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Interview: Chase Atlantic

Grant Walters Grant Walters Interview: Chase Atlantic
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The Australian alt-pop trio bring their dreamy new album, "Phases," to life on stage Thursday night at Newport Music Hall

I’ve long had an affection for Australian music and artists, and my phone conversation this week with Chase Atlantic rhythm guitarist and vocalist Christian Anthony reaffirmed how much I appreciate their characteristic candor and affability. But more than that, there is also an inherent, specific passion for their craft, and a genuine esteem in which they hold their fans and supporters that is uniquely Aussie.

“I think it’s been about two weeks now, maybe a little more,” Anthony calculates as we discuss the recent release of and reaction to their second album, Phases. “It’s just been fantastic, the response. But, we were confident going in. I think it’s an album that can be appreciated universally. Going into it, we had a concept, which we’d never done before where we’ve sat down and have been, like, ‘oh, let’s make an album.’ It’s a cool step for us, man – a real cool step.”

The trio, which is comprised of Anthony and lead vocalist and bassist Mitchel Cave, and lead guitarist Clinton Cave, is now based in Los Angeles, a move prompted by the discovery of their earlier work by Good Charlotte’s Joel and Benji Madden, who signed them to their imprint MDDN in 2016. Following two EPs, they released their eponymous debut album in 2017.

With Phases, Chase Atlantic is now headlining their first American tour, which stops in Columbus on Thursday night at Newport Music Hall.

“It’s a very surreal experience to be, like, playing shows…in the start of 2018, we were opening for someone and playing for crowds who didn’t really give a shit about us,” says Anthony. “So, it’s definitely a weird experience to come back and, you know, have them know who we are [laughs]. Sometimes we just get carried away.”

Getting “carried away” has put Mitchel Cave on vocal rest for the day, which is why Anthony is pinch hitting in our interview.

“Yeah, he’ll be alright,” he says when I tell him I hope Cave feels better. “Man, the amount that that guy works on stage when he sings. I only maybe sing, like, five verses in the whole set, and after a show I find myself…me and him have this weird little chemistry when we’re on stage together. We both can’t help but scream! We just, like, scream and yell on stage. We need a bloody vocal coach to come and chill us out a little bit. But, we just get so excited, and we’re screaming. And we just lose our voices.”

Anthony and I spend the rest of the call discussing the band’s creative chemistry, their Australian influences, and the new territory they’re conquering as an up-and-coming band on the rise.

The three of you often discuss in the press how synergistic your relationships with one another are. How have you been able to achieve that dynamic where you trust and invest in each other so unconditionally?

“I think it’s very important to be friends with the people you’re playing with well before you actually join a band. Because nowadays, music can be such a revolving door of bandmates and stuff, and you just don’t want it to be like that. That’s not how it should be. So, we were mates for two years before [Mitchel and I] started working together with Clinton, made a couple of songs before.

And, I think just from the get-go, one thing that’s kept us really close is the taste in music. When we first met, it was just after Skrillex had actually blown up, and there was the vision, you know? And I met Clinton and Mitchel, and they showed me a dubstep track they were working on, and I was so impressed with that. I was, like, ‘damn! You guys produce, and you guys listen to Skrillex!’ And from there, it’s just been…you know, we’ve grown up together. I was 14 when I met them, and I’m 21 now. Everything musically is just so in sync.”

You essentially made Phases in isolation with almost no input from anyone beyond the three of you. How do you feel that impacted the final product?

“I think we’re lucky that we’re producers. If we had another producer in the room, and it’s all us just chucking out ideas…if someone has an idea, we can just put it in ourselves. Or, someone can be sitting behind and go ‘hey, I’ve got an idea. Let me try this.’ And because we’re so in sync and brothers, we’re not afraid to be, like, ‘that’s a terrible idea!’ [laughs]

We’re not afraid to try new stuff and try different things, and we’re all very supportive. Honestly, it’s just a really fun environment, and I don’t think we’ve ever, ever questioned anything about each other musically because we do believe in each other so much. I don’t think I’ve seen a studio session quite like our one – it’s very relaxed.

A lot of people try and make music seem like a job when it comes to the studio. I’ll tell you what, it’s a job when you’re on the road. And, the finalizing stages of music can be quite long and a little bit tiring, but the initial stages of making music are so beautiful. I think we do it in a way where everybody’s ideas get expressed the way that we want, and we’re able to try out anything we want.”

When you make an album that’s reflective of such intimate work between you as the creators, are there moments when you worry how it might translate to a larger audience? 

“Yeah. A hundred percent. It’s always scary being the sophomore album, as well – I think the first album…we don’t even have the word sophomore in Australia, and I started hearing all these things about, ‘oh, the sophomore…’ what is the phrase…?”

The ‘sophomore slump’?

“Right, the ‘sophomore slump.’ So, I started hearing about that, and I’d never heard about it before. I was, like, ‘oh, Jesus!’ And I’d listen back to the album. Yeah, you definitely have nights where your brain can get funny, which is what we talk about on the album on ‘Stuckinmybrain.’ Your brain gets funny and you get unsure of yourself. And, then you wake up and you want to send a certain song you’ve made to every single person you know and say, ‘how great is this?!’ It’s a little bit of a rollercoaster.

