BBsitters Club Credit: Joel Berk

In 2012, Chicago musicians Max Allison and Doug Kaplan launched the eclectic label Hausu Mountain, which has grown into one of the city’s best indies. It also acts as an umbrella for many of its founders’ projects: Hausu Mountain has released the ambient-adjacent sounds Allison and Kaplan have made with Natalie Chami (aka TALsounds) as Good Willsmith, as well as Allison’s hard-to-pin-down experimental solo material as Mukqs and Kaplan’s as MrDougDoug. Last year the label dropped an irreverent, discombobulating, and occasionally terrifying yuletide sound collage called It’s Christmas Time!, by Allison and Kaplan’s duo Pepper Mill Rondo. They have a playful willingness to throw themselves into goofy experiments with an openhearted enthusiasm that helps you feel like you’re in on their jokes.

Allison and Kaplan’s latest collaborative project, BBsitters Club, began in jam sessions five years ago with drummer Paul Birhanu (of the Earth Is a Man) and guitarist-vocalist Charlie Olvera. They became a regular four-piece, with Allison on bass and Kaplan on guitar and vocals, and their freewheeling new studio debut, BBsitters Club & Party (Hausu Mountain), balances their deep knowledge of jam bands and classic rock with their absurd humor. The ragged ripper “Cutie Girls,” whose looseness could charm Ween, lovingly sends up raunchy ZZ Top-style swagger with inane references to their own unglamourous, pre-pandemic underground-rock lifestyle (weekday sets at Quenchers, communicating over Facebook). On a sweeping song packed with huge postrock climaxes, BBsitters Club shout out their friend, engineer Joel Berk—and they apparently like him so much they come back to it twice (as “Joel Reprise” and “Joel Reprise Reprise”). Berk recorded a few tracks on the band’s live album, Joel’s Picks Vol. 1, which came out in September and is thus their actual debut. If you’re asking why BBsitters Club would make a live album their first release, well, maybe this band isn’t for you.   v