Chase Pagan
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Chase Pagan

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Sumptuous - The adjective that comes to mind when Chase Pagan’s upcoming album Bells & Whistles comes whirring to life on your CD player.

But instead of asking why the hell I still use CD players, you should ask yourself why you’ve never heard of Chase Pagan. His second release is a fun, bouncy pop rock wonder that shows off Pagan’s tremendous range without, well, showing off. What makes Bells & Whistles a truly special work is that Pagan’s range is so broad that the listener never even considers whether he is reaching too far.

While he can hardly contain his affinity for instrumental flourish in this 13-track album, Pagan always has the good sense to break each song down to the bare-bones melodies and sing-songy rhyme patterns that form the base of any good rock album. Even better, his lyrics are interesting.


Son/ where ya going in that dress/ who’s your lover and whats their sex?/ is it a boy?
Darling can’t you see you’re a boy/ you shouldn’t play with those pink toys/ they should be blue/

alright son lets just sit down and have a talk/ man to man/ you’re a boy who should like women/ just like your mother

The single best element of this album isn’t the meld of old-timey instrumentation and modern gadgetry, but that most of Bells & Whistles sounds like entries in Pagan’s journal, with the music cast as the haze of thought. If anything, it is a reminder that good music never has to be immaculately poetic, just carry a ring of truth. And this album is laced with a folksy twang befitting Pagan’s Arkansas roots.

Bells & Whistles isn’t especially challenging or groundbreaking, just a fun and fresh listen from an artist who seems certain to be a star in the future if his work ethic matches his talent. Chase Pagan has found a sound that’s palatable to casual music fans with the layering to satisfy most any audio buff. What more can you ask for, really?

- /www.airandseabattle.com/


Not sure if it's the Southern man in Chase Pagan or just the man in him that makes him go there, but the places that he visits in his songs are full of the prickly issues and the kinds of eggshells that are easy to squish into a crunchy goo of suspended life, into a messy hive of contemplative fodder. He pokes and stirs up the dust, getting all of the colorful things that people do talk about at parties - when they've been churning and working into their own for a few hours, when the open bar has been thrust open with a vengeance - into the room, balancing them off of the melting ice sculptures and alongside the heated games of darts and beer pong. This is when meaty guys start loosely calling lots of different people and things gay or retarded, abusing and bludgeoning their already poor choice of language. It's when those guys also start talking about hot girls they've banged - all their words, not ours. They'll - and this is now including any kind of guy, not just the boneheaded ones -- get into specifics and turn on the raunchiness, even if it's just for show, even if they had genuine feelings for the poor girl from some night out on the town or a series of weeks where they might have been something more. The scruples just diminish sometimes, down to peas, and then you find some conversations worth eavesdropping in on. And even later into the night, it's when the egos and the muscles start having flings with other egos and muscles, throwing themselves around a little too much, sloshing up against each other and creating a friction between alcohol and skin that can only come erroneously or foolishly. It's when the shouting and the pushing, the egging on and the restraining start to take place and then the whole mood is threatened and everyone checks out for the night or winds up watching Saved By The Bell reruns on TBS. Pagan, a gentleman from the great state of Arkansas, digs into these three pillars of a night's ruggedness, exposing them for their rich history of agony and misunderstanding. He writes about a boy dressing like a girl and leaving the house in front of a disapproving father in "Don't Be Gay (Working Title)," finds plenty of things to mull over in a series of songs with war and soldier themes and even gets to the heart of a relationship (with the help of backing vocals from another Arkansas resident and Daytrotter favorite Christopher Denny - he sings the woman's voice part) between a man visiting Nevada and a hooker there who's hoping unluckily for a way out of her line of work. These are the tales of so many, so many discouraged and broken people, stuck living the way they're living if only because it's a comfortable feeling. And even in the bowels of these lives there can be moments of incandescence that Pagan does equally as well, with his lovely falsetto. He sprinkles these little pills in there, his odes to climates and weather conditions - the seasons as they appeal to him - right alongside the songs that are partly sarcastic, but still altogether, or at least partially the stuff of the everyman. The songs about war and fighting are lofty, containing choruses that can fill the air up full, but they're meant as startling truths that are meant to make more people gasp in horror than actually do. War is now so commonplace for so many, a job for some, and a bane for most, though there are those who feel that intense power in shooting a gun and killing and Pagan sings to them, "A soldier always gets to shoot" and he or she always gets a war if one is wanted. He carries with his words a carefree and light feel that takes them into a realm of philosophy, that observation of man and woman at their best and worst, though they're unaware that anyone's looking. We're just a part of the spanning look, a picture without borders that's written completely in fine print, the print that he and everyone else are attempting to make out that backs his thought, "Nobody ever figures out how to live until they grow old," and that's the real confusion maker.

