Chet
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FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
By Chris Long


There is a great sense of relief and release that you’re filled with when Chet let loose near the end of “The Explanation�, the closing track on their newest full length, Fight Against Darkness. After an extended Hawaiian-style intro, the song takes a turn and, well, kind of rocks out, a musical exclamation point that clearly affirms the album title’s literal conflict. This musical revelation, one of many on the album, is something that typically is not associated with the Victoria four-piece. They have a reputation for crafting eerily ornate songs filled with melancholy, longing and tragic beauty and have built a dedicated following of fans that have grown to love their brand of somber alt-pop. “Music is the catharsis that regulates my mood�, explains Ryan Beattie, the group’s chief songwriter, vocalist and guitarist. “The title of the new record literally relates to this process, as I believe music may react the same way in other people's lives.�
Chet have been recording and performing since 2002, when they released their debut, The Tiger In The Window. Formed by Beattie, with his brother Patrick and friends, the band recorded that first record live off the floor in mere days. After playing live to support the first album, 2004’s Kau’ai was released to critical acclaim, and saw the band galvanize their brand of dreamy melancholia. Ryan’s fragile, broken voice shines throughout the record, with standouts like “Moving Back To Cold Bay� and “The Flattering Soul� showcasing his distinct vocal style that can move from a bold but tender croon to a soaring soprano range that, when soaked in reverb, is a thing of shear beauty.
For Fight Against Darkness (released through local imprint Aaargh! Records), Chet refreshed its lineup: Ryan and Patrick (vocals, guitar, organ) are now joined by Emily Gooden (cello) and Isaac Flaag (drums). Deciding to take more time to record their third album, FAD was a labour of love for the band that stretched the better part of a year to record and mix. Aided by Matt Skillings of Run Chico Run and Colin Stewart at The Hive in Vancouver, the final result is a spacey, reverb-drenched opus that, while featuring some of Chet’s strongest tear-jerkers to date (see the title track and “Very Old Story�), also sees the band pushing their sonic palette into a livelier, Motown-influenced sphere, a sound that is aided by the great brass arrangements contributed by Vancouver’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? “About half the songs were written right after Isaac joined the band,� explains Patrick, “and I think his drumming contributed to that somewhat. I guess we just kind of got into rockin’ out.� Closing track, “The Explanation� and the jubilant “Dollarton Harbour� exemplify this energized sound well, while “Ships Sink In The Fall� is an eleven minute-plus epic that brilliantly showcases many of the bands strengths, as minimal serenity, patient post-rockisms and lush Hawaiian inflections all weave an exquisite tapestry until finally, a twenty person-strong choir of friends shows up to sing the outro.
On stage at their album release party at Lucky Bar this past week, they are a mix of delicate lullaby and frenetic, almost manic bombast, with sweeping, mournful melodies from Gooden’s cello juxtaposed with Ryan’s frantic emotional vocal outbursts. Performing new and old material, their powerful spectacle is occasionally too intense for some, but captivating for those privy to their music.
Along with other local pillars like Frog Eyes and Run Chico Run, Chet fortify Victoria’s local live music community. “There seems to be an endless pool of talent here,� says Gooden, “and never ending opportunities to play something somewhere at any given time.� Ryan, who now also plays part time in Frog Eyes and also records and performs as Himalayan Bear, feels that from the beginning, the local scene helped spur his own creativity. “Just having a lot of my friend’s bands around has encouraged me to produce, and now it seems to have been inherited by a younger generation of bands.� Patrick adds, “There is a strong connection that I think we all make, not only to the music community, but to Victoria itself. The first two years of Chet’s existence occurred in the space of a few blocks in (and around) Fernwood, and I think that has influenced us as much as anything else.�
As with most independent bands, reaching the rest of Canada is a grand challenge, one Chet isn’t necessarily too fond of. Two cross-Canada tours were complicated by pregnancy and last year’s jaunt across the country left Ryan sick and voiceless in Saskatoon. Although they love performing, they are honest about the tribulations many independent bands face when touring our massive homeland. According to Ryan, “With the exception of a handful of wonderful promoters, venues and cities, (most of) Cana - Metropolitan


