10,000 Maniacs are back and ready to rock at the Arcada

<p>From left, Jerry Augustyniak, Dennis Drew, Mary Ramsey, Steven Gustafson and Jeff Erickson are 10,000 Maniacs. | Submitted photo</p>

From left, Jerry Augustyniak, Dennis Drew, Mary Ramsey, Steven Gustafson and Jeff Erickson are 10,000 Maniacs. | Submitted photo

A year ago, 10,000 Maniacs released their most recent album, “Music from the Motion Picture.” It was the first studio album by the band in 14 years.

“In decades, it seems like,” bass player Steven Gustafson said. “It seems like it was another life.”

Songs from the new album, along with hits like “These Are Days,” and “More than This” from when the band was fronted by singer Natalie Merchant, will be among those performed when the band stops in the Chicago area for a Feb. 15 concert at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

While tickets are still available to the St. Charles show, a Feb. 14 show at the City Winery in Chicago is sold out.

“We’ve been having a wonderful time playing shows. We’ve been performing most of the hits, some deep cuts from the albums, surprise cover songs,” Gustafson said. “And at the end of the show we bring out a terrific three-piece horn section from Chicago that blows the roof off the place.”

For more than 30 years 10,000 Maniacs have been making music, helping to define alternative and college rock in the 1980s and ’90s with albums including “In My Tribe” and “Our Time in Eden.”

Over the years the band’s configuration has changed, with the group currently featuring Mary Ramsey on lead vocals, Dennis Drew on keyboards, Jerome Augustyniak on drums, Jeff Erickson on guitar along with Gustafson on bass.

“It’s strange to think of that,” said Ramsey of the band’s recent 30th anniversary. “Time goes by quicker than you think.

“We’ve had kind of nice run of writing music together and enjoying performing with each other. The wonderful part is the way the fans react. It’s just sort of an inspiration,” said Ramsey, who began working with the group in 1990 singing background vocals and playing the violin.

The shared love of music is key the longevity, she said.

“It’s the ingredients of every player that makes this work. The songs have stood the test of time — good songwriting,” Ramsey said. “But also our continuation of composing music and having a vision of what we want to share with people. And what they want to share with us, which is just a very pleasant experience.”

While times and technology may have changed, some of the process has stayed the same. The band’s 1997 album “Love Among the Ruins” was made the help of fans through PledgeMusic.com, a fan sourcing web site.

“It was a lot of work for us older folks, to play the younger kids game here. It was really quite fun,” Gustafson said. “It’s the miracle of networking and planning. You know what? We did the same thing 30 years ago when we started. Only a hard drive back then was an overnight drive from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta and our computer was a briefcase full scraps of paper with people’s phone numbers on it and photographs … and we had to stop at the gas station and use the pay phone.”

To record their first album, they sought loans from friends and relatives. While the recording time was free at their university, they had to pay for the tape — about $500 per reel.

“We vowed to pay them all back, with a bonus,” he said.

Now on tour, the group is also busy working on two new projects. The band is working with former Maniacs guitarist John Lombardo to record some traditional English folk tunes, he said.

“A lot of the origins of this group are different influences,” Ramsey said. “There’s that natural fit with those sort of musical styles and sort of folk sensibility … It’s going to be a nice kind of fit.”

While the band is not sure if the folk songs album will be released as a physical record, they are working on another album featuring new songs.

“We’ll probably get to that in the fall or next winter, as we approach our 33 1/3 birthday. You got to put a record out for that,” Gustafson said.