning album “You Are Not Alone.”
The newest Flat-Fiver, Chicago-based wunderkind drummer Alex Hall, has played with a motley assortment of windy city acts including The Letter 3, The Western Elstons, Robbie Fulks, The Modern Sounds, Chris Ligon and the Problems, Jake La Botz, and JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound. Equally at home on organ, accordion, or behind a mixing desk, he has toured nationally and abroad performing behind renowned artists including Chuck Berry, The Clovers, Sonny West, Wanda Jackson, The Collins Kids, Roy Head, Jack Scott, and Junior Watson.
The words "cover band" are usually a sort of insult in the world of rock critics. You wanna be a respected band? You'd better have some original songs. But that attitude overlooks a great tradition of musicians and singers interpreting songs written by other folks. That's the lifeblood of classic jazz and the "American Songbook" sort of pop music. So let's call The FLAT FIVE a fabulous bunch of song interpreters...their voices blend into truly lovely harmonies, and they have a knack for picking the sort of terrific tunes that a die-hard record collector loves...doing everything from Spanky & Our Gang to the Dukes of Stratosphear, Rutles and Hoagy Carmichael. These are some special musicians...you really have to catch them live to see what they're all about. - Robert Loerzel, Underground Bee