Expose Yourself: an interview with Chamber Band

Room with a Sound - and Sound without Room

By: Olivia Sisinni

May 11, 2017

"We were all homeless at some point during the writing of the thing. At the end of the day, the album came out really cynical, which makes sense to me. But I love that it ends on a hopeful, unifying note. We’re all in this together."

With pure, dulcet vocals and driving, twangy instrumentals, Brooklyn-based Chamber Band serves up folk rock in a style all their own. Recently, The Deli was able to talk with the band a bit about their background, and how they manage to churn out such powerfully penned tracks.

P.S. The band won this interview through The Music Building's Expose Yourself Campaign - you can sign up here to be considered!

How did you guys meet? Accident, fate or chemistry-related attraction?

Anthony and I met first, five years ago. I was performing songs from Deities on the Lower East Side. We met when his girlfriend brought him and his brother to the bar above The Living Room — Googie’s Lounge. They told me that I should have a band, and I said, “Why the hell not?”

After that, we started to add more members. We hit Sarah Lawrence College hard. Anthony’s brother brought on his girlfriend, who had just graduated from there, and she brought on our drummer, Sam. Sam knew Asarr, and together they knew Ellen. So the three of them are all alumni of that school, making me and Anthony the outliers.

Anthony has always been the guiding hand when it comes to who we work with and how. He hates fabricated stuff, so it all has to be a natural thing. The universe dictates it, and all that. It took me a while, because I’m a total control freak, but I came to agree with him and follow his instincts.

Now we’re not just a band and each other’s second (or third) family. Not sure if a day will come where we’d ever not be making music together, in some iteration.

Interesting coincidence, the Googie's Lounge hosted our very first Stompbox Exhibit in 2011! How did you end up in rural PA to record your latest album Careers?

We wrote Careers in the old Pfizer pharmaceuticals factory. We wrote it in a really tiny room that used to be used to package pills. So when we were figuring out how to record it, it was kind of wishful thinking that we’d be able to record it the complete opposite way it was written. I’d connected with Eric Tait, who runs the recording studio out there, through a friend, and he was more than happy to accommodate all of us and play Magic the Gathering with Asarr. So — yeah, it fit into that whole “universe dictates what we do” thing.

What were the record's main sources of inspiration and is there a unifying theme to it?

Yeah, it’s a concept album, definitely. Perhaps it's a little less on the nose than album one. I think the Hunger Games made a lot of sense as a world to write in because we all felt like we were in survival mode. The city was financially pushing all of us out of it. We were all homeless at some point during the writing of the thing. At the end of the day, the album came out really cynical, which makes sense to me. But I love that it ends on a hopeful, unifying note. We’re all in this together.

What's your songwriting process, how early do ideas hit the hard drive, and through which tools?

At the beginning, the band was kind of interpreting songs I’d written — for better or worse. At this point, the ideas come from whoever has them. My main job in the band is to make sure that when Sam or Ellen or Asarr or whoever sit down and have a genius moment, that that shit gets recorded. I mull over stuff for months, sometimes years, and eventually we end up amalgamating them. The first big step is really coming up with a theme that unites the ideas. I think after Careers we felt like that choice couldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a long process, and to sit in a world for that long really takes a toll on you, spiritually or musically or whatever.

What were the musical tools or instruments that have been inspiring during the composition of 'Careers'?

I’m the worst person to ask about this stuff. I’m the total opposite of a gearhead. I’m still playing the same shitty Yamaha guitar my dad bought for me when I was 15. I can say that Anthony bought a fretless bass that he really dug into during Careers, and that Ellen discovered some magic on the baby grand piano at The Farm.

The guitar I was playing on the song “Careers” sounded beautiful but was a total bitch to play. I think it was during tracking that song that I came to God and realized I need to be more particular about what I play on and why.

What's the "essential guitar advice" you got from Stephen Maxwell, and who is he?

Stephen is a friend of Eric’s. He was at The Farm — the recording studio — while we were there. He basically walked us through the gear and helped us get set up between takes. No idea where he is now, but I hope he’s well.

Is there a person outside the band that's been important in perfecting your recorded sound?

Our producers have been instrumental in us having anything released. If not for them, I would have spiraled into madness, I think. I'm sure they can attest to that.

First, it was Brian Penny, who helped craft the band’s sound in its first year and gave us a launch pad and a serious education. Then, we worked with Mike Flannery, who is responsible for the spit-polished sound on Deities and Careers and for putting us through a kind of graduate school of recording music and being a working band. I’d say he’s the band’s godfather. Now we’re working with Charles Wanless out in Los Angeles, and he’s blowing our minds with what he’s crafting out there on album three.

What are your thoughts about the current NYC scene and what other local bands are you digging right now?

This a much better question for others in the band, as I’m kind of disconnected from the live scene now. There were a few years where I knew everything, but that’s how NYC works. You blink and everything changes.

I recently went to Asarr’s album release show and am blown away by what he’s made. I’d urge everyone to get on whatever list you need to, to snag that when it comes out. And Tattoo Money, who has been a great friend to the band, is making incredible music these days. He has an incredible message, on top of being a consummate showman. I’m looking forward to watching both of those guys blow up in '17.