Chronographs are all about right now. As they approach the halfway mark of their “One Song A Month For A Year” project – for which Chronographs are writing, recording, and releasing one track every thirty days, making each song as relevant to the band’s current life situations as they possibly can be – TMMP got in touch to talk beginnings, creativity, the music business, and happiness (the latter two of which can often prove incompatible).
How did Chronographs come to be?
Tom (Ridley, Guitars): Myself, Jon (Sinfield, Vocals) and Benson (Bass) played in another band together for years. We released a couple of EPs which weren’t very good. We lost some members and wrote and recorded The Outhouse Sessions EP and decided on a fresh start, and actually inherited the name Chronographs from a shelved side-project of Jon’s. We found Jack a short while after we launched, and Finn a couple of years later.
What inspired the ‘Song A Month’ project?
Jack (Pope, Guitars): We had a particularly long lead time between writing our EP Nausea and releasing it to the world. We felt like the material no longer reflected our musical intention. The songs were from us and true but they didn’t say what we felt at the time of release. The message felt inauthentic. Releasing music constantly felt like an instant fix to the problem and also gave us a target to steer towards which kept us working hard and efficiently. We also felt that the gimmick of the whole monthly release schedule might draw attention to the music, which at the end of it all is what we want.
Tom: Like any business, artists battle to remain in the public eye. Particularly online, bands will publish things which aren’t especially interesting or relevant just so people don’t forget about them (I’m not sure that actually happens, but I’ve fallen foul of that myself in the past). By having regular output and content, we’re hopefully a more interesting band to follow.
How does the experience of writing, producing, and releasing a song a month differ from more traditional release schedules? What are the challenges? What are the rewards?
Jack: It’s hard for us and harder for George (G1 productions) who mixes and masters everything. We work as much as we can in between our day to day activities (university, night jobs and drinking coffee for me). We get the track done in the nick of time and then send it all over to George who manages to shine our tracks into little gems (sometimes within 24 hours). The rewards are the constant feedback from fans, constant ability to change and bend to our hearts’ whims, and the ability to produce a track that shouts “This is me, right now”.
How do you deal with the extra pressure involved in such an intense and compressed writing and release schedule?
Tom: It can be hard. We’ve been stressed at times, because the last thing we want to do is miss our deadline, or put out something that’s below the pretty high standard that I think we’ve always maintained. But it’s cool, we’re more prolific than we’ve ever been, and we’re enjoying the journey. Bands have a tendency to keep reworking old material until it’s perfect, or even re-releasing music with a better mix, new vocalist, etc. I hate that. Like when a band’s first album is the previous EP with some filler tracks added. I don’t see the point.
What’s your creative process like? How does a Chronographs track go from idea to reality?
Jack: Almost all our tracks start with a guitar riff (or three). We get a melody and a feel from the riff and Finn writes drums which he feels match that. This then snowballs down with the drums and guitar bumping off each other. The song is then arranged and sent to Jon who can put his words and melodies down. Finally we’ll record it, and add extra layers or remove weak ideas, which are decisions that can only be made when everything has been tracked. Sometimes the riff that started the whole song (as with D.O.T.S) gets lost along the way.
You first made your name as a tech-metal act; in 2014 you’ve adopted a lighter, progressive math-rock sound. What motivated that stylistic shift?
Tom: We didn’t feel like writing metal. It’s super aggressive, fast, and a little bit juvenile. We have more to offer than flashy guitars, blastbeats and breakdowns. I guess the other thing is that clever ideas are kind of lost in the whirlwind of distortion and shouting. The Nausea EP had some really cool bits on there, but I’m not sure they came across that well.
Techy metal was actually pretty easy to write; what we’re doing now is way harder. Suddenly a much larger palette of sounds are on the table – there’s way more ground we’re able to cover. We haven’t found the definitive Chronographs sound yet – we’re still experimenting. Doing a new song every month is a great vehicle for us to hone in on what will define us musically.
Describe each of the songs you’ve released so far in a single sentence.
Losing Light: Loop pedals and big riffs.
The Hunter: A bit slow but lots of tasty harmonies.
Porcelain: Happy accident.
Flat White: The Wombats meets Foals.
D.O.T.S: Long and hard.
Your band blog is somewhat exceptional, in that it takes a far more positive and optimistic tack than most modern music business commentary. What first drove you to start that blog? How has the blog impacted your career? What could be achieved if more bands communicated with their audiences in a similar manner?
Jack: The formalisation of a “blog” came from Tom when he was designing our beautiful website. We all agreed that we loved hearing from bands we admire, and (to quote a cliché) that you should always follow your heroes (and then stand on their shoulders). I read. Lots. I also have big opinions and a bigger mouth, so for me the blog is really good fun.
The positive nature of the blog was an accident, and I think is just a reflection of how lucky I feel to be out touring, or releasing or meeting fans etc. All of my posts are written in one go on a long rant. Some posts get better receptions than others but there are always a few who seem to respond well. That being said, I would say TMMP’s response is the first sign of a career enhancement from our words!!
As long as bands don’t use their loud voices to shout about how little money they make, or how smelly their van is and that they want a hotel then I think all bands should blog. Actually, maybe some bands should just stick to their music (Lamb of God falls into this category).
Tom: I felt like social media didn’t provide the means to share our thoughts and ideas properly – we have a lot of them! So I built the blog. Even if you do write a thousand words on a topic and stick it on Facebook, it disappears off the bottom of the feed within an hour and is lost forever. The blog lets us actually write and lay out small articles to effectively capture our ideas and get a point across. I hope people enjoy our brain dumps.
What makes you happy?
Jack: Beauty that exists without practical purpose and espressos in the sunshine with a good French novel.
Tom: People. Some people.
Beyond the next seven months, what does the future hold for Chronographs?
Tom: Lots more music. I want to keep it regular, but maybe we’ll start looking at bundling stuff together into little EPs, and eventually an album – not because I think the album format is particularly important, I actually think it’s pretty redundant for a growing band like us. But I’d like to produce a single body of work with a cool theme at some point.
I’d also like to collaborate, be it with other musicians, artists, labels, friends. Maybe fans! I’ll have to have a think about that one.