Chambers is a self proclaimed mood rock band from Denton, TX.
Chambers consists of members: Judson Valdez, Piper Johnson, Chase Johnson, and Dalton Kane.
How was it like recording an album without any arms? Challenging I’m sure.
Dalton: My monkey-like feet made up for it. So not too hard. But I also play mostly bass, so... unless you’re just an incredible bass player, all you really need is any old nub or nose.
Chase: The weirder thing was that my arms grew back.
Working with the Midlake fellas at Redwood must have been cool. What was it like working with those rock stars? Parties every night? Tell us about those fellas.
Dalton: I watched Joey vomit like, two gallons of Natty Light. Nah, they’re classier than that. Mostly coffee.
Piper: Oh man. I was just a total dork. I’ve been listening to Midlake since seventh grade, thanks to my other brother, Gunnar (that kinda rhymes). So every time they were in the room, I would just sit there and be completely starstruck. I don’t think I said two words to them, I was so overwhelmed.
Chase: Playing drums when Mckenzie was around was a little nerve-wracking, but he complimented me on my snare sound, which made me giggle. Having Mckenzie there also helped for getting the exact drum tones I wanted, plus he let me use his cymbals, which was great... so yeah, I consider that a party.
There seems to be an incestious relationship among the bands here in Denton. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Dalton: Well the scene is just one enormous dysfunctional family-- that births a deformity here or there that happens to innovate the industry, sometimes in a really wonderful way.
Chase: I think the inner hick in all of us rears its ugly face sometimes... why else do you think banjos were popular a few years ago?
Ever been to jail?
Dalton: In Monopoly?
Piper: Actually, the “I’m too pretty to go to jail” defense worked in my favor.
Ever been to jail with any other Denton buzz bands?
Dalton: Nope... Hmmm.... Jud?
This band has an exceptional taste in quality thrift finds. Break it down for us. How does one acquire deep floral swag?
Dalton: I’d love to break it DOWN (nice) for you. But unfortunately, I’m not the one to talk to about fashion. I’d be fine in a plain white tank and jeans for the rest of my life.
Piper: When I go thrifting, I ask myself, “Would Chase or Judson wear this if they were girls (or maybe even if they weren’t)?” If yes, then I buy it and rub my awesome find in their faces.
Chase: Patience is a virtue. You have to be willing to rummage for a long time.
Judson: Lately it has been easier for me, because we have all been into patterns and cloths that pop out a little more, so usually I just walk down the aisle without touching anything until something pops out at me, that’s usually a good sign.
Speaking of fashion. What is up with the Hitler youth influence we see in Denton’s hair and footwear trends? Is Denton growing anti-semitic?
Dalton: I had a pretty good pun. But decided, I don’t think that subject is appropriate for humor. So I’ll just say, I hope not.
Piper: Well, if it is, Chase and I will be the blondes against the whole Aryan race thing.
Chase: It reminds me of Max Headroom, maybe Denton’s actually gonna be taken over by computers.
(Addressing Judson) Your music has come a long way from your early days in Denton. From highly accessible folk music, to the darkness of the hipster shame spiral, and now it’s arrived at a sound that I would say is probably your best yet. I’m a little biased because I know you but break down your musical transitions over the years in Denton, and what influenced the style. Also how long have you lived in Denton?
Judson: I’ve lived here for a long time now, at least it feels that way to me. With time comes growth, at least that’s what I hope for. But at the same time, I don’t necessarily consider different projects of the past better or worse, just different.What Chambers does is definitely the most accessible project that I have made public, and for that reason I think people will consider is my best, but all of the projects that I have worked on have been very close to the bone with me, that’s just how I write, so I could never think of one as better than another, well scratch that, there’s tons of stuff that I’ll never show anyone, that is in a million different “genres.” Some of that stuff isn’t any good in any measurable sense, even though I still like it, but that’s why I belongs to me and not everyone else. If someone has heard a song that I wrote, assume that I consider it to be of high quality.
Speaking of transitional times in Denton. Chase. You use to be in Darcy. How did you get so weird? Weren’t you also in a country band for a while? Seriously though, you’ve got a range of influence going on in your style over the years. Tell us some of the key points you can think of that have evolved into your contribution to Chambers.
Chase: I was never in the country band... but there was an offer on the table at one point for me to at least pick up a weekend or two of shows with them... I think when I first heard Death Cab’s drummer, Jason McGerr, in high school, I realized that I didn’t have to play a conventional 4/4 beat all the time. I started to experiment in Darcy, but it wasn’t until I paired up with Judson’s guitar style til I was really free to do whatever I want.
How do you feel about public school? Are homeschooled kids weird? Does alternative education make for great alternative music?
Dalton: I think that it really might. I know a few people in Denton like that-- and all of them are awesome. Just tack another failure on the public school system. But yeah, all weirdos. I was homeschooled for a short time. Luckily, I got some of the weirdness too.
Piper: Public school is always an adventure, but I think I prefer it to a private school (although I don’t know, I’ve never attended one). And I’m not sure if all homeschoolers are weird, but they can be. I was homeschooled till high school, and I’m pretty weird...but I think I’d be weird whether I was homeschooled or not. Judson loves to give me and Chase a hard time about it, though.
Chase: I’m gonna over-analyze this, like a homeschooler. When you are homeschooled, you don’t have to deal with the pressures of fitting in, being one of the cool kids, being popular, funny, etc. So, when you’re homeschooled, it is much easier to find your own style, your own character, which makes homeschooling officially better than public school. Also Piper and I were never the homeschoolers that had to tuck their t shirts into their jeans. We also didn’t wear knee socks with shorts.
