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posted: 4/3/2013 6:00 AM

Chicago-area band Makeshift Prodigy spreads its creative wings

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  • The band Makeshift Prodigy plays a homecoming gig Friday at Reggie's in Chicago. Keyboardist and Elk Grove Village native Brandon Fox, second from right, says Chicago-area audiences are unique.

      The band Makeshift Prodigy plays a homecoming gig Friday at Reggie's in Chicago. Keyboardist and Elk Grove Village native Brandon Fox, second from right, says Chicago-area audiences are unique.
    Courtesy of Makeshift Prodigy

  • The band Makeshift Prodigy will play Lollapalooza this summer.

      The band Makeshift Prodigy will play Lollapalooza this summer.
    Courtesy of Makeshift Prodigy

  • Video: Hear "Some Kind of Miracle"

  • Video: Fox interview, 2010

By Greg Dorn
Daily Herald Correspondent

In the world of rock 'n' roll, it's common for bands to come and go. Many groups don't last long enough to mature as musicians, discover their sound and find their footing.

For the Chicago-area band Makeshift Prodigy, the simple act of survival has allowed this quintet to realize their potential and come to terms with their identity as a rock band.

When we last caught up with keyboardist and singer Brandon Fox back in 2009, Makeshift Prodigy was in the beginning stages of growing pains. "You're trying to figure out who you are as a band and trying to get your feet wet," says Fox, a native of Elk Grove Village. "A lot of the growing stages involve figuring out exactly what direction you want to go."

Fox and his band mates took everything they learned from forming and maintaining a band into their first two releases, "Welcome to the World" and "Mathematica," which came out in 2008 and 2010, respectively. With their most recent effort, 2012's "Illuminate," Makeshift Prodigy stood ready and equipped to fully spread their creative wings.

"When we did 'Illuminate,' there was a lot of inside stuff that went into it," explains Fox. "We were recording in the studio for almost a year. After 70-something songs, number 71 and 72, those are the ones that started clicking. And before we knew it we had an EP."

The intricacies and production value can certainly be heard on the record's finely crafted pop/rock anthems.

"It's always a process," says Fox. "You hear a lot of bands say 'Oh you know, we're in the studio and did all this work.' But really, that's what it takes."

If there's anyone who knows about work ethic, Fox is it. Setting his sights on music from the age of 16, he juggled his love of R&B with the complexities of a football schedule at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.

"I started recording R&B tracks when I was 16, and then I went to school and played football, which I focused on for a while," says Fox. "I ended up meeting our lead singer (Anthony Bagnera) through football at college and from there he introduced me to rock music."

They joined with South suburban natives Jacob Foy, Christian Kwitkowski and Joe Bauer to form Makeshift Prodigy.

The band has played all over the country, but performing in the Chicago area holds a special place in the band's heart. They're part of the just-announced Lollapalooza lineup, playing Aug. 4 in Chicago's Grant Park.

"Chicago's always had its uniqueness. It has a diverse, melting-pot type of feel to it. I think that's what separates it from most cities. That's what Chicago brings to us," explains Fox.

Now, following a major tour, Makeshift Prodigy will perform a homecoming gig tonight at Chicago's Reggies.

"It's awesome to play our new songs, but it feels so cool to play tracks that we did from 2009 and still get chills on the back of your neck," says Fox. "We're gonna try to make it a fun, eventful night for everybody. We always like to give our fans something to look to."

And the band has been at it for more than five years.

If you ask Fox the secret to their longevity, he would no doubt point to a foundation of camaraderie. "We all have our idols, we all have our prodigies. But for us, it's more like a friendship," explains Fox. "Before we even were a band, in a sense, we were more like best friends that just hung out and jammed."


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