Chapel Club
UK / European Tour
April – May 2010
Questionnaire: Steve Bateman

“A name that may or may not appear on any number of lists at the outset of 2010, Chapel Club seem intent on ploughing their own furrow regardless of the hype and are pleased to confirm the release of their second single, O Maybe I. The band first pricked the capital's consciousness as the sun started to set on the summer of 2009, with a series of live shows in a hitherto underused setting in Dalston. Word of mouth excitement led to unprecedented numbers in attendance for a band few had heard and even fewer had witnessed live. The gigs proved to be a pivotal moment in the upward arc of the band's trajectory. Chapel Club’s recorded debut came in the pop noir form of single Surfacing, which dined on past moods and moments while concocting a feast of the band's own devilish design. With healthy support from specialist radio and plaudits from press quarters, the band ended 2009 on a high and surrounded by high expectations (not least their own). O Maybe I careers into view riding this wave of anticipation and does nothing to disappoint. Another track from an already impressive cache, it will turn heads from the brooding opening bassline through the impassioned vocal – recounting a tale of love and frustration – to a finale awash with guitar beauty.” OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE

“Every once in a while, a band crop up who are seemingly purpose built to be a big deal. These bands seem ill-fitted in small venues playing to tiny crowds, their music bursting out of radios and amplifiers on a different level to every other new band. This year that band are Chapel Club.” GIGWISE

Lewis Bowman (vocals) and his compadres, Michael Hibbert (guitar), Liam Arklie (bass), Alex Parry (guitar) and Rich Mitchell (drums), started Chapel Club in 2008 and soon began putting on their own shows in East London, to prevent “wasting loads of time playing the same dull, empty venues as every other unknown band.”

The group’s sound has been classified by some as, ‘Mid-1980s post-punk melancholia… with a scathing attack of shoegazey guitars’, although lead singer Lewis’ literate / inward-looking lyrics and the conviction with which his valley-deep voice delivers every word, ensures that Chapel Club are lifted above many of those who are peddling a similar musical style. Bowman himself, describes the quintet’s spry sound as: “Lean, loud, intense, delicate, hopefully beautiful. Plus there’s an awkwardness about it all which I quite like.”

Having issued their new single, O Maybe I (East City Records), in February – which follows last year’s Dream A Little Dream Of Me-referencing debut, Surfacing. Lewis (who is also a poet and storywriter with aspirations of one day being published), has filled in R*E*P*E*A*T on his marvellous musical parish!

Time to start praying that you’re able to catch Chapel Club before they go stellar…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1.For people who have an affinity with music and who really understand it, not only can it be a sanctuary for them, but also a way of life! Have you yourselves, always felt so passionately about music?
“My appreciation of music takes a strange form, or so it sometimes seems to me. It’s always had a weird competitiveness to it. There’s a Ted Hughes poem in which he describes himself and a lover (probably Sylvia Plath? I can’t remember) as like two wolves, ‘come separately to a wood.’ Each finds it impossible to rest in the knowledge that the other exists, and both animals are driven by this overwhelming need to discover, dominate and consume (in some sense) the other. I really understand that view of love.
I feel like that about the artists I most admire, people like Jacques Brel, Tom Waits, Scott Walker, as well as various writers or painters or whoever. There’s this odd need to validate your relationships with other people’s work by trying to equal or surpass it in some way. Consume that which threatens to consume you. I’m a long way off yet, by anyone’s standards. But you know, you keep at it. It’s a weird psychological dynamic I guess, but I imagine there are a lot of people out there who experience the same thing.”

2.How would you say your personalities and musical ideas blend together, and what’s the story behind your name Chapel Club?
“The name Chapel Club comes from the fact that we used to sit and drink in the churchyard of St Luke’s on Old Street after rehearsals on summer nights; plus all the other names we liked were already taken by about a million other bands. As for the band’s personalities, I think part of the reason we work well together (so far at least), is because we’re all quite different in some ways but very similar in others. We all tend to agree on what’s good musically, artistically, aesthetically, whatever. But we all tend to approach new songs from different angles. When we write together, it’s like everyone brings their own take on a song and we put it all together and manage to make something that’s often completely unexpected but also (hopefully) kind of cool.”

3.Some music critics have argued that “a band's value is measured in terms of both their reach and their artistic qualities” and that “important acts are driven by a desire to change things.” Would you agree with this and has there ever been an artist / band that has changed the way you think about music?
“There have been plenty of artists that have changed my view of music (the ones I listed in my first answer, for example) and I think it’s an admirable thing to try to rewrite the course of (music) history etc. Or to do so without trying. But, I don’t agree that there’s any simple connection between ‘reach’ and ‘value’. Bradford Cox is a far more important artist right now than anyone showing up in the Top 40, but his reach is probably pretty limited, compared to (say) Lady Gaga. It’s a shame, but it doesn’t matter. The music and the ideas and the feelings behind them are what’s important.”

4.What was the first song that you wrote and were all really proud of, and lyrically, is there anything that you would still like to write a song about?
“I think the first song I was fully satisfied with (for a while, anyway) was one called Spirits, which we don’t play any more. I doubt it’ll ever be released in fact. I think it was the first lyric that wasn’t reworked from an existing poem, and I remember toiling over it when my girlfriend was away over the Christmas of 2008. I recorded the vocal on this crap little multi-track I’ve got. It took me ages to sing it properly, but the little demo turned out to be really atmospheric. The other guys liked it too, but then we decided the track was too soft so we added loads of noise to it. Eventually, it fell out of favour completely, our sound moved on and Spirits didn’t fit anymore. Lyrically, I can’t say there’s anything I know I want to write a song about in the future; it doesn’t really work like that for me. Whatever comes, comes. There are a lot of lyrics that probably won’t see the light of day now, about terrorism and love and hunting and all kinds of other stuff. None of them were planned in advance, it’s just a case of seeing what feelings the music suggests and what words I can find to frame them.”

