INTERVIEW: Brett Reagan and Sarah Wilson of CHEW (Atlanta) on narrative music, live vs. studio recordings, & vaping!

Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia in the Dirty South, CHEW produce some of the most riveting instrumental indie rock going on, pulling equally from the playful studio antics of Tortoise and the bombast of Mogwai in their prime. The band are at their very best finding a groove and grinding on it, with virtuosic, King Crimson-esque performances enhancing an already lively craft. You can check them out below and catch them this Thursday at The Cure Lounge with the mighty Parlour, and Memory Gloss.

We caught up with them to ask about telling a story with their music, what makes for a good and bad show, and which fictional character they would be if given the chance!

NN: What is going on with the production/composition of Mystery School? Was that constructed in the studio or was that something you can reproduce live?

Brett Reagan: Mystery School was a song that I was composing for my beat project, Giant Colors. I would play the track with my sampler while the band was setting up on stage. It quickly became something like a theme song for us and made it to the record. It’s definitely able to be reproduced.

NN: How important is it to be able to play the same thing live?

Snare-Uh Wilson: Pretty important. We record our songs live in the studio, so what you hear on the record is what you will hear live for the most part. But of course, a live show makes things a little different. The energy of the crowd feeds us, so songs may be a little hyper, possibly faster, or hit harder live. We also improvise on some songs too.

NN: How does A Fine Accoutrement compare to 3DEP? How do the two differ? In what ways does it plot your evolution as a band?

BR: 3D EP was like a mirror. It was showing everything that we had to offer. A Fine Accoutrement is like going through the mirror. It’s everything we had started but now we’re able to twist and shape the vision a little differently. The music has a darker tone and we are much tighter as a band now. We’re going to keep getting weirder and darker.

NN: To what, if anything in specific, does the title address? Relative to that, and my above questions, how important is it to have specific meanings in songs, even if you leave that subjective to the artist? For example, does it even need to mean anything to you, or just sound pleasing?

BR: In the most literal sense, A Fine Accoutrement could be something like quality luggage or a great backpack. One of life’s great luxuries. “That’s one fine accoutrement, Bianca.” The term “accoutrement” took on a life of its own within the band, though. It was a go-to phrase and wouldn’t go away until it became a significant part of our lives.

“It’s equally important to sound pleasing and to have meaning, but our meanings won’t be in the forefront.”

It’s equally important to sound pleasing and to have meaning, but our meanings won’t be in the forefront. They’re hidden. The actual music is only one part of what we’re doing. A lot can be contained within images and patterns if you look for it.

NN: What should folks expect live? What is an example of a bad and good show and why? Does that differ between being a member of the audience and being a performer?

SW: Live, there is a lot of movin’ and shakin’ during our set. We have the most fun. A bad show is when equipment is not working, sloppiness, or out of tune guitars. Those things can really screw up a vibe for the band. A good show is when all of the above does not happen. And of course, if the crowd is great, usually the show is great. I’m somewhat a perfectionist, so any mistake I hear right away, but the audience never knows or if they do happen to notice, its never a big deal because its a live experience and we are humans. I just aim for every show to be perfect.

“Live, there is a lot of movin’ and shakin’ during our set. We have the most fun.”

NN: What is your relationship to vaping? On a scale of vape-ape to naw, where would you put yourself?

BR: The proof is in the puffing. If we’re talking nicotine juice – that’s a hell naw, if we’re talking concentrates – that’s a deep, dark, stanky, borderline-sasquatch from a futuristic dystopian society vape-ape.

NN: If you could be any fictional character, who would it be, and how would you defeat Trump with their powers? You can imagine that battle as either an irl cage match, or just in the political arena. Or maybe both. The world is your oyster.

SW: I would be Buffy the Vampire Slayer and slay him, and hopefully he would just turn into dust like all the other vampires.

NN: What non-musical things have your fancy? Have you read, watched, eaten, or drank anything worth discussing lately?

SW: I’m currently in the process of reading a few books, On the Road by Jack Kerouac and The Long Hard Road Out of Hell by Marilyn Manson. Darren Aronofsky films have been a big thing for us lately. We just watched 3 of his movies in the past week; Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan and Mother!. All of them are great and very dreamy and nightmare-ish.

BR: I just finished A Separate Reality by Carlos Castanada and just started The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley and American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I absolutely loved Mother! and the best thing I’ve eaten lately was the Impossible Burger at Yeah! Burger here in Atlanta.

NN: As of this writing what is your top desert island album? Just one record for an island.

SW: Honestly, I could probably listen to Queens of the Stone Ages self-titled album every day for the rest of my life. I’m pretty sure I have listened to it the most out of any album ever.

BR: This is tough, because not only does it have to be good, it has to fit the setting. I’m going with Close To The Edge by Yes.