Released yesterday (Sep 9th) on Audio Antihero’s new compilation/reissue imprint Old Money Records, My Band is A Computer sees Massachusetts-born, Brooklyn-based CHUCK unearthing thirteen tracks from the plethora of self-released lo-fi cuts at his disposal.
Intend as more of a debut LP than a greatest hits, My Band is A Computer is the perfect introduction to CHUCK’s wistful and whimsical bedroom pop. Downtrodden and disheartened but not without its optimism, calling to mind bands like Atom and His Package or Casiotone for the Painfully Alone as well as The Mountain Goats, Magnetic Fields and Audio Antihero’s own Frog through it’s wonky DIY delivery and self-deprecating charm.
1. Happy New Years Babe
There’s an episode of The Wonder Years where Kevin breaks up with Winnie, but then has to face her at a party they were both invited to. He decides to bring another girl and acts like he’s having a great time even though he’s miserable and still likes Winnie. So he’s sort of dancing around to rock music while looking over his shoulder to see if Winnie is watching him all night. This song is about that. I think, when you see an ex (particularly from a bad break up) in a social setting, there can be a little competition to see who has grown the most since the relationship. Who is more cultured, healthier, happier etc. Musically speaking, I wanted to make a Magnetic Fields track here. They are one of my favorite bands. The whole record this trackappeared on was really inspired by them.
This song was written in maybe 30 minutes. The best ones usually come quick and easy. The narrative follows what I was going through at the time. For a few months my soon to be wife had to go back to Norway to deal with visa issues and I spent the summer alone in Brooklyn tagging along with my friends to fun stuff while they were all coupled up. So I would go to the beach and there would be pretty girls everywhere and my friends would be putting sun screen on their girlfriend’s backs and I felt left out. It really wasn’t that bad, but I was thinking about it one night and a song came out while I was playing guitar. Thetrack was recorded in the thick of my growing obsession with Alex G, so the production is a tip of the cap to his stuff on DSU.
3. Mary Anne
This is a long ass song dawg. This came from a record I did with Frog’s Danny Bateman and Tom White. They are really great musicians and made this song rip. It’s about this breaking point I was at when I was about 4 years out of college. I think the internet refers to this as a quarter life crisis. Crisis is a little bit of an overstatement, but In New York, you can really live whatever lifestyle you want for as long as you want, so it can be hard to tone down your partying. But when I was like 25, I was starting to feel it in my body, and I also had a full time job that I wanted to be good at. So I had to make some compromises and lay some old habits to rest. Mary Anne is the personification of those habits. Sad to say goodbye to a period in your life when you didn’t really have any worries or pain to speak of.
4. Camel Lights
This was another song that was written in 30 minutes. I was trying to make a standard Bob Dylan / Woodie Guthrie folk tune. My friends really responded to “Camel Lights” and I think it will always be my most accessible track. It’s short, easy on the ears and the lyrics are timeless enough that they won’t offend anyone. This was a year or two before the “Mary Anne” stuff I described above, and it’s almost like I knew the end of my ‘youth’ was coming. I felt like an old man on a porch staring at a photo of myself as a young man. Sounds super stupid since I was like 24, but I’ve got an old soul! Gimme a break!
5. Bushwick Girl
When I moved to New York in 2009, Williamsburg and Bushwick were the places I went to party. I thought they were so cool! There’s a bar called the Union Pool that I would regularly haunt, just like many other people. It has a big back yard that people called a ‘meat market’. It was where you ended up if you were looking to hook up with someone. Seems very 1950’s when I think about it now. Anyways, this song is about the people in that backyard, including me. The guitar solo in the bridge is the closest I’ve ever gotten to making a Wild Nothing song. This was also the only time someone took the time to insult my music on twitter. I think someone called my voice here ‘insufferable’ or something haha.
6. Go Into Town
My friend Jon used to work at a children’s music school in New York, and he’d let me come in and use their pianos. So one day I went in with my computer and microphone. I was able to write and record this in a few hours. I can bang around on a piano, but I can’t really play. I’ve always wanted to learn. I was obsessed with the movie Shine as a kid. It’s with Geoffrey Rush, and he plays this fragile, brilliant piano prodigy. I still fantasize about walking into a bar or a party and plopping down and playing something amazing like he does in the movie. ANYWAYS, this song was about a break up. And I had a roommate at the time from Texas who used the phrase ‘go into town’ when he was gonna go to Manhattan from Brooklyn. I thought that was funny so I used it here. Serious Beach Boys vibes.