5.Both yourselves and fans of your work, seem to be drawn to dark romanticism and melancholy. Would you agree that these emotional and lovelorn themes permeate a lot of your songs?

“Yeah, I guess so, at the moment anyway. Not because I’m some proto-goth with a morbid outlook, I’m actually quite upbeat. We do have songs that are more optimistic, musically and lyrically, but it’s not so simple as us being a ‘happy’ band or a ‘sad’ band, a ‘light’ band or a ‘dark’ band. I think we’re just a thoughtful band, and the world’s a tricky place and human psychology is a strange thing. So hopefully the songs reflect that to some extent.”

6.The next instalment of Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe’s ‘Masterpieces’ was recently aired in the UK, whereby Zane “plays out four albums that he and his crew think altered the musical landscape at the time of their release.” But if the decision was yours, which four albums would you play?
“Pretty obvious choices, but I guess any album that changes the musical landscape is going to be pretty well-known…”
Chuck Berry – One Dozen Berrys
The Beatles – Abbey Road
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
OutKast – The Love Below

7.What are you hoping to achieve with your first long player?
“All I want is to make an album that people can listen to and enjoy to the full: no filler, no fluff, nothing boring or vacuous or bland. I want people to have an emotional connection to every song on the album. I want the music to be worthy of the lives people lead.”

8.From the Chapel Club tracks that I’ve heard so far, guitars and bass seem to play a prominent role in your overall sound, but from all of your favourite artists / songs, are there any guitar or bass lines that have stuck in your head?
“Wow, there’re tons. The guitar on Brian Eno’s Third Uncle is pretty unbelievable. On a different tip, I always loved the solo on this live version I have of The Allman Brothers’ One Way Out. I love the bass on The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi album, that plucked, bubbly sound. It’s got such a relaxed, summery feel to it, but with a kind of darkness roiling underneath. I’m sure the other guys would have a lot more insightful stuff to say on this one though.”

9.If you were asked to record a ‘Split EP’ with one act, where you would both cover each other’s songs – who would you choose and what track, plus which song of yours would you like them to cover?
“We were talking about covers the other day. Mike suggested Glen Campbell. We’d do Wichita Lineman and (if I had my way) he’d do a track of ours called Wintering/Widows, which no-one outside the band has heard yet and which probably won’t even make the album. But it’s my favourite of our songs.”

10.As music fans, what’s the furthest distance that you’ve ever travelled to see a gig + who for you, are some of the great live bands in the history of popular music?
“I went from London to Nottingham once to see Deerhunter, just after the release of Cryptograms, but my girlfriend was interviewing them and it was her birthday, so there were more reasons for the trip than just that one. Plus a friend of mine runs Liars Club, the night they were playing. It was cool though, Deerhunter seem like nice guys. As for great live bands... Richie Havens at Woodstock, Jacques Brel at the Olympia, Blur in the early days and Focus doing Hocus Pocus on some TV show in The ‘70s. Check it out, it’s on YouTube. It’s pretty special.”

11.How do you feel before going onstage, and do you ever listen to any music in your dressing room in order to psyche yourselves up?
“We don’t always have a dressing room, we’re too new for all that. And at our London gigs we’re often DJing before the show, so no time for psyching up. I prefer it that way, to be honest, no need to ratchet up the tension with weird group hugs and stuff.”

12.Peter Hook has just opened ‘FAC251 - The Factory’ in Manchester, but if you could own a club / venue anywhere in the world, where would it be and what would you call it?

“It’d be on the coast somewhere in the south of France, or else in some battered part of Paris, just to give me an excuse to live in either of those places. It’d be an old-style jazz club (none of that easy listening shit) and I’d name it ‘Greenleaf’s’, after Dickie Greenleaf in The Talented Mr Ripley.”

13.Of all your favourite music, are there any acts who you feel really should have been massive in terms of success and recognition + nowadays, do you think Webcasts – such as exclusive live basement-style gigs and fan questions – are a good way for musicians to interact with their followers and help increase their profile?
“Just off the top of my head: Washington Phillips, The Nerves, Big L, Jamie Lidell, Camera Obscura (though there’s still time for the last two). There are so many. I guess Webcasts are “a good way for musicians to interact with their followers,” though I don’t really like thinking about ‘profile’ and all that, that kind of talk freaks me out. The world’s complicated enough, without the marketing chumps adding to it with their false wisdom. I guess if anything, web stuff could be more fun because it might let you avoid loads of the corporate bullshit that clings to other events.”

14.If you were asked to travel the world as part of an NME ‘New Music Tour Package’ – which 3 artists / bands would you most like to join you?
“Mike (our guitarist) introduced me to a band called Munch Munch the other day, they sounded cool. Would Atlas Sound count as new, given the lack of profile this side of the pond? I’m pushing it a bit, but if so, I’d have them along. And Washed Out. We all love the Washed Out record.”

15.Lastly, chips or cream buns?

“Chips: savoury over sweet any day.”


A very special thanks to Lewis, to Lucius @ Anorak London and to Tav + Mark @ East City Management, for all of their time and help.

“O maybe I, should settle down to a quiet life
O maybe I, should chance it all on a perfect night”

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?