Victoria's Chet have always seemed at the precipice of international success. One would be hard-pressed to find a young band with such a wealth of talents coupled with such a focused musical vision, evocative sound and captured aesthetic. Over the course of their previous two releases, this charming group have honed their haywire sound into a cacophonous splendor of dreamy vocals, brooding guitars, and austere strings. With this third embarking, the Beattie brothers seem to be peaking in confidence and maturity as Fighting Against Darkness has a more ambitious rollicking in the cookhouse self-assurance. Exploding with Zuma, shrouded in epic Main Street Exile, and mining the soul searching of Sister Lovers, Chet are channeling some very heady sounds and thus evoking the spirits of grandiose passion. Shit, life is a gamble, win some with Chet! - .


Victoria's Chet burst onto the scene a few years back with their debut album The Tiger is In the Window and since then the band has experienced massive critical acclaim, toured parts of Canada and shared the stage with the likes of Modest Mouse, Low, and The Arcade Fire. Now, finally, after a year on the shelf, Chet has released their sophomore album Kau'ai with the help of Victoria's Tolan MacNeil who recorded it at his Lucky Mouse Studio.

The album starts with the track "Grow Old Gracefully", which is a great intro number that slightly builds until it explodes with a choir background. "Election: A Broken Arm" is an enchanting number while "The Flattering Soul" is a jazzy track with Beattie's vocals at their most shrill. Even though the music is great, Beattie's Chris Isaak-Jeff Buckley-Ron Sexsmith like vocals is the main attraction giving the CD its strength and spirit.

The album ends on a good note with a trio of epic ballads ("Gestalt of the Broken Heart," "The Turning Bell," "The Strange Case of the Roman Children,"), the last two each eight minutes in length. Chet has come up with an album that harks back to the days when artists would make an album as one entity with each song having its place, instead of today where many CDs are used as promotional tools for one or two singles the rest being filler. Kau'ai is not a concept record in the technical sense but it seems the only proper way to listen to it would be from beginning to end. A notion that seems lost on today's youth.

Trent McMartin - MOTE MGZN


If I reach far back, I can recall the collective voices of the New Kids on the Block having a profound impact on my emotional state. At age eight I had an early start on polygamous dreams: the cupcake of my heart was iced with the names Danny, Johnny, Donnie, Jordan, and of course Joey. Now there is only one voice that has the same effect on me, and if I was more eloquent I would write endless love letters to it.
Ryan Beattie, you coy temptress, your siren of a voice and the way it jumps from octave to octave gives Mariah Carey nightmares. You selfishly roped me in with Tiger in the Window; then nothing else mattered to me. Months went by, the seasons changed, and not even a phone call. I was about to give up, bitter and jaded, until now, until Kauai. Tiger’s lovely droning melodies ring out triumphant, and the voice, good god, THE VOICE. Trapped in a prison of Chet’s design, I am once again left to the business of unrequited love.

Ebony Bertorelli
- Discorder, Vancouver


"destroys and reconstructs pop conventions with operatic grandeur and ambition on the scale of interstellar travel—the kind of music that makes you grip something while listening to it." - Vue


Chet
Fight Against Darkness
(Aaargh! Records)

When I first put Fight Against Darkness in my CD player, I had very little idea what to expect. Up until then, I had only heard the Chet song “Film School Makes You Worthless and Lazy� on a mix, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I listened to several songs from the new album and then abruptly turned it off; not because it negatively affected me, but because I wasn’t quite prepared for the emotional response it conjured in me. Standing there, alone in my room, I was simultaneously compelled to jump out my window, curl up in my bed, and put on my panda vest and start drawing with pastels on the walls. I opted for none, and instead went downstairs to make tea.

