Sidelined by fickle finances, rehab, Yourself and the Air figure out things 

The life story of textured indie-popsters Yourself and the Air would make a great coming-of-age flick " maybe a low-budget, art-house romp about a couple of buddies who gather their friends into a band, then beg, borrow and steal their way to success.

The Chicago quartet's first lesson was on the DIY art of grifting. Noble in that doing-whatever-it-takes-to-survive manner that turns scruffy slackers into a focused touring machine, Yourself and the Air figured out how to cross the country on almost nothing at all.

"One tour, we went out for six weeks and I left with, like, $8 in my pocket and nothing else. So we do a lot of " I hate to say it " but, like, stealing. Grocery stores and gas stations. We've picked change out of mall fountains and panhandled. We're pretty good at it," lead singer Erick Crosby said. "The best thing to do, we found out, is the continental breakfast at hotels when you're riding through the morning, or get up early enough to go there, and just act like you just woke up and load up on everything you can get."

Last year, Crosby sent out a press kit containing copies of the band's pulsing, drifting "Friend of All Breeds" EP to more than 100 venues, which helped the act secure a booking agent, affording the four an evolutionary leap in the quality of gigs and perks.

"Now we're fortunate enough to get meals and beer," he said.

Crosby feels "Friend" is a better representation of the band's style than its more guitar-driven 2007 debut, "Cold Outside Brings the Heavy Thoughts to Think," an album he said was "too much too loud."

Although the five-song disc boasts a tighter, more hypnotic sound suggesting a creamier Modest Mouse, the latest is not necessarily what Yourself will perform 9 p.m. Monday at The Conservatory. Crosby said only two of the songs remain in the set list, as several months ago, guitarist Nicholas Sinclair left the band and entered rehab. Around that time, keyboardist Jeff Papendorf returned. Still down a guitarist, the group can't reproduce many of its earlier songs and has had to write new songs to fill out the live show. Sinclair is now in a halfway house, and Crosby is hopeful he'll soon return and rejoin.

"We're young. We were experimenting, and one of us got a little too overboard," Crosby said. "We went through rough times. We almost broke up because we weren't sure how to really handle it. But we figured it out and he figured it out, and hopefully he can stay on the ball. His place is there when he comes back. We're never going to replace him."

Meanwhile, the band pushes on.

"Our history is so good. We know our limits. We know when to back off. We know when we're pissing each other off," Crosby said. "We're really growing and getting tighter and tighter. It feels so good. We finally feel like we're not at the starting line, and we're ready to race."

Yourself and the Air with Early Beat and Luna Moth perform at 9 p.m. Monday at The Conservatory, 8911 N. Western. Tickets are $6. "Chris Parker

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