July 14, 2018, found Chicago’s Still Alive hosting their record release show at GMan Tavern, just a few yards down from the legendary Metro Chicago, and almost directly across the street the Wrigley Field. The iconic baseball stadium had Def Leppard and Journey co-headlining at the Friendly Confines. For those who chose the more intimate setting of Gman Tavern, they witnessed some raw punk rock served up sans the glitz and frills afforded to stadium rockers. I’m betting none of those in attendance at the smaller show would have traded locations.
The group’s new record, “Assemble,” is made up of 7 tracks including Schedule One. The band’s description of the tune: “This song is about cannabis being categorized as a schedule one substance. A schedule one drug is one that has no medicinal value and is highly addictive, yet the American government holds the THC patent as medicine. We call bullshit.”
Still Alive’s current lineup is made up of Dan Alfonsi on guitar/vocals, Dom Burdi on guitar/vocals, Mikey Cervenka on drums, and Bryan Schroth on bass. I caught up with Alfonsi a few days later and we discussed the band’s formation 9 years ago, their history thus far, and plans for the future as far as he can see from now.
Alfonsi describes the band’s founding, “Still Alive started in 2009 with 3 other friends from other bands that I liked. We all played in some variation of a punk/ska band so we took that and made it a little heavier. From there we just wanted to play fast and heavy while maintaining the ska roots.”
Cervanka and Alfonsi got their musical start early while Burdi “his own way,” and Bryan seems to have grabbed musical influences from just about everywhere.”
Alfonsi recalls a few of the issues they faced and why he characterizes the band’s start as slow. “We played our first show in 2009 once we were able to hold down a line up long enough practice a full set. Things were definitely slow going for a while. We even played a few songs from my old band Young Til We die to fill in the gaps. 2012 was when we really started to play more often and out of the city.”
Getting to play on bills with many of their favorite bands from growing up has been a highlight in itself. Amongst those Alfonsi and his bandmates feel fortunate for having the chance to share a stage with include Suicide Machines, Choking Victim; and Leftover Crack.
However, Alfonsi is quick to point out that the camaraderie experienced by being in a band and a part of the punk rock community, both local and nationwide, is his favorite part “Jumping in the van with some of my best buds and playing out of town is always a blast. Another awesome aspect has been getting to know so many rad people along the way. Meeting other bands and like-minded individuals have made any hard work well worth it.”
The name Still Alive was partially inspired by the name of Alfonsi’s previous band, Young til We Die. The other half came down to the band members picking it out of a hat. Alfonsi tells me he believes the other options were: “Bloodied Up” and “Drink the Punch.”
Alfonsi describes who the group is at its core: “We are a DIY band. We gave the label thing a spin and it wasn’t for us. We write and produce all of our music with the help of our buddy Justin Yates who keeps us in check when recording.”
“Every member that has played in Still Alive is a Chicago area native minus Chuck Vroom who played bass for a bit before moving back to Detroit. There he’s played with The A Gang, Bastardous, For Dire Life Sake and a bunch more,” says Alfonsi
“Mikey works as a Warehouse Manager in the western ‘burbs. Bryan works at Bandago renting vans to touring bands. In addition to Bandago, he is the merchman extraordinaire for Lagwagon, Me First, Less Than Jake and whoever else needs him haha. Dom works as an office manager with insurance dealings. Dom has another band called Beat The Smart Kids that that is pretty killer. Fun ska stuff. I work as an Interior Painter in the city and I also do some festival work when it’s in season. Besides Still Alive I play bass in a hardcore band called The Ox King, drums in The Ridgelands and also drums in rarely active Brick Assassin. All Chicago bands.”
Alfonsi tells me that he cannot nail down his favorite bands long enough to set a list of them in stone. “Personally, my list of favorite bands is too long and constantly changing so I’ll list my top three local bands. There are so many to choose from, but these are my favorites. All three work super hard and put a lot of time and effort into their music. It shows in the recordings and it really shows live: La Armada, Kali Masi, and Blood People. Honorable mention: Bomblower, Turnspit, and Counterpunch.”
As for the future for Still Alive? Dan Alfonsi tells me the band is brewing some exciting things up. Some they can announce and some they are not quite ready to do so.
“Moving forward we just recorded five songs with Justin Yates at A Million Yen Studio. The recordings are for a split with Rebel Spies from Detroit and Justin Shwier of Underground Comminque is putting it out. Aside from that, we have some cool shows coming up to round out the year that aren’t announced yet, stay tuned.”
Of course, we turned the topic to, as must be done, to the role of punk rock in the era of the Trump Presidency:
“Life is becoming more surreal every day under this administration to the point that we as a people are almost used to it. It’s crazy. There is certainly no shortage of topic to write about, but the toll it’s taking in the meantime is frightening to say the least. The best we can do at this point is to treat each other well and hope that closed minds will start to open.”
As great as the record release party was, however, the night did end with a bummer as Alfonsi explains:
“A few hours following our release show 7/14 I was involved in a collision with a motorist while on my bicycle. I can’t get into too much detail because it’s an ongoing thing, but I urge everyone to pay better attention to your surroundings.”
Needless to say Alfonsi, his friends, his family; and the band’s fans are relieved that Dan is Still Alive and on the road to recovery.
We at Dying Scene wish Dan a speedy and full recovery as well so he can be back onstage as soon as possible.
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