Phil Rockrohr & The Lifters formed in Chicago after they assembled in May 1999 to record a demo of Rockrohr's songs. Jeff Givens (drums), Tony Wisniewski (bass) and Mike Babincak (lead guitar) enjoyed the sessions so much they suggested Rockrohr book some gigs. The project yielded the five-song demo, 'Popcycle,' which became a celebrated local recording on WXRT-FM (93.1). In January 2000, DJ Richard Milne, host of Local Anesthetic, placed the CD in his Top 5 local recordings of 1999. The band drew the attention of Jay Bennett, lead guitarist and keyboardist for Wilco, when Rockrohr forwarded him a copy of 'Popcycle.' Bennett promptly placed the disc in his Top 5 on Spin On-Line during 1999. Bennett offered to record a full-length album with the band, and recording commenced in early 2000 at Engine Music, the studio that grew out of Brad Wood's Idful. During Bennett's breaks from Wilco projects, Rockrohr and The Lifters finished 14 songs. 'Phil Rockrohr & The Lifters,' the band's debut full-length album, was released on Jan. 1, 2001. During recording, the band added keyboardist Chris Brown and replaced Babincak with guitarist Owen. Phil Rockrohr (vocals, rhythm guitar): grew up in the Chicago area and played in a half-dozen Chicago bands during the 1990s, including Absolute Zero, The Love Brokers and The Beat Writers; released a 10-song demo in 1993 produced by Wilco's Jay Bennett, a longtime friend who also played in Rockrohr's backing band The Higher Guns in 1994-95. Tony Wisniewski (bass): grew up and lives on the Northwest Side of Chicago; played in a dozen bands since signing a record contract with the group Pendragon (Casablanca Records) before the band broke up during the 1980s; played with Babincak and Rockrohr in Pop Ulysses in 1997-98; also currently plays in the band Throck Morton. Jeff Givens (drums, backing vocals): another native Chicagoan; played in a number of Chicago bands during the 1990s, including The Beat Writers, 40 Smokes and The Lap Dogs; is a talented and prolific singer and songwriter in addition to playing the drums; recorded a full-length album of his songs with The Lap Dogs; also currently plays in the band Sex Taxi. New members: After a year-long search, The Lifters have finally found a replacement for now-former lead guitarist Mike Babincak, who played with the band when needed during the search. Actually, Mike's shoes were so big (and somehow yet not big enough), the band found two new members to fill the void and expand the band's sound. The new bouncing baby Lifters are keyboardist extraordinaire Chris Brown of Chicago and wall-of-sound guitarist Owen Cooper of Oak Park. Brown, who teaches at the Les Izmore School, is a former member of Chicago bands Tonight at Noon and Waylaid. Cooper, who graduated Cum Loud from the same school, is a former member of Colortone and The Shrine. Lifter bassist Tony Wisniewski discovered both budding talents through classified ads and a good old sign at the local guitar store. 'We got really lucky,' Wisniewski said. Brown said he joined The Lifters because of the 'well-written songs, very musical players (and) good arrangements.' Cooper cited 'the honest, direct style' and the rhythm section. On 'She Kissed Me,' in particular, he said Wisniewski and drummer Jeff Givens 'kick ass.' 'They do,' Rockrohr said. Givens said simply, 'What are you, shitting me?' The Lifters wish to thank Babincak for his outstanding service, when needed, during the last 18 months.
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