15
Apr
08

KEEP IT ON THE BROWNLOWE: CHORES…Tragically UnHeard Of

emBrownlowe

Tragically UnHeard Of
Band O The Week

(from left to right: Matthew White (drums), Eric Mellor (bass), Jada Pierce (guitar/vocals), Lou Thomas (guitar/vocals)

CHORES are fun. Or at least the band, Chores, attempts to transform the mediocre aspects of everyday life into a elated indie rock sound that will hopefully make your day a little easier. Portland, Oregon brought the four members together from various pinpoints of the States. Chores have an eclectic sound that ranges from working class jam band to art rock funk nostalgic to Television or Yo La Tengo. The past year has been quite successful as they self released a 5 song EP, Life Is Hard, have gained a noteworthy collection of local press clips, ventured out of lush Oregon into California and most importantly, have inspired people to dance! Lucky for us, Chores hasn’t let all the excitement inflate their ego and spent a great deal of time providing tragic answers to tragic questions.

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You all have moved to Portland, Oregon from other regions of the United States. What brought you to the fair city of roses?

Lou: I moved here for a dream of cheap rent and good busses.

Jada: When I was a college kid in Indiana, my friend found an arial-view poster of Portland hidden in an apartment she moved into. We both thought it was some kind of message, that we had to be there someday. Now I’m here and she’s working on a funny farm making instruments in Eugene. It also helped when a friend of mine who ran for office on the Socialist ticket here gave me a politically-inspired tour of the place during my first visit seven years ago.

Eric: I moved here for a lady and the slightly misguided notion that I could be a freelance film and video editor.

Matthew: I grew up in Houston, was living in NYC, and first visited Portland for a job. I fell in love with the character of the city and the beauty of the surrounding areas. I was fast becoming a New Yorker with a chip on my shoulder and didn’t want that to happen.

Chores has excellent chemistry on-stage. This musical excitement translates well to your record, Life is Hard. How was this record written + recorded? Was it totally collaborative or was there any sort of leadership throughout the writing process? How was the recording released?

Lou: The on-stage chemistry comes from the fact that we’re all good friends and are on stage primarily because that’s what we do to have fun. I also think that if the band is having a good time on stage the audience can see that, and that good feeling is contagious. It can turn into a feedback loop and just keep growing too.

Jada: I think we all are equally committed to the music emotionally. I know that for me, at least, our music is also very political. I think Lou and I as front people relate in that way, so that probably helps with the chemistry onstage as well.

Lou: We write and arrange collaboratively. Sometimes someone will present an almost finished song, or a part, and then we all mess with it and change it as a band until it starts to feel like Chores song. With the recording, Sam “Humans” Schauer of Modernstate (and Plants) was definitely in charge and did a really good job of capturing our live feeling.

Jada: I think it’s very rare that someone brings in a song that’s completely done; in fact I know I can count on one hand, without thumbs, how many times that’s been the case. And even the few times that has happened, we’ve all re-written the idea. Our music comes from the communal experience of our different minds and ears working together. I take pride in that because it’s an indescribable experience of compromise, but it’s certainly something that’s only possible through the medium of music played in the moment.

I embrace music as an opportunity to take art back to its purest form. – Jada Pierce

Chores play “New New Deal” live April 3rd at Backspace (Portland, OR)

Eric: We’re really into- it’s not exactly jamming, but we often play a part over and over again to see where it goes. For me, through repetition, I start to hear the different ways the parts interlock and then can modify my bass parts accordingly. The album was completely and totally self-released. CD Baby was instrumental in getting the music out to the digital services and playing shows has helped as well. We learned a lot during the whole process.

This next question is all about words! Why the name Chores? Why the name ‘Life is Hard’? Are there notes of sarcasm or should we take the title seriously? Your lyrics seem to be pretty down to earth and tell the tale of the average working class. How do you all write the lyrics?. Are your lyrics derived from real life or do you incorporate your own imaginations?

Lou: The truth is most often spoken in jest. I think there is a way to laugh at yourself and still be honest and completely serious. And goddamnit, life is hard a lot of the time. A lot of the time it feels like the day is taken up but just getting stupid shit done, like chores. When we formed this band and were coming up with a name we had all just moved here and were trying to figure out what the hell we were doing in our late twenties. Was it time to give up on your dreams and just work at your job?

Jada: Chores, they’re what the working class, the middle class, do all of the time. For better or worse we’re married to work. Growing up with the middle class, Midwest work ethic, I have to equate my art with work in order to feel justified doing it. Also, I think there’s a sad beauty in that work ethic, the sad beauty of the mundane.

Eric: At the time the band formed, Lou and Jada and I were struggling with the sort of mundane bullshit that seems to permeate “adult” life and we were wondering how our hopes and dreams had managed to lead us to this point. The name Chores speaks to the mundane realities that we and the rest of the working world have to deal with. “Life is Hard” comes from that same place and is kind of a rebuke to feeling sorry for yourself because you have to deal with all the same bullshit that everyone else does.

Lou: Lyrics tend to be written by either Jada or I, but maybe that will change. We all come from working class backgrounds. My grandfather was a bus driver, my mom worked at the Pepsi plant in Baltimore, and I work at a coffee-shop, so I am writing from that perspective.

