American synth/indie pop band Chelan–comprised of Jennifer Grady, Justin Hosford, and and (newcomer) Chad Austinson–is preparing to release their 5th studio album, Vultures, this summer. Lead track “Beams” crossed our radar, and we knew we had to have the premiere. Its very distinct bass line blends perfectly with Jen’s haunting, gorgeous vocals. “Beams” is a song we can see as the backdrop of an insane “house party” (apartment party) in the early hours of a Sunday morning in Bushwick just before you’re ready to stumble home, or–more vividly–as the soundtrack to a late night of illegal parkour along the abandoned streets of a nearby city.
It’s got edge like that.
If Jen had it her way, she would “fly anyone interested to come to Joshua Tree and see us play on a warm summer night somewhere outside.” That’s the sincerity and beauty that you can find in both the band’s personalities, as well as in their music. We had the pleasure of speaking to them leading up to the release of “Beams”. Check it out.
How did you all meet each other and decide to create music together? What’s the “meet cute” of Chelan?
Justin: Jen and I met at a party in high school in Olympia, Washington. I think it was something as simple as “you play music, I play music, lets play music.” I don’t think either of us had any idea we would be playing together all this time but the chemistry was great right away.
You started out as a duo, but added the amazingly talented percussionist Chad Austinson in early 2015. How has the writing/recording process changed since then?
Jen: Justin and I’s first band together actually toured with one of Chad’s bands years ago. At the time we were looking for a drummer and within 3 minutes of watching him play we knew we wanted THAT drummer. So we were fans first. We ended up doing a couple of records together from that first project. So its been real easy to incorporate Chad into Chelan. I think he has brought some excitement to the project because we are able to go places with a song we just couldn’t with the drum machine stuff we have done in the past.
You’re based out of Joshua Tree. Do you think that this location influences your sound or your approach to music at all?
Justin: Its hard to pinpoint exactly why so many artists and musicians feel inspired by Joshua Tree. I think the stillness here allows you to filter out the external noise and get into a real productive place. The community of people here is so supportive and inspiring here as well. In fact my good friend and neighbor Ali Beletic just had a track premiere on Impose. Its a small tight knit community and a lot of different ideas are taking off from the high desert.
How would you describe your sound, and how do you imagine people listening to your music?
Jen: We started off in the early days as a sort of low fi indie folk band. But I also think all 3 of us have a love affair with pop music on some level so the climb towards what we do now felt very natural. I don’t think we have ever fully left our roots as that minimal northwest indie outlet. This is just a big evolved version of it.
“Beams”–the lead track off your upcoming album Vultures–is phenomenal. (That bass drop at 0:35… SWOON.) What inspired it?
Justin: Thanks. “Beams” was one of the last tracks we wrote for the album. I think exactly what you said about the big bass drop was a big part of the inspiration. We wanted to make something big and driving. I was messing around with some chord ideas and just started stacking synth parts until it sounded as big as it does. It’s also one of my favorite lyrical moments on the album. Jen always does a really nice job of painting a picture with her words. There is a timeless coldness to the words on beams that I fell in love with immediately. Beams is also a perfect example of what Chad brought to this record. A lot of the underlying drive is coming from his percussive parts.
What were your studio necessities while recording the new album?
Justin: I ended up using a Dave Smith mopho x4 on every track. Such a big, driving, pop-oriented keyboard. In the signal chain I ran everything through a Neve portico 2 master buss processor. Love that thing. Also a ton of the bricasti M7 reverb on this album. I ran a ton of stuff through a Great River ME-INV pre amp too. Great piece of gear.
Do you have anything you’d like to say about “Beams” specifically?
Jen: Matt Drenik who co produced the record insisted that “Beams” was the leading track. Him and I had a lot of fun with the vocal recording.
Vultures is set to release August 26th, with a supporting tour to follow in the spring of 2017. “Beams” is available now.