Chapel Club Interview

Indie | Saturday 12th February 2011 | Osh

After making a name for themselves with All The Eastern Girls, Five Trees and O Maybe I last year, Chapel Club are ready for mainstream success as their debut album Palace beckons upon your local retailer. Here's what lead singer Lewis Bowman had to say.

How was your promo today?

Yeah it was really good. We did something for the BBC for student radio.

Cool, how long did you debut album Palace take to make and what problems did you have making it?

It didn't take that long to make, a month in total. It was broken up a little bit because we were busy touring and everything. It was last late Spring/early Summer… Erm what problems did we encounter? It was a pretty troubled pre-recording actually. I think because we had such an experienced producer in Paul (Epworth) and he's just unstoppably positive, he's like this is going to work and there is no problem you can't think of your way around etc etc. So there wasn't any major troubles recording it. If there has been any troubles in the last year with the band, it hasn't been connected with the recording with the album.

So was it benefiting the band by working with Paul Epworth?

Yeah obviously because Paul he is pretty much… I know the word genius gets branded around too much but he is as close to genius as to anyone I have ever met and he is pretty much remarkable really. He has done pretty much every job in the music industry you can think of. He played in bands, he was a songwriter and a singer, he plays tons of instruments, he's produced, he used to sort out the sound in venues, he's a DJ and he's done re-mixes. He also knows about everything in every angle. He has heard ever song you have ever heard and about 50 thousand more to boot. He just brings all of that experience in with his mad enthusiasm and it was a real help to us. We were going in to his studio, still shell shocked from being hyped so much to suddenly getting a record deal after 4 gigs. All we knew is that we wanted to record the songs that got us signed as it were, which is what this album is. So we were like lets get them out, lets get them recorded and make the most of them in the production and then we can move forward creatively. So we weren't thinking too far ahead.

Your album is inspired by the topic love. Tell me about some of your experiences relating to love to create inspiration for your songs?

When love is the subject on the album, I suppose it does longer out. I've been with my girl for a long time off and on, something like 9/10 years. Its been a very long and whining road our relationship. So a lot of it is drawn those experiences. If it is considered a love story, then its hers and mine and hopefully it can resonate with other people.

Your recent single Surfacing is a great song. How come you guys aren't in the video?

Well we done a few videos before that, we liked them and we were very grateful to the people who made them. But we don't feel there's a great need to be seen all the time so fuck it, lets not be in the video. The opinion in the band is that great music videos are an amazing thing but they are very very rare. Its really hard, especially for a guitar band, to do a video that doesn't come across as embarrassing. So we just said to the director (Dan Sully) that you have come up with an amazing little feature that ticks all of our boxes, we think it can work really well as a little short film and it will have much more impact and if we were in it it will be artistically meaningless. We would only be a distraction from the video. He said very nicely that he didn't need us in it and it was great. Also we were touring at the time and we would have had to fly back and would have been 'oh what a waste of money.' We got some grief for about two minutes with someone on the label was saying when the video goes out in Europe they aren't going to know who you are. But that sort of thinking is really out of date, people in Europe have grown up enough to watch a band in without the band in it. I's by far the best video we've done so far I reckon.

Are you going to try and stay out of the videos in the future then?

I think we are going to definitely try yes. It depends on the treatments and stuff. If we can stay out of them and have them be done artistically, then I definitely think they will be better with our absence.

What have you learnt from making this album and what would you change?

I don't think its what we've learnt from the record, we have learnt a lot over the last year. We get answered a lot of questions like that and if you ask a band who have just made their album and released it in a short space of time, you would get a fairly normal answer. But with us, because we recorded it and had to wait 8 months to put it out, the answer is a bit different. We have learnt so much as a band in the time we have been making the first album and releasing it that there is so much to feed in the production of the second record, whenever that comes along. You just grow up and move on as a band. You find new interests and your tastes change and we are very much in the opinion that because we are not tied as a band to any particular scene, even though people say we sound like this or that, our view is no one really knows what we sound like because we had this album which is one thing and we had another EP at the end of last year which was totally another sound. We are in the opinion that we can take it in any direction we want. We've been talking about that a bit more lately. So, if we learnt anything from our album is that we have got better as a band and we got better at bringing our ideas together and bringing it under one focus. The next record will be approached differently because we know we are making it. The first record we didn't know we had a deal until the last minute because we didn't expect it so quickly.

Since gaining hotly tipped status for 2011, do you feel any pressure fulfilling your potential?

It's a weird one because if someone said to me if someone hates you or they think you've failed then I feel like 'ah shit' and then I suddenly feel pressure. But most of the time, I don't hear that stuff (laughs), I stay away from those vibes. Most of the time we hear more positives stuff, especially with the work we've done. We just have to keep our heads down, get on the road and the studio. I don't really feel that connected to the world surrounding the music, like the media. But we just to concentrate on writing, recording and playing songs and getting music out into the world. I put a lot of pressure on myself.

The other guys in the band have been in bands previously to this one. Was is harder for you to mould in the band format since you haven't been in this environment before?

