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Cub Country: "rednecks in their trucks trying to kill me".

JEREMY CHATELAIN SAYS THAT HE doesn't have band. Sure he's in a band, playing bass for indie rock thoroughbreds Jets to Brazil. But as the strum and twang Cub Country, he's a lone wolf-a singer/songwriter in the classic auteur tradition. That is, except when he's not. In front of a packed club in New York, Chatelain is squeezed to the front of the stage by a powerful back-up ensemble: the other members of Jets, bassist Scott Schoenbeck of The Promise Ring, and the venerable Spanky Van Dyke, who sings back up.

Cub Country, whose full length High Uinta High Offers 11 tracks of lo-fi country pop, is not really a band, but more a solo side project that requires back-up assistance. He'' intentionally vague and convincing at the same time.

Regardless of how you define Cub Country, one thing is clear, Chatelain is a bit of a dichotomy.

Growing up in Salt Lake City, he played in Insight (one of Victory Records' first bands) and the hardcore/space-jazz fusion band Iceburn.

"When you're into hardcore, you don't like anything else, just hardcore," Chatelain says. Everything else is your mom's music. Country music was 'redneck' to me, which means those are the guys that are chasing me in their trucks trying to kill me."

Chatelain moved from Utah to grainy NYC in 1994 to sing for former Helmet guitarist Peter Mengede's budding project Handsome. It was a move that, ironically, led to Chatelain's reclamation of traditional rock and country music.

After releasing one record, Handsome fizzled and Chatelain hooked up with ex-Jawbreaker frontman Blake Schwartzenbach, whom had moved from the Bay Area to Brooklyn to form the Jets juggernaut in 1997.

"I had never been in a band with anyone that was actually a singer/songwriter, and Blake is definitely that," Chatelain says without any adulation. "He would show up at rehearsal with stacks of fucking songs, notebooks of ideas. I was totally inspired and almost immediately started making attempts to write."

While he had a lengthy heritage in the chugga-chugga of hardcore, crafting "sad sacked" songs proved challenging. "I remember plinking on the guitar down in Memphis when Jets went to record our first album," Chatelain says. "I had a few songs...mostly clunkers, I would say. I wrote a lot of clunkers."

Clunkers or not, it was apparent that the Wranglers and cowboy hats had rubbed off.

"I remember my dad, he had this old '70s-style Bronco, and I would go hunting and fishing with him all the time," he recalls. "He had like four tapes-Willie Nelson, The Oakridge Boys, The Statler Brothers, and Patsy Cline-and we would be driving along these dirt roads listening to his tapes with the top off."

To record his debut full length, however, Chatelain needed some help from his friends. Total, 17 musicians played on High Uinta High, including Tolman, the entire Jets crew, Van Dyke, Ian Love (Rival Schools), Chris Traynor (Orange 9mm), Nick Macri (Euphone), and Theo Kogan (Lunachicks). "It was very spontaneous stuff, all the music." Chatelain says. "I wanted to get everyone right in the moment, so people would come in and I would say 'Here is the song, here are the chord changes,' and let them plink through it a little bit. We would record it and be on to the next one."

Chatelain put the record together-literally-piece by piece. Over three months, he recorded his ensemble cast in various locales including Jets' rehearsal space, the hallway of his house, and a friend's recording studio back in Salt Lake, then mixed everything using Pro Tools software.

"No one played together," Chatelain admits with a laugh. "Some people that play on the same songs have never even met each other."

But you would never know, as High Uinta High oscillates between the stark, dirt-under-the-fingernails of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings and the layered, even lush melodies of Freedy Johnson and Wings-era Paul McCartney (it even makes current country 'it body' Ryan Adams look more like Wayne Newton than Merle Haggard). And like Chatelain himself, the album is a tale of two cities, New York and Salt Lake.

"I was writing all about the relationship between me and both those places," he explains.

Of course, it's a dichotomy that makes perfect sense for Chatelain.
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Title Annotation:Jeremy Chatelain, bass player
Author:Epstein, Joseph
Publication:Thrasher
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2002
Words:715
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