- www.daytrotter.com


The “early show” at Mercury Lounge on May 21, 2009 featured an evening of soloists who stretched their vocals into falsetto frequencies, and intertwined spots of stand-up improv. First up was Chase Pagan, singer/songwriter, vocalist/whistler, guitarist, and keyboardist from Mountain Home, Arkansas, followed by Jonah Matranga, singer/songwriter and guitarist, who presented solo material and acoustic versions of previous work from his bands Far, New End Original, and Gratitude.

Based on the cheery melodies and effervescent guitar and keyboard accompaniment, one would have expected sentimental lyrics from Chase Pagan. Instead, his verses, while mostly reflective and insightful, contained bits of biting humor and overall silliness that generated uncontainable giggles from the audience and launched listeners into high spirits. A semi-operatic “The Lonely Life,” cabaret-meets-hula-style “Summer Comes,” and jolly “Life Garden” highlighted Pagan’s multi-octave vocal range, affecting arpeggios, and ethereal and enchanting interchanges between his soaring singing and poignant piano playing. The short but sweet “Oh, Musica!,” title track of Pagan’s 2007 debut album, twinkled with piano triads and wispy vocals, and bridged the set to an entertaining and hilarious ditty “John & Betty.” The song, a story of prostitution transitioning into true love, featured Pagan mimicking both male and female vocal roles of the anecdote. Keeping the audience on their toes, the artist segued to a composition wrought with tension and frustration, “Waltzing in the Sky” that was followed by a peaceful “Mornings” which ebbed and flowed with slack-key guitar strums and bird-like whistles, soothing the room into serenity. Soft-spoken Pagan jokingly observed, “It’s too quiet in here…you can talk during my set; I don’t mind!” but the audience was too enthralled with Pagan’s set to socialize. A blue-grass, tongue-in-cheek, and bittersweet track “Don’t Be Gay (Working Title)” mocked gender role stereotypes, and a charmingly melodic “Waltzing a Line” completed Pagan’s show, leaving the crowd in awe of Pagan’s multifaceted musical proficiency.
- www.allaccessmagazine.com


I’ve been following Arkansas-based Chase Pagan since one of his first NYC appearances years ago at a Sentimentalist Magazine party shortly before the release of his debut, Oh, Musica!, and have sought him out everywhere from Williamsburg gallery shows to SXSW to Mercury Lounge ever since. He’s one of those gifted, theatrical singer/songwriters worth the trip. Pagan, equally at home on piano or guitar, writes music that instantly transfixes you with his otherworldly, at times falsetto voice (think Freddie Mercury), downhome charm and sly, edgy humor. From one tune to the next, he mixes honky tonk with folk, 70’s piano pop with roaring 20’s love crooners, and spices it all up with tales that lend advice, or seem twisted, modern takes on the oddities and banalities of daily life. Sweeter songs like “Life Garden” may channel anyone from The Beatles to Supertramp, but then again, maybe not. “Gun and the Sword” is a vocal belter, showing Pagan’s incredible range, and is complete with moody strings that melt midway into an wisely-worded piano ditty and back again. This album’s a top ten, but I promise, catching Pagan live truly brings out the vibrant spice of these songs. (Esperanza Plantation)–MVW

- www.sentimentalistmag.com


The phrase "they don't make them like they used to" clearly resonates with Chase Pagan. He decorates Bells & Whistles in the colorfully flamboyant sounds of '70s glam rock, with vigorous nods toward prog. His taste for the eclectic transports him even further back in history, with some rhythms and instrumentation reminiscent of vaudeville and bebop. Despite the vertigo-inducing musical time travel, Pagan's compositions aren't rehashes.

