Genre Divide

Chicago's post-progressive-math-punk-rock-jazz quartet Sweep the Leg Johnny is a sonic non sequitur

"It made us really reevaluate why we go on tour," he continues. "When people come and see us live and we put on a good show, we get that feeling where people are seeing this prog-rock ensemble with a punk-rock energy. When it clicks, I think it really blows people away. It's exciting to be a part of that."

Sweep has managed to build a small but smart following nationwide based on its incessant touring, an approachable demeanor and sheer intensity. The band will also release a third album on Chicago's Southern Records next May. As tempting as it may be to conclude that its live formula owes much to the creative improvisation that the mighty saxophone implies, that's not the case. Sweep is not a free-form band -- yet. "It's pretty damn structured," says Sostak. "There's some pretty interesting time stuff going on in there, and overlapping. I think that's where people feel the avant stuff. . . . A lot of the European press has been comparing us, especially in England, more to prog rock. I think that's probably more where we're at than a jazz thing," reports Sostak. "It still flows as a rock song as opposed to an improvised thing."

Pazz and jop: From left, Chris Daly, Steven Sostak, Scott Anna and John Brady are Sweep the Leg Johnny.
Cristopher Mangulabnan
Pazz and jop: From left, Chris Daly, Steven Sostak, Scott Anna and John Brady are Sweep the Leg Johnny.
"A lot of European press has been comparing us more to prog rock. I think that's probably more where we're at than a jazz thing," says Sostak.
Cristopher Mangulabnan
"A lot of European press has been comparing us more to prog rock. I think that's probably more where we're at than a jazz thing," says Sostak.

Prog rock, jazz, punk, emo -- if Sweep the Leg Johnny is caught in label limbo, that might not be such a tragedy for these young Chicagoans. "We're in an interesting age bracket, stuck in that middle ground between the young punk scene and the old Tortoise-type scene," Sostak explains. If the band members continue to follow their current musical trajectory, one can only expect more refinement of their own innovative sound, whatever the hell it is.

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