Maps and Atlases guitarist talks about band, playing Middlewest Fest


By Jerene-Elise Nall

The Midwest has long been known as a cultural crossroads. The name says it all– its right in the middle of everything, which means it may draw inspiration from all of the surrounding areas and find a way to create something that’s one of a kind out of it.

Maps and Atlases, a Chicago band with members born and raised in all parts of the US, is a perfect example of this Midwestern ideal. Their music, an organic yet structured strain of indie rock, is a multi-instrumental sensation created by members brought together and inspired in Chicago.

The Northern Star got the chance to talk with guitarist Erin Elders on being a Chicago-area band playing Middlewest Fest, an event centered around celebrating the striking diversity that defines this area of the US.

Northern Star: You all went to Columbia College Chicago, right? And that’s where you all met and where the band formed?

Erin Elders: Yeah. Well, Chris [Hainley, the drummer] and I actually went to high school together in Wisconsin, and we both sort of migrated to Chicago. We started playing music together again and found Dave [Davieson to play guitar and sing] and Shiraz [Dada to play bass], and we all started playing together while we were still going to Columbia.

NS: And you’re all originally from different areas of the United States, right? You’re not all from the Midwest originally?

EE: Yeah, Shiraz is actually the only one that’s originally from the Midwest. Dave was born in the Philadelphia area, and I’m actually from Hawaii.

NS: Oh, wow! That’s cool. How was that? How was it different from the Midwest?

EE: It was pretty awesome! I remember when my parents were like ‘Well, we’re moving to Wisconsin!’ I was like, ‘Uh…’

NS: Yeah, I bet. How old were you?

EE: I was like, eleven. So I guess I can’t really claim Hawaii anymore because I’ve lived in the Midwest longer than I lived there. Oh, and Chris actually grew up in Texas and ended up in Wisconsin when he was 11 or 12 too.

NS: Were all of you friends before? Or, was it that you wanted to form a band and you guys sort of found each other?

EE: Chris and I actually played some music together but we never really did the serious band thing– we just had a few music projects in high school. I actually had a class with Dave, and we found Shiraz through a mutual friend. Me and Chris were the only ones that were actually friends before the band, but now it’s like, we’re all moving together.

NS: That’s awesome. How exactly did you all hear about Middlewest Fest?

EE: We were asked to play. We did a couple shows at the House Cafe when we first started up the band, and we know some of the people involved in Middlewest Fest. We’re definitely excited to play the Fest, we’re excited to be back.

NS: So, this isn’t your first time here. 

EE: No, but it’s been a few years since we’ve played here.

NS: Is it different, at all?

EE: I definitely remember this strip [on Lincoln Highway, in Downtown DeKalb], but, you know, we’ll see. We’ll see what the evening has for us.

NS: Definitely. What kind of opportunity do you see playing Middlewest Fest as for Maps and Atlases?


EE: This is a good chance for us to play a lot of stuff off our new album [Perch Patchwork], we’re just really excited about it. A bunch of our friends are playing all over the fest as well. A bunch of bands from Chicago that we know are playing out here tonight.

NS: Is this type of festival something that you could see your band doing in the future.

EE: Yeah, festivals are always interesting. You never really know what’s going to happen.

NS: People are always coming up with new festival ideas– trying them out, seeing how it goes.

EE: Yeah, we actually played a festival last week in Chicago. It was called the North Coast Festival, it was a big electronic, club– kind of jam band thing. It was really different for us. But, we’re touring and playing shows all the time, and it’s always good to do something like this.