Chalk Dinosaur
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Chalk Dinosaur

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
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Considering Chalk Dinosaur lead singer/songwriter John O’Hallaron has a website devoted to not one but eight volumes his music available for download, I don’t see this guy’s band slowing down their output anytime soon. “Crazy Folks” off the most recent Vol. 8 gives a fairly good synopsis of Chalk Dinosaur’s sound: unassuming lyrics, unabashed influences (re: Weezer, The Pixies, the Beach Boys, The Beatles), and a warm aura of an aw shucks slacker persona that makes it appear as if these guys went to high school in 1991. The track owes more than a little to Weezer’s “Sweater Song,” but where Rivers Cuomo can sound ironic and detached , O’Hallaron comes off refreshingly sincere: youthful, restless, and a little overwhelmed by the future. The song is pitch perfect in theme, tone and harmony, perfectly illustrating the poignant malaise of a late night going nowhere. The last verse perfectly encapsulates one of my biggest fears, reminding me to poke a little less fun at the motley crew of regulars 24 hour diner tends to have, “The crazy folks/are the aim of our jokes./But someday I’ll be there.” - Speed of Sound Pittsburgh


If you've never heard of Chalk Dinosaur, you're not alone. Despite the fact that it's had a steady string of gigs since its formation about nine months ago, the band isn't much for showing off. Crowded around a tiny coffee shop table, Chalk Dinosaur's three steady members seem at a loss for what to say about themselves. "We're bad promoters," bassist Matt Bradford admits.

And as band formation stories go, Chalk Dinosaur's is pretty basic. Singer and guitarist John O'Hallaron wanted to put the songs he'd been writing to use and enlisted Bradford, with whom he'd shared gym class at North Allegheny High School. Conveniently, musical ability runs in both their families: Bradford's brother, Rich, joined on drums, and O'Hallaron's brother, Joe, helped out as a second guitarist. The members' paths have diverged slightly since they started: Matt, John and Rich attend different local colleges, and Joe took a job in Washington, D.C.

That said, there is something special about seeing such a completely unassuming band break out a set of awesome pop songs. Drawing inspiration from some of the usual suspects -- The Beatles, Beach Boys (Matt says he listens to Pet Sounds "almost every day"), Weezer and Modest Mouse -- Chalk Dinosaur strikes a balance between whimsy and collegiate world-weariness.

"Crazy Folks," an ode to late nights in 24-hour diners, sounds like Built to Spill with Pixies-esque pacing, and the sing-along "Set in Stone" wouldn't be out of place on a Dr. Dog record. The best song may be the loopy, infectious "Warm Me Up," which could easily be a lost Death Cab for Cutie B-side. O'Hallaron's vocals bear a strong resemblance to Death Cab front man Ben Gibbard, although O'Hallaron manages to avoid Gibbard's condescending whine.

Lyrically, O'Hallaron negotiates the line between childhood and adulthood, and deals (with notable self-awareness) with the ennui that is sometimes found in between. "This guilty discontent stains the so-called prime of years," he sings in "A Cowardly Escape." "Will I slide into old age confirming all of my worst fears?"

On a more basic level, the band's main frustration right now is finding a steady guitarist to replace Joe, who still plays the occasional weekend show. The band has recruited friends to fill in for various shows, and occasionally plays as a three-piece. Guitarists are a dime a dozen, but Rich says, "It's hard to find people who will play the parts without overplaying them."

- Pittsburgh City Paper


Nowhere is the prolific outpouring of music from the mind of John O'Hallaron, the soft-spoken and shy frontman of Chalk Dinosaur and a junior at Carnegie Mellon, better represented than on his band's eponymous self-titled debut album. Chalk Dinosaur sounds like a combination of Death Cab for Cutie, Pink Floyd, and some good, indie, salty sea air. O'Hallaron admitted to being influenced by the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Rockabilly and Surf Rock in addition to the more obvious Death Cab and Weezer. The album was recorded in keyboardist/drummer/guitarist Harrison Wargo's basement with a single microphone and multi-tracking software, but you would never guess that it wasn't professionally done. The overall appearance of the album is professional as well, with fantastic artwork by fellow Carnegie Mellon student Grace LaRosa.

