As bands' boasts of an unlikely combination of influences go, I haven't heard a wilder one than the way guitarist-vocalist Chris Oakes described the Ragtones: as a combination of Tom Waits, the White Stripes and Nine Inch Nails. (Forget about "one of these things is not like the others"; none of them are!) Yet if the Chicago trio doesn't quite pull off that unholy marriage, it's easy to see what he was getting at: The band boasts a timeless, amorphous rootsiness at the same time that it feels thoroughly modern and sometimes downright alien.
Initially formed to provide the backdrop for a fashion show, the response to that one-off live show was so encouraging that the group decided to keep going, and it's been playing out regularly since early last year. The Ragtones--which are completed by keyboardist Jeremy Tromburg and drummer Mike Mazzola--are about to release a 10-song album aptly entitled "The Ragtones Time Travel Extravaganza." A generous sampling of their songs is streaming online at http://www.myspace.com/theragtones, and the band will perform at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, on Monday, March 22.
Little more than a year old--they played their first show in January 2009--the Maybenauts have the sort of imaginative arrangements (glam-rock to psychedelic pop), sophisticated melodies (three-part vocal harmonies a specialty) and cohesive vision (think of a '60s go-go bacchanal in outer space) lacking in many power-pop groups that have been slogging it out for a decade or more.
Lead vocalist and keyboardist Leilani Frey and bassist and backing vocalist Ellie Maybe are old friends who've been harmonizing and writing songs together for years. Guitarist Vee Sonnets came into the fold while Maybe was recording a solo record, "Meet Ellie," and the Maybenauts were completed by drummer Emily Agustin. The quartet already has won some impressive fans--Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go's produced its debut single, "My Head Is A Bomb," released digitally--and the band is issuing its first full album on March 21. Meanwhile, you can listen to its alternately grungy and giggly tunes online at www.myspace.com/maybenauts, or see the band onstage at Cigars & Stripes, 6715 W. Ogden in Berwyn, on Friday, March 26, and at the Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison, on Thursday, April 8.