An album that can evoke such an immediately powerful response is worth repeated exploration in my book. I gratefully returned to its swells of beer and reverb-soaked vocals. M. Ward, and My Morning Jacket came to mind, but only a small semblance, as Chet’s sound is nicely autonomous on a whole. The album is awash in ride-cymbal crescendos and brooding bursts of bubbling, melancholic happiness. Listen to this album on a rainy day, and it might not so much crush you as smother you in a warm blanket of happy/sad crooning, comfortably seated in a melodic phalanx of instrumentation.

Morgan Hobart - Discorder, Vancouver


Figuring out whether a band will make it big or not is pretty much a giant crapshoot. That said, if you're in the business of betting on whether a band will succeed, you'd be wise to put some money on Chet. After all, as one listen to Fight Against Darkness makes abundantly clear, frontman Ryan Beattie has a voice that's guaranteed to appeal to anyone who likes Hawksley Workman or Rufus Wainwright. And, as those two musicians have illustrated with their impressive careers...well, people can get pretty devoted to someone with an amazing voice.

It helps, of course, to have some good tunes backing that voice up, and Fight Against Darkness certainly isn't lacking on that score, either. Both "The Shepherd" (streaming on the band's Myspace) and "Because I've Never Known Trouble" do a good job of matching Beattie's voice with equally lilting melodies, dipping and soaring in ways that accentuate the band's best feature. Whether it will be enough to get the band the kind of notice it'll take to launch them to stardom remains to be seen, but if the right people hear Chet, watch out.

www.IHeartMusic.net
Tuesday, April 24. 2007 - I (heart) music


Easily one of the most beautiful records of the year comes from Victoria's ever-surprising masters of sighcore. Lovely, Motown-infused, and even including some (gasp!) up-tempo numbers, Fight Against Darkness breaks and mends the heart in 10 essential tracks.
- the Georgia Straight - the Georgia Straight


