Circuit Sweet Interview, Circuit Sweet Introducing, Feature, Reviews

Chris Rehm FEATURE

February 9, 2011
 Chris Rehm is a man of many talents, a man involved in many musical endeavours, each to his own success and to the pleasurable hit we need on our own sound fix.
 Mixing his methods in such notable bands as Caddywhompus, Riff Tiffs and various other bands, Chris also has a striving solo career. Having Written, recorded and released 6 full length albums and three short running EPs. (from late 2007-February 2010) experimenting and developing his overall sound and style from each assertion, January of this year saw the release of his 7th solo effort entitled “Worries Etc”. Oh yeah and Chris is still in school. Impressive right? Circuit sweet was lucky enough to speak to Chris in his own blog feature regarding his drive, collaborations, gear and future plans…

  •  How have you got to where you are musically right now? Can you tell us what made you pick an instrument up and what has led you to becoming a musician?
 I first picked up guitar when I was six (because my older brother started playing at that time, so I had to learn too) and took lessons until I was twelve. I think I would attribute most of my fundamental grasp on music to my “100 Beatles Best” song book. I learned how to play and sing at the same time because of this book, I began more fully understanding chord structure, and even learned how to play several songs I’d never heard before simply by having my mom let me know the general tempo and then she would sing the melodies over the chords I’d play. I couldn’t imagine a more valuable music book to me.
  •  As mentioned you are also active in a few other outfits, what made you decide you wanted to release some solo tracks away from a full band?
 I began playing solo music very young (at ten I got a tape recorder and wrote and recorded songs in my room) and then started writing and recording with some friends. My first real band was Riff Tiffs (still slowly doing things, as we are currently spread all over the country) and we ma(d/k)e fairly straightforward post-rock music with vocals (not unlike a strange high school combination of Explosions in the Sky, Radiohead, Sonic Youth, and others). During our time as an active band, I wrote a lot of whimsical pop songs that didn’t really fit the sound and I began recording them digitally after receiving a Pro Tools knock-off (ProTracks) program in the 8th grade.
 During high school, I saw A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Crash, three movies which proved to me the emotional power of ambient music, and began making some of my own, recording my first group of works in that vein in 2007 (Four Drops/ Pieces of Rain). After that, I became obsessed, and filled my parents’ hard drive with droney soundscapes from artists like Fennesz, Brian Eno, Belong, Marcel Turkowsky, William Basinski, Harold Budd, Eluvium, Grouper and many others. Once I got to college, my friend Sean Hart (also played drums for Riff Tiffs) and I started a noisy guitar and drum duo in New Orleans called Caddywhompus.
 I’ve continued to make solo music since then. I write and record all the time, and some of my music doesn’t always seem fitting to perform with a group. My solo music has become a sort of personal therapeutic release of emotions and energy.
  • Following your releases do you feel you have a renowned Chris Rehm “sound”?
 I wouldn’t ever say I have an eternal “sound”, a sort of set of rules and boundaries that I don’t allow myself to cross, no. I do feel that my writing goes in phases and are situation/emotion-centric, so each group of songs I write, record, and mix end up mirroring the environment I’ve found myself in at that time. That often exhibits itself in stylistic similarities among pieces. But you don’t have to dig deep in my solo music history to find me writing weirdo pop songs about crushes on girls and discovering drugs with friends in high school. Right now, I’ve somewhat jokingly described my sound (as far as Salivary Stones and Worries, etc. goes) as “cave wave” – a term I think I read somewhere, but I can’t remember where. It’s a sound of slow-moving and transforming sounscapes and short idea-songs, generally woven together as one seamless movement. Albums have been fairly short, but that’s just because I stop where I feel it is fitting. There’s no point in making something that might seem musically pleonastic, actually so.
  • How would you describe your sound in 5 words?
(Avoiding “cave wave”) Ambient, noisy bedroom drone pop.
  • Where do your ideas orginate from, what is it that inspires you and your work?
 My solo music is generally very personal to me and reflects situations/struggles in my life. It seems that as of late, my tendency is to write and record when something is troubling me. I really like the Pedro the Lion lyrics in “The Fleecing” –  I can’t say it like I sing it / and I can’t sing it like I think it / and I can’t think it like i feel it. I feel like my songs with words is me singing it like I think it and the ambient sections are me expressing how I feel it. “It” being whatever drove me to pick up my guitar/keyboard/pen in the first place. On a more musical level, I am terribly addicted to music and immerse myself in it at all times. I get inspiration from others’ creativity similar to everyone else, I’m sure.
  • How has your writing process changed throughout each release?
 Early on, I wrote and changed the structure of my songs over a period of time of performing them to friends, family, and by myself. Once I felt satisfied with it, I would record it, albeit primitively. I would often find myself focusing on the next song while recording the last and my performances were generally clouded by a lack of attention to the work at hand. I also knew a lot less about recording and sound in general in high school, so recording was initially a fairly small part of the writing process.
 Today (and this is the case for the last three years or so), I write and record my solo music at the same time, thinking of the song as the whole of it’s parts, instead of just acoustic guitar and vocals. Not that the latter is frowned upon by me (I actually have a primarily acoustic/vocals album), but recently I feel I often need additional instruments/vocals/effects/etc for emphasis and definition. I have my recording set-up in my bedroom (my computer, a condenser microphone, a Yamaha mixer, some monitors, and instruments everywhere) and I’ll be in there for hours at a time constructing, destroying, and creating sounds by myself. Between Salivary Stones and Worries, etc. little has changed except for the recording software I used. I paid a lot more attention to detail in Worries and tried to make it a little more cohesive, but the writing process is fairly similar.
  • During your solo work do you ever become conscious of the music you’re creating or have you a set direction you plan to go?
 I never know how the recordings will end up. I usually write linearly (songs often appear in chronological order on an album) and when I feel an end point has been reached, I stop and begin really paying attention to tiny details of sound, flow, and feel, in hopes of creating a more cohesive work.

