Chiefs of the North release Remember When at the Fine Line

Reflection -- in terms of musical creativity at least -- is the backbone and the enemy of songwriting.  Almost nothing can prompt such accelerated surges of creativity in the process of a song as hindsight, and yet, it will force an artist to face something they may have been hiding from. 

On their new album, Remember When, Minneapolis band, Chiefs of the North mature in their sound and break open the floodgates of reflection and the transitions in life.

Gimme Noise talk to the band before their CD release show on Thanksgiving weekend at the Fine Line.      

Band members:
Justin Collins (Lead Guitar)
Tom Laing (Bass)
Chris Brown (Keys/Guitar)
Tony Metcalf (Lead Vocals/Guitar)
Tom Busch (Drums)

Gimme Noise: How did you approach when writing new pieces for this new album?

Chiefs of the North: We actually knew the first and last songs were going to be "Remember When" and "Jump Boots" for over a year now and everything kind of came together around that.  These were songs that we've had around for a long time, but they've progressed and changed as we've grown and played them live. The ones we want people to hear are the ones on this album.

Overall, we just really wanted this album to be a reflection of us; this album is us. We wanted to choose songs that highlighted our diversity as well as our cohesiveness, and this group of songs is exactly that.

Where did the title Remember When come from?

Remember When comes from the title song off the album. It's about nostalgia and adulthood and just trying to stay neutral. It's just that nostalgic mood that we feel our sound gives off. The song starts out about childhood and the second half is more about longing for that feeling, which definitely started a thread that weaved its way through the entire album. We're always talking and joking about the music we love, which most of the times ends up being from what people consider the "Golden Era" of music. In that way, we like to think of ourselves as a 70's/90's band- familiar music that's brand new at the same time.

You say you make music that you would want to listen to. What kind of music do you listen to? What were you listening to when writing Remember When? Anything that influenced you directly? Indirectly?

While writing this album, Tony was really into Dawes and Fleet Foxes. We listened to them a lot while we were putting this album together. My Morning Jacket has always been one of Chris Brown's favorite bands even before he was in Chiefs. He's also a sucker for Pink Floyd. He's always listening to the keys for the stuff that the average listener doesn't hear is there, but makes the song thicker and better. Tom Busch was listening to Led Zeppelin and Queens of the Stone Age on a regular basis, and Tom Laing hasn't stopped listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine since he picked up a bass when he was fifteen. Justy has been listening to the same music for 20 years- think Aerosmith circa 1972-1978.

As far as influences go, there are constant indirect influences to our music. We could sit here all day and name off bands that have influenced us. With any artistic endeavor, inspiration comes from somewhere and we're proud of what comes out of us from our intake. But most of the influence is about vibes and moods from bands rather than specific parts or notes. We don't discriminate against genre, you can find little hints of everything from funk to blues to hard rock in our music.

Chiefs of the North release Remember When at the Fine Line

What was the most exciting thing when recording this new album? What was the most challenging? Did you end up scrapping any songs once you got to the studio?

The most exciting part for us about this album was finally hearing all these songs the way we've always wanted to hear them. Really doing it ourselves this time, grabbing it by the reigns and watching everything unfold into exactly what we had been envisioning. It was also really cool to hear everyone's parts come together, sitting back and listening to the whole after it was all said and done.

The most challenging thing was definitely the hour-long trek we had to take from Northeast Minneapolis to Baldwin Township multiple times every week over the three months it took us to record the album. It was definitely worth it though because it was cheap and a friend of ours is an awesome engineer who really understood what we wanted out of this album. 

When we got into the studio, we had to change some parts and rearrange some things but we didn't end up actually scrapping any songs. We knew we wanted all of these songs on the album in some shape or form and they developed and came alive as we were recording.

What is a song from Remember When that you're extremely proud of?

"The Mode" was a song that we weren't entirely sure of how it was going to sound once it was recorded. And now that it's become what it has, we're really proud of it. But overall, "Better Off" is the song we're most proud of off the album. It's the perfect example of the entire band bringing their own separate parts together into one cohesive explosion of bluesy grooviness. The lyrics are nostalgic and everyone can relate to them in some way. That, combined with the driving bass section and screaming guitars makes for a kick-ass song that you can't help but nod your head to.

Why do you think your fans relate so much to your music?

Our music is honest and comes from the heart. We're really just making music that we love to make, and we feel like our fans see that in us and have a good time at our shows. A lot of people we talk to after we play say that they didn't expect to hear such a well-rehearsed and explosive sound to come from us. We care, and people can see that.

Our energy is contagious and we love rocking out with anyone and everyone that digs our vibe.

What do you do as a band to cultivate that relationship?

Before every show we go out and canvas the twin cities with flyers, hand out CDs, and talk to anyone who's willing to talk to us. We try to get a buzz going, get people psyched for our show. We put a lot of time and energy into our sets to make sure to give our fans a variety. Every Chiefs show you go to is going to be a little different than the last. We make it a point to make sure that everyone that does come to our show feels welcome. If you want to talk to us, we want to talk to you. We really do appreciate every fan we have, and are always looking to share our music with anyone who is willing to listen.

What can we expect from the CD release show at The Fine Line?

This is the biggest show, for us, since our band's inception. We've never released a full-length album before, and we're really excited for people to hear it. Not to mention, the other awesome bands that are sharing the stage with us that night. Stereo Pirates and Little Man open for Ghost Towns of the West, who are also releasing some music that night- their seven-inch vinyl. As far as our own set, we're playing the album from cover to-cover along with a few fan favorites from our previous EP. Overall, we just really want people to come out for a high-energy night of hair-flailing unadulterated rock and roll at its finest.

Chiefs of the North will release Remember When with Ghost Towns of the West, Little Man and Stereo Pirates at the Fine Line Music Cafe on Saturday, November 26, 2011. 
21+, $6, 9 pm

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