Julianne Q and the Howl "Sky Rider" Review

It has been an eventful few years for Chicago rock group Julianne Q and the Howl. What started as a group boasting a singer-songwriter vibe is now revamped and re-energized with a Blues Rock direction. Now aided by new members, a new name, and a new musical direction, Julianne Q and the Howl are ready to take on the Chicago music scene with a storm. Sky Rider is a bright spark to get that storm rolling.

Opening the EP is “Born to Die”, a catchy soulful rock tune based on a continuous guitar riff. The guitars are a standout element of this track, with a melody that just begs to be stuck in your head. This provides a great foundation for lead singer Julianne Quaas to let loose; showing off both the soul and fierceness of her voice. This track is possibly the best representation of the bands live shows, bringing musical talents, catchy hooks, and a truly dynamic vocal performance that is one of the bands best elements.

“Leavin You” not only showcases the silky smooth soulful voice of drummer Jeff Mills but the chemistry between him and lead singer Julianne Q. Their voices compliment each other incredibly well and trade off verses seamlessly. The track is short and gets straight to the punches, and is a great illustration of the vocal power behind Mills and Quaas.

Up next is “Poseidon”. Here we get the best example of the band's songwriting abilities and really get an idea of how well they work together as a unit. This track takes you on a journey, going from a bluesy rock feel to a more reserved bridge, right into a passion-filled guitar solo all with complete ease. You’re kept in suspense with this track, awaiting its twists and turns.

“Powder” is the EP’s most electric moment, and really showcases the raw energy of the band. A Zeppelin-like energy graces this track and allows for some impressive guitar work by guitarist Chris Arwady. Drummer Jeff Mills and Bassist Egan Franke really lock in with each other and give the track a really nice sense of groove. This marriage of groove and energy is perfect for Julianne’s vocal style and lets her show off the power and zeal in her voice.

The title track, “Sky Rider” closes out the EP on a more mid-tempo note, allowing the vocals to lead the track with warmth and lots of emotion behind them. Quaas and Mills sing most of the track in unison and sound great together. This makes the track feel warmer and inviting and draws more attention to the lyrics. The track closes out with a Beatles-esk “Na nana” section that is sure to be a hit at live shows. “Sky Rider” is a great finale to this EP, giving listeners a slow and safe landing after the intense take off that this EP presents. This isn’t to say the track lacks energy, as the guitars crash in and keep the track upbeat and moving. A haunting yet inviting synth line starts and finishes the song, giving the EP a nice sense of finality.

A particularly impressive aspect of this EP is the vocal performances, and how these songs allow for so much power and expression. The band’s previous self-titled EP (Julianne Q) presented a singer-songwriter vibe that definitely was fitting to Quaas’ soulful stylings, but didn’t call for as much intensity and power. This new direction still allows for that soul element to be present, but also adds a dynamic sense of energy in its rock stylings. Quaas has also matured vocally, and this EP is a much better representation of how demanding and passionate her singing is live. This style also allows the band to really show their sense of musicianship, with tight grooves and really intense jams.

With Sky Rider, Julianne Q and The Howl etch a space into the Chicago music scene as a band with soul, passion, and lots of musical talent. Each song presents different aspects of this band, and allow each of the members to have their shining moments. Music fans looking for both shredding guitar solos and dynamic vocal performances should definitely enjoy Julianne Q and The Howl’s unique styling of blues rock.

Favorite Tracks: “Born to Die”, “Powder”

By: Matty Jiles