Aug 3, 2012


PPLA had the chance to chat with rising Chicago-based band Hawthorne Effect. We spoke with their front man and songwriter John Jauch about their latest album and up-coming show at Red Line, August 17th.

Jauch is a bit of a character, in a good way. Originally from McHenry, Illinois, he has bounced around Chicago and its suburbs since college, getting a Masters Degree in Psychology from Roosevelt University and currently resides in Bucktown. Jauch credits his higher education for not only fueling his “obsession with every detail” but also for naming the band. The “Hawthorne Effect” is actually a principle of group behavior, named after a series of psychological experiments conducted at the Hawthorne Works electrical plant in Cicero, Illinois during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Jauch simplified the principle for me, stating that it “…examines how knowing we are being observed affects behavior…how it creates a sense of teamwork and common purpose.” Jauch picked the name because “…the name implies depth.”

According to Hawthorne Effect’s Facebook profile, “each song has been carefully crafted from beginning to end, not only to be rich with layers of meaning, but with layers of melody, and musical sensibility.” For me, listening to the album is like eating an unfortunate batch of cookies – some of these songs are baked perfectly, while others are a little burnt around the edges. At times the album is a bit over-cooked and even Jauch admits that the sound is “much edgier live” (and I look forward to seeing it!) It took more than two years before Jauch was satisfied with the new album Awakefulsleep, stating that he “labored over every detail” and “tried to keep it autobiographical”.

Any fault does not lie with Jauch’s lyrics, which never feel forced or cliché’d and manage to portray powerful images of addiction, mortality, and even shape lighter topics like the poisonous woman. “Drunk Mistake” is one of the highlights of this album, a little bluesy and a little poppy, but with enough edge to try to understand the motivations of that dangerous doll (“…someone used her up and threw her away…”). Another gem is the Spanish-tinged “Viva”, where Jauch describes “driving 85 but it’s still too slow” on a trip to Mexico. Unfortunately, the opening track “All Wars Start This Way” is also a lyrical delight, but it sounds as though Jauch tried to play three different songs at the same time. And while the synthesized opening to “The Same” is interesting, it seems completely out of place with the rest of the song, and especially with the rest of the album. Which brings me right back to why I cannot wait to see Hawthorne Effect live!

Although Jauch told to me that he feels the live stage “limits” him, I imagine that this is where the band really shines! The band consists of Jauch and three other guys, Scott Fritz, Joe Babiak, and Will Sprawls, all of whom Jauch has been playing with for over a year. While he has played in groups of different sizes before, he loves “the melody of a four-piece, the harmony potentials and the layers of sound”. I really hope that Jauch leaves a few layers at the door and focuses on the pleasure of the simple – which is where Hawthorne Effect’s true power lies.

So for those of you looking to discover new music after the Glenwoods Arts Festival in Ridgewood Park, join me that evening at the nearby Red Line Tap. The show is August 17th at 8PM and we will explore together.

Visit Hawthorne Effect.