Chapel Club recently shocked their fans by previewing four songs from their new album. Forget about the moody chillwave that came before, because the new album is a summer-infused '70s synth departure.
We caught up with the London-based band to find out about their plans to soundtrack a Moomins film and just what led to a J-Lo inspired song called 'Jenny Baby'...
Hello Chapel Club. First of all, does the new album have a name yet?
It does, it’s going to be called ‘Good Together.’
And it has a completely new sound, so what led to that decision?
We toured the last album for about eighteen months and by the end of that time we were all pretty sick of it, which I imagine is the case for most bands in that position. We were listening to so much different stuff and, you know, you measure yourself against the other people that are out there so for our own sake, we needed to up our game a bit and do something a bit more interesting and inventive. Also, you get more confidence – after eighteen months of touring, I was like, ‘Okay, now I feel like I’m in a band. Now I feel like I’m a musician of some sort, now I feel like I can have more of an input into what kind of things we do.’ And so we just started thinking about it more conceptually.
You do mention in a previous interview that the first album was a bit rushed and you didn’t really know what kind of band you were...
I think a lot of bands have that. Nowadays, you get signed and they say, ‘Right, you’ve got all this hype behind you so get in there and record what you’ve got.’ Then they put it out and capitalise on this wave of hype. So we recorded the first album really soon after we’d signed but then by the time we’d recorded it, we were like, ‘Maybe we should build it a bit more before we release it.’ We were in the worst possible scenario of having recorded all the songs that we’d written as an amateur band, as it were, and we were unable to revisit that and then we had to wait another year before it all came out. It was a perfect storm for us.
Your first album, ‘Palace’, got a really good response. Was it difficult to make the choice to break away from that?
I’ll be honest with you, as a band we’re all different individuals but we all share certain characteristics and I think one of them is that none of us are particularly careful. We’re not the kind of band who are going to sit there and say we shouldn’t change the sound because we might lose fans. You can’t just creep up for twenty years trying to do the same thing, that’s not why you start a band – you start a band to have fun. So we thought we might as well just throw caution to the wind.
After you disappeared for a little while, are you worried it might be hard to break back into the scene?
I’m aware at the back of my mind that if people don’t want to listen to these songs, if people don’t talk about them or buy them or come to the gigs, then it means the band is over. I think our first album did a good job but it didn’t get us to the place where we were able to be. My view of our first album is that it had a real strength and if I’m honest, I do think we were underrated, but we weren’t one of the most exciting bands in the world.
So the new album was all about being more exciting and unexpected and I think we’ve done that. I think – God, this sounds really awful and arrogant which I hate, but I really do think that the second album has got to put us up there. If things progress fairly it should put us up there with the best young bands in the country. We’ve made an album that doesn’t really sound quite like anyone else and that’s exciting and accessible, but also interesting enough and weird enough that people will have to sit up and say, ‘They’ve actually done something pretty special.’
‘Palace’ had a lot of literary references, but your new album has a song about Jennifer Lopez. Is that quite a departure?
I don’t think it’s that much of a departure in the sense that all the songs on the first album were based on personal experience. So okay, there wasn’t one about J-Lo, but they were mostly about relationship stuff and on the second album, they mostly are as well. Saying it’s about J-Lo is just from me reading the newspaper or reading something about her or hearing a song by J-Lo and being like, "she’s a fucking idiot." And so it’s still just as personal as the first album, because it’s my views on things. I don’t think the lyrics on the first album are good, but I was reading a lot of stuff that was very dense and symbolic because that was what I was interested in. I took a hammering for it in NME but I didn’t really care about that because I thought those lyrics were better than a lot of stuff that’s out there.
Is the more upbeat sound reflecting where you are personally?
Well, it’s upbeat musically but a lot of the lyrics – I intended to write really upbeat lyrics but a lot of the lyrics ended up being slightly melancholy still. ‘Good Together’ is all about whether to break up or stay together and things like that. They come from a kind of conflicted place, I guess, but the idea was not to just moan but to take any kind of negative feelings and frame them in a song and to make something more productive out of the emotion, whether it was anger or hope or whatever. ‘Scared’ is the most obviously example because it’s the most basic message, but it’s so far been the one that I’ve most enjoyed singing because it’s so simple.
What meant a lot to me was playing the album to my family and people like that when it was first mastered and how people responded to that. There was a certain kind of person, people who didn’t like their jobs and things like that, who you know are looking for something more in their life. And I thought it was good, because it meant that you don’t need to be especially literary or full of symbols to hit the people that it was written for and inspired by. So there was this whole idea on this record that even if the emotions were more on the dark side or the down side, the overall message of the song itself, lyrically and melodically, would be more upbeat and more uplifting. I think we’ve managed that.
Below: Listen to 'Sleep Alone' by Chapel Club
Who were your influences during the album?
You know what, I made a list on my phone of every single person who is mentioned through all the writing sessions. I’m going to try and print it in the album notes, everyone who’s mentioned – there’s a couple of writers in there and film makers and stuff, but mostly it was musicians. You can’t pretend that you’re doing anything wildly original because we’re just at a place where no one can set out to do that, even if it’s something you’d aspire to do.
I do think for a while that we were so free that we didn’t know what direction the album was going, there was talk of actually trying to do an animated film. I don’t know where we thought we’d get the money from, but we were going to do it, and I was researching the Moomins and all this crazy Polish animation – I watched about 100 hours of Polish stop motion animation because I was so obsessed with it, but it didn’t work out in the end. Maybe we’ll do that in the future.
Do you think you’re going to carry on the trend of doing something completely different on each record – maybe some rap on the next one?
I’d like to do it but I just know I can’t deliver them and it’d be a bit weird to write something if you know you can’t deliver it – first of all, someone else might not want to deliver my words and secondly, I might not want someone else to get them wrong. Where we’re at now is a really good place.
Finally, you’re really excited to have written some Chapel Club songs that people can dance to. What are your favourite songs to dance to?
I used to be a proper raver, so I could go that way. One of my favourite dance songs ever is by Livin’ Joy, ‘Dreamer.’ My sister had it on CD single when she was sixteen and I was about eleven. On the more pop side of things, I’ve always liked Wham!. I will always dance to Wham! and sing along like an idiot. Wham!’s got to be one.