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INTERVIEW: Chickenpox Party

How did you end up with such a unique band name?

Ha, yeah that is a common question for us. The idea of a “chickenpox party” has always been an interesting concept to me. While none of us have had any personal experiences with such a party, the concept of actively exposing someone, especially a child, to a virus while disguising it as a “party” seems pretty far out. And, in my mind at least, could be a metaphor for all manner of social activities folks actively engage in. For instance, the idea of going to a dance club featuring any current electronic music fad might as well be a “chickenpox party” to me. I would say artistically we have a penchant for the bizarre and the unique; so, for us, calling our band Chickenpox Party was a way to “scratch that itch.” Ha

How did you form your band?

This band started with drummer Brodie Davis and myself jamming at his house. He and I are from the same hometown and have played with various bands from this area but we didn’t get together until about 4 years ago. As Brodie puts it, “Greg showed up to my house with like 4 people and it was…well I’ll just say it was real loud that night, but Greg and I knew immediately we would start playing music together. The others we didn’t see again.” I’m glad we stuck with it because as it turns out we have a lot in common musically and share many of the same influences. Mainly our love of groove and funk based, straight ahead rock n roll; classic bands such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and ZZ Top as well as more contemporary bands as (the) Melvins, Tool, Queens of the Stone Age and Dead Weather. Some of the songs on the CPP release were written years ago before I started playing with Brodie while others developed after we began jamming together. We’ve worked with several different bass players through the years but actually went into the studio without a full time bassist. Once we discovered what an accomplished player Joey Jones (our producer and Aria Recording Studio owner) was we asked him to handle the bass on the record. Needless to say Brodie and I were very pleased with his contributions.

How did you come to choose Locked Illusions for your album’s artwork?  

Well to be honest I discovered Brit Bentine of Locked Illusions via FaceBook. Funnily enough someone in our area posted some of her photos in an outrage as to her use of horror and gothic themes with young models. While she may have been insulted I found them to be incredible,ha; an opinion many people around the world share I might add. I knew her work would perfectly compliment the concept of the “chickenpox party” and based on the results I will say that I was right! She lives 8 hours from us in Houston TX so I shot her an email, explained to her what we were going for and she hit the ground running with a killer 15 shot portfolio that we’ve been able to use for album art, online banners, and merch in the future. Be on the lookout for some T-shirt designs featuring her photo art!

Is there a common theme running between your songs, and where do you gather inspiration from when writing songs?

I would say that while our songs on this album don’t really follow a consistent narrative or situation they do have a “finger pointing” theme in common. Meaning that most of my lyrics take somewhat of an accusatory or preachy vibe I’ll admit. We toyed with the idea of naming the album “Bully Pulpit” in reference to that element but decided on self titled for brevity’s sake. Inspiration is like currency for an artist so ultimately it’s drawn from wherever we can find it. Some of the more obvious inspirations for songs on the album would be Shakespeare’s “Timon of Athens” which inspired “Fair Weathered Friend” and genius Mississippi author William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” which inspired “One More Nail.” The quotes at the beginning of those songs are actually read by my daughters and are taken directly from those literary works. Personally I have a lot of interest in politics and religion (always popular topics for conversation, ha) as I have a BA in Political Science so several of our songs touch on those themes. For instance “Blues for Jesus” was inspired by the all too common inclination to use religion to justify selfish behavior and “So Long” is direct swipe at the American political system. I feel like lyrically music is inundated with songs about break ups, personal drama and emotional angst; we’ll leave those songs for someone else to write.

The music industry has had some serious changes over the last while, namely the move over from purchasing physical copies to many more digital downloads and streaming options?

5) How do you feel about this particular change in the music industry?

This is tough question that we could probably center an entire discussion around but my first inclination is to say that for musicians and bands that are recording for the first time and are looking to grow their popularity, the use of downloading and streaming is a good thing. The shift in that direction has given new artists an array of tools to build a fanbase from the “digital” grassroots up to some type of recognition. Plus it’s no huge revelation that all forms of communication and media are shifting completely from the analog “hard copy” to the digital and so like it or not artists of all types are gonna need to learn to deal with the change.

This is your debut album, which is very impressive considering how professional both the level of mixing and songwriting are. This is obviously a project of passion for the band.

6) What are your current goals for Chickenpox Party in the coming year?

I really appreciate the compliment on the record, thank you. I think we are really passionate about this project because we feel the efforts are genuine and we have been lucky enough to collaborate with some outstanding artists in their own fields. These are songs that we wanted to record and not an attempt at pleasing popular taste or fitting into any one scene or genre. As far as our goals moving forward, as we touched on earlier, we are hoping to grow our fan base. We hope to promote the record over the coming months as much as possible with the help of online and print sources as well as develop subscriber based services via our Bandcamp and possibly our website. The subscriber services are pretty exciting because it gives us an outlet to continually exercise our creative muscles in developing exclusive content such as alternate versions of songs and discussions on gear and songwriting. And of course we will continue to play shows locally as well as a possible summer tour.