At the core of the Chase Pagan experience is his singing, which at times approximates the glass-shattering falsetto of Jeff Buckley as well as the carnival-barker baritone of Tom Waits. Pagan possesses an astounding amount of control over and confidence in his abilities. Far from the dominant mode of the times when singer-songwriters err on the side of fiscal caution, Pagan throws such inhibitions to the wind in favor of wildly diverging sounds and moods. He shows no fear in adopting a multiplicity of voices, be they effeminate or macho.

Given his boundless vocal (and musical) range, it's no wonder Pagan's been likened to everyone from Freddie Mercury to Thom Yorke. Neither is sufficient in describing his natural power as a singer and musician. His rollicking piano playing and vibrato vocals lend a Queen air to several songs (especially the jaunty "Life Garden"). But if Pagan is reminiscent of one '70s star, it is Marc Bolan. While not as inventive as David Bowie or as otherworldly as Mercury, Pagan shares something with Bolan's more proletariat rock glam-ness. Pagan uses Bolan's brittle guitar crunch on his harder rocking material and his vocals bear more than a passing resemblance to those of the T. Rex impresario.

In addition to courageous vocal performances, Pagan attempts challenging song structures. "Gun And The Sword" is downright theatrical, moving through divergent passages and punctuated by pulsating horns. Other songs, such as the breezy "Better Off" or the throbbing "Search" dispense traditional verse-chorus-verse framework in favor of repetitive melodies and rhythms.

Lyrically, Pagan spins engaging narratives in the tradition of Billy Joel or Bruce Springsteen. "Don't Be Gay (Working Title)" is thematically consistent with the Replacements' "Androgynous," wherein a concerned father encourages his son to "wear blue" and not play with dolls. Over a nicked melody from the Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "John & Betty" examines the relationship between an amorous man and his many partners, including a Vegas prostitute.

Pagan could be criticized for living in the past. A mustiness hangs over the record like the smell of bell-bottoms and tie-dyed T-shirts hanging in your parents' closet. But that doesn't diminish the majesty of what Pagan creates. He's looking back to get beyond and with a touch of ingenuity, Pagan could become a genre-defying force in contemporary music. (ESPERANZA PLANTATION) Casey Boland - www.altpress.com


Chase Pagan really showcases his talents with Bells and Whistles. There are some really great bouncy moments and a delicate pop sensibility to go alone with Chase’s pseudo-folk, with plenty of lavish embellishments here and there. And that’s all crafted around his vocals, which are simultaneously light and forceful.

He’s showed a lot of potential in the past, and it seems like he’s realizing that potential. Let’s hope he keeps it up.

Plus, he really likes his home state of Arkansas.
- www.buzzgrinder.com


Discography

Chase Pagan self titled
2004 geffen records
Chase Pagan Oh, Musica!
The Militia Group 2007
Chase Pagan Bells & whistles
Esperanza Plantation
2009

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Bio

Chase Pagan

The songs that Chase Pagan writes are timeless in nature, and seem to come from deep within an old soul trapped in a young man's body. After hearing his records, one can imagine him locked away in the confines of his mountain home (coincidentally named Mountain Home, AR), far from the influences and mediocrity of contemporary pop culture, as he paces the floors with guitar in hand, paying homage to many classics through new sound. Not to suggest that Chase apes on the past master artists of music. Rather, Chase's songs bring a welcome familiarity that renders each tune instantly recognizable, yet completely fresh and distanced from the banality that floods the modern internet and airwaves of today. His recordings sound suited for vinyl if that makes sense...which prompted us to release his debut LP, Oh, Musica!, in that format.

Chase's second album was recorded in the fall of 2008 with Chad Copelin in Norman, OK. His recent material is more upbeat and uplifting than the brooding material of his debut. Chase is happily content with his station in life, snug between the walls of his mountain abode, and it's reflected in his latest work