Middlewest on the Maps

By Jerene-Elise Nall

DeKALB | Next week, the Chicago indie rockers of Maps and Atlases will retrace their route back to DeKalb to play the band’s (and DeKalb’s) second Middlewest Fest. The Northern Star got to follow up with guitarist Erin Elders about playing last year at Dekalb’s first ever Middlewest Fest, and the band’s upcoming set at this year’s Fest — as well as the potential to see Maps and Atlases at future Middlewests.

NS: This will be your second time at Middlewest Fest. Are you looking forward to it?

EE: Yeah, I’m very excited. Last year was definitely a lot of fun. It was nice to play with a bunch of bands that we’re friends with outside of the city. And the lineup this year looks incredible, so we’re honored to be a part of it.

NS: Which bands are you most excited to play with, and are there any you’re excited to see?

EE: We’ve played with Tokyo Police Club before, and I always have a great time watching them and hearing them play. There are a lot of good local bands that are playing, too. We recently played a show with a band called Brontosaurus. They’re from Chicago, as well.

NS: How did you feel about your last Middlewest set after you were done playing it?

EE: I felt pretty good about it. I feel like we ended up playing pretty late, so it turned into one of those wild, late nights where everyone’s half asleep but that makes it kind of exciting. It was a little bit rock-and-roll, in a weird way. It was fun.

NS: What time did you end up playing? I remember it being pretty late.

EE: It was after midnight, some time around 1 a.m. maybe.

NS: College towns like Dekalb do tend to get a little rowdy around 1 a.m. What time are you playing at this year’s Middlewest Fest?

EE: I think we’re playing right before Murder by Death. It won’t be as late as last time. I think it’ll be in a more formal setting [this year, Maps is playing at the Van Buer Plaza on the corner of Second Street and Locust Street; last year, the band played at the House Cafe. 263 E. Lincoln Highway], but we’re going to bring the fun.

NS: What kind of crowd are you expecting to draw at this year’s fest?

EE: I don’t think we have any expectations. We were really happy and surprised that we had so many people watch our set. Hopefully, some people will come watch us this year. I can tell everyone’s really excited for the fest in general.

NS: I know there are plenty of people who are very excited to see Murder by Death this year, so getting to play right before them would be excellent.

EE: Totally.

NS: I know this time last year when we spoke, Maps had recently come out with Perch Patchwork. Do you have any new material in the works that you’re considering playing this year?

EE: We probably won’t be playing anything super new, but we’re in the middle of working on new stuff. Nothing’s really ready to play yet, but we’re going to try to switch it up this year and do totally different from last year’s set.

NS: It sounds like last year’s good experience at Middlewest Fest — the band lineup, as well as your band’s set — were all deciding factors in confirming for your second Middlewest Fest. Were there any other deciding factors in confirming this year?

EE: It was a really fun experience, and it was exciting, and all the people who put [Middlewest Fest] on do a really good job at it. And with it being so close to home, we can hang out for the day. We get to play with a bunch of bands from Chicago, without having to do a Chicago show. It’s a little bit of work, but it’s mostly fun. It seems like they’re building something great out of Middlewest Fest, and it’s nice to be a part of it.

NS: The last time we spoke, you talked about some new and upcoming fests, Middlewest included. Do you feel like Middlewest is proving to have some staying power as a festival?

EE: With last year being the first year, it seemed like everyone was still figuring a lot of details out, and this year, they’ve done a great job on building on top of that. I think it will be a festival that will be around for a long time, and that people will continue to be excited about. I think Dekalb has a music scene that has always done well, and with this festival, I think people get a glimpse into that.