You Sing, I Write: Q&A with Chambers

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Q&A with Chambers

Last Tuesday, Chambers released debut album, Old Love. With the goal to capture their live sound on the record, having witnessed their show this past Saturday, the five-piece band no doubt accomplished this. The LP embodies 11-tracks of aggressive rock & roll, hard vocals and killer guitar riffs that is bound to energize every listener.

I chatted with frontman Dan Pelic before the show about Chambers' songwriting process, maintaining his voice throughout the set and what exactly he's thinking about when screaming in the pit while fans are jumping on him. His answers may surprise you. Read below for more and be sure to visit the band on MySpace.

Reviewers have been comparing you to Doomriders and saying Old Love is an Album of the Year contender. Why do you think the album has been so well received?Well, I think they give us too much credit. I think these guys will probably hear someone else who’s just as exciting two months from now and say, “Oh, that’s the album of the year.” That’s a really scary, heavy term that we’re not deserving to have placed upon us right now being that we haven’t even been playing out for a year yet. I appreciate the general excitement about the record. I think what it is is that we’re a mish-mosh of a bunch of different influences. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything like that. We are something refreshing in our energy and the fact that we’re rooted in rock & roll makes us accessible and headbangable. That’s something a lot of the reviewers are getting excited about. That they’re not having to compute and decode and decrypt what we’re trying to do. It’s something they can turn on and immediately start banging their head to and get into.

But, we’re still refreshingly different in the sense that we’re rock & roll being played heavily with extremely hard vocals over it. I think that’s our secret. I come from a much heavier background where I’m rooted in hardcore punk and metal and everybody else in the band are strictly rooted in rock & roll. I think that’s our secret, just combining heaviness in one portion and the other portion being something with more swagger and rock & roll with sleaze.

What's your songwriting process?
Originally, it was the band riffing. We would have three band practices a week, I wouldn’t come to one of them and they would riff and just noodle around for an entire practice and record it. They would send me riffs and would say, “Write over it and come in.” Basically what happens is, they send me a demo and then I’ll take something that I’ve already written or I’ll write to it and put it over the music and we’ll come in to meet together and adapt whatever I’ve written to fit over it and do some arranging. The vocal melodies are made to the music, but the lyrics are written as poetry and that’s taken and put over the music. It’s basically jamming and taking parts and gluing them together. A lot of times the words have been written and the way that we structure the words will dictate how the arrangement of the music will go down at the end of the process.

I wanted to ask you about “Crap Out.” You’re screaming in it, but there is also some singing too.
The singing is actually Nathan Gray. He sings in a band called The Casting Out. He was in a legendary band called Boy Sets Fire and he’s providing the clean vocals on that track. It started off as me screaming that line, but then I started to sing that second line and I thought it was a good dynamic to have. It wasn’t really working for me. I don’t feel my clean singing vocal tone really fit.

We became friends with him from playing together with his new band and we decided to bring him into the studio and he did it and it sounded great. He came over to the studio at 1 ‘o’clock in the morning when all they wanted to do was drive back home to Delaware. He was a sport about it and stayed around and recorded those vocal tracks and he realized that chorus to its fullest potential.

Do you plan on doing that in the future?
Yeah. I’m a big Phil Anselmo fan from Pantara, Superjoint Ritual and Down. I don’t play guitar or anything, everybody else writes everything, they write the music. Provided that what they want to do allows for me to do some clean vocals, I want to do some clean vocals. But gritty, none of this Auto-Tune stuff. I want to do something gritty, but cleaner than the aggressive screaming that you hear on the rest of the record.

The title track is very edgy and aggressive, but underneath it’s almost more of a positive song.
It is in a way. Basically the song is about being really hung up on somebody for a long time. I don’t know if you want to use the metaphor, “Getting under somebody to get over somebody.” But, it’s about being really hung-up on somebody for a while and making a real strong sexual connection with someone [else] that it’s just so ridden with ecstasy that you kind of forget.

If you listen to the words, it’s about having great sex with someone and forgetting about someone and helping them teach you that you can make a new, strong connection. Albeit it’s sexual and shallow, but a new connection with someone else to help you get over someone from the past. So yeah, I guess it is a positive song. It sounds angry and everything but when you listen to the words . . . when you juxtapose that with the rest of the songs on the record, I think it sounds probably the most positive out of all the other songs that we have.

