Evan Weiss never planned on pursuing a music career.
"I think I always wanted to, but I was always afraid to," says Weiss, 27.
With musically inclined parents, Weiss was thrust into musicianship early. At age 10, he started playing guitar, performing in bands with friends throughout his teen-age years. He spent much of his early 20s working full-time jobs in his home state of New Jersey, but music always remained a passion.
He eventually moved to Chicago, where he earned his living doing marketing for clothing and music companies, such as Threadless, a graphic T-shirt company. Weiss continued playing and touring with different bands, and in 2007 began releasing tracks relentlessly, and touring occasionally, under the name Into It. Over It. While still at Threadless, he went on an American tour as Into It. Over It. Following the tour's success, he was offered a month-long European tour, an opportunity he felt compelled to seize.
Upon his return, Weiss found himself unemployed. Desperate for a source of income, he began to focus on music full time.
"I didn't have anything else to fall back on," he says. "I didn't have any back-up plans. I was kind of like, 'This is my only plan and if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it now because there is no other time for me to do it.'"
Weiss' music encompasses indie and emo qualities, with his tracks varying between solemn, dark rhythms and upbeat, brighter moments. The guitar parts push each song along, with Weiss' clear, crisp vocals tearing through the cymbal-heavy percussion. He plays every instrument on his recordings except for drums, which close friend Nick Wakim contributes. Girlfriend Kate Grube sometimes lends her vocal talent as well.
Last September, Into It. Over It. released Proper, a full-length LP that's technically the project's first. Weiss had often released his early material in unconventional ways: split 7-inch singles and other shorter releases. Before Proper, he seldom entered the studio with the intention of recording a full album. Instead, he would release his material song by song; record labels would then approach him about releasing the tracks as albums.
That was the process that led to 52 Weeks. "I wrote, recorded and released one song every week for a year," Weiss says of the project, which was first made available online and later released on CD in June 2009.
Weiss is a big fan of themes, and much of his early material had distinct unifying elements, such as April 2011's Chicago Cassette, which featured five songs named after five Chicago neighborhoods. Twelve Towns consisted of 12 songs written about his experiences in 12 different cities. They were first distributed throughout a series of 7-inch records with other bands, then released on an LP by No Sleep Records in August 2011.
Writing the songs for Towns "was easy because I was able to pick 12 stories that I had about 12 different places and try to describe them very accurately," Weiss says. "[I used] examples like bar names or street names that people could identify with to tell the stories really accurately."
According to Weiss, Proper's cohesive element lies in the very fact that its lyrical content lacks cohesion.
"There was really no theme going into the songwriting, which was something I used to tie it together once it was done," Weiss says.
The album also deviates from Weiss' usual style of releasing music. Weiss "recorded [the album] at a much nicer studio with a little bit nicer budget." And he released the whole package on the No Sleep label, rather than releasing the tracks one by one and waiting for someone to snatch them up.
"It's just formal. Instead of being a bunch of songs recorded at different times or very sporadically, it is something that was written in one writing process, recorded in one recording process, and just very by-the-book," Weiss says.
Weiss is currently touring in support of Proper and performs at the Smiling Moose on Sat., April 28, with Mace Ballard, Bluebird Midwest, Heartwell and Juicebox Kings.
After touring through 35 states, the venture is no longer about the thrill of seeing unfamiliar locations for Weiss. "I look at it as being less excited to see a place and more excited to see friends or particular things I like to travel and go to," Weiss says.
When it comes to choosing tour destinations, Pittsburgh is a staple for Weiss, but it didn't always appeal to him. Several years ago, Weiss was touring with a band that unwillingly found itself traveling to the Steel City.
"Someone we didn't know, like an outside source, booked the tour, so we get the routing back, and it was Pittsburgh. We're all like, 'Aww man, Pittsburgh? Ugh.' Because any other time I had played in Pittsburgh with other bands, it was always kind of bad.
"So we show up and we play the Pittsburgh show, and it's one of the best shows of the tour," Weiss says. "It was at the Smiling Moose and it was me, my buddy Koji, a band called Such Gold and a band from Pittsburgh called Wifebeater ... so we had this awesome show and we were all like, 'Oh wow, Pittsburgh. Who would have thought?'"