According to co-founder Felix Fung, Chains of Love are fulfilling a shared musical fantasy: to recreate an authentic 60′s sound by working within disciplined, era-specific guidelines. In losing the MacBooks and Pro Tools and focusing instead on tight playing, masterfully delivered harmonies and no-nonsense studio sessions, the Vancouver-based quintet – comprising Nathalia Pizarro (lead vocals), Rebecca Marie Law Gray (vocals, guitar), Felix Fung (guitar), Clint Lofkrantz (bass), Henry Beckwith (keyboards) and Al Boyle (drums)– create something that’s pure and distinctly genuine despite its familiar form.
Does playing a style of music that is somewhat formulaic ever hamper your creativity or pigeonhole you as players?
Sometimes, yeah, you feel pigeonholed but that’s fine. The people that come to see up play don’t pigeonhole us but the people who write about us do. I understand that it’s kind of necessary to help people to understand the music by saying, ‘they’re sound like a 60’s girls group,’ but to say formula is just kind of like saying a dirty word. There’s a method in what we do. I’m living a fantasy by doing this kind of music with this process of writing and recording it in one day like people did back in the day, you know? I wanted to have that experience. Maybe instead of formula, you could say we work within a set of limitations. It’s like, ‘Okay guys, there’s no editing to save time. If you can’t sing it or play it, then we don’t do it.’ It gives our songs a lot of loose edges…and I like that.
Maybe it actually takes a true musician – a genuinely talented player – to be able to adhere to a ‘formula’ or to be able to play well within specific guidelines?
Quite definitely, and that’s the thing that has to be said about this band: they’re top players. Not in the sense that they’re very cleaned-up or slick – because I don’t want that and we’re all goofs (laughs) – but there’s a competence there when they say, “Don’t you dare edit those drums and don’t you dare clean up that note.”
So you accept imperfection as part of the process?
If it doesn’t sound wrong – because I don’t use a computer and can’t ‘see’ the mistake – I have to be true to myself and just go with that. I could serve my ego and go in there as a producer and as an engineer and fix it or pressure the person to do it again, but sometimes, it’s just a f—— tambourine. You don’t need to be the world’s best tambourine player, you know? Just get it done (laughs). There are a lot of utilitarian parts that go into making music and I don’t know many people making records these days that think that way or feel comfortable enough with one another to be honest and say something like that; it’s like they think there’s something to be protected. But this was a lark. It was buddies getting together in the studio and not over thinking it.
So now I know what you’re like in the studio – what about on stage?
Gritty…Punky…Aggressive. I think people are impressed to see that there are no tricks. Like when I hear a record then go see that band play live, more often than not I’m a little bit disappointed because there’s been some sort of massaging of the truth. And believe me, you don’t have to do that with Nat. She can deliver. The harmonies are there and they sound solid. All those guitar hooks and piano hooks and bass riffs are intact and sound very full – without too much fussing. We enjoy playing with each other, and that’s a very big deal.
Does Chains of Love have plans for an LP at this point?
We just finished an EP and that’ll come out on February 14. After that, we’ll go on tour for about three weeks going into SXSW… By the way, where are you calling me from?
I’m in Montreal.
Oh, that’s rad. Lucky you.
To be honest, I’m a born and raised Torontonian and moved here about two years ago.
(laughs) You don’t have to be apologetic about it. I have no beef with Toronto; I like Toronto. We’re all Canadian. Actually, you’re asking some more interesting questions. I know you have to ask certain things like ‘How did you get together?’ but…this is some interesting talk.
Well, thank you; I know that interviews can be an arduous task, but…
Believe me, none of us are that jaded. We still sometimes play to four people, you know (laughs)?
I appreciate you being so willing to converse, believe me. ‘Bigger’ bands sometimes simply opt for a formal, promotional exercise.
Well, they have so many people behind them that they’re almost talking from a script. At that point, your job is just to pass along the information they want you to have. My God, what has happened to rock and roll that it’s become so…diplomatic? With this band, it’s the easiest we’ve ever had it as far as getting attention and blog love. We feel very happy and very appreciative because with our other bands, we had to work much harder at it, if you know what I mean. We got lucky with this one. The experiences we’ve had – and I feel like I want to say this is some sort of public way – is that, the industry finds the right people, but wow, do they kill rock and roll. I mean, they ask you to be ‘rock and roll’ and when you are, they ask you to tone it down or do it their way. Even small labels now are dictating the sound the records should have because they’ve got this aesthetic to live up to and people who want their records to sound a certain way.
You have a point there.
Maybe it sounds pessimistic but it’s time to be a little angry about what’s being done to my art and the things that I love. And I’m not saying this on behalf of my band or because something bad has been done to us, it’s just something I’ve noticed. The industry is filled with people who don’t know how to rock and roll…
Well, whenever money is involved, things get sticky. Like you said, even indie labels have people to answer to and an aesthetic to maintain.
It’s weird…There are bands that’ll pop up ready-made for certain labels, you know? That’s not authentic and it’s not art… It’s…homework (laughs). What we do is for love not money, and I appreciate when others operate the same way. We need more rock and roll lovers as journalists, as label owners, as promoters. We need more musical talent and artist insight out there in those positions, not just middle-management, you know? Sadly, they’re all the f—— gatekeepers. You know, I appreciate the old studio system from back in the day: you earned your way and once you proved yourself as a real talent, you were in. They’d work with you for as long as you could do it. It was a career. Now, anybody can buy a MacBook Pro and record whatever they want. There’s something that’s got lost along the way and it’s regrettable.
The industry has undergone some pretty dramatic changes.
Well, we were just in L.A. and I was standing in front of Capitol Records just soaking it all in and thinking about all the greatness and talent that walked through those front doors. I thought: ‘S—t, what’s underneath this building? What are the vaults like in there?’ You just know they’re sitting on so much music, so why don’t they just digitize it and sell it? If they can’t sell their big [superstar’s] release after two weeks, they should put out all those old tapes. I guarantee you they’d save their business. They’re not going to find The Beatles again – and even if they did, they couldn’t sell it in the same way anymore – so why hold out on people and hang on to all of this music? People obviously want it because they search out rare, out-of-print stuff and pay insanely high prices for it.
Do you still believe in ‘original’ music?
Jesus Christ, does there have to be ‘original’ music? If it’s truly original then I probably don’t want to hear it (laughs). I want to be part of a tradition and I think that everyone in this band wants to carry on the tradition of music and not be so arrogant as to think we’ve invented anything new. We’re a very lucky band and by chance we wrote some really great tunes and it all makes sense. Music is just notes and chords and when it’s good, you know it. It’s like peanut butter and jelly…or mac and cheese.