MEB staff writer/photographer M.J. Rawls recently caught up with bassist Drew Pelisek of CHON to talk about their recently-released album Grow, influences, and thoughts on Kickstarter.
MEB: What enticed you to the intricate play style of CHON?
Drew: For me personally, I was really into The Beatles when I was a kid. The first time I heard them, my mom said that my jaw hit the floor. I was all about listening to them and then I took some piano lessons when I was five. Then it was guitar at eight. I was always messing around with the drums too. The bass is a middle ground between the guitar and drums and I never thought that I would necessarily be a bass player. The bass was the last instrument for me that I picked up, and now it’s primary.
I’m curious. What’s your favorite Beatles song? My favorite Beatles song is “Helter Skelter”. “Let It Be” is one of my favorites, too.
I think if I had to pick one, it would have to be “Strawberry Fields”. That is the best song ever made. Just period.
You guys are currently on tour with Balance and Composure and Circa Survive. How is that tour and experience?
Fantastic! It’s a big dream come true for myself to be honest. When I was a middle schooler, I was still investing my time into listening to bands like Green Day and Incubus. Not that there is anything wrong with those bands, I wouldn’t be where I am without going through that. I had a buddy of mine who was a grade older than me and when he went to high school, I was asking him for new music and he sent me “Sic Transit Gloria” by Brand New and “Stop The Fucking Car” by Circa. Those two songs totally flipped me and I’ve been a huge fan of those bands since I heard them at that time. That was nine years ago, so not only just to play one show with Circa, but to have them invite us on tour is just an insane thing. I never thought that I’d be playing a set and then look up and see Anthony (Green).
Did you always dream about that starting a tour and then being on the road with one of your favorite bands?
Absolutely! At that time when I was that age, I probably couldn’t name many bands before Circa. I said this to my mom once: “14 year old me would be afraid to talk to me now.” I would be weirded out by me touring with Circa.
What would you say would be the pros and cons of playing a big festival like South By So What vs. the smaller club shows?
The pros of it as an audience member, you get so much music to take in. You can’t do that anywhere other than a festival where you get to watch 5-15 of your favorite bands a day. Especially in a place like South By So What where it’s three stages at about 20-25 minutes a band. You get so many bands, but with that, you get the short slots, time sets and changeovers. It’s nice to kinda take your time and not feel rushed.
You guys had released a EP, but before that, you had a Kickstarter that failed, but…
And I’m very glad it failed, too. It was an idea that we had, that we went with and two or three days in, we went “this ain’t right, this just feels off”. I’m glad it didn’t work because it felt more rewarding working for the money.
Doing the Kickstarter, then signing to Sumerian Records and releasing your first album. Would you prefer the working road or going into a Kickstarter campaign?
I don’t have a problem with bands doing it at all unless it’s manipulative. I saw Amanda Palmer raise $1.2 million on Kickstarter and then crowdsource musicians and pay them in beer and hugs. The total cost of that would have been about $30,000. That’s when I have a problem with it. When you know when your taking that money and using it because it’s easy…that’s not what I like. Our buddies in Polyphia, they just did an very successful IndieGoGo campaign and I totally back that. They were independent at the time and that was the most efficient means of them doing that record. Because of their efforts with that, they got to 70-something on the Billboard charts. When it comes to that, that’s what that is sick for. Those guys nailed that. I don’t back it when you just know you can get that money from your fans.
Being where you are right now, what would be your advice to bands coming up?
I have a couple. It’s not going to happen overnight. People think there’s going to be some “click” moment and for some bands, there is. Also, practice! Not only in the terms of playing your instrument well. Practice in terms of connecting as a band, connecting with your audience. The most important thing, if you’re trying to have a sick band, write sick songs. You can have the sickest merch and marketing, but if your songs aren’t good, who cares? Learn from other people. Don’t think you’re smarter than anyone else. The people around you have done it, so take cues from them. Don’t stop once you start.
What did you guys want to accomplish with Grow?
The biggest thing we wanted to accomplish with the full-length is to show an accurate representative of what we are. We didn’t feel like the two EPs were the best portrayal of us. Going into this, we didn’t look for what producer to go with. We looked at it as “how do we present these songs that we have in the cleanest possible way?”
Some bands break up by instrument, or use pro tools. This album felt like one big jam listening to it.
That’s exactly the atmosphere we wanted to create with the album. We are a very natural-sounding band. There’s no gimmicks at all. It’s just guitars into amps. It seems like it should be easier, but it’s hard. From a production and mixing standpoint, it’s hard to make it sound like you’re standing in that room and hearing it from all sides. All props to our mixer and engineer.
You can order CHON’s new record Grow via iTunes and Sumerian Records.