5 minutes with ... Take the Reins

  • West suburban Take the Reins -- Dave Burke, from left, Matt Benson, Courtney Boyers, Erik Hilger and Dan Duffy -- revel in being a little bit punk, a little bit rock 'n' roll.

    West suburban Take the Reins -- Dave Burke, from left, Matt Benson, Courtney Boyers, Erik Hilger and Dan Duffy -- revel in being a little bit punk, a little bit rock 'n' roll. Courtesy of Take the Reins

Updated 3/29/2018 9:53 AM

Take the Reins was my extra fry. You know when you reach into the fast-food bag thinking it's empty, but then you find that last, perfectly crispy french fry? This band was that fry.

I didn't know anything about Take the Reins when I stumbled into BrauerHouse last year. I thought I was there for one band's album release show, but three songs into this supporting set saw me hooked. Take the Reins is not a band of novices. Their mature take on the punk genre is informed by grown-up life but still youthfully energetic and infectious. I love finding an unexpected new favorite at a show. I love that extra fry.


Since then, the Carol Stream-based musicians (with ties to Naperville, St. Charles and Schaumburg) have rounded out their lineup with new bass player Erik Hilger, released the full-length "Addiction by Subtraction" and sold out a vinyl release show. And this year is already studded with big shows in the coming months for this solid rock band. Here's a quick look at Take the Reins:

Band members: Matt Benson (drums), Courtney Boyers (lead vocals), Dave Burke (lead guitar), Dan Duffy (rhythm guitar) and Erik Hilger (bass)

I know you have some big things coming up soon. What can you tell us?

We're opening for the Gin Blossoms at the Arcada Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 17. The Bottom Lounge on March 10. We will also be playing with Lucky Boys Confusion at the Metro on April 27. We are booking our spring and summer right now, but we do have some very exciting things coming up that we're not quite ready to announce, but we will soon!

How do you guys know each other? Give us a quick history.

Matt, Dan, Erik and Dave were in punk rock bands throughout the late '90s and early 2000s. Courtney comes from a musical family and has been a writer most of her life. Take the Reins was formed with a different lineup, including Matt and Courtney, in 2011. Between 2015 and 2016, Dan and Dave were recruited as the band began to become more serious about writing and recording. Finally, during a period when Take the Reins was between bass players, after a very strong audition, Erik joined in August of 2017.

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What started you along the musical path? What inspired you?

We were essentially raised by music. We can't remember a day in our lives without it. ("My parents are both musicians. I think it's just part of my DNA," says Courtney.) We grew up in the suburban music scene, seeing live bands every weekend, and this has been our inspiration from our high school years, playing in basements and garages, all the way up to now.

What's one song off your most recent album "Addiction by Subtraction" that really speaks to you?

"Girl in Black." Essentially, it's about moving on and not holding on to the past. Mourning your past, but moving forward. Nothing good comes from a stagnant life. We all have lessons to learn from our hurt, but then it's good to let go.

Take the Reins has strong ties to the suburban music scene, especially in DuPage. What are some of the benefits or challenges of those connections?


The most well-known venues are in the city, and we love being a part of that, but the suburban scene has a special kind of camaraderie and loyalty all its own. The suburbs of DuPage and McHenry among others were the early stamping grounds for bands like Lucky Boys Confusion, Material Issue and The Smoking Popes. Before they blew up, bands like these came up through suburban scenes, which were largely DIY. We all support each other and cheer each other on.

Plus there are great businesses for musicians in the suburbs. Charlie Dresser runs Sound Summit in Naperville, where we did preproduction with Adam Krier on most of the "Addiction" songs. Dan Precision owns and runs The Bombshelter Recording Studio in Park Ridge, where we and countless bands from around Chicago (and the world) have laid down tracks.

Sometimes, we prefer the suburbs, because people are dying for good music out there, but don't always get the opportunity to go to Chicago. The rules have not changed much since we were kids. Bands still support each other and network, promoters still collaborate with acts to put on great shows, and the love and enthusiasm of fans, friends, and family is still the cornerstone to everything.

What has been one of your favorite or most memorable shows?

Our recent vinyl release show (at BrauerHouse in January). Playing to a packed house, looking out in the crowd and seeing the majority of people singing along to the songs we worked so hard on ... Yeah, that was pretty cool.

• Take the Reins is the featured band on the first of this year's local music playlists, "2018 Chicago Sound Check vol. 1," now streaming on Spotify. Give it a listen and check out some of the other Chicago and suburban musicians we've featured recently in the Daily Herald.

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