With a blend of old-school punk, world beat and modern pop influences, Chicago-based AM Taxi combines experience with exuberance on their Virgin Records debut, We Don’t Stand A Chance. The band was formed almost two years ago—with the encouragement of Sublime producer Miguel Happoldt—by longtime Windy City bandmates and pals, singer/songwriter Adam Krier, drummer Chris Smith and bassist Jason Schultejann. The trio began writing and recording and produced their first EP, Runaway Songs. Shortly after, they were joined by brothers John and Luke Schmitt on guitar and keyboards. AM Taxi began establishing a rep as a dynamic live outfit with headlining performances at local clubs like the Metro and soon after recorded their second EP, The Good, The Bad and The Fed Up.
Entering an Austin studio with producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Patty Griffin, And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead), AM Taxi proceeded to record a major-label debut that reflects the group’s diverse influences. From the Springsteen-by-way-of-The Hold Steady, “Fed Up,” and the heart-on-the-sleeve Replacements-like confessional, “The Mistake” to the Police-inspired world beat of “Dead Street” and the Clash-esque reggae pulse of “Charissa,” the group has one foot firmly planted in the classics and one right here, right now in the present.
“We wanted someone who could capture the way we sounded live,” says Krier about the choice of McCarthy. “What made Mike stand out was how he still records bands that way. He still uses reel-to-reel and we recorded majority of the album live in studio. We weren’t so interested in making a record that sounded current, as we were something that could be classic.”
Pointing to personal favorites like Pacific Northwest Nuggets-style garage bands like the Wailers, the Sonics and Paul Revere and the Raiders, the British Invasion bands, soul greats Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, Two-Tone bands The Specials and the Selecter or Alt-Country acts Wilco and Ryan Adams, AM Taxi were not afraid to experiment with their sound.
“Our motto in the studio was, ‘If it ain’t broke, break it.’ We’d try things from every possible angle,” says Krier. “We’re not re-inventing the wheel here. It’s just classic rock songwriting with present-day arrangements. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been attracted to the honesty of bands like the Replacements and the Clash, who are completely opposite, actually. One would go out of their way to shoot themselves in the foot and the other wanted to take over the world. But both told the truth.”
That ability to tell it like it is comes through in Krier’s writing and in AM Taxi’s musicality. Taking their inspiration from his touring around the U.S. with several of his previous bands, songs like “Dead Street” and “Shake, Rattle and Stall” explore the restlessness he encountered along the way or, as Krier puts it, “Wherever I went, people were trying to get out of where they were.”
There are also songs about things everyone can identify with, like a couple in which no matter how much he messes up, she takes him back (“Charissa”) or New Year’s resolutions gone bad (“Champagne Toast”).
“I try to write songs about things people can relate to,” nods Adam. “For me, the best music, at the end of the day, is therapeutic. That’s always in the back of my mind a little when I’m sitting down to write.”
And now, AM Taxi—short for American Taxi, so-called because they’re all about moving across the U.S. towards their destination—gets ready to hit the road…hard. They’ve already been out on the road with the likes of Sum 41 and The Ataris, while opening for The Offspring at Summerfest in Milwaukee, so they’re more than up for the task.
“Our goal is to take that 45 or 60 minutes and let people get away for a little bit,” says Adam. “And maybe even convert some of ‘em to AM Taxi fans. And, if they dig what we’re doing, maybe they’ll check out some of the stuff that influenced us.” Take one listen to AM Taxi’s debut, We Don’t Stand A Chance and you can hear that same reverence for the past and hope for the future, a band that can cut across any number of age or genre demographics. Take the ride… they promise not to leave the meter running.