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What I Learned at Bandcamp: Chamber Band

Chamber Band, Bandcamp, Interview

Chris Littler grew up in Phoenix but moved to New York in 2004 to pursue a degree in screenwriting. While in N.Y., he began making music with Anthony Ceretani, Sam Monaco, Andrew Sarrion and Ellen Winter under the name Chamber Band.

The group released its first album, Dieties, on June 10. The entire 11-track release is inspired by, related to and about, the fantasy game Dungeons and Dragons.

Before you quit reading and assume the release is a joke, Littler has been making music since he was a teenager and the album was tracked by Grammy Award winner David Darlington and Michael Flannery at Bass Hit Studios.

On one hand, the music is upbeat pop and on the other it’s darker folk. As a complete package, it intrigued me and kept me interested and listening through all 11 tracks.

On Thursday, July 25, Chamber Band will makes its way back to Arizona to play at The Lost Leaf in downtown Phoenix.

In anticipation of the show, The Spec interviewed frontman Chris Littler. Read what he had to say, below…

How long have you been making music?
Since I was 15. I started playing when I was a little kid. Piano, guitar. Recital ages. I didn’t start writing until later, when I really wanted to have a lot of sex and thought that was the surest method of making that happen.

What are you most looking forward to about being back in your home state?
The people. My friends. I mean, that’s why you do it. That’s why I do it, at least. My friends have been so exceptional over the years. Just so unwaveringly supportive. They have my back, and have had it at times where I am doing just the dumbest things. So when we got this offer to come out west, I was like, we have to go to Arizona. I want them to see what I’m doing. And I don’t think I get a bigger kick than when friends from one part of my life meet friends from another and mingle and get along. I want the band to meet the guys I used to play Smash Brothers with. I can’t explain why. I mean, I could, but I’d need to draw you a series of diagrams.

How did you guys meet and form the band?
There’s this gallery in Greenpoint. We played all our first few shows there. I wish there was more mythos to it. I wish I had gone of a vision quest and come back with a band, but really it was like, “Do you know any good drummers?” or “Do you know anyone who can play the keys?” and they come to your show and you yell back and forth in each other’s ears at a venue until you think you’ve agreed to be in the same band together, and next thing you know you’re on tour and they’re as close to you as a brother or a sister. Maybe that was a vision quest. Maybe living in Brooklyn is one long vision quest.

Who are your influences?
I tell people that we’re a little White Stripes and a little Decemberists. That seems to set the stage a bit for what we do. I feel like I’m ripping shamelessly from Ben Folds. No one seems to agree. There’s also a lot of musical theater in there, just because of where the songs came from. I was also playing a lot of Team Fortress 2, but not everything can be an influence. Or can it? Let’s say that influenced me. This is my interview, goddammit.

What is your favorite song off of the new album?
It bounces around. “Petitioner” is probably my current favorite. No one liked it at first. Then everyone liked it. I’m not sure where it sits now for the band. I really struggled with it in the studio. We couldn’t get it tied together. Then Mike, our producer, jokingly asked if we wanted him to play the fiddle on it. I don’t think I’ve ever been more serious in my life. He made up 20 parts on the spot and we picked our favorite. That’s a weird reason to it. It’s a survivor. I love it when other people bail me out.

Where do you want to go from here?
We’ve got this idea we’re really excited about. It’s hard for me to do an album without some kind of overarching thematic element tying it all together. I’m kind of broken in that way. I think that comes from majoring in screenwriting. So we’ll be writing. And we’re going to look at making a few music videos. And generally just hang around our rehearsal space and play Cards Against Humanity or something.

Why did you decide to do an album about Dungeons and Dragons?
It was a timing thing. I’d written a bunch of songs for this musical that kind of fell apart when I moved to L.A., and I was really down on myself for not doing anything with them. So, I started playing around with them. One day I was fiddling around with this one part and said “Yeenoghu,” which is the name of the gnoll god. I thought that was pretty funny. And I still do, to a lesser extent. Now it’s about real shit and it’s lost a bit of its silliness. Anyway, I think at first I wanted it to be a musical about Dungeons and Dragons and about this guy fucking up all his interpersonal relationships every way he possibly could, and I just settled on it being a concept album because musicals are hard.

What musicians or bands do you look up to?
Coldplay is the first band that comes to mind. And I feel such a total lack of shame for saying that. I think the most difficult thing in the world as a musician, or as an artist, is to do something simple and be okay with how simple it is. And it really cracks me up when people get down on them for making simple music. I can’t do what they do. I probably never will. On the flip side, I really respect the two-man mariachi bands that get on the subway at four in the afternoon. I can barely convince Anthony to wear shoes and these guys are walking around in full regalia.

Why do you make music?
It’s born out of distraction. I don’t sit around actively thinking of music. When I do, nothing comes out. Things come to me as I’m walking around. Little melodies or stray thoughts. This isn’t unique to me, by the way. Other musicians I’ve talked to are like this. And you can either just say, “That’s fun,” and move on with your life or you can go home and turn it into a song, and then try to record it, and then go on tour with it. I do it to serve the song. I think they’re worth serving. I don’t think either choice is more right than the other. It’s just what your gut tells you to do.

Anything else you’d like readers to know that we haven’t asked you about?
Last time I was at Lost Leaf I was drinking only cider, because I’m the worst, but our drummer has scoped out their menu and apparently they have many delicious beers. It’s also an amazing place to see a band. And also we will be there.

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