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Not Just Another Cover Band Musician

Written by Sheldon Hubbard

Photos Provided by Sean McCole

Within the repertoire that Sean McCole has accumulated for himself, you’ll find a spirit of tenacious rebellion. Sean utilizes the music he’s experienced throughout life as trade tools and blueprints for cultivating a sound that feels familiar, but has a new and undeniable flare. With an ear for a variety of instruments (voice certainly included), Sean really laces up his shit kickers in the Windy City rock scene. He extends his talents to multiple avenues of sound, including Chicago’s all star Nirvana tribute band, Smells Like Nirvana (where Sean wrecks the kit), the rowdy grunge rock/nu-metal fusion act Dead Original (where he smashes down bass strings), and his not-so-newfound apt as a singer/songwriter.

Heavily inspired by his hometown’s rich music history, Sean’s influences range from a variety of native giants like Smashing Pumpkins and Cheap Trick, all the way to Kanye West. He describes his sound as “a marriage between what my music is [rock] and what’s happening [in music] right now.” Though his solo discography hasn’t amassed many songs (yet), this indication is evident through pretty much any song he has out. Honorable mentions include: “Rebelution," “No Karma (No Peace)," and (one of my personal faves) “Dance My Demons Away."

The aforementioned Nirvana tribute band doesn’t only smell like Nirvana, but dammit they sure sound like ‘em! Composed of fellow professional music men Paul Wandtke (ex Trivium, & also of Dead Original) and Mike Perasek (of the band Bedlem), Sean helps commemorate the memory of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain’s storied career by channeling his inner Grohl somethin’ fierce. If you love Nirvana as much as these dudes, get them in your social feeds and notifications asap. How accurately they display not only their sound, but the live performance is the best kind of eerie. It’s no wonder they’re coined as “Chicago’s Grungiest Nirvana Tribute.”

In a conversation with Sean, it becomes evident how much he cares about the connections he makes; something that speaks to every corner of his artistry. He told me of the story behind the cover for his latest EP, The Color, Envy, and it encapsulates the metaphor for becoming a revitalized version of yourself. He, his friend, brother, and longtime collaborator, Aiden Shawn McCarthy, were in McCarthy’s bedroom discussing themes for the cover when McCarthy looked over at this old teddy bear from a years-old ex-girlfriend, looked at Sean, and said, “Sean… I wanna burn this.” To which Sean replied, “Are you sure? Do you really wanna burn this adorable little teddy bear? Get rid of this memory that easily…” and McCarthy, replies, “No, I’ve been WAITING to do this.” They then pressed on to a CVS around the corner for a small box of chocolates to place in the bear’s lap. They propped it up on the sidewalk outside, doused it in lighter fluid, and well…

Sean’s passion resonates from a deep, innate affinity for how sound can shape people. He wants his music to be fun, but also beckon you to remember and understand the root of where it began. With majesty, this Midwestern multi-instrumentalist forges a sound that bends the conceptions of today’s mainstream rock umbrella. An arena of sound with many avenues, Sean seems to be cruising down them with observant ears. Putting a progressive twist on sounds that nod toward familiarity, while also presenting a sonic push forward.

You can find Sean, along with his work in Dead Original, on Spotify and other streaming/social platforms, and you can catch Smells Like Nirvana’s YouTube/Social Media for videos and updates. Any rock n’ roller with a toe for tappin’ and head for noddin’ should check out Sean’s take on music that purifies much like fire itself. You will find the music video for Sean’s latest single “Fade Away” below and on his Youtube. This video was released on February 18, 2021 and matches quality for quality with his music. Clean, focused, and expressive. Sean does not produce half-assed work and is a musician to keep an eye on.

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