Emerging Artists #7 – Chapel Club

July 8, 2010 by  

With their brooding lyrics and expansive sound, London’s Chapel Club have been garnering huge amounts of buzz since the start of the year. Before they head-off on the NME Emerge Tour, with the Joy Formidable, vocalist Lewis Bowman took the time to answer our questions and offer some very candid insights into the music industry…

Standard first question, how did you all get together, where you all from and why did you decide to make music together?

We come from all over the place, but we met in London at various clubs/bars/parties and through mutual friends etc. We didn’t really decide to make music together, we just got together and drunk and played and drunk and played some more – and it seemed to work. We realised we wrote pretty well together. So we kept at it.

How long did it take you to decide on your sound/direction, and how did you come to the
decision?

Again, there was never really a decision. The band was a new idea – the whole practise of making music was new to me personally. We didn’t want to kill the whole thing as soon as it was born by smothering it with aims and expectations. We just felt our way forward. Pretty soon, things began to take shape and grow in ways we thought were interesting – and quite soon after that, other people started getting into it. Since then, everything has moved so quickly, our only real aim has just been to capture the first clutch of songs and get them out into the world. Then maybe we can take a few breaths and start to plan how to progress in future. It’ll be novel for us to actually plan something in advance.

What equipment are using for recording, and is there any particular reason behind the choice?

The same stuff we use live, plus a few extra synths and strange effects pedals and a mini-mountain of vintage Korgs. The reason? We wanted this album to live up to the songs. The tracks on the record weren’t intended to follow any central theme, but by the time we came to record them it was pretty clear that, taken together, they all have something to do with life in your late teens and early twenties, the emotional turbulence caused by love and loss and ambition and drugs and doubt as you emerge from youth into adulthood. I think most people have a pretty intense time between the ages of like, 15 and 25, and the lyrics reflect that. We used whatever equipment and techniques we could find to make the music reflect it, too.

What’s the best bit about being in a band and what’s the worst?

The best thing for me is being able to create something true to yourselves and your collective vision that can move people in the same way the stuff you listen to moves you. What a sentence. It sounds cheesy but it’s an amazing privilege when people buy the records or come to the shows and, in doing so, kind of invite you to have a crack at invading their hearts. Heart invasion is what we’re all about, after all.

The worst part I suppose is being away from home so much – away from family and friends and your dog and the places you know best. But it’s obviously amazing to get to travel so much, so it’s not like the world’s worst hardship.

Where was your first show and what was it like?

It was at the Shacklewell Arms pub in Dalston and it was a very cool night. I got pretty drunk so my memory is a bit hazy now, but I know I enjoyed it. The Shacklewell has a great atmosphere and some of the world’s best murals. They’re on a kind of tropical acid trip theme and seem to have been commissioned by a madman and painted by a drug casualty.

What’s the most high profile show you’ve done and what was it like?

I’m not sure really. Words like ‘profile’ fear me out, those music business terms. We played to 600 people at Village Underground in London on our last little tour, which seemed a pretty big deal… But we also played to about 60 people in Cardiff Barfly and I remember thinking it was amazing, a really special gig. All I care about is having one or two people in the audience who look like they’re open to the emotion in the songs and in the performance. If I get a couple of people like that, I feel like it’s a great show.

So what’s your average day at the moment?

Right now we’re on tour and pretty much limited to sitting around in vans and venues and cheap hotels. But we’re making it more interesting by writing songs as we go, playing around with new demos on our laptops, reading a lot, listening to the entire Sonic Youth back catalogue and so on. In fact, I owe Liam some lyrics for a new track right after I’ve done this.

If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be?

I can’t speak very intelligently about this, because I know there are practical reasons the whole industry is so fucking bizarre and insular and frequently unhelpful to bands and artists, both unsigned and signed. And I also realise that whatever my view, there are loads of really lovely people working in the music business – people with a massive amount of knowledge and integrity and a real passion for good music. We’re lucky enough to work with some of them. But in general I think the business caters too readily to the lowest common denominator in the name of commercial success, and is too willing to sacrifice honesty and art for sales, and employs too many people who think that a bad song has merit and a trite lyric is something special.

The lyrics thing especially really winds me up. There are so many good lyricists given no attention while Brit School personality abortions trot out froth and vapour and end up with all kinds of unwarranted acclaim.

What bands/artists are you into at the moment new or old?

Right now for me it’s all about Arthur Russell, Harry Belafonte, Bradford Cox, Richard Hawley, Bill Callahan, Karen O, Best Coast, Beach House, The Cure… I could go on forever.

Last gig you went to and what was it like?

I watched a US band called Royal Bangs who were supporting us in Berlin. They were fucking good, kind of James Murphy-esque vocals and party vibes but with a cool rock ‘n’ roll/punk thing going on too. Very nice guys as well.

What would you like to happen for the band in 2010?

I’d like for more people to hear the music, that’s all. I’m looking forward to more songs coming out and people finally getting a fuller sense of what the band is about. So far very few people have had the chance to listen to more than a couple of tunes, and we’ve had so many journalists try to define us after hearing quite literally a single track, which I think is pretty foolish. Still, it’s fun to keep shifting to one side whenever they throw a label in our direction, you know? We’re proving a slippery fish for them I think.

What can people expect when they come to your live shows?

Volume, melody, intensity… the very occasional smile as a way of saying thank you for coming. I’m not quite as aggressive on stage as some reviewers like to make out.

Favourite music era/scene and why?

Wow, I’m not sure. I think if I could go back it would probably be to the late 1950s, maybe 1959, catching the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and the very start of the ‘60s folk movement and being there in New York when jazz was hitting its peak with Kind of Blue and all that. Music seems to have meant so much then. But I guess it would be sad to see those scenes diffuse and dissolve and die later on.

If you could get one band to reform who would it be?

I’m not sure I’d want any of my favourite (broken up) bands – like The Velvet Underground or whoever – to reform (or to reform again). There’s no need. Old bands getting back together is embarrassing 95% of the time. Don’t bother. Let the songs live on as they were, that’s why you recorded them in the first place. I guess I wouldn’t mind seeing someone like Scott Walker perform nowadays, a solo artist with mad integrity and good judgement. But he won’t, which is probably one of the reasons I’m more open to him doing so.

What’s coming up next for the band?

A summer of festivals in the UK and Europe, shows shows shows through to the end of this year and into the next. Plus some exciting plans for song giveaways and various other stuff – but you’ll have to keep an eye on our website for details on that.

Chapel Club @ Myspace


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