Local band dive in


John Fields and his band at a concert. Photo courtesy of John Fields.

Henry Pecis, Staff Reporter

John Fields, a social studies teacher at Riverside Brookfield High School, and musician Ryan Thomas are part of local bands in Chicago. Both have played in their respective bands for a number of years. Recommended by a friend, Fields joined a band as a drummer. Thomas started in his band to play music with his friends. Both values playing music, believing that it can highlight special experiences in life.

Thomas is in a metal band called Minsk which was created in Peoria, Illinois. It is named after the capital city of Belarus. Minsk has toured across the country, has had records released by record labels, and has been featured in magazines. Thomas is the band’s drummer and started playing when he was a kid and has continued with music ever since.

“My very first group was with a bunch of kids I grew up with,” Thomas said. “We started playing Slipknot and Marilyn Manson.”

Thomas looks back fondly on playing with his friends for fun. Eventually, the small teen band inspired Thomas to be a part of a musical group in his adulthood.

“We had no real goals of playing shows, we just really enjoyed playing these songs,” Thomas said. “We had a great time getting together with friends and playing for hours.”

Minsk slowly grew from a small band of friends to playing at bars and touring the country. Thomas reflects on his band’s growing popularity over the years.

“We toured coast to coast, put out a couple records, got some magazine push,” Thomas said. “It was a really insane and wonderful experience.”

Each member of the band has their favorite songs that they have produced. Every song is unique, which makes them more memorable. 

“There is a song called ‘Hold Her Own’ by a band I was in called Ghosts of Old Giants,” Thomas said. “The song was recorded live in our practice space.”

The vocals for “Hold Her Own” were recorded separately from the live recording of the song. This was the moment that he realized he wanted to play music seriously.

“It wasn’t so much an inspiration as it was a turning point. It sorta came together, like it was supposed to happen,” Thomas said. “It was really kind of unspoken. It wasn’t until 2004 when I graduated high school and we toured. I specifically remember sitting in math class staring at a wall and I was like I just wanna play music forever. It was a light bulb moment, it felt like it was the right idea.”

With his experience working on this passion project with a team, Thomas knows how to make sure it does not fail. Bonding is an important aspect of playing music with others.

“You have to be friends first before you can be in a band. Being a band is 100% like being in a relationship. You should never dread going to practice,” Thomas said.

Field’s band is also based in Chicago, a blues band called The Black Oil Brothers. They put out their first album “Long Way From Delta” in 2009, and they continue to make music to this day. Fields is their drummer.

“We don’t do standard Chicago blues, we don’t do Mississippi Delta Blues,” Fields said. “I would say it’s weird blues Americana.”

The band has made multiple albums and extended plays, some being “Mean Business,” “The High Road to Ruin,” and the previously mentioned “Long Way From Delta.”

“I have a few originals I like,” Fields said. “I like ‘Trouble Rides a Fast Horse,’ I like ‘Door Locks Behind You,’ I like ‘Poor Planning,’ ‘Free for Now.’ There’s a lot.”

“The Door Locks Behind You” is one of the most popular songs of the Black Oil Brothers with 22,568 listens on Spotify. The band uses a myriad of instruments for their performances which is one of the things that makes the band unique.

“There’s electric guitars, there’s banjo on some songs, some mandolin on some songs,” Fields said.

Fields has been in the band for twelve years and has done many performances. Fields was originally in a different band, but his background in music inspired him to start his own. 

“I was inspired to originally play drums by my father,” Fields said. “He was in a band called The Young Generation. I also learned how to play the guitar in junior high because I really got into heavy metal. As I got into high school I got into all kinds of music.”

The Black Oil Brothers have played at multiple venues including Northcenter Town Square, the Savemore Lounge, and the Montrose Saloon. The band’s positive interactions with each other on stage and audience lead to successful performances.

“We’ve known each other a really long time, we got along very well,” Fields said. “Our lead singer is very charismatic. He’s very good at commanding a crowd.”

Fields has continued to play drums for the band for 12 years now. Even with the multiple bands he has played in, he plans to stick with the Black Oil Brothers.

“We love it. It’s our passion and we do it as much as we can,” Fields said. “It’s enjoyable to share with other people, and it just feels good to do.”

The Black Oil Brothers can be found on Spotify and Bandcamp. They continue to make music, and while no performances are coming up soon currently, they can still be found online. Next time you’re in a pinch for new tunes, check them out. Their passion for their craft can be heard through their blues music. 

“There’s very few things in life as enjoyable as playing music,” Fields said.