  • Tell me all about your newest album Worries,  etc.

 Worries, etc. is about slowly losing touch with my best friends in high school due to distance. I dwell on how we’ve all changed so much because of the new groups of people we’re surrounded by every day and how these changes rear their heads when we get the opportunity to see each other. It’s also about my own anxiety surrounding a labyrinthine disintegrating romantic relationship. The album fairly accurately sums up my internal, isolated reactions to these events.

  • Did you have a similar working/recording approach for this album as the rest?
 The creative process behind this album is similar to that of Salivary Stones and other new things I’ve recorded but have yet to release.
  • What aspects of performing live do you prefer both solo and when accompanied by others?
 When I perform solo live, I generally just play guitar and sing. I make guitar loops in a certain key and then play a couple of songs that fit on top of them, then I repeat this for a few different keys. It’s a little outdated (in terms of what songs this setup allows me to perform), so I’m in the process of changing my live setup but haven’t come up with anything just yet that really reflects how these songs are created and how they should ideally be experienced. I like playing both solo shows and Caddywhompus/Riff Tiffs shows in smaller, more intimate settings. Caddywhompus tours a lot, and making friends with musicians from all over the world is a wonderful experience. Caddywhompus is really really loud and my solo shows are usually very quiet. Being able to see (if not play with) my favorite bands coming through New Orleans in such high frequency is a great honor.

Chris Rehm – “Take Pictures” at practice from Neko Neko Films on Vimeo.

(Going back to 2009 this is Chris playing “Take Pictures” at his practice space. It’s from his album “Bayous” available at​album/​bayous-2 )
  • What is that one piece of gear that’s changed your life?

 I guess my life-changing piece of gear has to be that ProTracks software I got in 8th grade. It actually came as icing on the cake of sorts with a multi-effects guitar pedal I got for Christmas from my parents after I expressed interest in a “guitar pedal”. I had no idea what I wanted and I ended up rarely using the pedal itself, but the software was used extensively. ProTracks, as elementary as it was, was the tool that allowed me to follow my curiosity/passion to discover the science and technical aspects behind the music I loved. I began thinking of recordings in different, more analytical ways and ever since then, I’ve had a greater appreciation for music, musicians, and sound in general. I now record my own music, both solo and with a group, as well as that of other bands.

  • Any plans to come to the UK?

 As of right now, neither Caddywhompus nor myself have any specific plans to come to the UK, but we definitely want to come within the next two or three years… I’m still in school here in New Orleans. Darn. I have friends who have toured there and they say it’s nothing like touring the states.

  • You are invoved with Chinquapin Records, how did this come about and how has it helped you?

