Rebecca Rego & The Trainmen's music is personal, sincere, charming and geniune. A singer-songwriter talking about trains. Here we go again,” Rebecca Rego cackles, acknowledging the cliche she and her new band, The Trainmen, have not so inadvertently fallen into. The Wisconsin native even dubbed her debut outing with Kankakee County Musicians Matt Yeates (drums), Eric Fitts (bass, mandolin), and Cory Ponton (guitar, banjo) after a downstate village built around the Illinois Central Railroad, where the street signs bear the names of its revered employees. But instead of waxing nostalgically about whistles blowing in the distance and the sweaty ol’ heave-ho employed all the livelong day, the 10 sparkling tracks on Tolono reflect Rego’s migration from her six years as a bartender/performer in bustling Chicago to a new beginning as a performer/wife in languid Champaign.
Inspired by Dave Grohl’s love letter to analog, Rego stumbled upon Matt Talbott’s Earth Analog Studio where the band spent three candle-burning days and nights laying down Tolono’s tracks live to tape on the kind of “magical” board (on loan from Steve Albini’s Chicago-based studio, Electrical Audio) the Foo Fighters frontman salivated over in Sound City. In the end, Rebecca Rego & The Trainmen achieved the sound she envisioned in her head during the last year of writing.
We caught up with the charming band prior to their show at The Southgate House Revival on Wednesday October 8th!
Give us some background on Rebecca Rego & The Trainmen…
In 2012 after spending 7 years in Chicago playing with friends under the band name REGO. Rebecca left the city and she started to seek out other musicians to work on new songs she had been writing. Rego started spending more weekends in her husband's hometown of Kankakee, Il., playing at events like the farmers market or lunches in the park.
It was there that she met drummer Matt Yeates, and bass and mandolin player Eric Fitts, who along with guitar and banjo player Cory Ponton now make up Rebecca Rego & The Trainmen. The three guys had been life long friends and playing music together on and off since they were teenagers. The group started writing songs and touring around the country pretty quickly and recorded a released their debut record together "Tolono" in February of 2014.
What can one expect from a live show?
We are an Americana band and our songs are really influenced by musicians like Josh Ritter, Gregory Alan Isakov, and Wilco. For this tour we are traveling as a 4 piece band and we are still focusing most of our set on our record that we released this last February called "Tolono." Tolono is a small town in Central Illinois with a population of about 3,000. We traveled there last February to record our record with Matt Talbott (guitar player from Hum). The record was recorded live to analog tape in about 3 days. The record was for the most part recorded completely live with little overdubbing.
Tell us about your songwriting process…
Most of our songs start out with Rebecca writing lyrics and a simple chord progression on the guitar. She then bring that to the full band who then fills in the sound with guitar, bass and drums. Most of the songs on "Tolono" took shape on a tour we did last Summer on the East Coast. It was about 2 weeks traveling around the Appalachian Mountains. A lot of these songs that sort of had rough outlines really came together after two weeks of playing together.
What is next for Rebecca Rego & The Trainmen?
We are going to keep touring through the Fall, mainly in the Midwest. We have also started writing songs for a new record that we want to start recording this Winter.