Lofty expectations suck.

Whether those expectations are predisposed or self-imposed, it can be hard to live up the high-water mark of anticipation.

Chicago’s Ne-Hi knows the experience all too well.

When work on the band’s sophomore album “Offers” was not coalescing with their expectations, the band left the studio and hit the road.

“It was a good opportunity to test a lot of the songs out in the world. You get on the stage, and you are in front of people,”
Jason Balla (guitar/vocals) said. “The reactions are more immediate. It gave us a sense of the energy of the songs we were writing.”

Ne-Hi rolls into The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls on August 3.

Balla, Mikey Welsh (guitar/vocals), James Weir (bass) and Alex Otake (drums) convened to work on the soundtrack for a college friend’s film.

The four like the zeitgeist they caught working on the score of the movie and decided to give the impromptu band a chance.

Ne-Hi was born.

“Our first record (the self-produced ‘Ne-Hi’) came out in 2014, so we were probably first playing in 2013,” Balla said. “We started off playing tours that were booked by us. We played wherever we could.”

Playing wherever they could meant embracing the Do-it-Yourself (DIY) approach that was prominent in the Chicago music scene at the time. It meant playing house shows and other venues with less than stellar sound systems.

“When we first started out we were playing all of these DIY shows in these spaces that were pure energy, where you could get away with lazy songwriting and a guitar that doesn’t have to be in tune.”

The band quickly learned what worked on the DIY circuit was not going to translate over to bigger venues with far superior PA systems.

“When you are on stage with a PA there is nothing to hide behind, where everything can be heard. It was a nice challenge for us to step it up a bit. Everything we are doing adds to the experience. There is a tangible electricity that is there. Everything is a little bit louder and a little bit clearer.”

With the sudden clarity, the band realized they needed to step up their game.

In early 2016, the group entered a studio for the first time to begin work on what was to become “Offers.” They discovered quickly that the songs were not living up to their expectations of what they wanted for the sound of the new album.

Instead of wasting any time in the studio, the band scrapped the sessions and headed back out on the road to rework and hone their songs and craft.

“We all love playing together and playing live. (Touring) seems to have become that way (of life) over the last couple of years. It has all been really fun. It is a big part of our band is our natural chemistry.”

After a short stint on the road, the band re-entered the studio in March. This time, they were ready to meet the elevated expectations they placed upon themselves.

“A lot of people really like that first album. We didn't want to let them down, you know? It was also the first time we were working with a record label, booking agent and stuff like that.”

“Offers” was recorded live in the studio with the vocals being the major only major overdubs.

“It was a nice opportunity when you could play something and then go into another room and listen to how it sounds. You can see what is working and what is not. This was a much more immediate editing process.

“Honestly I think we are just older. Playing is such a big experience content-wise. We are not hiding behind a lot of effects. I think that any imperfections that may be there are charming. They make tracks sound unique. It might not be intended, but it is something that makes the songs sound special.”

Those effects of going from the DIY, self-produced debut album to that of a label and studio for “Offers” is not lost on Balla.

“You do get caught up in how busy everything is. We are, kind of, moving around all the time. It is really cool. I like having done the DIY and the record label. It is nice to have help now.”