The exhilarating advent of digital studio technology has enabled musicians to create multi-track recordings at the click of a button. The latest release from local indie rockers Chet attempted to present itself as a different beast entirely: a band working together as one densely layered, closely knit unit.
"We wanted it to sound like a band," says Chet frontman Ryan Beattie of his band's third release, Fight Against Darkness. "We wanted as often as possible to have that live sound, as opposed to a couple of dudes tinkering around for a couple of hours overdubbing. Everything working together is pretty integral for us."
To achieve its unified, orchestral pop sound -- a cello features prominently in Chet -- Beattie says the band chose to record its vocals live off-the-floor, the group singing as one, with a minimum of overdubs.
To the new school, it's an outdated approach, given the state of modern home recording. But for singer-guitarist Beattie and the rest of Chet -- his keyboard-playing older brother, Patrick, drummer Isaac Flaag and cellist Emily Gooden -- the sessions produced an almost Phil Spector-ish monaural vibe, and a soulful one at that.
"The goal is to constantly make sure I'm staying true to a certain quality I identify with in art or music," says Beattie, the band's primary songwriter.
"It doesn't matter the medium of your art -- whether it's cooking or carpentry -- it should be considered a trade or skill and should have a soulful element to it."
How a city such as Victoria could be responsible for a band with such sincerity might confuse some. After all, this ain't exactly Soul City.
But for Beattie, 28, a Victoria native who was raised in the Lower Mainland, it makes perfect sense. The tranquil, singular nature of his environment -- a place Beattie has jokingly called "the Republic of Vancouver Island" in the past -- deeply informs the music of Chet, however non-specific his band's lyrical content.
"To some degree you're cut off when you live here. But I find it way more inspiring. You don't have to completely spend all your time working to pay your rent, so there's time for artistic pursuits."
The group has thrived, despite the relative isolation.
Chet emerged from the shadows in late 2002 with its attention-grabbing debut, The Tiger is in the Window. The record won the group a considerable local following, snagging Chet local slots alongside Modest Mouse, Feist, and Arcade Fire, among others, to go with heaps of national praise.
But by refusing to follow the lead of many of its Vancouver Island peers -- many of whom like Wolf Parade, Islands, Hot Hot Heat, Shapes and Sizes have left Victoria for networkable cities such as Montreal or Vancouver -- and staying true to Joey MacDonald's Victoria-based imprint, Aaargh! Records, Chet has remained essentially a cult act.
Beattie is happy to remain the indie rock underdog. Sure, he throws the occasional barb in what appears to be the direction of skinny-pants scenesters (on a Fight Against Darkness track he sings, "Don't let your cruel heart count me in, because this is a dirty business") but he's pretty content with his band's decision to remain rooted.
"I'd like to be able to have some amount of popular success, but there's a certain blow-out aspect to most bands who achieve that blast of success. It's a lot harder to sustain and manage yourself and keep your focus on what you're doing, honing in on a craft for years and years and having that be your hallmark.
"There's a certain danger in losing complete sight of what you're doing. It's too important for me to want that to happen. I wouldn't want it to be ruined by any obligation."
Beattie toured Canada earlier this year as a member of another critically acclaimed Victoria-based act, Frog Eyes, which shares Beattie's aversion to big cities.
"There was no baggage there," he says. "We didn't have much of a social history, but I guess they thought they would get along with me."
Beattie had yet to meet the band prior to its tour, but it went so well (Beattie's solo project, Himalayan Bear, opened many of the shows) he has agreed to rejoin the lineup in October for a two-month tour of Europe.
Chet has a few orders of business first: a concert tomorrow night at the Metro Theatre, as well as a video release party (for the aforementioned Don't Let Your Cruel Heart Count Me In) on Monday at the Ministry of Casual Living.
Could it all be going according to plan for Chet? Perhaps -- if there was any kind of plan to begin with.
"We don't have any designs to be hugely popular," he says. "We enjoy the process of making and playing music and have evolved to be better at the craft. It would be nice to have a reasonable income from that. But that's not a goal at this point. We're just trying to keep it going."
- Mike Devlin - the Times Colonist


Discography

Chet - "The Tiger is in the Window", 2003
Chet - "Kau'ai" Hive007 2004 (re-released as ARG105 2006)
Chet - "Fight Against Darkness" ARG107, 2007

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Bio

Theres a certain rare chemistry that occurs when gorgeous, sweeping pop melodies are passed through 15 feet of plate reverb before being committed to hundreds of yards of analog tape; the promise of a polished outcome is forfeited for something more genuine. It was a process so common place 50 years ago that it was less a gamble than an endeavour in the sweaty performance & hopeful calculation of the outcome.

Equally, it is a process in which Victoria BCs Chet thrive.

In Fight Against Darkness, love and melancholy are portrayed in beautiful relation, as though they were
never far from one another. It is very much the same beauty as being unwillingly torn apart only to be placed together again in perfect form, richer & stronger for the experience, as disarming as it is dismantling. Pieces such as "Dont Let Your Cruel Heart Count Me In" demonstrate Chets signature melancholic craft in its most brilliant capacity to date with its unhurried pace, deliberate as any loving moment. Equally, unprecedented upbeat selections such as "By Night, Into Paradise" & "Dollarton Harbour" brilliantly articulate their knack for Motown-esque jubilee, having been recorded as a collective live performance with friends They Shoot Horses, Don't They? on horns.

By virtue of deeply invested, grandiose live performances and their remarkable recordings, Chet
continue to map the landscape of soul music's forefront & endeavour in refining pop music into the
purest, most potent of forms. With the monumental album now realized, Fight Against Darkness comfortably places Chet at the thresh of genius as their accomplished internship ends and they accept their lot among Canadas most original and compelling groups.

“Easily one of the most beautiful records of the year”
- the Georgia Straight

"Destroys and reconstructs pop conventions with operatic grandeur - the kind of music that makes you grip something while listening to it."
- Vue