Kingsley Chapman, of indie-punk crossovers The Chapman Family, talks to Conor O’Nolan about their passion for touring and debut album
It’s quite difficult come up with an accurate comparison for The Chapman Family; their singles represent the incredible diversity the band has to offer. ‘Kids’ is like a scuzzy Queens of the Stone Age with an English accent, while ‘Anxiety’ sounds not unlike the dark indie of Editors. Their songs are permeated with punk-inspired drum beats and heavily distorted guitars to provide a genuinely different sound. Such a desire to stand out has been vital to their existence.
The band’s formation came from vocalist/guitarist Kingsley and rhythm guitarist Paul’s frustration at the music scene in their hometown of Stockton-on-Tees. “It was about the back end of when every band I seemed to see wanted to be The Libertines,” he says. “You’d get bands coming down from Scotland or from Newcastle, or from down south, and every single one of them would try to put on some sort of weird Cockney accent.
“Every single band I watched from one week to the next, you could pretty much interchange some of their lyrics slightly, or they might be wearing slightly different Converse, but they’d pretty much be the same band.”
As Kingsley reveals, the band’s genesis was born of said distaste for the contemporary music scene, as well as a genuine passion for it. “I love watching live music, I love going to gigs, it’s everything I love about music in general, but we just found ourselves getting really bored of it.” For once, frustration lead to result, the band slowly started figuring out how to write songs.
Their first demos were written with the aid of a drum machine before they enlisted Phil to play for them, and Pop subsequently joined as their bassist. “He later admitted he couldn’t play, but he turned up with loads of noisy brightly coloured distortion pedals that seemed to fit in.”
The quartet have clearly come far and bonded as a unit in their five years together. All of them have since taken on the Chapman moniker, Ramones-style, and their chemistry is only helped by an especially active touring schedule. “We try to tour as much as we can, it’s the thing I enjoy the most about being in the band. [We’re] not really that bothered about recording.”
Kingsley’s passion for live music helped the band to develop a serious work ethic and they have toured almost constantly independent of management. “For the first couple of years, everything we did was powered via MySpace, we didn’t have a manager, we just managed ourselves, so without knowing too much about how social media works, we just made it up as we went along, sent out messages to pretty much every promoter in the country trying to get a gig.”
Although such self-sufficiency has clearly helped the band to evolve, it significantly slowed their attempts to record and distribute their music on a larger scale. While the band are eager to tour, they had been quite slow to record their music. They have been together since 2006, yet their debut album, Burn Your Town, has only just come out. “The first time we went into a recording studio is when we recorded our first single ‘Kids’, that was at the end of 2008.”
Despite their unfamiliarity with the studio, the excitement about the release of the album is palpable: “It’s been a massively long time coming for us, we’ve had quite a lot of bad luck and a lot of good luck at the same time”, explained Kingsley. “I think with us being so drastically unfashionable, in the UK particularly people just assumed we’d dropped off the radar, ‘cause we weren’t really gigging that much, but we were working quite hard behind the scene.”
The band were determined to create the absolute best they could during their time in the studio “We wanted to make sure our debut wasn’t half assed, what we put out was as good as we could do at the time.”
It surely helped that the band had been refining the sound for a long time before entering the studio. Their first big break was going on an NME-sponsored tour with La Roux, which exposed them to a large number of people. They then graduated to the summer festival circuit, which helped garner even more fans. Last year in between recording sessions for their album they played at the legendary SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.
Back during their formative years, the band accidentally coined a phrase that would haunt them in interviews and promotions later on in their career.
“When we started out, I didn’t really know how MySpace worked,” he recalls. “When I uploaded the first demo to it, I had to come up with a headline for the demo, I didn’t really know what to write, so I just put in: ‘We’re not a cult’, because I thought it sounded like a newspaper headline. Then we sort of jumped on the back of it and foolishly made T-shirts of it.”
For now, the notoriety has sustained them, but they will all likely be in the past soon enough.
Burn Your Town is out now.