The Effigies are a punk group from Chicago. The band played its first show in 1980 and was active for approximately a decade, undergoing multiple personnel changes with frontman John Kezdy the only constant, before disbanding in 1990 . The band released 5 LPs and several EPs, most on the record label they founded in 1981, Ruthless Records, which was distributed by Enigma. Later albums were on the Fever Records label. They toured the U.S. and Canada and played notable venues, including CBGB, Maxwell's, First Avenue (nightclub), Mabuhay Gardens, Paycheck's (Detroit), Exit (Chicago) and The Rathskeller, among others. They also received a significant amount of national airplay on college radio at a time when it was the only medium for alternative music.
The Effigies' website states that they were one of the first punk bands in Chicago . This might be a complicated claim for a band not formed until 1980, but true in the sense that the Midwest resisted punk and was late to discover or appreciate it to any degree. In the years immediately after The Ramones and The Sex Pistols first released records (1977), Chicago remained dominated by classic rock, blues, and disco; punk bands were anathema to the Midwest rock establishment and had few places to play; fans had few places to hear live bands. Despite revisionistic claims in its later advertised station history, Chicago's "progressive" radio station, WXRT, was never very supportive of punk or even new wave, outside a few efforts of a couple of DJs relegated to late night slots. What most punk fans recall as the first "scene" in Chicago did not occur until the very early 1980s, when clubs like Oz and O'Banion's started to provide venues for live punk. In a 1999 retrospective about the 1985 music year, Chicago Sun-Times music writer Jim Derogatis termed the heyday of The Effigies "the second generation of Midwestern punks," but this is correct only in describing the burgeoning young 1985 Midwest punk scene as it overtook the older, smaller scene which had cloistered itself in punk discos like La Mere Vipere and for all its excesses was musically passive, generating no bands and creating no music. By 1985,The Effigies, Naked Raygun, Strike Under and Big Black had been around for half a decade. There were no active punk bands in Chicago before them.
Attempts to characterize The Effigies as hardcore and, to the extent it is distinguishable, Chicago hardcore, reveal the difficulty in pigeonholing the band's sound which is more expansive than hardcore both musically and thematically. Even the catch-all "post-hardcore" becomes an inapt anachronism in light of the fact that the band's seminal releases pre-date the arrival of hardcore by several years. Indie rock pundit Steve Albini writes that The Effigies "were a moving force during a crucial and exhilarating time".
The Effigies' original lineup consisted of John Kezdy (vocals), Earl "Oil" Letiecq (guitar), Paul Zamost (bass) and Steve Economou (drums). Robert O'Connor replaced Letiecq in 1984, with whom they released the albums "Fly on a Wire" and "Ink." Perceiving the band's punk ethos as an obstacle to “mass appeal,” Zamost and O'Connor joined O'Connor's wife to form a new band (Machines in Motion) during the summer of 1986 to pursue a more commercial sound. This effectively dissolved The Effigies in the middle of a national tour supporting their third LP, “Ink.” But in 1987 Kezdy reunited with Letiecq and added Chris Bjorklund ( Strike Under, Bloodsport)(bass) and Joe Haggerty (drums). In 1988, Letiecq departed again to form the band Jack Scratch with Dave Bergeron, formerly of Bloodsport. Bjorklund moved to guitar and Tom Woods became the Effigies' bassist. Coincidentally, Bjorklund, Haggerty, and Woods had comprised the rest of Bloodsport. In 1990, the Effigies called it quits and Kezdy pursued a career as an attorney. The original line up reunited for a one-off show in 1992. They came together again in late 1995 and early 1996 to play a few Chicago shows to celebrate the reissue of their Remains Nonviewable compilation CD on Touch and Go Records.
The Effigies re-formed in 2004, and in 2006 released their first recording in nearly 20 years—a full LP titled "Reside." The album was produced by Andy Gerber, who once played with Zamost and Economou in the band Laughing Man. The current lineup consists of original members John Kezdy, Paul Zamost, and Steve Economou, and new guitarist Robert McNaughton, who had previously been in the bands Pop Media, We're Staying, and along with Zamost, the Indicators, The Lemmings, The Greys, and 80 Proof Preacher. McNaughton also is known for composing music for several films, including Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Since 2010 Economou has collaborated with Steve Bjorklund and keyboardist LizB in the band High Value Target.
In late 2010, The Effigies were slated to play a Riot Fest show commemorating the re-release of the 1981 “Busted at Oz” compilation. The show was to be at a Chicago venue called the Metro and featured a number of reunited groups that had appeared on the original compilation. Due to the band's long-standing objection to the Metro as a venue – alluded to in a 1993 interview with bassist Zamost – the show was moved to a smaller club, the Double Door. Initially agreeing to fill out the original lineup for what promised to be a compelling show, guitarist Letiecq pulled out within weeks of the show and just prior to the event posted a note on the Riot Fest website declaiming against the endeavor and vowing for unstated reasons never to perform with the original members again. Without their guitarist, the remaining band members withdrew from the show rather than appear as an unrehearsed and falsely billed original lineup. This upset some fans.
The Effigies can be seen in You Weren’t There a/k/a You Weren’t There: A History of Chicago Punk, 1977-1984, a 2007 film about the Chicago punk scene from 1977 through 1984.
- John Kezdy - Vocals (1980–1990, 2004–present)
- Robert McNaughton - Guitar (2004–present)
- Paul Zamost - Bass (1980–1986, 2004–present)
- Steve Economou - Drums (1980–1986, 2004–present)
- Earl Letiecq - Guitar (1980–1984, 1987–1988)
- Robert O'Connor - Guitar (1985–1986)
- Chris Bjorklund - Bass (1987–1988), Guitar (1988–1990)
- Joe Haggerty - Drums (1987–1990)
- Tom Woods - Bass (1988–1990)
Haunted Town 12" EP (Autumn Records 1981/reissued with "Security" as a bonus track by Ruthless Records 1984)
"Bodybag" b/w "Security" 7" (Ruthless Records 1982)
We're Da Machine 12" EP (Ruthless Records/Enigma Records 1983)
For Ever Grounded LP (Ruthless Records/Enigma Records 1984)
Fly on a Wire LP (Fever Records/Enigma Records 1985)
Ink LP (Fever Records/Enigma Records 1986)
Remains Nonviewable LP - compilation of the first 3 EPs and parts of For Ever Grounded (Roadkill Records 1989/reissued on CD by Touch and Go Records 1995)
"VMLive Presents The Effigies Live 12/16/95" 7" EP (VML Records 1996)
Reside CD (Criminal IQ Records 2007)
"...on the move, or in danger (stop) This will have been my life (stop)" (Criminal IQ, 2009)(digital release only)