Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Interview: Chase Hamblin

posted by Free Press Houston @ 10:49 AM


by Shelby Hohl

Chase Hamblin's debut release A Fine Time marks a prompt beginning for an aspiring singer-songwriter. Chase spent time in local Houston outfit Penny Royal, establishing a musical partnership with Derek Dunivan who would later help produce and arrange the album. The opening title track, A Fine Time bounces along a pleasant breeze of melody and beauty while carrying lyrical undertones hinting towards a great enlightenment of human consciousness, transcending the ills of society. The rest of the record touches on the golden era of rock and roll where multi-instrumental layers in well crafted songs reign supreme. We spoke with Chase recently and got a few questions out that Houstonians are DYING to know.

The opening song on your album , A Fine Time carries some pretty heavy political connotations. Do you mind elaborating?

A Fine Time is written from the perspective of the "everyman" who is idling along in the modern world and who begins to wonder if life was always so cold and disconnected. It was inspired by the state of being following 9/11 in which the average citizen, including myself, is lost in the rhetoric and fear of terrorism, while being offered only soul-less bureaucracy and fake religion as a solution. However, a collective memory, a spirit of inspiration, allows this person to access a distant time, Atlantis, the Garden of Eden, the beginning of our higher selves and consciousness itself, yet also a simpler time when the wonders of the natural world were enough to inspire the creation of meaning, when every word spoken was poetry. The song is about that memory, that spirit, that place of unity and unbound creation, which I believe we all have deep in our psyche. It is also a warning about fundamentalism, absolutism, commercialism, consumerism, and the destruction of our beautiful planet, to add a quick caveat.

What kind of records did you grow up listening to? Was there anything in particular that inspired you while making the record?

The first record I remember, which I made my parents buy for me, was Michael Jackson's "Thriller." My siblings and I would lip-sync to that album and put on little shows for my folks. They used to play us Neil Diamond's "Hot August Night," which I loved as a kid. I really started to get into music though when I heard a Doors album. It was so different from anything I had heard, but it was still catchy and melodic. Of course I was raised on lots of Beatles and Beach Boys as well.

As far as the album, we (engineer Josh Applebee, producer Derek Dunivan, and I) were mainly inspired by late 60's recordings by The Beatles, The Kinks, the Bee Gees, and The Zombies, and early 70's T-Rex and David Bowie. Those artists captured a vibe, in terms of arrangement, performance, and sound, that we were looking for on these songs.

How long did your record take to complete and were there any new sounds or instruments you got a chance to play with during the process?

Derek Dunivan and I played all the rock instruments on the album, so we had to take some time to track everything. We probably spent an average of three very long days on each song of the EP, with the exception of "We're Gonna Make It," which Derek and I did in one day at our old Penny Royal studio. We did all our parts over the space of a month or so at Sugar Hill, but then Hurricane Ike hit, so it was several months later before we could reschedule the horn and string sections. This was the first time Derek composed complete string and horn arrangements, so it was very excited to hear the players come in and bring it to life. We did get to do quite a bit of playing around with sounds. We used a vintage Space Echo on "Never Let You Go" to create really warped out effects and I play an African Mbira on "A Fine Time." We used this great overdrive called the Super Hard On for a number of parts. One of the coolest things was that Robbie Parrish brought us a bunch of his personal percussion items and he had meditation bell he claimed was kissed by the Dalai Lama. It happened to be in the perfect pitch to play the major third in "A Fine Time" when the song shifts from minor to major. That was quite nice. A lot of the experimentation was with getting tones just right in the room so that we didn't have to tweak anything in mixing.
Do you plan on touring behind the album once released?

Not yet. I have just got together an amazing All-Star band for my CD release (June 19th at the Continental Club) with my former Penny Royal bandmate (and "A Fine Time" producer) Derek Dunivan on keys, Geoffery Muller of I am Mesmer and Sideshow Tramps on bass, Corey Power of Ragged Hearts on guitar, and singer/songwriter Robert Ellis, also in I am Mesmer, on drums, and everyone is singing harmony. A small regional tour is a possibility in July, but we have literally all played together twice now and everyone has other projects as well.
Any chance you'll be performing with a full band any time soon? More often?

Yes. After the band debuts at my CD release I am going to stop doing solo acoustic gigs and only book shows with the band. Other than the CD release, we are also playing the Sugar Hill Sessions on August 6 and the Free Press Summer Fest.
Chase Hamblin's CD Release is June 19th at Continental Club.

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