Do you have a favorite track, or one that means more to you than the others?
“So Here’s That Song I Wrote About You” I really love that one and “The Nest.” Those are probably my two favorites on the records. I want to start playing the last track, “Tragedy” live. My bandmates aren’t too keen on playing it live, but I want to make it happen as soon as possible.  That’s my personal opus. I wrote that in a hospital bed when I was going out with somebody who was absolutely robotic and terrible. Wouldn’t even come visit me while I was hospitalized. That song is a symbolic last straw. That song to me is really heartfelt. So I would definitely say “Tragedy,” “The Nest” and “So Here’s That Song I Wrote About You” are the pinnacles for me.

What can fans expect from your live show?
A lot of our hype has come from the UK. People really want us to come there, but it’s hard. Airfare, money. We were offered a tour over there with a band called Trash Talk but it was only eight dates and it was x amount of money per date. We don’t care about losing money to expose ourselves. We’ve been spending tons of money on PR and radio to help get our music onto the radio and get people to listen to us and write about us. It would have been a catastrophic amount of monetary loss. One dude in our band has a mortgage to pay. He’s trying to sell his house to alleviate that financial burden for himself.

There’s critical acclaim, but that’s not what matters the most. What matters the most is getting people to watch you. We feel that every single show we play, we nab a couple of new fans no matter where it is, be it here or out of state. That’s the bread and butter of being a band. People can talk and hype and hype and hype. There have been a million bands that I know that have been hyped, but nothing has happened for them. People from the press and reviewers and reporters can say what they want, but it really doesn’t matter if people aren’t coming along to your shows and singing with you.

What are you thinking about while you’re onstage or on the floor performing and people are jumping on you and pushing you across the floor?
So, while everything is happening around me and people are jumping on me and what not, aside from physically dealing with the onslaught, I am thinking about the meaning behind each line that I am singing. If I just sang the words, I wouldn't be half as into it. But when I'm remembering and reliving what I went through to need to write those words, I explode.

How do you maintain your voice?
Just like traditional singing, opera singing, singing in a rock band, whatever, there’s a technique to screaming just like there is for that. Basically learning proper technique and a lot of it is breath control and the way that you open up your throat to release the breath, it’s all about using your gas tank to put it out there. Long story short, learning proper screaming technique is essential for maintaining your voice, not only in the long term, but through the course of your set. If you’re just blowing out your voice in the first 10 minutes of your set and the last 15-20 minutes suck, that sucks for everybody. A lot of people think that music that has screaming over it is just senseless screaming. No, there’s actually technique. I’m hitting notes. I’m listening to the monitors and I know where I’m at. There’s definitely a technique and an art to screaming.

What makes Chambers different from every other band out there?
I think the fact that we’re dangerous sounding, we’re dangerous to see live to a degree. We’re very aggressive, but the fact that even though all five of us come from such different backgrounds, all five of us have common rock & roll influences, and who the fuck doesn’t like rock & roll? Anyone can come in and move to our music and appreciate it is what I feel makes us different. We’re very dangerous, but we’re not complicated to digest. We’re not so offensive that you can’t get over the things that we’re saying and talking about and doing onstage. The fact that anyone can at least appreciate it is what sets us apart while still being very aggressive and on the edge and what punk rock and hardcore bands are “supposed to be.” We try to be as heavy as we can but we still have this swagger to our music that’s rooted in rock & roll. We have a very diverse group of friends and those are your first fans and all our friends dug it from the get-go.

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
I usually tell people we’re a really aggressive rock & roll band with heavy vocals. We don’t like to be pigeonholed into punk or hardcore or metal core, metallic hardcore as they call it in England. We have integrity. We have ideals that are rooted in hardcore and punk, but we like to play in front of whoever is in the audience. Whichever audience we play in front of it doesn’t matter as long as people are banging their heads and things are happening for us. We want to be successful without compromising ourselves. That’s where our integrity lies. We’ll never compromise our sounds, but we’ll do what it takes to bring this to be career musicianship.

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