Chalk Outline Party
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Chalk Outline Party

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"Do You Remember Rock n Roll?"

I need to say, the Chalk Outline Party is a great live band. They are confident, raucous and just damn cool. They put on an energized and catchy set which everyone got into.

"Henry Rollins"

"I listened to it and thought it was cool."
Henry Rollins, on Chalk Outline Party's debut EP, Shiny Penny Things. - spoken-word performer, vocalist for Rollins Band and Black Flag

"Chalk Outline Party / A Plan Lost in Dreams EP"

Pittsburgh's Chalk Outline Party has stepped up their game and is well on their way to doing big things. On A Plan Lost in Dreams, Aaron Jentzen displays his fondness of inserting dream imagery into his lyrics, leaving listeners to come up with various interpretations of songs such as 'The Gun in Everyone.' Fear of abandonment and real life violence is contained within 'The Gun in Everyone' and will be a favorite of those who can't stand the ho-hum content that is dominating indie-rock nowadays. Energy is in abundance on the EP, as guitarist Brian Sproul lets loose and displays his talent that was hinted at on the band's previous EP, New Tracks. The EP's opener, 'Cobra Youth House,' a nostalgic ode to a sweaty punk venue Jentzen used to attend, is so fierce that when you hear "you're leaving with your teeth in your hand," there is no doubt in your mind you are bringing your mouth guard. 'Extra Extra' appears in a revamped, improved state, while 'This Place is for Heavy Hearts Like Ours' and 'Citrus' run wild. Throw in two live tracks and you have yourself a deal. A Plan Lost in Dreams may not signal Chalk Outline Party's arrival, but it sure as hell forcasts it. - 20/20 Proof Magazine

"'Post-punk, heavy rock' on display at Roustabout!"

Tonight's Roustabout! will feature event virgins Chalk Outline Party, hailing from Pittsburgh, and Dropsonic of Atlanta. Roustabout! ringleader Jeff Van Fossan said that together, the groups will create a post-punk/heavy rock sound for the evening that the crowd should enjoy...

"Chalk Outline Party's sound is more like the 1970s-era groups Television or Roxy Music."

Chalk Outline Party singer and guitarist Aaron Jentzen described the group's sound as "underground art rock" and said the type of music they play was influential in picking the band's name, which some might find a little offbeat. "We had this name when we were playing in college and thought it was pretty cool," Jentzen said. "A lot of our music is either really upbeat or really dark-sounding, and we thought the name Chalk Outline Party was fitting. It's kind of like The Cure -- if you listen to their singles on the radio, they're poppy, but if you listen to the album you find it's a lot darker. We combined sinister rock and fun in our name to portray our manic tendencies."

Jentzen said he and group members met at Grove City College, which is north of Pittsburgh.

"We started playing for fun, and after school I moved to California," he said. "I called [guitarist] Brian Sproul up because I was miserable, and he was also miserable at his desk job, so we said, 'lets start this group.' "

Since then the group has played in cities such as New York, Cleveland and Detroit and has just released a new CD, A Plan Lost in Dreams. Jentzen said they plan on hitting the radio this summer, which should speed things up for the group.

Jentzen said he met Van Fossan at a show in Pittsburgh where both Chalk Outline Party and Van Fossan's band, The Bullet Parade, were playing.

"Roustabout! has hosted a lot of bands that we associate with from Pittsburgh like Shade, Black Tie Revue and Camera, and they've all said it's a great time," Jentzen said. "We're trying to hit new cities, a lot of colleges, to build interest, and we figured we'd never been to State College before so we want to see what's it's all about."

Jentzen said that although Chalk Outline Party has played many places, its favorite is where it all started in Pittsburgh. "It's this legendary rock club called Gooski's," he said. "It's just a fun, dirtball rock bar." - The Collegian (Penn State U.)

"Pittsburgh Invasion"

“Retro is always hip when it’s done well. The m.o. for Chalk Outline Party—you can argue later over whether they stick to one—resembles the guitar-oriented art-rock tradition, and it’s generated comparisons to Television, Lou Reed, and, in their more coherent moments, Cobra Verde.”

"Chalk Outline Party: White Lines"

When Chalk Outline Party appeared on the local scene two years ago, soon to release the Shiny Penny Things EP, the band was a fresh-faced jaunt around darkly buoyant rock conventions: Bowie, Nick Cave, Ian Curtis. But there’s a reason why 18 percent of Allegheny County is over retirement age: Twenty-four months in Pittsburgh is like 48 elsewhere. And now singer (and occasional CP contributor) Aaron Jentzen and guitarist Brian Sproul write songs like “Extra Extra” from the slow burners’ new EP, A Plan Lost in Dreams. “Close your eyes and dream yourself a hole in the river / In the city where the electric light hums all night long / And the voltage to your mascara always seems about to run out.”

That’s us all right: lights always humming -- never buzzing -- and darkened eyes on the brink of running out.

“It’s about seeing things that you’re turning into from a detached perspective, and ultimately having some real doubts as to whether you’re going to survive yourself,” says Jentzen. “The thing that freaks me out on a daily basis is the passage of time. You think you’re stopping [time] in a song, but it’s still rolling over you. You can go kicking and screaming, but it’s still rolling -- I guess I just choose to go kicking and screaming.