I do pull a lot of my lyrics from real life, but I think that peoples fantasies are part of reality, and that to capture a “real” feeling, you got to combine the reality with the fantasies that allow people to make it through the everyday. – Lou Thomas

A good example is the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll” where it’s a very realistic observation of someone listening to the radio, but its the rock and roll that “saves” them, which is pure fantasy. When Lou Reed sings “and it was alright” you just know that it’s not, nothing is alright, Jenny’s life still sucks, and that’s what makes it a powerful line. Rock and Roll can’t save your life, but it sure feels like it can, and it’s that tension and transcendence that makes art so powerful.


Jada: My lyrics ultimately come from a desire to bridge the gap between reality and the imagination; I love surrealism, but I’m married to reality. I’m a realist with an imagination—my lyrics come from that truth. I tend to not like cliché, which probably makes me a terrible lyricist. I went to grad school for an MFA in poetry, but I definitely see the act of writing lyrics as something completely separate from the act of writing a poem. I can write a damn fine poem; I’m still not convinced I can write good lyrics to a song though.

In your bio you have stated that you are a band without pretensions. Why do you feel it is important to note? What type of person do you hope to appeal to? Do you think there are too many artistic facades in indie rock music?

Jada: As an artist I think it’s pretentious to ignore the world around you when you create. If you want to write about birds and flowers, and there’s a homeless woman standing outside gathering discarded beer bottles from your trash, then dammit, that bird better be singing the ugly sound of the empty beer bottle, opened and whistling in the cold wind of her neglected hand. I love, value, and tend to my imagination, but no more than I would the people who occupy this same space and time with me. I like irony as much as the next gal, but to risk sentimentality takes real guts.

Lou: “What type of person do you hope to appeal to” is an uneasy question for me. I tend to like people and hope they’ll like our music, but I don’t really expect them to, even my friends, and then here’s the Marxist axiom, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any organization that would accept me as a member”.

Jada: I hope to appeal to anyone who understands.

Matthew: We’re not a band that’s about to die of ennui. As uninteresting as this may sound, I want to appeal to the people that like our music. I listened to an interview with David Lynch who responded to the question “how do you make your films?” He said that he stays true to his vision of what the film should be. And most importantly he doesn’t second guess the audience. People are finicky and if you start a film (or album) that takes a year to produce, you aren’t going to know how the audience’s tastes will change over the course of that year. So we play music we love to play and hope that it resonates with the folks that are listening.

Eric: It’s a marketing ploy. We actually have tons of pretensions that we keep chained to a radiator in the basement.


Listen to “Shopping” off of Life is Hard https://gaycondo.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/03-shopping.mp3″

To me, your music is an interesting marriage between avant-guard artrock and a rowdy jam band. What influences you musically? How would you classify your own sound?

Eric: I think that’s the best description of us that I’ve heard so far. I mean, when you look at the kinds of stuff we’re all into, either as individuals or as a whole, they all seep to the surface of the music we end up making. I think it’s safe to say that Matthew and I both have an affinity for moodier, spacier and highly produced stuff like My Bloody Valentine whereas Jada and Lou come from more folk-influenced background. That’s a totally generalized statement of which 20% to 80% may not be true.

Jada: That’s the best description of our music I’ve ever heard. I was strongly influenced by Throwing Muses in my formative years. It’s just dumb luck that Kristin Hersh happens to live here now. I really like New Wave punk sounds on the guitar combined with “committed vocals.” I’m borrowing that last term from a review of our own EP; I like that term though. I learned to play music listening to folk songs, but I learned to feel music listening to rock-n-roll.

Matthew: Seriously though, that has to be one of the most concise descriptions of our music. For me I would say that Yo La Tengo is a pretty big influence, just in thematic terms. I don’t think we sound like YLT, but their music is very diverse, like ours.

What is the best thing about rock n roll? Care to tell us about what is next for Chores?.

Lou: We’re recording soon and hopefully will have a full length out by the end of the year. The best thing about rock and roll is that it can save you.

Eric: Rock ‘n roll is like a caged beast, angry and sweaty and hungry for more, more, MORE! Kind of like that girl that Billy Idol sings about. Anyway, it’s that hunger that I like best.

Jada: The best thing about rock-n-roll is that it can be everything, every emotion—sad, happy, sincere, ironic, angry, sarcastic, etc. It’s universal because it can carry every one of those emotions through its sound.

Matthew: The best thing about rock and roll (and music in general) is that it is a way to escape from everyday life. Rock and roll, in particular, provides visceral and immediate experience, uncluttered by theory or strict formalism. It’s instant gratification! (note to editors: maybe this is a bit pretentious. I won’t be sad if my answer is edited out)

Jada: I can’t wait to record our next album. The material is ready; we just all need some sugar mama to come pay for it all…get us the time off work. You know anyone like that?


TRAGICALLY UN HEARD OF ARCHIVES

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2 Responses to “KEEP IT ON THE BROWNLOWE: CHORES…Tragically UnHeard Of”


  1. April 16, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    from Jada: If you want to write about birds and flowers, and there’s a homeless woman standing outside gathering discarded beer bottles from your trash, then dammit, that bird better be singing the ugly sound of the empty beer bottle,

    WHAT A GREAT QUOTE! I haven’t heard of this band before and I blog a little about music around town… thank you for this thoughtful interview.

    I’m trying to figure out this blog… who’s Jon and who’s Paul 🙂

    anyway I will add your blog to our blog roll and give everyone a heads up on this post. — ste. goldie


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