CHON Interview 4.26.15

Connor Pearson
Ready Room Stl. With CHON

I interviewed CHON’s two guitarists Erick Hansel and Mario Camarena before their show at the Ready Room in St. Louis this past Sunday. Their show went great, they came on with so much energy, mostly from Drew dancing around the stage while laying down the bass. Both Erick and Mario killed it, sweeping and tapping their way through an amazing set in perfect timing and rhythm as supplied by Nathan. They’re playing with The Contortionist, Auras, and Noesis at Fubar May 19th and are highly recommended.

C: How’s tour life? You’ve been on three so far, how have they been?
M: It’s hard sometimes, you want a break and you can’t get one most times.
E: Sometimes people will get mad at each other and you’ve still got to see each other, though at the end of the day everything’s alright and good.
M: We did one two week tour in the summer of ’13 in the Southwest, and then two full tours in the winter of ’14 with Animals as Leaders.
C: You’ve also got a tour coming up this summer, are you excited for that?
M: Yea, we’re touring with The Contortionist and a Canadian band, Auras. Then in August we’re touring with The Fall Of Troy in the UK and Germany. We’ve also got a show in the Netherlands.
C: What’s been your favorite experience of this tour with Circa?
E: I liked Albuquerque a lot, but on some of our off days we have shows we’re headlining and other’s we’re playing with Balance. Those have got to be the most fun for me, the most energetic.
M: Yea, at the smaller shows that we’re headlining the crowd is mainly there for us so they’re more stoked to see us. There’s a lot more energy definitely.
E: Everybody knows our songs and is all jamming out, it’s great.
C: What’re your thoughts of St. Louis so far?
M: The venue’s great, the sound in there is really good. We’ve had really good food here too.
C: What’re some bands you’d like to tour with?
E & M: So far we’ve been lucky to have only toured with really cool people. We’ve got a bunch; Thundercat, Haitus Kaiyote, Flying Lotus, Hiromi .
C: You and Circa Survive are both on Sumerian’s label, when did you sign with them?
E: We signed with them last year. It’s been cool being on the label with them.
M: We’ve known most of the people at Sumerian personally for way longer than we’ve been signed. We’ve been in previous bands with them and it just felt like a really natural thing.
C: How are festivals in comparison to touring shows?
M: Those are hectic
E: Yea you have to get there really early. All the bands have to get there early, and the sets are usually a lot shorter. We played South by Southwest and we had a show the night before, we had to play off of an hour of sleep.
C: How do your albums usually come together? What would make the final cut or be dropped last minute?
M: When it feels right, it’s just one of those things we know. We’ll know if there’s a riff or a song that’s not good enough to use, mostly from intuition.
C: How do your songs come together? Is there usually a jam session or some actual writing down of melodies?
E: Sometimes when we’re apart and we write something on our own, we’ll record it on our phone and send it to each other. If we like the part then we’ll collaborate on that. Some days we’ll come together and sit in a room and jam together some ideas and songs.
C: So when you’re not touring you’re not together?
M: Erick lives like 45 minutes away, we’re from San Diego and so we can’t get together all the time since it’s a little too far from us, so we’ll send each other stuff and sometimes we’ll get together for a few days and work stuff out.
C: How do you go along with the vocal parts of your songs? Ecco is a good example of a work of yours that isn’t diminished by added lyrics.
E: When we usually start out with our songs we have an idea of them, we’ll write to a song that we have vocals specifically in mind.
M: We’ve only written two songs with vocals for CHON, so we’ve deliberately written the guitar parts so vocals will fit over them.
C: About your technique: Do you have much formal training?
M: Erick and I had this guitar teacher, Seth Hollander, who does really good guitar work and also custom paint jobs and lessons. When we first started guitar we took a few lessons with him; that was about 8 years ago or so. I took a year or so more of lessons than Erick. Seth taught me basic theory, technique, how to tap with your fingers and sweep picking, some basic chord structures. We used that as a foundation to start everything else and build our style.
C: Similarly with your brother Nathan, does he have much instruction?
M: He’s similar in that he got some basic lessons from a longtime friend of ours, Brian Evans, who is an astounding drummer and in the band Retox. He taught Nathan most of the stuff that he knows, and he can work with anyone’s style really well. He’s going to be a legend one day.
C: So who does CHON’s album artwork and comes up with that? The style of it in a way feels a lot like your music sounds which I can’t really describe but I give a lot of credit to whoever designs your merch and your artwork.
M: It comes from the same place creatively. The merch designs we think of what we would want on shirt and we’ll ask our friends to like draw a psychedelic jellyfish. It’s that simple. Daniel McBride, the art director for Sumerian he does all our album artwork. We’ve known him since we started CHON. We’ve always wanted to work with each other. Once we started releasing albums and EP’s, we just called him up to do the artwork. It’s usually us giving him an idea and him drafting it from there. For ‘Grow’ we had this idea of painting leaves, it was quite a vague idea. We then went over to his house and basically just had an art project day and did random stuff. Painted leaves, threw them on the ground, took pictures. We didn’t think about it too hard, we just had fun doing art.
C: What’re your plans with CHON? Do you see yourselves as a group for a pretty long time?
M: Yea definitely. We’re planning to do a few more albums; we’ll see what happens from there.
C: When do you expect to start working on a new album?
M: Writing on tour is pretty difficult, you’re busy and there’s not much time. During all the off time we have, we’ll be working on music.

Connor PearsonCHON Interview 4.26.15