O'Hallaron started playing guitar in high school, took guitar lessons his senior year, and started writing music seriously in 2007 when he came to Carnegie Mellon. He first started recording rough demos with the intention of finding someone else to do the vocals, but as time progressed his own singing improved and he felt that he could handle the job himself. He didn't find people to start a band with until spring 2008 when he teamed up with Matt Bradford, Rich Bradford, and Wargo to form Chalk Dinosaur. He was looking for something nostalgic for the band name, so he thought of some things from his childhood - sidewalk chalk and dinosaurs - and they "just kind of went together." When the band performs, O'Hallaron plays guitar and sings, but drums are his favorite instrument to play, even though he claims he's not as good at them. But "not as good" is apparently still good enough to play the drum parts on all but two songs on the Chalk Dinosaur recording.

Chalk Dinosaur has played gigs around Pittsburgh at venues like Mr. Small's and the Diesel Club Lounge, but the band's favorite venue is Brillobox, a cafe in Lawrenceville. They also sometimes play shows at the Underground. They're currently working on advertising their album, and this summer they have plans for a regional tour around the DC/Virginia area.

The musical mastermind behind Chalk Dinosaur is also working on a solo EP project for a class that he's taking, recording finalized versions of some older demos (he has 101) that he likes, multi-tracking himself playing each instrument. Sitting on a stool in the CFA recording studio, holding his beautiful red Gibson dot 335, he laughs, "I get as much credit for this as my calculus course!" When your hobby gets you course credit, I guess you can't complain! All of John's demos can be found on his website, http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/jrohalla/ along with links to websites where you can purchase the Chalk Dinosaur debut album. - The Cut - Carnegie Mellon's First Music Magazine


Nowhere is the prolific outpouring of music from the mind of John O'Hallaron, the soft-spoken and shy frontman of Chalk Dinosaur and a junior at Carnegie Mellon, better represented than on his band's eponymous self-titled debut album. Chalk Dinosaur sounds like a combination of Death Cab for Cutie, Pink Floyd, and some good, indie, salty sea air. O'Hallaron admitted to being influenced by the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Rockabilly and Surf Rock in addition to the more obvious Death Cab and Weezer. The album was recorded in keyboardist/drummer/guitarist Harrison Wargo's basement with a single microphone and multi-tracking software, but you would never guess that it wasn't professionally done. The overall appearance of the album is professional as well, with fantastic artwork by fellow Carnegie Mellon student Grace LaRosa.

O'Hallaron started playing guitar in high school, took guitar lessons his senior year, and started writing music seriously in 2007 when he came to Carnegie Mellon. He first started recording rough demos with the intention of finding someone else to do the vocals, but as time progressed his own singing improved and he felt that he could handle the job himself. He didn't find people to start a band with until spring 2008 when he teamed up with Matt Bradford, Rich Bradford, and Wargo to form Chalk Dinosaur. He was looking for something nostalgic for the band name, so he thought of some things from his childhood - sidewalk chalk and dinosaurs - and they "just kind of went together." When the band performs, O'Hallaron plays guitar and sings, but drums are his favorite instrument to play, even though he claims he's not as good at them. But "not as good" is apparently still good enough to play the drum parts on all but two songs on the Chalk Dinosaur recording.

Chalk Dinosaur has played gigs around Pittsburgh at venues like Mr. Small's and the Diesel Club Lounge, but the band's favorite venue is Brillobox, a cafe in Lawrenceville. They also sometimes play shows at the Underground. They're currently working on advertising their album, and this summer they have plans for a regional tour around the DC/Virginia area.

The musical mastermind behind Chalk Dinosaur is also working on a solo EP project for a class that he's taking, recording finalized versions of some older demos (he has 101) that he likes, multi-tracking himself playing each instrument. Sitting on a stool in the CFA recording studio, holding his beautiful red Gibson dot 335, he laughs, "I get as much credit for this as my calculus course!" When your hobby gets you course credit, I guess you can't complain! All of John's demos can be found on his website, http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/jrohalla/ along with links to websites where you can purchase the Chalk Dinosaur debut album. - The Cut - Carnegie Mellon's First Music Magazine


Discography

Chalk Dinosaur (self titled LP) - 2009
Still Here (LP) - 2010
Kitty Hawk Surf (EP) - 2011

The track "Rosedale" from the self titled album and the track "Indolent" have been getting regular airplay on Pittsburgh's WYEP 91.3

The track "Lo Mein" from the album "Still Here" has also received airplay from the Drexel radio station in Philadelphia.

Photos

Bio

Chalk Dinosaur is an indie-rock band from Pittsburgh, PA formed in the spring of 2008.

The band is influenced by artists such as, Weezer, Death Cab for Cutie, Pixies, Beatles, and The Beach Boys, as well as other artists such as Modest Mouse, Cake, Pink Floyd, and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.