“Those are the kinds of themes that have taken over most of what I’ve written since moving to Pittsburgh. What does living right now sound like to me? Being here’s been really strange.”

Maybe it’s been strange since Jentzen moved from California (on Amtrak, no less), but it hasn’t exactly been bad. After all, since Sproul and Jentzen started Chalk Outline Party -- now solidified with bassist Jason Dangle and drummer Doug Kochmanski -- the band has transformed itself from the deep, beat poet-inspired, yet still hipster-cool sound of Shiny Penny Things to the immense, plectrum-snapping guitar-rock of A Plan. And what’s more, Chalk Outline has not only kept its audience, but grown it. For a group that started out informed by “the garden-variety cool bands,” as Jentzen puts it, songs like “Transit Between Urbane Centers” and “Citrus” are a distinct departure. Led Zeppelin riffs, hard-rock kick-drum thumps and steady bass lines plod behind Jentzen’s fist-in-air baritone. Especially when joined with Jentzen’s melancholy-of-northern-life lyrics, COP resembles mid-period New Model Army on a song like “The Gun in Everyone” and -- stay with me here -- Fish-era Marillion on “Citrus.” Big guitars, stop-start time changes and dynamic switcheroos -- please step out of the car, son. Looky here, is that prog-rock I smell on your breath?

“The first EP was us struggling to find a way to speak to one another about music,” explains Jentzen. “We decided what the format was going to be and went with it, and that was a really small box for us to be in. At some point we decided to stop trying to fit ourselves into a format that we thought would be cool, and said, ‘What do we have here? What are our ingredients?’ Well, Sproul plays the shit outta the guitar. We should go for that instead of reining him in. The lyrics I come up with are a bit different from what you might find elsewhere, so let’s bring that out. And let’s be more open to different song structures -- so this new record is us playing to those strengths.”

The band didn’t know that anyone would get it -- or maybe they’d get it, and hate it. “I originally thought there was no way we’d be able to do some guitar-solo thing and have anyone not just go, ‘Oh god …’” But the proof is in the picking: Check the last two tracks on A Plan, which offer live documentation of Chalk Outline Party’s new-sound debut, complete with worshipful fan screams during those dreaded proggy parts. Proof, perhaps, that despite the wear and tear of time and the dread of modern living, some things remain intact.

“We started doing these breakdowns and guitar solos, and people started flipping out,” says Jentzen. “People seem to like rock ’n’ roll. It’s the funniest thing.”

—Justin Hopper, PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER - City Paper

"Music Preview: Chalk Outline Party takes another step with third EP"

Chalk Outline Party debuted last year with "Shiny Pretty Things," a seven-song EP that revealed it as band with a dark and literary streak. Now, Chalk Outline Party has dropped "A Plan Lost in Dreams," its second EP of this year -- a five-song CD with two hidden live tracks.

One might get the impression that singer-songwriter Aaron Jentzen and his band are having trouble with the commitment thing.

"I like the open-ended, work-in-progress vibe an EP has," Jentzen says. "So much freedom to work out who you are and where you're going. Each EP we've made has been a snapshot in our development as a band. That debut full-length is your opening statement -- a definition to build from. I'm a little reluctant to take on that kind of statement in a self-release or local label situation. A full-length isn't far off, but we want to have not only the musical ingredients we need to make a memorable record, but also the resources to have it done well and actually, you know, heard."

The roots of Chalk Outline Party go back to Grove City College, where Jentzen hooked up with Brian Sproul, a drummer who would later come forth as the band's second lead guitarist. They didn't solidify the lineup until they worked on the second EP earlier this year, so the process of becoming a rock band has been a gradual and revealing one.

"Our previous recordings are somewhat charming in their own ways, but this is the first time we've had any of the muscle we usually bring to the live show," Jentzen says. "It's really been a process of self-discovery. One day we realized to our surprise that we played in a hard rock band and that the guitars had to really rip. And that we had a kick-ass guitar player and some strange lyrics, and maybe we should push those elements to the front and find out what we're all about, instead of deciding on something and trying to make it fit. We've improved on our best ideas and thrown out a lot of lesser ones."

Anyone who has heard Chalk Outline Party won't be surprised to learn that Jentzen was a graduate student in English. Over moody bass lines and fractured guitar parts, in a voice like Nick Cave or Lou Reed, he tosses off lines such as: "Close your eyes and dream yourself a hole in the river/In this city where the electric light hums all night long/And the voltage to your mascara always seems/Just about to run out."

His dark and cryptic imagery was inspired by all the best influences.

"Virginia Woolf, William S. Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, Dylan, Patti Smith, Bowie, Steely Dan -- many of the artists who have influenced me seem to be searching for coherence in a mass of chaotic stimuli, and our best songs are ones where something I wasn't looking for swam up from the static ... I used to physically cut apart and rearrange text to generate lyrics, but nowadays I just do it in my head. You start pulling together images that elicit a certain response -- happiness, change, anger, confusion, arrogance, dread, horniness, whatever -- and arrange them for maximum impact. It's a sort of verbal pointillism."