We always get nervous and anxious running up to a release because people also love to hate things, you know? It’s, like, a 2018-19 trend where it’s cool to dislike everything that you see, you know what I mean? But, the reaction of the supporters has just been unbelievable. I think I’ve seen one negative thing, or maybe a couple of negative things, and I just think the reaction has been so incredible. Like I said, we’re all very confident, and I feel like we’ve got a lot of people close to us who I think would be truly honest with us – well, I hope [laughs]. I think our parents would tell us if it was shit, and some of our friends back home.

And, we like the music – we make music that we like, and I’d like to think we’ve got okay taste. So, if we like it, I usually…and there’s three of us, as well, so if all of three of us think it’s good, well, hopefully, it’s good [laughs].”

I think I may have talked with Vance Joy about this before…

“Oh, yeah. ‘Riptide’ – what a song. What a legend.”

Absolutely. And he’s incredibly humble and kind. He and I discussed what discerns Australian music from other locales. When I was growing up, we knew bands like INXS and Crowded House, but I don’t remember hearing the myriad of artists that now seem to be coming out of that corner of the globe. Do you still feel like there’s a specific Australian music identity, or has that gone out the window a bit now that music from all over the world is more easily accessible?

“Yeah, I agree with you in both things you’re saying, that the idea of global music feels like it’s kind of going out the window, but in a way it’s just because it’s become easier to obtain nowadays. It’s so obtainable. You can go on Spotify or iTunes and find a new artist – and I can bloody type in ‘Australia’ and it would come up with a bunch of Australian artists.

But, I think that means that the music industry can be quite saturated as well. Quite a saturated market. It’s the ambiguous way of…it’s as hard as it’s ever been, but it’s also the most accessible music’s ever been.

Songs like ‘Paradise,’ like, our earlier stuff have a super Australian vibe. Because we came over to America and we fell in love with the rhythm section of the R&B and hip-hop that was blowing up over [there] that, in Australia, was not. Which is crazy to think. So, on what you were saying before, there’s still a whole country that, at the time, was listening to The 1975 and The Neighbourhood that was completely alternative rock-based. And we came over here and everyone’s listening to The Weeknd – and we heard [him], fell in love with [him].

Obviously, we’re influenced by The 1975, but bands like Tame Impala, Sticky Fingers, The Last Dinosaur, Ocean Alley – all fantastic Australian bands that definitely deserve a bit more recognition over in America. So, I think it’s just different styles, and that’s the reason why we decided we wanted to come to America because…5 Seconds of Summer, for example. Great Australian band. They really did the dive and went straight to America after a couple of years touring in Australia.

I guess, in a way, we saw the kind of success that they had and thought, ‘well, we don’t just want to be another Australian band that stays in Australia. We want to be global. We want this to be a big thing, you know? So, we decided to make the big move with the help of Joel and Benji [Madden]. And, now we’re here.”

And having good people to support you has obviously been a proponent of your success.

“We’ve been very lucky with the people we’ve worked with, and we’ve never really worked with anybody who’s tried to do us wrong. And with Joel and Benji as our mentors and our managers – I mean, those guys are some of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. They’ve got our backs, and I think with them in our corner, I feel like we’re unstoppable.”

You’ve managed to accomplish a lot as a young band, and you’ve spoken with a level of expertise about the music industry. What do you think are potential challenges that contemporary artists like yourselves might encounter as your careers continue?

“I’d say for starters, some of the ones we’ve already started to see are people will come into the picture now that weren’t in the picture before. But, I feel like we’re pretty smart and we’re pretty reclusive. When we’re in L.A., we’re pretty chill and we have a close little circle – and even back home, a close circle. I would say that would be a challenge for most bands.

People get led down the wrong path all the time. People see someone being successful, and they want to drag them down and take them a different route. It’s just this terrible human nature instinct that’s there. I think with being young and being youthful, I think you start to discover – which we have – that you have all these new emotions, and the stresses of touring and stuff that we’ve never felt before.

We know that we can respect each other’s personal spaces, everyone’s hygienic, and when someone wants to be by themselves for a little bit, no-one takes it personally. So, that’s another challenge I’d say people will have to face, and I see bands break up all the time for it. But, I think that’s something that, certainly now, we’ve gotten on top of more than we used to.

And the third would be the ‘board men’ – the guys with the shiny suits and the nice watches convincing young people that they’re going to make a million dollars, and ‘you just have to pay it back by this time.’ And there are these hard-working musicians who work for free that make them money…they fall into the trap. And, it’s so understandable. If you spend your whole life working on your art and someone says they’re going to give you everything you want, and all you’ve got to do is sign this piece of paper. And that piece of paper can be the be-all and end-all of your career.

We made sure we didn’t sign any contracts until we were at least 18. We were working with Joel and Benji for four years before we signed with them. It was their word and ours, and we just trusted each other.”

What was your vision for Phases as you’ve prepared it to be performed on stage for this tour?

“It’s an hour-long re-creation of the Chase Atlantic band – not only the Phases album, but also the band as a whole, throwing it back to old songs. It’s just kind of taking you out of reality for an hour and giving you this crazy rock show mixed with crazy visuals. We’ve always been…especially Clinton who does all our visuals, we’ve always been a visually orientated band.

So, no matter the size of the room, no matter how many kids rock out, we want people to leave thinking that it was the best rock show they’ve ever seen.”

Chase Atlantic performs (with special guest Lauren Sanderson) Thursday, July 18 at Newport Music Hall, 1722 N. High St. Doors open at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $16 (plus applicable taxes and fees), and are available via Ticketmaster. Learn more about Chase Atlantic by visiting their official website, or following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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