|Featured Band (1): Eastern Girls Full of Promise for London's Chapel Club|
|Written by DJ Space|
|Thursday, 21 October 2010 23:00|
One of the most encouraging offerings last week was the UK release of the new single "All the Eastern Girls" by London-based Chapel Club. The band recently headlined on the Emerge NME Radar Tour, and BBC Radio's Zane Lowe previously recognized the track as his "Hottest Record in the World," but don't expect this record to chart in The Official UK Singles Chart, which, in common with the US Billboard Hot 100, is dominated by RnB and TV talent show artists. As a foretaste of Chapel Club's debut album expected early next year, "All the Eastern Girls" is full of promise for the future.
An emerging band based in fashionable East London, Chapel Club is a guitar band that has developed its own, distinctive, trademark sound. Intense, arty, experimental and yet listenable, the melodies are expressive, generally dramatic, at times tuneful, and often dissonant, with intricate guitar riffs and hooks backed by deliberate playing and rhythmic drumming which every now and then explode into driving guitar licks and dynamic drum rolls. The lyrics, written about lust, love, and loss, are intelligent, darkly poetic, frequently pensive, sometimes reflective, and occasionally contemplative, written and sung with meticulous timing by vocalist Lewis Bowman in a soft, crooning voice which has a quality curiously reminiscent of Ian McCulloch at his finest.
Referred to as "gloomsters" by some, Chapel Club's music has been described as "Moody, majestic and magnificent" by others. Global Editor of Billboard Magazine, Mark Sutherland, described the band's sound as, "Amazing… shoegaze but with songs and balls."
“I don’t see us as being a dark band,” Bowman told NME. “In my head it’s like light on water. It’s this constantly moving play of light, it’s very sensory. ‘Surfacing’ was dark because it’s a hate song... There’s a melancholia to it, but listen to the music. It’s the contrast, the dark meeting the light. That’s what life’s about. Anyone that pegs us as ‘gloomy’ is missing half of what’s there.”
"They play rock of the epic variety: guitars that ring, drums that thunder, and so on. Expect to hear the word 'soundscapes' used by excitable reviewers," Michael Hann wrote for The Guardian, while at the same time comparing them with "near-forgotten" Manchester-based 80's band, Easterhouse. "It's possible that videos will be filmed atop windswept cliffs."
“I dread that question, ‘Who do you sound like?’” Bowman said in a press release. “Not because it’s a bad question, it’s natural enough for someone to ask that. I’d just love to have a quick and accurate answer, but I can’t think of anyone we sound like, especially live. I end up reeling off influences from Deerhunter and New Order to the Bad Seeds, Scott Walker and Chet Baker – and leaving the person who asked more confused than they were to begin with.” The band also cite My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth as influences. "It’s tricky describing our sound because we’re still relatively new and we’re still evolving," Bowman said in an interview with VPM. "I guess if I had to name influences it’d be artists like MBV, Jesus and Mary Chain, Washed Out maybe, plus a little Brel and Sinatra. On the other hand, the songs we’ve been piecing together on the road and at home since we finished recording the album are already sounding quite different, so who knows what we’ll sound like a year from now."
The video of "All the Eastern Girls" can be viewed here . "The band vetoed cheesy narrative concepts for the video, opting for band performance interspersed with imagery from the song," NME reported when it attended the video shoot and found the band being wrapped in blue cloth by models. "It was a nice way of connecting the girls and their element, and ours," Bowman said.
"All the Eastern Girls" (opening verse):
"My mind is a night garden
Chapel Club was born in the summer of 2008 in the shadow of St. Luke's Church, on London’s Old Street. "There’s a pretty good balance of input and authority within and among the band," Bowman said in an interview for the Collective Review. "Everyone contributes, everyone criticises, everyone creates." The band’s founder, Essex-bred Michael Hibbert (guitar and keyboard) spent some time playing in other people’s bands before he began collecting ideas and inspiration for his own. When Hibbert met Liam Arklie (bass) and Arklie introduced Alex Parry (guitar), his best friend since junior school days in Swindon, the core parts were in place. "Liam and Alex are the Gervais and Merchant of indie... Actually they’re more Bert and Ernie," Bowman added.
Leeds-born Rich Mitchell (drummer) and Londoner Bowman provided the missing pieces. They had been told that Bowman could sing and asked if he wanted to try writing lyrics for the band. It was an intimidating experience for Bowman, who had never been in bands before and now found himself singing and songwriting for the first time. Bowman spoke about the experience in an interview with Addict Music. "The whole practise of making music was new to me personally," he said. "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."
According to the band's press kit, Chapel Club has its own formula, one arrived at by chance and which band members want to remain something of a mystery. In writing lyrics for the songs, Bowman drew on his love of wordsmiths like Ted Hughes, Mikhail Bulgakov, R.S. Thomas, Frank O’Hara, Ernest Hemingway and Knut Hamsun to create lyrics from the vivid and vernacular (the lovers’ argument of "O Maybe I"), or the darkly poetic (the pained paean to desire that is "Machine Music"), to the acutely descriptive ("After the Flood"), and downright philosophical ("Paper Thin"). Events, experiences, and sentiments are at the heart of their songs: sex, love, grief, frustration, pride, power, jealousy, and even (in "The Shore") the desire for the comforts of religious faith in a mind that’s far too cynical ever to accept the possibility of God. Bowman's lyrics also use imagery drawn from the natural world to explore the themes of love, loss, and existential confusion. "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," Bowman told Addict.
