Chuck Criss
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Chuck Criss

New York City, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014

New York City, New York, United States
Established on Jan, 2014
Solo Alternative Indie


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos




Some people find an apartment on Craigslist; others find refurbished computer parts or "miscellaneous" romances. Chuck Criss of the band Freelance Whales found his dream music career. A 28-year-old multi-instrumentalist from San Francisco who had just moved to New York to work in advertising, Criss typed "banjo" into the Craigslist search engine and up popped Freelance Whales, an indie rock band looking for a new member. A week later, he was in. Five years later, he's toured the world and released two successful albums with them. Now, Criss is releasing his first digital solo album, titled : = : = : = : = : = : = : = : = : = :.

There's nothing normal about Criss' story, so why should his own album be any different? "I didn't want it to be a word," explains Criss regarding his indecipherable title, which repeats the ":=" symbol nine times for the nine songs on the album. "I know that could be perceived as being kind of pretentious, but I thought it would be more pretentious to come up with an actual title." The title is also a reference to the codes used in Journey, a video game created for the sole motive of communicating with other players using no words and no text, just musical chime. "That's the nerdy sub-level of why I did it," he laughs.

Growing up, Criss wanted to be a bluegrass banjo player. "The music I gravitate towards is stuff that feels homemade," he says. "Especially in high school I was into stuff that—and I don't mean this in a bad way—felt attainable. Like, ‘Oh, I could do that.'" His younger brother Darren Criss, who is now on Glee and recently starred in the film Girl Most Likely, was a talented guitar player from the very beginning, so Chuck chose to pick up other string instruments. He's since been trying to rid the banjo of its "creepy Deliverance connotations," and bring it to the modern music scene.

Criss' solo album embodies this "homemade" feeling in more ways than one. He produced it in the comfort of his own home with the help of his wife, Lucy, and its relaxed, simple vibe allows listeners to feel the same way he did about bluegrass—like they could do it at home, too. Unlike modern music from artists like Skrillex, "who sound like they've pounded like nine Red Bulls or something," Criss admires more relatable music that "doesn't rely on a lot of production muscle."

The video for the album's single, "Will I See You Again," which you can stream above, combines public domain footage of historic San Francisco with the 1940s Disney movie Hawaiian Holiday, in which Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck fool around on string instruments, much like the Criss brothers did in their basement growing up.



As mentioned on

Brooklyn singer/songwriter Chuck Criss has a name that could have been that of a character from "The Goonies" or an admiral in the KISS Army, but the music that he makes glistens with highly bouncy bubblegummy-ness that aligns with some of the great basement/bedroom troubadours – Owsley, Bart Davenport, Devin Davis, Self -- who all have made tunes cursed by anonymity, but which are no less spectacular. They make you think – ice cream's ice cream – and a good song is a good song even if no one wants it or can't get it on iTunes. "Same Old Situation," a song from Criss' album featuring what appears to be a mutated, aviator koala bear on its cover, has been hanging in the top five of OurStage's indie rock rankings for the majority of the month of April and that can only mean good things as strangers have to be voting for it to stay there. We know this because Criss has just 149 friends on his MySpace page. He's getting adopters to his piano and banjo-loaded tune about magic in modern times – which perhaps is just his way of describing optimism and effort, going for things that wouldn't normally be tried. Criss comes off sounding like the friend you'd call up to get you out of the dumps. He'd come over, you'd order in, he'd bring the beer, he might play you a new song he's been working on and then you'd watch movies you've seen too many times already. He's a chum and he writes music you can be friends with.

- Sean Moller


Self Titled Chuck Criss EP:

1) Same Old Situation
2) We Wish We Were Kids
3) Broken Record
4) The City
5) Simple kind of Song
6) Teething