Cheviot is the musical brainchild of friendly neighbours Matt and Sam. After years of collaboration in make-shift music spaces around their homes, they’ve decided it’s time to finally out themselves as a serious musical act, producing a wide-gamut of fresh sounds from alt. rock to synth pop. Cheviot also happens to be the name of a quiet tree lined street in the Inner West suburb of Ashbury, where these boys spent much of their shambolic youth. In the beginning, their music was a way of breaking from middle suburban monotony. Our Education Officer (and Bluejuice member) Jake Stone caught up with the duo to chat to them about their sound, their friendship and the all ages scene in Sydney.
Pretty simple really, Matt and I grew up together living next door to each other. On Cheviot Street! It’s a small tribute to the unique demographic of our area.
I remember Matt once told me that Sam wanted to make ‘deep house’, but since Matt didn’t really listen to techno, you just sort of made what you thought ‘deep house’ would be, and that’s the sound of the band now. Is that right?
It’s right to some extent. It is where we started but we would like to think we’ve moved forward into a sound that is uniquely ours. Our influences are so widely dispersed that our sound hasn’t necessarily found a grounding or come to a standstill. With every new track our sound feels uniquely different to our tracks before it. We are growing as musicians and people every day so our sound grows with it. It’s a feeling we embrace as it allows for unrestrained creativity and we find it hard to get bogged down. If we get sick of something then we simply try something else. That’s the beauty of music there are limitless avenues to producing sounds.
How important is imagination and silliness in terms of doing something new?
They’re both vital aspects of the creative process. You can’t take yourself seriously all the time. Or hardly any of the time. There are those moments where a song makes goosebumps on your skin and this amazing intrinsic emotional connection to the song is formed but most of the time it’s just about enjoyment. For everyone involved, especially those in the audience. When Matt and I sit in the studio and try to think of a new sound to make the sounds that we like the most are usually the ones that make us laugh the most. I’ll say something like “Matt look at this baseline I made” and it will be the most ridiculous sounding thing and he won’t be able to stop laughing. That’s when we know it’s good. Because it’s entertaining, unique, imaginative and yes, I guess, silly.
You guys are friends first and foremost. What makes a friendship a durable foundation for a band?
Friendship is so important. Friends listen out and care for each other. Friends can be honest when voicing criticisms and honest about praise. There is no jealousy, ego’s or frustration between the pair of us. Between the two of us we know what directions we want to go in. We would never hold each other back or diminish the others creativity. We push each other every day to be better and better. It also makes it easier to spend long periods of time on often menial tasks that come hand in hand with producing your own music. It also helps the songwriting process. A lot of a ideas for songs come from social engagements. We can think back to a night of partying and the memory of a particular night will spark the inspiration in us that we need.
What kind of gear and arrangement do you use for your live performances, and how does that influence the style of what you’re doing?
Over the last couple of years we have accidentally acquired a handful of drum machines, synthesizers and sequencers. Making this style of music finally meant that they could be put to use. To be completely honest, we don’t really know how they are supposed to work, so we just play what we think sounds cool. For the live setup, my (Matt’s) main tools are my Roland TR-8 drum performer so that all our drums and percussion are analog and live, an MPC 1000 that I use to trigger various sounds we have designed in recording, and my laptop running logic pro which allows for the synth and sound effects to come through. It’s awesome because its hugely experimental compared to playing just guitar live which is the background that I am used to.
Sometimes your lyrics have a strangely casual, sort of irreverent quality that is pretty unexpected. What are your favourite things to write about?
My writing, like most, is usually a place to vent. Some sort of thought, feeling or story that has been floating around my head for a while. Finishing the lyrics for a song feels like closure for that thought lot feeling. It’s what makes me happy. I think i’ve mainly written about love or a lack of love. Lost relationships, budding relationships blah blah blah. But that’s not all the time. It obviously depends how i’m feeling, at what stage of my life i’m in etc. Lately I have been trying to work out a lot of things about myself. My songwriting helps that. My values, morals and social behaviors are still working themselves out inside my head. I like to write a lot about social norms how people challenge them. The irreverence that you mention is hard for me to comment on. There’s something unique about it I know. It’s probably more of a reflection on me as a person and my anti-establishment, not-give-a-shit youthful (immature?) mentality
Where is popular music at the moment? What’s exciting you? What is disappointing you? Where are things headed?
I can’t say that anything is disappointing me too much. The fact that there is so much music out there that I don’t connect with but yet is so successful makes me think that maybe there is a place for everyone. It gives me hope. There’s things i don’t like of course. The corporate, mechanical, feeling of a lot of things in the top charts at the moment. The lack of creativity in songs in general and a genuine fear to be unique. That’s probably more what disappoints me about society in general. I think popular music is vastly expanding. It’s more accessible than ever and making music is becoming easier and easier. Everybody has the ability to show off their creative ability by just spending a few hours mucking around on their laptop. I think that that is amazing. Every human being has a unique perspective on the world and therefore unique perception of how music should sound. This will mean more and more music out there but this won’t diminish the quality of the best music in my opinion. It will only make the best better.
What are your goals for Cheviot over the next twelve months?
Write write write write write, practice practice practice, gig gig gig gig. We have a few things up our sleeves. We’ve been pretty much writing non-stop for over a year but we have released very little to the world. By the end of this year I think we will have put together a seriously serious debut album. Before that time though there are so many things we have to work hard and push. We want to focus on getting our name out there and creating a bit of buzz. We are getting a bit
You are both quite young, and have been playing for a while. How did you play when you were underage? Did you have access to licensed venues?
Its really tough to get live experience when you are underage… Licensed venues are real strict on who they let through the doors, so there have been a few occasions where members of bands we’ve played with have been kicked out, or have had to wait outside the venue until it is time to play. The best experience I actually got was playing in my school bands, and playing shows at the old Annandale Hotel my guitar teacher used to organise when I was 10-12 years old. Take advantage of your school’s music program! You get to do some real cool things, and maybe even get a free holiday out of it. I got to spend a week at the beach in Hawaii in year 9 with my school band!
What are the best venues to see young bands play around the inner west?
Matt’s studio is the best place to go I think. There’s a lot of young talent coming in and out of his doors all the time.
What advice would you have for young people starting a band in Sydney in 2015?
Work out your creative process. Find a way that is efficient and productive for you to create your own music. For us it’s as simple as a computer a DAW and a midi controller. It allows us to quickly build up ideas and save them for later. I feel like a lot of it is self-belief. It can seem a daunting task to start a band and then build your way up but with the right attitude and positive outlook you’ll see things move quicker than you’d expect. You also have to be proactive. Don’t sit back and expect it to fall in your lap. You have to make people hear your music. Your band essentially will become your social life and you build up friends and those friends become followers of the band.