Thursday, January 22, 2009

An Interview with The Chairs

The Chairs came to my attention after the free self-release of their November EP.  They write honest, simple rock songs that slowly build up and explode with heartfelt harmonies and sparked up guitars.  Although they're not nearly as dark as Radiohead, there's an unmistakeable plaintive quality about lead singer Alex Schaaf's voice that reminds me of Thom Yorke.  Their music has a subtle, deep-seated urgency to it that wormed its way into my head and left me wanting to hear more.  I decided to ask the band what they were up to in Appleton, Wisconsin and when I'd get to hear something new.  Here's what they had to say.

Why did you guys name yourselves "The Chairs"?

Our guitarist Phil had a nasty incident in his childhood involving some chairs, and so he wanted to be in a band called The Chairs in order to gain some sort of revenge. Also, according to Wikipedia, there is a French "tragic farce" play called The Chairs, so when we need to sound hyper-literate we say we're all so influenced by French drama that it was an obvious choice as a band name.

How long have you been playing together?
We've only been playing together for a few months now, we got together in October, recorded the EP by November and have been playing lots of shows since then. In band terms we're still young, like an infant, but I think we're like those movies when an adult gets trapped in a child's body. Like Robin Williams in that movie...Big, I think it was. [Ed. Note: I think they meant Robin Williams in real life.]

The Chairs are quite nattily dressed. Tell us a story about ruining your school clothes at a show.
At a show in Chicago a couple weeks ago, Collin (the drummer) had dressed up quite nicely because he had a lady friend coming to see the show or something, but midway through the set this parrot that was perched up in the ceiling started defecating on him, ruining his suit. And then it flew down and stole his hat. He's never been the same since.

I really enjoyed The November EP. Are there any plans to record something new?
Yes, we are starting to work on our new album right now. It's going to be a full length, we've got all the songs for it, we just have to sit down and record it. It's going to be a bit different than the EP, I think, but I hope people like it. Hopefully it will come out in March or April.

The November EP has a great cover of In The Aeroplane Over the Sea, and you've done Simple X by Andrew Bird as well. What other songs would you want to cover?
We pick our covers carefully, and we're still deciding on what we want to do next. Probably Kanye or Beyonce.

I've noticed a lot of bands have started to skip Detroit when they go on tour. As a Midwest band, what are your thoughts about playing a show here someday?
We would love to play in Detroit someday, if we can find a place to play. Eric, our keyboardist, was banned from Michigan for a short time, but I think that's up now, so we should be okay. We're planning a short tour at the end of March, maybe we could get up there, if there was a place that wanted us.

Any Wisconsin bands I should check out?There's this really unknown guy from Eau Claire called Bon Iver...wink wink. But besides him, there's The Daredevil Christopher Wright from Eau Claire, who we are opening for in a couple weeks. And check out Collections of Colonies of Bees, they are from Milwaukee and they are a really sweet group, I always think of them as a Midwestern, acoustic version of Sigur Ros, but I'm not sure if that makes any sense.

Which record coming out in 2009 are you most excited about?
I think we're all looking forward to the new Andrew Bird. I could have downloaded it by now but I ordered it on vinyl so I'm waiting for that to come. We're going to see his show in Chicago in April, he's pretty much a superhero to us. Wilco, too, they are supposed to come out with a new one this year, so that should be good. And for me, personally, I'm most looking forward to the new Menomena and the new Dan Deacon records.

Although I did fact check the hyperliterate French play reference, I make no promises that the parrot story was really true.  We value our journalistic integrity here at Let's Trade Mix Tapes.  You stay classy, San Diego.

You can stream or download the entire November EP for free at The Chairs website.

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