Music Meet-up: Sick Day

By: Sophie Cloherty

About a year ago, Olivia Wallace was roaming the music and talent scenes of Chicago looking for a drummer. Today, her band, Sick Day, releases its first two singles: Brain in a Jar and Deviant. Written by Wallace, the songs are clear and catchy, the syllables carefully articulated, each word pushed into air by the zingy, weighted chords of an electric guitar.

I meet Wallace over Skype on a summer Tuesday. Her long, dark bangs hide her forehead and she grasps what looks to be a large blue teacup.

“We’re not interested in fame,” she says near the end of our interview.

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A collaboration between Wallace and musicians Stef Roti and Hunter Jackson, Sick Day identifies its sound in the category of rock, and its members pull inspiration from a variety of experience. Jackson comes from punk, Roti from a rock band, the Yokos and the Onos, and Wallace says she’s always dipped into multiple genres, finding herself undulating between rock and folk.

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Wallace writes all her songs on guitar as solos. When she brings them to a band each player develops the parts for his or her own instrument. I note that she graduated from U of M in 2014 and ask how her time in undergrad might have influenced her music making.

“I didn’t even think to write my own music until I was 19…but I didn’t actually write much music. I got my own little USB mic and was just recording little things. Over the years that turned into writing fuller songs and eventually when I moved to Chicago I started again.”

 While her relationship to music was largely non-academic, she recalls going to shows in Michigan and some inspiring run-ins with the Ann Arbor band of the time, The Appleseed Collective.

“Back then I thought oh I could never be like them and play shows. I studied psychology, I never studied music formally so it wasn’t something I really thought about.” 

In 2017, Wallace’s former four person Chicago-based rock band, Moon Rabbit, dissolved. In its wake she began a project called Rabbit Folk, recruiting guitarists, drummers, and string players with the intention of turning her sound towards folk. When the core started jamming however, their sound naturally took a rocker turn.

“Sick day started from me trying to add people to my old band Rabbit Folk” Wallace explains.  “When we got things going it just kind of organically became way more of a rock band…The folk thing was more of an experiment; I wanted to see if my sound would be better. But I started using an electric guitar and Hunter has all these great guitar pedals and effects that he uses. Once we started going down that road it was like oh that’s the direction we want to go that’s the sound we want to have.”

Bandmates Olivia Wallace (Left) and Stef Roti (Right) in their first photo shoot for Sick Day. Wallace details that white is their chosen “band uniform.” Photo by Alexus McLane.

While the trio will remain the band’s core, Wallace plans to collaborate with all the musicians involved with Rabbit Folk and to experiment with different instruments and sounds.

Yet to play their first show, the band has a few local gigs lined up in the wake of their singles and hopes to begin a tour later this summer.

The musicians may not be interested in fame or large crowds, but they are interested in a genuine audience. They are interested in the visibility of women-centric groups in the music industry, particular in rock music.

A goal of mine is to never get caught up in becoming a popular band...I want it to be a fun, creative outlet and a place to collaborate.
— Wallace

 Wallace’s train of thought wanders to the future. In five years she images multiple tours, a series of collabs, and a range of instrumental experimentation. Her wish is a classic one: keep playing. But above all else she hopes that music remains a positive experience for her and her band mates.

“In five years I still see this band around. Hunter and Stef are really great collaborators. I just want to play to more people, see new venues, release albums, go on tour, write more songs,” said Wallace. “A goal of mine is to never get caught up in becoming a popular band… I want it to be fun, I don’t want it to be draining, I want people to listen to our music and enjoy it and I want to have us enjoy playing on stage and to not have it feel like a chore. I want it to be a fun, creative outlet and a place to collaborate.”

It’s clear that the band is still spending days at the drawing board, experimenting with their image and their sound. But they’re definitely on to something. Drawing from joint experience, inspired by female music makers and armed with female direction, Sick Day is looking to carve a permanent space for themselves in the modern, Midwestern rock scene.