 Chinquapin Records is actually a group of musicians and enthusiastic entrepreneurs, including myself, here in New Orleans. The idea behind it is on hoping that our group of friends who are all actively making music and touring (many of whom are studying Music Business at school) could fulfill all or many of the roles necessary for an artist or group to be successful (whatever “success” is to each). The group is still in it’s infancy, but the hope is that we all focus our efforts on a project at hand and in turn double or triple the amount of people involved in all the nuts and bolts of sharing music with those who might be interested. The desire to get rid of our dependence on BandCamp and many other social media music sites motivates us to do this as well.

  • With your work in Caddywhompus your about to play an ep release gig on the infamous Tera Melos/Marnie Stern tour, how did this come about and do you see yourself as an icon yet considering your gigging with other symbolizing musicians?

 As far as the Tera Melos/Marnie Stern show, that was offered to us by a friend working at the House of Blues and we (of course) accepted. We’ve been lucky enough to play with Tera Melos a few times in the past, so it seems fitting for us to be on this show. 
 These bands are huge idols of ours and we’re honored to share the stage with them and other great bands throughout my life as a gigging musician. I don’t know if it’s quite soon enough to consider myself or my band as icons because of this or other shows, but some people definitely flip their shit when they hear we’re playing with their favorite band. 
 When we tour as Caddywhompus, sometimes we are auxiliary to shows and sometimes we are the exciting group that everyone’s there to see. It’s all relative to the part of the country and the people we’ve managed to touch and how evangelical they are. The people who hear us, freak out, show us to their friends, and make them all come to the show that we play in their hometown are our lifeblood and we’re blessed to have these people who are as excited about our music as we. I guess, to answer your question, we are situational icons, depending on where we are. But as of right now, those places are still few in number and we know we haven’t reached anywhere near as many people as there are out there that might be down with our music. I’m going to stay productive.

  • You’re active all the time and you’ve had some extensive live dates with Caddywhompus, how do you find that right balance between your solo work and your work within a band?

 My solo music is created during my free time away from Caddywhompus and touring. It’s the time I spend by myself and I feel this time for introspection and recording is very important to me, so I make sure I do it frequently. A good amount of my friends here are currently very into drone/ambient music, so being surrounded by them and their creativity inspires me to make time for these solo recording sessions.

  • You made the decision to distribute online for free, we are currently living in an environment that thrive from free music which can be beneficial to some artists but excruciating for those needing support. Is this a permanent decision on your behalf or given a physical release would you change your mind?

  It’s terribly easy to get any and all music you want for free online. I have no big internet police team to protect my media, and I don’t feel one is necessary, so I have my music available for free online. I also give listeners the option to donate for my music if they like, and many people have opted to do so. It seems that people who really care and are listening closely to what I do actually want to help facilitate my creativity, either by donating or spreading the word about my music to friends who might be interested. 
 That being said, I have put out physical releases before for sale (Salivary Stones was a limited run cassette, and all of Riff Tiffs/Caddywhompus releases were physically pressed vinyl and/or cds) and generally, these albums are also available for free online. At least at the time being, I simply want people to listen and experience my music and leave the option up to them whether or not they feel it’s worth a monetary exchange. I don’t want there to be any barriers between listeners and my music.

  • All featured artists are asked this- What album or track has been stuck on your turntable, ipod, cd player for a while now?

 As of right now, I can’t stop listening to Camille Saint-Saens’s “Le Cygne” (“The Swan”) from his Le Carnaval des Animaux (The Carnival of Animals). I was first exposed to this song by Clara Rockmore’s recording of it on her Art of the Theremin. Haunting and beautiful (as if those two words aren’t used enough together).

  • Finally What does the future hold that we can all look forward to?
 I have another album tentatively titled (i found an) Elephant Ring (and gave it to you) that is pretty much finished, I have the first four tracks of another currently untitled solo album relatively finished, I have an upcoming split with New Orleans-based psych folkers: Native America hopefully due out this spring, and I also am finishing up mixing the newest Caddywhompus Ep, due out in May. Lots of touring with Caddy, and stepping up Chinquapin’s game are two other plans of mine for the near future.

 As previously posted we featured Chris’ Worries etc on the day of its release, you can find that again streaming below and available for you to download now. Access the bandcamp page to indulge in previous rad Rehm releases. No doubt the forthcoming release will also be featured but for now keep tracks on Chris’ ingenuity HERE. The whole point of these features is so that more people can be introduced to new talent, Chris is talented and is music is here for you to share.
 Support the work involved with Chinquapin records-

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