photo: Courtney Bell
The Huntington-based band Chum, made up of (from left to right) Jude Blevins, John Lancaster, Chris Tackett and Mac Walker is reuniting for a show on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington
Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch
The story of Chum reads like a literal version of musical chairs. Nearly twenty years after junior high friends Mac Walker and Chris Tackett called up John Lancaster to see about jamming, more than a decade after their sophomore record never got released, after numerous lineup changes and a reunion in 2005, the Huntington-based sludge rock band is back.
Chum plays the V Club October 1st with Horseburner and Tower of the Elephant.
A band’s story can read like any relationship between two people over the years: they form, break up and/or fall apart over time. But what makes Chum’s story unique so many years after original drummer Chuck Nicholas jumped ship and founding members Walker and Tackett left is that Walker, Tackett and Lancaster, friends since junior high, are still that: friends.
“We’re all deaf and hoarse right now, so bear with us,” Lancaster said with a laugh over the phone after a just-finished band rehearsal in Walker’s basement.
The guys in Chum (Lancaster: vocals/guitar; Walker: guitar; Tackett: bass; Jude Blevins: drums) have been gathering at Walker’s every so often preparing for a pair of shows in Huntington and next week in Lexington, where Tackett calls home these days. After years of on-again off-again status, it’s good to get together and have a good time, Lancaster said.
“We just make a marathon weekend out of it. Everybody comes in Friday night, and we do a few hours, then go all afternoon Saturday and Sunday. It’s been a blast.”
“We just make a big party out of it,” Walker added.
Tackett said that the enduring friendship and musical collaborations that have existed in the intervening years have helped Chum retain its energy.
“I can tell you right now it sounds really f---ing heavy. I don’t know if you can put that in there. It’s been cool because with John and Mac playing together in John’s solo project, and with Jude, Mac and myself playing in Hyatari together, it almost seems like it was inevitable that we’d get together and do this.”
Bringing Blevins on as drummer was a no-brainer and, for Blevins, who’d seen Chum open for Helmet at Ritter Park years ago, a great call to get.
“I was honored, of course,” Blevins said. “I’m sure they could’ve had anybody, any drummer they would’ve called would have jumped at it. I think it’s pretty cool.
Walker said the original chemistry is still there.
“It gets to be kind of like second nature, because you can almost predict what the other guy is thinking when you’re playing and writing. A few of these songs we are playing, we never released, so it’s great to bring those songs back to life.”
John Lancaster on Headhunter:
“For these upcoming shows we actually recorded an old song we wrote around 1997 called “Headhunter.” It was originally intended for that second record that never happened. When we played it live, people really liked it, so we thought it would be cool to record it and put it online for a free download.”
Tackett said what was once old, as far as Chum goes, is new again.
“One of the reasons I like to revisit Chum is because the material holds up even though some of this stuff is fifteen years old. A lot of the stuff we were writing back at that time, I consider it to be pushing the envelope as far as our song structures and tunings. It’s a little more common nowadays, but back then you didn’t hear it too often. The songs have held up well and have that energy and are really heavy, so I like to revisit it because they don’t feel old to me, they feel just as current as when we were writing them back in the day.”
It almost seemed like a drag, or maybe it was fitting, to ask the “heavy” questions of the guys: why did things go wrong, and when, back in the mid-to-late 1990’s?
Maybe it was the lack of label support after releasing “Dead To The World” on the Santa Monica, California-based Century Media Records? Walker addressed that angle.
“I think what happened was, the label wasn’t really into the band anymore, they weren’t liking the new material. We were rehearsing and writing new material and it just seemed like a lot of work wasn’t going anywhere. That seemed like the beginning of the end.”
For Tackett, internal chemistry issues arose after original drummer Chuck Nicholas left to join West Virginia contemporaries Karma To Burn before DTTW was even released.
“For me, when Chuck left the band, the songwriting, the whole process kind of changed,” Tackett said, speaking diplomatically. “Mac and myself feed off each other, and Chuck and John fed off each other, and we all worked well as a foursome. All the songs that were on [DTTW] and the two [1994 cassette] EPs were hashed out in a room together.
“We had that chemistry, and the songwriting was effortless.
“After Chuck left, we had to write with other people and it wasn’t the same, and the music started to change, not for better or worse, just different. So for me, the Chum era kind of ended when Chuck left the band.”
Tackett on Nicholas leaving (continued):
“Chuck doesn’t get enough credit as a songwriter. Correct me if I’m wrong John, but didn’t Chuck contribute lyrics and concepts? (John answers in background) He definitely helped with arrangements. With Chuck, he was really an experimental guy, and he’d just go off the deep end and just do stuff to be funny and it would end up a song. It was a weird way to write but it worked for us as a band.”
So many years later, Lancaster, Tackett and Walker, with mutual friend Blevins, are looking to not only keep their friendship intact, but Chum too. The internet age offers an avenue of communication that can facilitate long-distance collaboration, as Lancaster displayed recording and releasing his solo debut, “Phantom Moon,” last year.
Also, just as important, Chum’s fans are able to generate a mutually reinforcing energy, whether its picking songs for a set list, asking about merch, or remembering favorite shows from the past on the Chum Facebook page.
“It’s pretty much the main inspiration for us doing it at this point,” Lancaster said of the fans. “We get messages from people talking about the band, it’s just great to know that people are excited about it.”
Tackett on new Chum releases:
“We haven’t discussed making a new album together at this point, but at this point who needs a record label? With a project like Chum, if we wanted to release a record for free, at this point it’s about sharing the music with people who love it. It’s a labor of love for us to play and record this music.”
Walker said, just like at practice, at the V Club show Saturday, it’s going to be a party.
“It’s great. We’ve got people coming in from all over the place, so it’s more than a reunion, we’re getting to see old friends too.”
Old friends indeed, Tackett said, summing up Chum’s future.
“We’re all basically like brothers at this point, having grown up together. I don’t see any reason for us to stop making music anytime soon.”
If you go:
Chum, Horseburner, Tower of the Elephant
Where: The V Club, 741 6th Avenue, Huntington (304) 781-0680
When: Saturday, October 1st, 10 p.m.