7) Between one member custom building drum sets, another running a Rock Academy and the third member running Aria Recording Studio, how has it been finding time for this project?

Actually it’s those projects which made it possible for us to complete the Chickenpox Party album. I have a successful private practice in my hometown teaching private guitar, bass, drums and keyboard lessons which encourages me to continually develop my own skills as a musician as well as providing opportunities for young musicians. While Brodie’s business as a custom drum builder with his Hogchain Custom Drums is the very thing that got our foot in the door with Joey Jones at Aria. Brodie build a custom snare for Evan Deprima of Atlanta area band Royal Thunder who also record with Joey. On their “Crooked Door” sessions Evan used the snare on a few tracks and Joey was very impressed with the results. Long story made short, Brodie and Joey struck up a convo and were able to work out a trade for a full kit in exchange for some of the studio time. We spent right at one full year recording the album and ultimately releasing it. Brodie and I live in Brookhaven Mississippi which is 8 hours west of Atlanta but luckily Joey’s studio is fully furnished so we were able to post up there while working. We made three trips to the studio for recording and vocals over a 6 month span, the first mixes hit Father’s Day of this year, mastering was done at the excellent Red Tuxedo Mastering house in Atlanta early October, and the release party was Hallow’s Eve this year. Us being able to work with Joey was pivotal in getting this record to kill! He is a well of knowledge on engineering, producing, mixing and, as I mentioned earlier, one top notch musician. So again honestly all of our outside pursuits really inspired and informed the making of this record.

 

I personally enjoyed the entire album, however the song that stood out for me was Blues For Jesus.

8) Does the band have any personal favorites on the album and what is the reasoning behind your choice?

That’ cool you’re digging on Blues for Jesus; actually that songs been singled out by most as being their favorite. I think Brodie and I were really happy with “One More Nail.” That was a great example of Joey and us locking in creatively even from a distance! On the last session I asked him to put together an ambient intro for the song; one that includes the sounds of hammer and nails as in the building of a coffin. Well this year in the spring we had a brood of cicadas emerge for the first time in a 13 year span; an element I wanted to include on the record somehow. I ultimately forgot about the idea and never mentioned it to Joey. So needless to say I was a little tripped out when he actually included the sound of cicadas whirring on the intro for “One More Nail”! Joey and I are guitar players probably before anything else so we had a great time dialing in some distinct guitar tones on the record! I’m particularly proud of the tones on “Ill Deliberation;” there were so many guitars, amps and stomp boxes used on that one song and it blends so well.   Also the organ parts heard on “Fair Weathered Friend” are actually played on guitar using the Electro Harmonix B9 Organ Machine. I thought we did a great job of dialing in an authentic organ sound on that one! Ultimately I think the album really turned out a lot of good songs, each one with something to offer; there’s not much that feels like “filler” to me.

Musicians tend to have some very specific rituals when writing music.

9) Can you take us through a bit of your song writing process?

For this project it really all started with the music! I’ll usually work out some riffs or chord changes on my own and then bring them to the practice room for Brodie to work his parts into. Once the music fleshes out I’ll try to find a vocal melody that works and then start finding the right words. Grabbing the right lyrics can sometimes be the most tedious part! Honestly it’ all very methodical for me; you try to find a place to start, hear where it goes from there, and then make that happen. I can definitely say that the music on this album is the result of collaborative efforts! All three of us played our own parts, in our own way; but all ultimately in service to the song. The three of us have been in and around music for most of our lives; that makes it easy get out of the way and let each person add their particular flavor to the songs.

CPPhoto

There are a lot of new bands lacking your obvious professional knowledge.

10) Do you have any advice to offer these new bands?

The first thing that comes to mind is “learn your instrument!” Educate yourself and practice so you can be a versatile musician and ultimately find your own voice on your instrument. As far as the business side of things I would say surround yourself with good people. People you can learn from, people that genuinely care about music and want to promote the advancement of it rather than exploit the use of it. And also remember to never give advice in a crowded room, ha.

Lastly, and thank you very much for your time.

11) Is there any upcoming news from the Chickenpox Party camp that you would like to tell your fans about?

Make sure to checkout our website at http://chickenpox.party. Our web designer Matt Doman of DomanDesigns has done an incredible job putting together a comprehensive site that features photos, press clippings, an ez booking section for live shows, information on the recording gear we used and a lot more. While at the site make sure to subscribe to our email list to keep up with all the latest band news. Also be on the lookout for our subscription service at chickenpoxparty.bandcamp.com. Thanks for you time VENTS and your help in “spreading the disease.”

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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