7. Phoebe’s Lips
One of my favorite songs is “Unsatisfied” by the Replacements. I was trying to duplicate what I like about that song, with “Phoebe’s Lips”. I think this is probably my best song. Emotionally speaking, with the production and lyrics, it hits a sweet spot for me. I love listening to it. I actually wrote it while I was having erectile issues. For a few months I had severe anxiety and thought I couldn’t get it up anymore. It was awful. BUT I’M FINE NOW. I was really obsessed with psychology, memory and emotions – and how they all affect you physically and sexually. The erectile stuff also made me think about High School for some reason. It took me 3 years to finish this song. I wanted to get it just right. I’m so glad I did. Shout out to Brian Cooper from Monkfish who mixed it.
I like writing about out of control women for some reason (e.g. “82nd St.” and “Kelly”). Maybe just projecting my own bad habits is easier to do on someone of a different gender. Read into that as you want. I think there’s some really great word play on thistrack. Very funny stuff. It’s possible the nugget of inspiration was from Vampire Weekend here. Writing a ballad about a girl from the 1960’s. That seems like something they did right?
9. The Internet
This is a very early track. Written and recorded around 2009. I didn’t overthink things back then, so songs just flowed out. I was really inspired by my friend A.J. around this time. We were living together and his sense of humor rubbed off on me. It was very morose, dark, quick, intelligent etc. I guess it could be defined as snarky, but this was pre-twitter, so it was still charming then. It was my first year in NYC and his whole crew of guys who grew up in the area all seemed a lot smarter than me. This song was me trying to meet them on their level. My favorite line is ‘chatting with girls who claim to be X-men’.
This was written around the same time as “Camel Lights”. A lot of similar themes floating around. I was shooting a lot of film photos at the time. I was shooting a lot of mundane stuff I thought I would forget about. I have so many pictures from this era of my life. I like listening to music from this period, because I really can’t detect what I was going for stylistically. Songs just sort of turned out how they turned out and I didn’t think about it too much. I don’t really know what band I would compare this to. I guess the genre could only be classified as “bandcamp”. I’m so glad this made it onto My Band is a Computer.
This is a dark song man. I was seriously depressed when I wrote it. I had gotten Lyme Disease while working on a reality show about a gardener in New Jersey. It was in my system for months before I figured it out. I had all sorts of lingering symptoms and really felt like it ruined my life. I was drained of my energy on most days. I had physical twitches that made me very self conscious. This all fed into the erectile thing I mentioned earlier. I hadn’t had any real physical issues up until this point in my life, so it was a confusing experience. But it evened out after a few years, so now I’m fine. When I was recording this track I would watch the Grimes music video for her song “Oblivion” to pump me up. I think this song plays pretty well over that video.
12. Wipe Out
I think this song is pretty cool! I like how mundane the subject matter is. One of my better choruses too. It was inspired by a dinner I had with my best friend from High School. He moved to Portland when we were 20. I didn’t see him for 8 years, but we still stayed in touch. It was really cool that, after all that time, we were still able to hang out like the old days when we finally got back together. This song is also just about dinner dates in general. Life seems to get a lot busier as you get older and work 50+ hours a week. Dinner dates after work are now how I see a lot of my friends. Traditionally you have a few drinks, complain about how exhausted you are or how annoying your job is or talk about whatever TV shows you’re currently watching. Then you split the bill, say it was nice to see you and do it all over again in a few weeks. It sounds sad, but I think they are kinda fun. It’s like watching the movie My Dinner With Andre over and over.
13. Let’s Make Out
Gotta end the record with a slow jam. I wrote this song about an experience I had where I got really drunk one night and ended up unexpectedly going back to an ex-girlfriends house. I hadn’t seen her in years. It was such a weird mash-up of familiarity and confusion. That’s how my life was going back then. Nights out would start at a bar with a beer and end up somewhere crazy. It was magical and exhausting. Every day was some sort of identity crisis. Now I enjoy being sober most of the time. My stories aren’t as crazy, but I’m able to stay focused on life goals I’m passionate about. I’m not so side tracked by drunken experiences I need to dissect. I’m building a career and a family and all that. That’s what my next album will probably be about in some way. The only thing that sucks with this song is I got sick right before I had to sing it so I’m a little nasally on the track. I guess my immune system was weak from all the partying. I don’t really get sick that often nowadays!