Detective Novel Holds Up Under Investigation

Daniel Fiddler

Photo by the Wizard
Detective Novel killing it in the Student Lounge

4.0 out of 5 Stars

If you tuned in to WZRD (88.3 FM) for Thursday Night Live, the ruckus punching through your speakers was Detective Novel, a new noise-rock band in Chicago’s D.I.Y. music scene.

With Brian Bennett and Jimmy Chrzan sharing guitar and vocals, Mike Bremmer on bass, and Nina Darner on drums, these four young folks made their radio debut with a performance that was well played, thoughtful and damn noisy.

Depending on whom you ask, Detective Novelis either taking part in a cultural renaissance of enthusiastic young musicians, or they’re just another indie band.

A drop in Chicago’s big bucket of post-punk indie bands, Detective Novel will have a tough time distinguishing themselves. “We’re one of those Pixies bands,” Chrzan said jokingly.

However you split the difference, they’re good. Damn good.

Detective Novel’s semblance of The Pixies and other late 20th century alt-rock bands, like Sonic Youth or The Shins, is undeniable. “Song for Carol” featured those trudging atonal guitar riffs that you either loved or hated about early ‘90s alt-rock.

And, much like those bands, Detective Novel is a punk band at heart. A number of their songs, like “Spanish Girl,” lead you in with soft and ethereal tones, but then they’ll suddenly stomp their distortion pedals and bring the punk full throttle.

Though they’re not making major innovations to the genre, Detective Novel remains contemporary. Songs like “Marriage” and the pleasant whistling in “Song for Carol” demonstrate creative songwriting in an oversaturated genre.

The distinguishing factor in Detective Novel’s sound is Bennett’s vocals. Comparable to Thom Yorke from Radiohead or Josh Caterer of The Smoking Popes, Bennett’s haunting voice cuts right through the music, irrigating your earholes. While his singing style is typical within the post-punk genre, his Kermit-like speaking voice characterizes the vocals uniquely and personally.

The overall sound of Detective Novel is poetry in commotion. While Chrzan’s guitar playing gets violent and dissonant, Bennett’s is more melodious and outright pleasing. Bremmer’s bass playing and Darner’s drumming provide solid foundational rhythm that allows Chrzan and Bennett to battle it out in the higher frequencies.

A Chat With The Band

It was Bennett and Chrzan who originally formed the band during the spring of 2012.

After meeting in a Loyola University English class, the two began writing music and recording in their bedrooms. With just the two of them composing music together on their computers, their earlier efforts were more electronic and confined to recordings.

In order to play live gigs, like so many others before him, Bremmer dropped his guitar and picked up bass. Roughly eight months ago, Darner, a former tap-dancer, took on the role as drummer and became the last piece of the puzzle in making Detective Novel.

Fairly new to playing the drums, Darner said her experience tap-dancing has been incredibly helpful in her understanding of the drums.

They practice in Bennett’s bedroom, which they described as a damp basement where they ritually have to push Bennett’s bed against the wall, and it’s not uncommon for the group to have to kick rat bones out of the way.

When asked to describe a Detective Novel show, Chrzan quoted a friend, saying, “It wasn’t that the train was off the rails. It’s that it was coming right at us.”

Detective Novel will be at the Gallery Cabaret (2020 N Oakley Ave, Chicago, IL 60647) on Friday, May 9. They plan to record a studio album in the near future, but in the meantime you can hear their bedroom recordings at