The Chairman Dances
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The Chairman Dances

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | INDIE

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Alternative Indie




"BBC Introducing Mixtape"

"My new favorite band... lyrically adventurous, harmonically intricate" - Tom Robinson, BBC - BBC Radio 6

"The Chairman Dances – Child of My Sorrow"

We first struck upon Philadelphia band The Chairman Dances back at the beginning of 2016 through EP Samantha Says, a release which went further than most musical endeavours in its attempts to create fully-realised characters. Later that year, the outfit released a new full-length album, Time Without Measure, a concept record based around various figures of what could be called a progressive religious history—protesters and campaigners using peaceful action for moral good. The release cemented the assertion that this is a band working on levels of depth and detail beyond that of many others, not merely describing the work and actions of the characters they described, but breathing an immersive and convincing sense of life into them, rendering them fully human. As we described in our review, the feat was as timely as it was impressive:

Now more than ever we should remember that activists and political heroes, for all of their spirit and unimaginable resolve, are as prone to doubt and death as anyone, and not half as powerful without our support and belief. Likewise, we’d do well to remember that villains and bigots are human too, flames that, however fierce and bright, will be snuffed out without the oxygen that is our backing. This album is a reminder that belief and faith can save us. It’s just a matter of choosing the right thing in which to invest our energies.

As though the music audience was tuned into such ideas, Time Without Measure proved something of a breakout record for the band. It earned a place on CMJ’s Top 200 chart, garnered respect from the BBC and saw support slots for some impressive acts, essentially gaining far more attention than their previous work. Lead Eric Krewson used this as a signal to double down on his artistic direction, taking time out not only to write new songs but to edit and hone them, before teaming up with Daniel Smith at his studio in New Jersey (where the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Will Oldham have recorded).

The result is Child of My Sorrow, a brand new full-length album, and one every bit as ambitious and sophisticated as the previous The Chairman Dances releases. Setting the tone, ‘Amce Parking Garage’ throws us headlong into a world of anxiety, the supermarket setting befitting of an experience so coloured by consumerist forces. The song is something of a clash between the human and inhuman, individual spirit butting up against insidious forces that seem determined to break it.

This is clear on ‘Mascot’ too, a person not only reduced to ludicrous banality but threatened by it, existentially. Here the protagonist plays the Chick-fil-A cow mascot, a bad experience made worse by the competitive configuration of our society. If competition is the Great Commandment of capitalist thought, then dressing up as a cow to hawk mass-produced fast food brings not only the immediate discomfort of poor ventilation and limited vision, but also something wider and more wounding. This is sweaty embarrassment not as an end but a means to realizing your place and so-called ‘value’ to society. Your failing position in the competition of life.

“From eight to nine on weekends, you called to check in, to make amends with your sister living on the east coast. You in a cow suit, her writing for the Washington Post. It was a sad scene—you spread out on the floor, all those dads crying, you crawling toward the door.
It was a sad scene—you spread out on the floor, tired of wanting, wanting more”

However, The Chairman Dances have never been satisfied with highlighting the worst of society, and Child of My Sorrow is far from a one-dimensional jab at neoliberal culture. As hinted at on ‘Iridescent’, this is a band more concerned with the shining spirit of humanity in the face of such turmoil, drawing not just hope but meaning from those working against the cold individualism of our time. ‘No Compass, No Map’ feels like a direct challenge to such a blank rigidity, a song so intricate it is tempting to imagine a complex machinery behind, only such an image does nothing to suggest the spontaneity and sheer life of the track.

The song seems an important one, because it triggers something of a turning point for the record. From here on in, even the most morose and melancholic songs possess a bright spirit and call to change, as though subject to the realisation that we can be more than consumerist shells. Of course, this is not some pure white epiphany of goodwill. Often, as on ‘A Half-Mile From Allentown,’ the sensation registers as a nameless confusion, as though the world is suddenly too strange to inhabit normally, or perhaps the protagonists too strange to live in the mundane world.