It was actually, I not really a team player (laughs). I've been a team player in an everyday way, but I hope I'm not anti-social. I'm quite shy despite what some magazines like to make out. The things I like are quite quiet things, the music I like is generally quite music and I enjoy quite insular things. So it's a quite a weird thing for me going into a rehearsal room with four guys, even though they're my friends and I'm doing something that is there dream and only something I toyed with. It's going doubly weird because its going quite well now and its like I'm actually going to go on the road, getting up on stage every night and bearing my soul to random strangers waiting to judge me is quite an uncomfortable feeling for me. But the rewards, even though there aren't many of those nowadays, is when someone gets what you're doing. Not just likes it but really seems to understand it and seems to value something you've done for the same reasons you hope they value it, that's pretty amazing. It's a privilege to experience something like that. It's lovely when people like the stuff, but when someone really seems to get it and a puts a video on YouTube and its really beautiful (which has happened in our song Bodies), that kind of means the world to me. When you feel like you have connected with someone who you don't even know.

What was your dream before being in Chapel Club?

I didn't have any dreams in terms of ambition. I always liked writing but I didn't see it as a future because I didn't think I was good enough. If I ever was going to be good enough, it was going to be when I was 45 where I would have more time to practice…. And still think that's probably the case (laughs). I think my ambitions was to live somewhere where it wasn't so urban and to be with my girl, my dog and time to read, think and write. That is all I really wanted. I didn’t get time before I got in the band to achieve all that and my girlfriend didn’t want to move out of the city. So I was kind of waiting for that to happen. Now, I'm away from my girl all the time and my dog and I rarely get time to read or think. So it's kind of backfired. But I have taken an active role to shape things into the future. I've got all sorts of plans where to record the next album whenever that may be and that's all going to fit in with me being somewhere beautiful with some natural scenery, time to think and dealing with my ways and psychology.

After listening to your music, I can tell that you are influenced by the likes of Joy Division and The Smiths for example. Do you have any guilty pleasures in music?

You know what, I think all the pleasures is considered guilty. After reading some of the negative reviews of the record, I am starting to feel that everything I believe is good has gotten scrutiny by journalists… What can be considered guilty? Anyone can like anything. One of my favourite songs is Love in Disney's Robin Hood. That can be considered a guilty pleasure by some, but it's a beautiful song by a great singer by Nancy Adams. It's about looking at someone you love when you're kind of grown up an older and wondering where the time has gone. It's very suitable and sentimentally put, but I like it. Although saying that, when I first introduced it to the band many years ago and I said I loved it, they laughed at me. And then last week, I put it on a mix tape at the NME and they loved it. How things change.

I heard you had a lot of disagreements with the name of the band, being called the name of your album Palace before changing to Chapel Club. Are you happy with being called Chapel Club and were there any names in the pipeline?

Yeah there was loads. We were called Palace and we couldn’t use that because someone else had used that. There was a lot of suggestions. I think I have them all written down somewhere. There was over a hundred suggestions because we couldn’t agree on it and it had to be unanimous. We called ourselves Chapel Club because we got to the point where everyone was sick of disagreeing and we really needed a name as we were trying to release Surfacing. So everyone was like it would do. I was kind of happy because I like the name and religious imagery, so that was fine with me. There were other names I would have preferred. Palace would have been one of them. I think it suited us, but we couldn’t use that. Liam (bass) suggested Pony Bones which I thought was great but it didn’t really work for us, it's more for a party band. I really liked White Floats which I heard was a type of bird, but then its sound more folky and rustic. I might save that one, when I get into some more folk type stuff.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

Lewis- The music that gets agreed on in the tour bus are new contempory bands like Deer Hunter, Warpain and a lot of old stuff. Liam (bass) has just bought these two cheap CDs from Amazon that has 150 tracks on each and it has girl singers in the 1940s. So we're getting into that. Also Rich (drummer) was playing a lot of good stuff earlier like Neil Young and Flaming Lips. Everyone loves Flaming Lips.

If you could be invisible for the day, what would you get up to?

Ah man, I feel invisible most days and I just go about my business (laughs). If I was 'actually' invisible for the day, again my tastes are so simple that I would use it to get away and not come back. I'm a little too old to commit any crimes.

If you could fill a swimming pool up with anything, what would it be?

A swimming pool filled up with raspberry jelly would be quite fun, to see what that was like. Jelly will start off all solid and as you propelled yourself swimming in it, it will get more and more mushy, I think it will feel pleasantly ticklish in the right places. I've never seen that much jelly in one place and I would like to see it. It would have to be vegetarian jelly, none of that jeliton jelly.

Can you give us an exclusive?

Lewis- I can give you Mike's address (laughs). Our bass player (Liam) can tell when a woman is menstruating. I don't know if that counts as an exclusive or just a disgusting fact.

What do you want to achieve as a band?

Well the industry is fucked at the moment and guitar bands are doubly fucked. So I'm not thinking I'm going to make any money or anything like that. What I hope is that we continue this little game of ours long enough to show some more of what we are made of. There is a lot of stuff in store that we want to get out there but we have to patience and take our time. I'm not very good at that. That's all really. I just hope everything just gets better and better as I'm really self conscience and I find the live shows a bit of a tight rope walk. I never go out on stage feeling comfortable, I think that's a good thing as it add to the element of tension and people are seeing the real me rather than an act. I always want it to go really well and most of the time it does. In the immediate future, I hope the Heaven show that we have (16th February), goes amazingly as that's an important one for us. All my family and friends will be there and it will be an amazing night as Heaven is a great place to play. I also hope we win a few more people around that were really quite quick assumptions on what we are about and what we are like as people. There are some surprises in store.

The band have just released their band Palace by the way the momentum has steadily been building, this band will be around for a long time. A truly remarkable band who should be given the credit they deserve. Judge for yourself.

Dean Woodhouse