Jentzen says he has no intention to be cryptic just for the sake of it. "It's usually decorative camouflage for not having much to say," he says. "Some things I find difficult to swallow: self-consciously retro or, worse, ironi-retro groups. It just smells like suicide. Which is funny, because a friend of mine was talking about Blue Oyster Cult the other day as part of a wave of 'existential '70s rock bands with awesome guitars and songs about death.' He looked at me and started laughing and said 'Aw, sorry, I forgot: you PLAY in one of those bands.' Yeah, maybe."

He's more content with that BOC description than with the loose "indie rock" tag, which he calls "just a blanket term to cover any non-assertive music coming out these days. Stack Modest Mouse up against a groundbreaking DIY independent band like Black Flag, and you realize pretty quickly that indie rock is to '80s independent rock as New Wave is to punk rock: not bad, but a castrated shadow of something that really rocked [bleeping] hard."

Besides rocking hard, Chalk Outline Party shows on the EP's two hidden live tracks that the players can break a song down and explore it in a long Velvet Underground or Doors-like jam.

"Getting over live isn't about telling jokes, jumping around, all that cheesy showman-type stuff," Jentzen says. "For us it's a conscious decision to intensify whatever-it-is-that-we-do. We don't really improvise or 'jam,' but we do leave some room to breathe in certain songs. The challenge is: It has to sound loose, even delicate, but be bolted to an invisible I-beam somewhere."

--Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Amy Wellock, Club Cafe"

"Pittsburgh can barely contain Chalk Outline Party's sound and energy. COP has demonstrated what the rock work ethic is in promoting their music and making their Lou-Reed-meets-Led-Zeppelin sound unavoidable. I sincerely believe they will blow up soon." Amy Wellock, booking/talent buyer, Club Cafe - booking/talent buyer


"Psychic U.K." single, out now!
"A Plan Lost in Dreams" 2005
"New Tracks" EP 2004
"Shiny Penny Things" 2003


Feeling a bit camera shy


"a band on the brink of something rare -- a tight, smart urbane sound, darkly sardonic without sounding defeated by life quite yet. It's a cunning combination of Joy Division and The Cure's early existential gloom-pop, swathed in decadent '70s glam. At the moment, a number of Pittsburgh bands are looking back to Roxy Music and David Bowie to find their way forward, but Chalk Outline Party does it without self-consciously sliding into the "retro" ditch that's claimed so many lesser bands."
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

With the new record in hand, radio play, growing record label interest, and a busy schedule of festivals and showcases, Chalk Outline Party is quickly establishing itself as one of the top groups emerging from Pittsburgh's volatile underground scene, the city recently named #1 in Esquire Magazine’s “Cities That Rock” list. Clearly this is a band to watch, and it’s only the beginning of the beginning.

Last summer, their single "Cobra Youth House" reached #9 on the national specialty radio charts -- the only unsigned band on the list. They also performed at festivals including the Motor City Music Conference and Chicago's MOBfest.

The group's sound has been compared to a wide range of groundbreaking artists, including Afghan Whigs, Pete Murphy, Bowie, Nick Cave, Television, Bauhaus, Psychedelic Furs, Urge Overkill, Roxy Music, as well as more contemporary acts.

Chalk Outline Party is the brainchild of vocalist Aaron Jentzen and guitarist Brian Sproul, who first met at the unlikely crossroads of Grove City College in 1999. Shiny Penny Things—the group’s debut EP released in early 2003— showcased the group’s early material and Jentzen’s Nick Cave-influenced vocal style. Local press in Pittsburgh seized upon the group’s strong songwriting and bizarre lyrics. Copies of Shiny Penny Things made their way as far west as California and as far east as Iraq, and eventually into the hands of Henry Rollins, spoken word performer and vocalist for Black Flag and Rollins band, who gave the record a thumbs-up.

Chalk Outline Party has refined their live set with regional touring, playing cities like Detroit, Ann Arbor, Cleveland, Chicago, and Brooklyn, as well as building a strong following in Pittsburgh. After a couple of lineup changes in the rhythm section, the group has crystallized with the addition of drummer extrordinaire Jeremy Papay, who brings a Stewart Copeland-style virtuosity to Chalk Outline Party's rhythm section.

Chalk Outline Party has played with, among others:

Cave In (RCA/Hydra Head), Action Action (Victory), Appleseed Cast, Cherry Monroe (Rust), The Push Stars, The High Strung (TeePee), Lovedrug (Militia Group), The Everyothers (Hautlab), The Izzys (Kanine), Chin-Up Chin-Up (Flameshovel), Eric James (Pure Tone), Crome Yellow Co. (Northern Light), Mondo Topless (Get Hip), Monarch (Northern), Wynkataug Monks (Lovely), Olympus Mons (Lovely).

Legal representation:
Christopher S. Bradstreet, Esq.

Radio promotion: Liz Koch
Notorious Radio

Band & Booking contact: Aaron Jentzen
P.O. Box 3117
Pittsburgh, PA 15230

All songs published by Inferential Kid / Custerdome Music, BMI.