Day 10: Album of the Year (So Far)?

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This series isn’t singling out the Best of RPM 2017; It’s telling the stories behind some of these albums. That being said, Chief Rascal’s Start Now is a serious contender for the best, freshest, exciting local album of 2017 so far.

For an album supposedly written and recorded in a month, it’s astoundingly well built; the songs employ a lot of techniques (and instruments) for a constantly fresh dynamicism that will keep even the modern attention span gripped. There’s always something right, something new, something fitting happening behind the scenes of the songs, which is remarkably un-lazy of a songwriter during the rush of the RPM.

And there’s just the right balance of variety and cohesion to avoid sameness, while avoiding an alienating disparity of genres. 

The opening tracks seem address coping with the panic and disillusionment of modern times, alongside a nostalgia for simpler times, as captured in “The 90’s,” a great homage to the great era of simple music, and the wave of nostalgia that nails a lot of us when we hear it. It conjures Library Voices at their best.

“The News” gets a special shout out as track 8. “I wish I didn’t know” being the sentiment. And how, nowawadays, “we’re shackled with the knowledge of every little thing that has transpired” in a “world gone crazy.” It’s an altogether original song with a universal theme.

“Here by the Sea” takes a slight thematic divergence to poke fun at life on an island of $9 cauliflowers, sideways rain, empty chip aisles, and no touring bands, where “all the streets were designed by cows, and I haven’t seen the sun for two weeks now, and I can’t sleep because the plow …”  It’s the counterbalance to those NL tourism ads we all poke fun at, and a pending, new, truer Ode to Newfoundland most of us would adopt as a new provincial anthem.

There Was a Gap in RPMs from You, or New Solo Music in General. Why RPM 2017 for the Grand Return of Your Solo Stuff?

You know, no real reason. I made attempts at RPMs the past two years, and just lost momentum half way through both times. This year I vowed to see it through and luckily it all worked out.

Why Does This One Have a New Moniker, Chief Rascal

Right from the get-go I never really loved the old moniker, which I won’t even mention here, so I was pretty eager to ditch it in favour of something new. For the past year or so I’ve been obsessed with the word rascal, using simultaneously as a term of endearment and kind of a dig. Everyone’s a rascal these days

In Your Own Words, What’s the Album All About?

I don’t think theres any real solid overarching concept to the album, in fact I hate writing lyrics. I could write music for days but consistently struggle with coming up with things that are actually worth singing about. General themes of nostalgia, being uneasy in the world, depression, the experience of living in St. John’s in the winter, and unabashedly liking the things you like run throughout the album I’d say though.

I’m always a little paranoid people will listen to it and think I’m depressed, when in reality I wouldn’t say i’m any more depressed than the next guy, it’s just so much easier to write about than being happy, lol.

Where Do You Think the Ska Influence Comes From

If I had to hazard a guess I’d say it comes from the decade or so that I spent entirely obsessed with ska. Everything from early Jamaican ska, to two-tone and third wave ska-punk just really did it for me. Although I’ve greatly broadened my musical horizons since then, I still have a super deep affinity for it that can’t be ignored, and it’s kind of hard to see something you love so much get such a bad rap in general. I like to joke that it’s my life purpose to make ska cool again, hah, who knows maybe someday.

This Album is Exceptionally Well Built; Not a Second of Any Song Feels Under-developed: Is This All You Did in February or What?

Hah, yeah, for the most part. Between this album and the one we did as The Hunter-Gatherers there wasn’t really time for much else in February. I don’t think I got groceries once all month. It’s alright though, I’m using it as an excuse to waste all my time now playing Zelda.

There’s A Good Variety of Sounds on Here Too.
Is That Intentional, or Do You Just Record Whatever Comes to You?

I wouldn’t say it’s intentional. For me when it comes to making an RPM you just kinda sit down and go with whatever comes out. I really love listening to and writing music in an vast array of genres, so I suppose even I can’t really predict whats gonna happen.

One of my current obsessions right now is Mt. Eerie and I love how seamlessly he switches between sweet folk songs and weird crashy death metal/ambient jams on the same album. Doesn’t really bother me much, so I just figure most people probably are the same way? Maybe?

Any Plans to Build a Band Around Chief Rascal and Start Playing Shows?

Uhh, no not at the moment, but it would be nice to some day maybe. There’s some other projects in the works that I’m excited about though, so definitely still keeping busy.

About Author

Chad Pelley

Chad Pelley is an author, songwriter, and journalist who wrote for publications like the Globe & Mail and The Telegraph-Journal before founding The Overcast. Now he spends 25 hours a day keeping up with his email, and has no time to be his former self.

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