Interview: Chew Magna
How long has your band been around?
Laurie: Quite a while now 6 years or something, we move at a snail’s pace! The band really showed me how powerful a regular weekly jam can be…we started off with very little idea about what sound we wanted or what direction to go in and it just slowly evolved week by week over a year or two.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Laurie: Manchester, which is a fantastic place to live but being honest, with the exception of The Fall and perhaps New Order we don’t really count Manchester’s musical heritage as an influence. We’re much more US focused: Sonic Youth, Dino Jr, Sebadoh, The Men, Parquet Courts, Fugazi, Husker Du etc…
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Laurie: It’s the name of a village in Somerset, UK we thought it sounded like a gnarly indie rock band! In retrospect, it may have been a bit of a daft choice as people tend to think we are either called Chew MANGA, Show Magnet or Chewbacca!
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
Laurie: We really enjoyed opening for Cloud Nothings, probably the biggest band we’ve played with so far. Also our first ever proper show at Sounds From The Other City festival in Salford comes to mind.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Laurie: Definitely play in more than one act, there’s so much luck involved you inevitably create more opportunities if you have fingers in different pies. Also lots of younger musicians can live in bad faith (in the philosophical way) for instance when I was in my late teens I had loads of songs that were only 1min and half long and I would say to myself “I can’t possible release an album of 90 second songs – they’re too short” little did I know The Minutemen, Wire and Guided By Voices had all been doing it for a decade or two (or three) before! I should have just done it!
To my younger self from an artistic standpoint I’d say to learn music theory earlier. It opens the door to infinite possibilities.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Laurie: For me personally its Watching Paint Dry…it marked the start of us becoming a better and slightly weirder band and its so fun to play live.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Simon: We're a jam band at heart, so I think we have our most fun when we get raucous and the tempo increases. Previous single Listless and a track that's on the upcoming album - Watching Paint Dry - quite often
bookend our live set. They both have a real jammy groove to them - the kind of songs you can't help but nod along to. And a load of fuzz/distortion, of course. It's sometimes the album tracks (or what we consider album tracks) that people seems to buzz off the most. I've quit trying to guess what people will want to hear.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Simon: Four people in a room, amps on, and feel our way through it. Usually starts with a riff from Laurie's never ending collection and we jam it out from there. Some arrive near fully formed, some take a bit of chopping up and figuring out. Our music is the product of all of our favourite bands - and we're lucky enough that our different styles of playing combine to make a whole that we enjoy. We all have a similar taste in 80s/90s (other decades are available) alt rock and indie. All of our jams are named after a seminal band that we think it vaguely sounds like. Fugazi 1, Trail of Dead, Pavement 2 etc etc. We flatter ourselves, really - hoping we can match the sounds of our influences. What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music? The usual, you know. Relationships, nostalgia, a healthy distrust of the modern world and side a salad of esoteric philosophy.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Simon: We're a model of understanding and communication, underpinned by a meritocratic democracy. We don't really have disagreements. (honest) We've often said this is the easiest band any of us have been in. Everyone has ideas, everyone has their role. Everyone is heard, everyone is seen. We're an indie utopia (or four fairly laid back people who prefer to avoid confrontation - you decide)
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Simon: We take the days as they come. We'd started to build up a decent following before the pandemic. We'd had a first EP out, we were building a reputation as a really solid live band and we had an album written and nearly recorded. But - like lots of artists, really - it felt like we had to start again. We've now got that album getting pressed and it'll be out in June. We're proud of it. Wish it can out two years ago, but no point regretting that which you can't control. After that, we'll get back in a room, amps on and see where the jam takes us next.