Quinlan Kirchner

Quin is a native Chicagoan and one of the most musically flexible drummers in town. He seamlessly transitions between Free Jazz and Indie Rock among other genres of music. Quin’s talent speaks for itself, he is ready to play without waving a banner; true musicianship at its best. Currently, Kirchner is the drummer for Wild Belle, Nomo, & The Nate Lepine Quartet. He also performs his compositions as part of The Quin Kirchner Group.

You lived in New Orleans pre Katrina?

Yes, I moved down to New Orleans 2005 and attended University of New Orleans and studied Jazz Performance Drum Set. Unlike LSU or Tulane, UNO was more of a commuter University.

I went to Columbia College and that’s what I remember it being. Most people there were from Chicago.

Right, UNO is more of a local school. Ellis Marsalis started the music school in the 1970s. It has a really great reputation and people come from all over the world to be there. Professional career musicians attended as well. After years of touring they were like, “I want to finish my degree,”  and I’m in class with these guys. You show up the next semester after being on break, and you thought “Holy Shit! That dude’s over here!” Clarence Johnson, the saxophone player, is a good example. Clarence is a pro, he is a first call guy, an amazing player, did a lot of pop and R&B records and toured with the Neville Brothers. He is just a happening dude. One day, at the beginning of the semester, Clarence is in the hallways and he’s in one of my classes! I’m an upperclassman at this point so I’m taking advanced classes. We start talking, “Man I’m trying to finally finish this degree, man,” and our class today is to play together. I remember thinking  “He’s an accomplished musician and I’m playing with this guy!!”

Your class was to jam together?

Yeah, it was cool. Clarence and I got a lot of playing in together.  We took a Pro Tools [recording software] class together at UNO’s brand new Pro Tools studio and the class assignment was to make a multi-tracked recording.

Well, why not?

So I booked out studio time, I learned how to start a session with the program and Clarence asked me, “Hey, man, you get this stuff pretty well, right?” I’m like, “Yeah!”, so we did a saxophone and drum duo jam in the studio and recorded it.This was all because we were in the same class together. That’s what made going to school there so amazing.

There is nothing like the positive pressure of playing with a pro.

Yeah! So I did that, finished up school and spent another year in the city just gigging working a day job, rehearsing on my days off and recording. That’s when I really understood the concept that I could record an album, on my own, print it on, and create my own record label. This was before web based music was a thing.

While touring with New Orleans based group, The Other Planets, he returned for a few shows in Chicago and was contemplating a move back. Two weeks later, Hurricane Katrina hit and made the decision for him. After spending a stint in New York City, Quin finally returned to Chicago and joined Nomo.

There were a lot of bands between moving back to Chicago and Nomo; Leaf Bird with Tyler Beach, Salamander with Charles Rumback (Production Manager- Constellation) and a bunch others. Then, I reconnected with Erik Hall (In Tall Buildings).  Erik and I were in a band together  in high school before I moved to New Orleans. He went to the Latin School and I went to = St. Ignatius, we had a mutual friend and somehow got magically connected. Erik went to University of Michigan, that’s where he met Elliot Bergman (Wild Belle) and helped to start Nomo. They put out some records which got some press and a got them a  following. They had way more success then any band I had been involved with. Erik just moved back to Chicago with Elliot and that’s when I met Elliot. The three of us played some shows together, I joined Nomo as their percussionist. A couple years later I started playing as the Drum Set drummer.

Nomo is flush with afrobeat rhythms ala Antibalas and The Budos Band, horns like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie’s – Dizzy on the French Riviera. With instruments like Nu-Tone Cymbals, Cajon, Shekere and what sounds like distorted Thumb Piano, Nomo can also create warm, shoegazed viberations dashed with Avant-Garde Jazz.

So how did Nomo lead to Wild Belle?

Through a series of really interesting connections Nomo ended up being managed by Overcoat Management, which is rad. It’s this guy, Howard Greynolds, who I met working the first Pitchfork Music Festival and The Hideout Block Party. He was the Technical Director for the fests and started Overcoat Recordings by putting out that Bonnie Prince Billy and Tortoise collaboration in 2005.

 It was his idea to put that record out?

Yeah, I think so. He got the funding together to put that record out. He eventually launched Sam Beam of Iron and Wine. Howard has managed Sam from the beginning which is in part why Iron and Wine often includes Chicago musicians. The other thing was that Nomo went on tour with Iron and Wine because he was a big fan of Nomo, which blew our minds. It was on that tour when Elliot and Justin started playing on a couple songs with Iron and Wine on stage. Towards the end of that tour, Iron and Wine, would invite them to play half of  the set as horn guests. At the end of the tour, Sam asked them to join the band. So, they played Bonnaroo and on some TV spots, thus cementing Howard and Eliot’s relationship. After that, we went to the studio to experiment and ended up with this new project. We didn’t quite know what it was. Howard heard it and wanted to get behind it, so he launched Wild Belle, more or less less.

That guy must have some ear.

Well, we started doing some stuff on our own, but it wasn’t until we hooked up with Howard that we knew what to do. He had a plan:release a single, put on twelve inch with a digital download, spend money on publicity, don’t worry about labels. He covered the production costs. That did help us. Suddenly we got press, and labels wanted us!

Howard’s ear was right again. Wild Belle’s debut album, Isles, was released by Columbia Records on March 12, 2013. They also performed at Lollapalooza and The Conan O’Brian Show.

With Wild Belle making some major moves, are you playing in any jazz outfits?

Absolutely. For the last year I have been playing a lot with Nate Lepine, Tenor (saxaphone) player. He has been in Chicago a long time, went to Depaul. He became one of the Chicago Indie rock horn player guys.

Who did he play with?

He’s played with Manischewitz and  Cursive for a long time. Through his exposure with Cursive he became a first call, local call horn player. If a band was playing in Chicago and need a horn section, “Oh call Nate, he’s your guy.” I don’t even know all the groups he’s played in, Wilco to name an other. And then he was a chef for a long time. He was the chef at Violet Hour, I think a year ago. Nate’s a killer chef but he’s always been a killer jazz saxaphone player. Not just an Indie Rock player. He has the language for bebop and free jazz, he’s a heavy cat. Nate approached me around December of 2013 wanting to do his own stuff, was thinking about me as drummer and had a show lined up at Analogue Bar on a Wednesday. It was supposed to be a one off, and during the set I’m yelling in Nates ear, “we got to make this a monthly!” Early January, I’m looking at my old text messages and I realized it’s been a year! So we just picked the next Wednesday and called it our anniversary show.

Two Months later?

Yeah, nobody knows. We are just going to say it.

See Quin and The Nate Lepine Quartet at Analogue Bar the 3rd Wednesday of the month or go to http://www.natelepine.com for more up coming shows.

You can catch Quin Kirchner’s Group play two show in April, 21st at The Whistler and the 22nd at Constellation. For more on when and where to catch Quin follow him at



Wild Belle


Gerard Barreto