Sunday, February 21, 2010


There has always been great music from Great Britain, always. However, the influx of great Brit bands we have been getting the past few years, each act has been outdoing the next over and over again. England's Chapel Club is one of those next shining acts that is set to break big. Already a massive band in the UK and one of NME magazine's favorite new acts, Chapel Club combine dark sounds with a lyrical flair that will having you singing their songs for hours on end. I had the opportunity to speak with Chapel Club's front man, Lewis Bowman in one of his first American interviews. Lewis and I discussed the bands sound, influences and when they will finally be arriving in the US. Take a look at my interview below..

Given your sound and style, there have been a plethora of bands with moody, atmospheric tones to come out of the UK this past decade. Acts like The xx, Glasvegas, Editors. How do Chapel Club break away from that?

LB: Mood (rather than moodiness) and atmosphere (rather than atmospherics) are definitely important to what we’re doing right now as a band… but I think it takes more than a few surface similarities to warrant viewing something as a scene, and I don’t see that there’s anything solid there that we need to break away from. People just haven’t had a chance to hear all the songs yet. It’s hard to get the measure of a band based on two or three tracks.

Hopefully when people see us live they’ll realise that we’re not really limited to the whole black leather and lamentations thing. Besides, there’s more light than darkness in most of our songs, I think.

You have been compared to Joy Division with every write up about the band, yet it has been noted that you are not fans. Does the comparison get frustrating after a while?

LB: I don’t know who noted that? We might have said that we don’t want to feel consciously influenced by them – even that we’re trying to avoid their influence in places – but that’s only because what they did was so singular and powerful that even the slightest hint of influence can seem like a shitty imitation. There are too many bands in Britain trying to rip off Disorder already. I guess it’s a pretty lazy comparison though, or a hasty one – but I don’t think it will last long. When more of our music is out there, hopefully the descriptions will become a bit more imaginative and accurate.

Who are your influences?

LB: Well, there are some bands and artists we all love and agree on – Deerhunter, New Order, Tom Waits, YYYs, Liars, Sonic Youth etc. But there are others that we don’t. Our influences are probably mostly unconscious, we don’t have a game plan in that sense – we don’t aim to fit into a certain bracket or sound like a certain band. We just play and play and play and keep the stuff that moves us and forget the stuff that doesn’t.

To be honest, inspiration is as likely to come from films or books or paintings as it is from music. The film Aguirre, by Werner Herzog, and the poem The Empty Church, by R.S. Thomas, have influenced the lyrics and mood of the songs so far (to me at least) more than any particular band…

How would you properly describe your sound to someone that has never heard of you before?

LB: That’s tough… Lean, loud, delicate, dramatic, hopefully beautiful. ‘Intense’ is a word that comes up a lot in response to the live shows.

Who came up with your tagline “God builds a church, the Devil builds a chapel,” because it is brilliant?

LB: Ha, not me. That’s an old adage used and re-used in one form or another by a lot of preachers and religious thinkers throughout history. The version I put on our MySpace page is actually from Tom Waits’ Misery is the River of the World.

After forming in 2008, in just a year the band is starting to generate buzz, when it takes most bands a few years. How do you explain your scenario?

LB: Focus and luck, I guess. We stayed away from the live circuit until we had written a pretty good clutch of songs and rehearsed them to the point where playing them felt completely natural to us. So now, you know, not to sound immodest but… we’re pretty tight.

NME Magazine was where I first caught attention of you, the magazine wrote “If this band don't get massive in the next 12 months, expect to read a news footnote about a major record label announcing significant canteen/security staffing cut-backs by this time next year.” How do you respond to such high remarks?

LB: I never even saw that, when did they write that? That’s weird. I take it they mean that if we don’t make it big, some label will have spunked all its cash on us and will go into the red as a result? With respect (and gratitude for the implied compliment, I guess), that’s not really the case! We aren’t the kind of band to sign a mega-money deal. We want to make music for a long time to come, and that means having a label that will support us even in trying times. We don’t know who or how many people will like what we do. Whatever deal we get, it won’t be making us rich because we don’t want that kind of pressure.

Being a London band, how has the city influenced your music?

LB: If I’m honest, I don’t know that London has influenced us that much. I’ve lived in London all my life, I barely notice her. I guess London’s music scene can be very short-sighted and trend-obsessed, which served as a kind of spur to action when we started the band. We wanted to do something more intelligent and interesting, something that would last.

Being a British band, is it still a big deal to make it big in the US?

LB: Yeah of course, most of the music we listen to comes from the US – it seems to me that America generates more artists with long-term ambition and integrity and the confidence to make intelligent music. In the UK, a lot of indie bands seem to be more interested in guest-lists and the gutter press.

Also, my brother lives in Iowa, so we need to do well enough out there that we can play the Quad Cities and he can finally see us live.

When can we expect you in the US?

LB: In the Spring perhaps? It’s all still to be arranged but we’ll definitely be coming over, hopefully putting on our own shows in some offbeat places. It’ll all be on the MySpace as soon as we know more…

Chapel Club - O Maybe I

Chapel Club MySpace Music Videos

Thanks to Lewis and special thanks to Stephen Taverner for the interview!