There’s wariness too, and no small amount of regret, as highlighted by the warmly nostalgic pair ‘No One Can Hurt You (Like A Friend Can Hurt You)’ and ‘Hannah, I Know It Wasn’t Always Easy’. Punctuated with synths, the latter is a slow-burn memory as held late at night. Indeed, this kind of longing could be said to be the presiding sensation of the record, though it’s one far removed from the material-orientated kind that drives our age. Instead, this is longing for something more, meaning garnered through connection, be it with another person or higher power, a value whose absence is marked by a kind of mortal pain.

But what if absence is the natural state, The Chairman Dances ask? If there is no conscious loss to which to attribute our pain, then it is all too easy to assume that suffering is the default setting. Hence the confusion, the disaffection, the wide-eyed stumbles down gaudy supermarket aisles. The constant competition where even the winners feel like they are losing. But this doesn’t have to be the way. As the closing title track goes:

I sat down in a folding chair and we formed a semicircle. We formed a human chainfull of smiles, full of care. I wouldn’t let go. And if he would call to me, well I would gladly leave. I would gladly believe in just about anything. And I wouldn’t let go. I remember my mother’s voice, her kind and quiet way. And when her heart stopped, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t let go. When Jesus finally comes for us, I will gladly go. I’d be glad to know there’s more to life than pain.

Jesus, be near me - Various Small Flames

"The Chairman Dances Hit the Grocery Store in "Acme Parking Garage" (premiere)"

At the forefront of the Chairman Dances' forthcoming LP, Child of My Sorrow, is "Acme Parking Garage". It's a song whose sense of innovation lingers a considerable length past its title, featuring a composition that ebbs back and forth between low-key vocals and a tempestuous swirl of keys, percussion, and synth. A curiously cool piece of work that keeps listeners involved with its consistent shifts in pacing and tone, the tune is a perfect encapsulation of what makes the Chairman Dances a band not quite like any other.

On its music video, frontman Eric Krewson tells PopMatters, "I wanted to film in a grocery store. As it turns out, securing that setting is difficult. The first five stores I called turned me down, kindly but flatly. When I finally found a store, the video's director, Bob Sweeney, and I made plans to arrive early Sunday morning. Bob wanted the shelves perfectly in order and for there to be as few customers as possible."

"In an effort to win over the store manager, I told him we'd need just a half hour to film, which meant we needed to work quickly. Bob and I walked the length of the store once, turning down a few aisles. For the most part, we stuck to the narrative worked out ahead of time, though we improvised a bit based on what we found in the store."

The Chairman Dances' Child of My Sorrow releases on 7 September via Black Rd. Krewson says of the album, "It's a relief to give up something I've clung to and considered for so long. It's a relief to pack a bag and climb into a car with my bandmates, Dan Comly, Kevin Walker, Dan Finn and Will Schwarz, to perform this album on tour. We'll see you out there." - PopMatters

"The Chairman Dances"

The Chairman Dances will release Time Without Measure on August 26. New song “Dorothy Day And Peter Maurin” shows off a production job by Daniel Smith (Sufjan Stevens, Danielson). Like the other songs on the album, “Dorothy Day” tells an intelligent story of an historical activist, a political tale all the more relevant today. - MAGNET


Child of My Sorrow (Fall, 2018 - Released by Black Rd Records)

Time Without Measure (2016 - Released by Black Rd Records)

Samantha Says (2015 - Released by Grizzly Records)


Feeling a bit camera shy


The Chairman Dances is a literate indie rock band hailing from Philadelphia. Their 2016 album, Time Without Measure, and their newest, Child of My Sorrow (fall 2018), were championed by college radio stations (charting on CMJ) and rock publications such as Magnet and PopMatters. The BBC's Tom Robinson, who calls the group his "new favorite band", describes them as "lyrically adventurous, harmonically intricate." The Chairman Dances just wrapped up a headlining tour of the northeast; they've also supported Rhett Miller (Old 97s), Sea Wolf, Work Drugs and Ten Fe.

Band Members