Bowman is even something of an evangelist for better lyrics in songs. "I try to have them avoid cliché and work as words read from a page as much as words sung or spoken," He told VPM. "For me being in a band is all about the creative act." Bowman spoke on the subject to Collective. "I think if you make a bit of effort, you’ll be rewarded by people taking a deeper interest in what you do and what you write," he said. "And then there’s more chance they’ll appreciate what you’re trying to do."
On the music industry as a whole, Bowman told Addict, "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."
The band's name was inspired by the location of its rehearsal space near St. Luke’s Church and by Bowman's interest in religion and religious imagery. "It seemed pretty appropriate because sometimes after rehearsals we used to sit and drink in a churchyard on Old Street," Bowman told VPM. Copyright issues obstructed the release of the intended first single, "Surfacing," since the chorus uses lyrics from the 1930's standard "Dream a Little Dream of Me." Bowman has since stated in interviews that copyright problems have been resolved. As he told Collective, "I sing, and I write the words I sing. Or choose from whom to borrow them."
"Stars shining bright above you
In November 2009 the band recorded their first single release, "O Maybe I", at Atomic Heart Studio, New York, and this was issued on limited edition vinyl and digitally on the band's website in February 2010. Backed with a brooding bassline and dancing guitars, the song tells a story of love and frustration. "O maybe I should fuck around with someone's wife," Bowman sings.
At around this time, the band began work on their debut album with producer Paul Epworth at The Pool Recording Studio, South London, whose production credits include the debut studio albums of Bloc Party, Florence + the Machine, and The Rakes. "He's one of the most talented people I've ever met," Bowman said during the Emerge NME Radar Tour. "He can play anything, he gets everything and he's so articulate about the music he loves, which is the thing that struck me the most. He can talk about a song, what he sees and hears in it, and he expresses that to you in such a concise way that it's easy to understand and that makes it easy to record because you can all get behind an idea." Bowman confirmed the release date for February. Epworth produced most of the tracks, Chris Zane produced "Surfacing," and Claudius Mittendorfer produced "O Maybe I." Mittendorfer mixed the album, which includes "a new mix of 'Surfacing,' which we all love," Bowman told Collective.
"The album has a pretty grand, emotional sweep to it – big, bold songs about love and loss and faith and being in your twenties wondering if you’ve wasted all your chances already," Bowman explained to VPM. "It’s pretty dramatic, swoonsome stuff, punctuated with some darker, more aggressive moments." As yet, the band have not announced a title for the album. "I just suggested something to the guys the other day that I’m hoping will stick," he said.
"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." Bowman told Addict. "Then maybe we can take a few breaths and start to plan how to progress in future."
Chapel Club released a limited 7” single "Don’t Look Down" for Record Store Day in April, which was available solely through local independent record stores.
In May, the band released "Five Trees," a track with snarling bass lines and writhing, twisted guitars produced during the album sessions. "‘Five Trees’ is the story of a dream produced by a weekend of over-indulgence I had a few years ago," Bowman told VPM. "Five trees on a dark hill, with leaves like glowing stars which began to detach from the branches and drift to the ground like snowflakes." Bowman also spoke about the song to Collective. "If I’m honest, it’s probably my least favourite of all our songs," he said. "I just thought the lyric was a little straightforward."
Later that month, Chapel Club played a sold-out show for 600 fans at East London venue, The Village Underground, and subsequently played British and European summer festivals, including Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, Oxford Truck Festival, Middlesbrough Music Live, Sheffield Tramlines, Jersey Live, Belgium's Pukkelpop, Germany's Haldern-pop, and Sweden's Way Out West. The band headlined the second stage at London's Field Day festival.
"The Shore," a track from the keenly anticipated debut album, is currently available for free download on the band's website. "The Shore" is one of several poems Lewis had previously written on the Biblical theme of Jonah while also recounting a drug-fueled walk home. “I’d been out on pills and ketamine for a weekend and I was walking home at 7am through Whitechapel with my girlfriend," he told NME. "Totally hungover on a comedown but being alive to the colour and light and beauty that’s in the world.”
In September, Bowman added a new song, "Bodies," to Chapel Club's Myspace page. In interviews, he stated that the track is part of a secret project and shall not feature on the debut album. The song has a sparse and thinly-layered backing, focussing on what Bowman described on the band's Blog as an "imagist" lyric.
"Bodies" (opening verse):
The band recently headlined with The Joy Formidable on the Emerge NME Radar Tour. "I like playing shows when they go well, when I don't mess things up," Bowman told NME.
The band is currently signed to Loog Records, a British independent record label which is affiliated to the Polydor division of Universal Music and has released recordings by artists such as The Bravery, The Horrors, and The Courteeners. The band deny that they signed a big money deal. “We took creative control over loads of cash,” Mitchell told NME. Loog describes the debut album as "a poetic psychedelic masterpiece."
A favorite at live performances, "All the Eastern Girls" is a brooding track which opens with a studied guitar riff and a slow first verse before exploding into life with rippling guitars. It is available on limited edition 7” vinyl and for digital download on Amazon and iTunes. Bowman described the debut album as a "strong album" to Collective, but added, "Our best songs are still to come. We’ve kept writing all the while – we’ve got more new songs than we know what to do with." The single signals intent from the band and promises a future with more light than darkness.
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|Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 December 2010 08:44|