You are a self proclaimed “mood rock band” right? What mood is that? Like bipolar or like highly medicated?
Dalton: I don’t know about mood-- but I’d say way under-medicated, and suffering from stockholm syndrome. Specifically, stockholm syndrome with my own self. Arcade Fire said it best.
Judson: Anytime we make a social media account, or do one of these interviews, or play a festival, there’s a little blank to fill in titled “Genre.” It’s hard to answer that, especially in one word, so I guess “mood rock” works.
I love how distinct your sound is. Your songs range from a dark and moody sound in “In Your Blood” to a happy, almost surf-rock sounding tone in “Strange Visitor”. How would you describe the sound to someone who hasn’t heard you yet?
Piper: Every time someone asks us this question, we stand there for a few seconds staring at each other; waiting for someone to attempt an answer. Eventually one of us says, “sludge-pop”, which then requires an explanation: heavy lyrics and instrumental parts, pop-ish melodies. It’s tedious work, but necessary I guess.
Judson: Very true Piper. “ Sludge pop” is the slightly more humorous version of “Mood Rock.”
I’ve heard you say that your music isn’t for everyone. You mentioned that if any song were to be friendly to a broad audience it would be Strange Visitor. The rest is a bit further down the rabbit hole. With that said, what effect do you hope your music has on an audience, both live or through different channels like the internet?
Dalton: I hope it makes people brave enough to ask the questions they don’t want to, and also, show that no one has it all together.
Piper: I want them to feel. I don’t care if they feel hatred toward our music, or if it makes them hurt, or if it makes them laugh. As Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Chase: Music can be extremely moving. It reminds us of old memories, it teaches us new ideas, and it can inspire a wide range of emotions, from sadness to joy. There are many pieces and songs that move me deeply. That’s what i want to do to other people.
Judson: I definitely think that our music is for everyone.
Judson, you have a hard time standing, still sitting, still, or just not twitching in general. Do you have mental issues or do you drink hella caffeine / have to pee really bad?
Piper, how many boyfriends do you have?
Piper: Hahaha FIVE THOUSAND! No, actually I’ve never had a boyfriend. Chase likes to pretend that he’s the reason I’ve never dated anyone (Big Brother Syndrome), and I let him believe that, even though we all know that’s not true. He’s too sweet to be intimidating.
Chase: But seriously, back off.
It appears that the songs come from a place of personal experience and a considerable amount of introspect. Piper, you are the youngest. You are standing in the midst of your formative years where as some of the other guys have a few awkward stages under their belt. Do you ever have difficulty relating to the lyrical content, or are the lyrics broad enough for you to at least empathize?
Piper: Surprisingly, I never have any difficulty relating to our songs. I make the lyrics that aren’t mine, mine. We’ve all talked through what the songs meant when they were written, and what/who they’re written about, but just because one song means something to Judson or Dalton, doesn’t mean I have to sing it from their point of view. I relate the lyrics to myself, to my life-just like a listener would. So when people see us play, they aren’t watching me perform as a character, they’re watching me being me.
Judson: I would say that is Piper’s secret strength, she is the best person at singing the lyrics that I write, better than anyone else I have ever heard sing them.
Who is prettier, Dalton or Piper?
Piper: Oh, I’d say Dalton. Although, I’m not sure how he’d feel being referred to as a “pretty boy.”
Dalton, you have a motorcycle. That is cool. Can I have it?
Dalton: Dude, you don’t need it with that red bat-mo-bike I see you on. We should start a gang though. Velcro patches.
Dalton what do you do when you aren’t riding your motorcycle or Chambering? Tell us about your side projects and where you find your everyday activities influencing your contributions to the band. You’ve grown a lot from what I can tell in the short time and with the little bit that I’ve gotten to be around you. What’s been going on with you? Loaded question.
Dalton: I do a lot of motorcycling and Chambering. But when I’m not doing that-- I’m writing or drinking free tea refills at Jup or doing design stuff or working on solo material. I’ve grown a bit and so it’s been interesting and given me a lot of areas to improve. I’ve found that my personal writing has changed a little. For instance, I intend to gear newer solo stuff more towards me and a bass guitar. I’ve actually been doing a lot of work on that recently. What’s been going on with me... Honestly, I don’t know. My life is in many ways-- entering transition mode. Feel like I’m standing in a doorway. It’s enough to send a guy into a pre-midlife crisis. Fortunately, I’ve already got the motorcycle and a mildly receding hairline, so I suspect it will wear off soon.
Alright, Top list:
Song you are listening to right now?
Dalton: “Flirted With You All My Life” Bazan (cover)
Piper: “Ghost” by Neutral Milk Hotel
Chase: “Listen” by Tears for Fears
Judson: Graceland by Paul Simon
Way to spend $20.
Dalton: 20 packs of Natural American Spirit-- Blues, with the coupons.
Piper: Shoes...or food. But yeah, probably shoes.
Chase: A can of High Life, some new drumsticks, and a patty melt from whataburger, with honey bbq on the side.
Judson: probably some shoes as well, or some of those thrift finds you were talking about.
Memory so far this year
Dalton: There’s a lot of them. Probably, well I’ll keep it to myself actually.
Piper: This past summer, my best friend and I found our old dress up dresses from when we were kids. We put them on (they actually fit pretty well) and jumped into the pool. It was really hard to not drown, but we managed.
Chase: Seeing Doldrums twice at SXSW is up there, or playing at the Kessler with Seryn, or finishing the album, or going to the Rangers game for Judson’s birthday, or is this cheating?
Judson: Every show we have played this year.
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Recorded Live at Redwood Studios in Denton, TX