BLOOMINGTON — It's just a week before one of the bigger nights in the seven-year annals of Bloomington-Normal rockers The Unemployed Architects, and fate ... well, fate has been messing with them.
At stake is the official release party for the quartet's first album, "Design to Shine," set for 7 p.m. Friday at the Castle Theatre (with an opening assist from good friends Elliot Sedgwick and the Kyle Yap Band).
"I'm just glad it happened this week, not next week," group founder Tyler Sweitzer muses with a pragmatic acceptance of fate's ways.
About those ways.
It all started when Sweitzer's car broke down, an imposition that forced him to ride his bike to his day job at Kidder Music in Bloomington, where he teaches guitar and sells everything from color-coded high school marching band gloves to electric acoustic mandolins (both items requested during the course of this interview, direct from the store).
While cycling to work, Sweitzer found himself the victim of a tire malfunction that sent him crashing to the pavement head-first, inflicting a concussion that left him unconscious until he woke up in a hospital.
Still a bit too banged up for a new photo to be taken by a Pantagraph photographer for this story (the images were taken pre-mishap by his sister-in-law, Emily Sweitzer), the master builder of Unemployed Architects simply observes that "it goes with the business of being a musician ... there is always something happening, and very rarely is there such a thing as smooth sailing."
You know, like the time their car (belonging to Steffens' parents) and all the instruments inside were stolen during a Detroit studio visit ... another story for another day.
Perpetual choppy waters or no, things have been going swimmingly for the band in recent years, as the twentysomething foursome have carved out a solid standing as one of the top local bands creating their own material and executing it with panache.
After even a cursory first listen to the tracks comprising "Design to Shine," produced by Jeff Easton at Bloomington's Eclipse Studios, it's quickly apparent that Sweitzer and his mates — co-lead singer/songwriter Blair Steffens, bass player Kevin Lyons (Steffens' brother) and drummer Big D — are fully into their chosen groove.
The band's website (www.unemployedarchitects.com, quickest source for the CD) offers a nudge to what's in store for newcomers with the advisory, "sounds like U2, The Killers, The Lumineers and Dave Matthews."
In other words, no-nonsense, straight-from-the-heartland guitar rock, with a penchant for the acoustic, which lead Sweitzer continues to explore through his frequent solo sets around the area (see accompanying schedule for both full band and solo sets following Friday's CD release show).
The foundation for the Architects was dug deep at Pontiac Township High School in Pontiac, where all four members, Class of 2007, crossed paths (Big D is the only non-native Pontiac member, transferring to PTHS from Bolingbrook for his senior year).
Earlier in his high school career, Sweitzer had coined the band's name, mainly, he says, "because I thought it sounded catchy and my (older) brothers thought it sounded cool ... it doesn't mean anything beyond that."
But it does lend itself to countless metaphors for career-building and solid construction, and it has resulted in older brother Ryan's neat schematic motifs for the CD cover.
In their infancy, Unemployed Architects were engaged for the usual high school regimen of talent shows, harvest fests, battles-of-the-bands, parties, etc. Eventually, the boys in the band relocated, with Sweitzer, Big D and Lyons landing in Bloomington, while Steffens' life path took him from Pontiac to Eureka College to, currently, Springfield (at the time of this interview, he was sick ... more fate-messin', but, again, as Sweitzer again stated, "better this week than next ...").
Sweitzer gained a foothold on the Bloomington-Normal club scene and honed his chops by landing extended open mic night gigs at various venues, including Normal's late, lamented NV Ultra Lounge, where he shuttled between solo and full band sets two to three nights a week, circa 2008.
Since an average Architects show can run up to four hours, the band, by necessity, has stockpiled its share of cover tunes. But it's the originals by Sweitzer and/or Steffens — the likes of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," "Boomerang," "Aftermath," "Matchless" — that set their fans' pulses racing and demanding more.
Sweitzer admits to having a bit of an older rock soul, having been weaned on the tastes of his elder brothers, hence that Dave Matthews bent, though he admits his peer age group would have recoiled in horror at some of those tastes.
As time has gone by, the influences have varied from the likes of Kings of Leon to Incubus to The Black Keys to, lately, a taste for old-school blues-soul icons like James Brown, Ray Charles and even a little Elvis.
Concurrent with that evolution has been the Architects' rise on the area music scene as one of the most visible bands, fresh off a stand on last weekend's Bruegala stage and, following the big Castle Theatre show this weekend, set for a Loungeabout on the Roundabout visit in Uptown Normal on Sept. 10.
"The biggest thing is that we love doing this," says Sweitzer. "Everyone in the group has a different idea what our game plan will be from here on. And it's always a roll of the dice."
All agree on one thing, though: "Expressing yourself through the music is what resonates with people, and moves them. And if you show you're having a good time doing it, the energy expands to everyone in the room."
Thus, the blueprint for The Unemployed -- but always engaged -- Architects.