“My connection to Bloomington-Normal is pretty crazy,” said Ike Reilly from his home in Libertyville.
He was referring to guitarists Tommy O’Donnell and Phil Karnats, who will be at his side March 15 when the Ike Reilly Assassination returns to the Castle Theatre.
O’Donnell was one of the guitarists in local legend The Something Brothers and other Twin City outfits since the 1980s. Since 2001, Ike Reilly’s Assassination has been his on and off again stage home.
“Tommy is one of the greatest guitar players I certainly know, and maybe heard,” said Reilly. “And my other bandmate Phil Karnats is also from Bloomington-Normal, and Tommy was his guitar teacher when they were kids. He’s been playing with me since … forever,” he said of the man also known for his work in Secret Machines and Tripping Daisy.
“My new record is coming out May 18. Phil produced that with me, along with the recent album ‘Born on Fire.’ But that Bloomington-Normal whatever it is down (there) has given me not only two of the greatest musicians I’ve played with, but two of my best friends for sure,” said Reilly.
Fans of Ike Reilly know of the many jobs he had before settling on music full-time. Grave digger, cab driver, hotel doorman are among those jobs. But he’s been an artist at heart since he was a teenager.
“I think I was uncomfortable with that as a kid, because I didn’t really know why I felt certain ways, so I would just drink and smoke weed,” laughed Reilly. “At first the jobs … I had romantic (notions) of labor. I was influenced by books and movies before I was really influenced by music. I knew I couldn’t hold a job down, so I found jobs that allowed me to be artistic and have freedom to figure out if I was going to be a writer or musician or whatever.”
At the time he didn’t have an awareness of why he gravitated to those jobs, but 2018 hindsight allows him a clearer vision of how those thought-provoking jobs led and inspired him as both both a writer and musician.
“I’ve been to thousands of funerals as a spectator,” said Reilly. “Also when I worked at the front door at the Hyatt in Chicago, literally I would have interactions with hundreds of people every day. That included people from all over the world, strangers, cops, and neighborhood folks. Those conversations and observations kind of seeped into my psyche and I puked them out as three- to four-minute songs.”
Reilly has been “puking out” wicked sharp observations with kitschy characters and a catchy mesh of rock/pop/folk/punk since 2001. His 2015 album “Born On Fire” has him reflecting on love (“Underneath the Moon” and “Am I Still The One For You?”) growing up in Libertyville (“Paradise Lane”) and even raising a child, the subject of the title track. He said it’s actually an apology to one of his sons for not believing in him.
Don't let nobody try to dampen your flame/Try to cool you down/Try to make you change/Try to steal your heat/Or mock your desire/Take your flames to the street/Cause you were born on fire - "Born On Fire" by Ike Reilly
“The only thing you really have to offer someone is their independence,” said Reilly. “They need to follow what THEY believe in and not let parents, teachers, priests, cops, politicians tell them what to do. They have to follow their heart, what they believe in. You’re not going to get by believing in mythical things like gods that occasionally show up to help you.”
“Paradise Lane” ends the “Born on Fire” album. The song gets its name from one of the main drags in Libertyville. Reilly said the song is the most straight-forward songs on the album.
“There’s a Paradise Lane (in Libertyville) and Max and Jake (two characters in the song) were a couple of kids that rolled a car over on Paradise Lane,” said Reilly.
Those kids are now part of the Ike Reilly Assassination.
“Max is now our go-to guitar player when Tommy and Phil can’t make it out on the road,” said Reilly. “So I wrote a song about him when he was in high school, and he just kept playing that rock and roll. Now he’s good enough to play Tommy and Phil’s parts when those guys have conflicts.”
Serendipity for Reilly.
“It’s pretty cool because I went to nursery school with his dad,” said Reilly. “So it’s an incestuous town of rock and roll and drunk drivers,” he laughed.
The Ike Reilly Assassination plays the Castle Theatre on March 15. Reilly said he’s excited that good friend Brendan O’Shea will be opening the show. Doors open at 7 p.m. Music starts at 8 p.m.
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