Chamberlain

Chamberlain_photo_klein SSometimes revisiting the past is the only way to see the future. Indeed, the five members of Chamberlain thought they were just taking a trip down memory lane when they reunited in 2018 for the first time in nine years on a short tour to commemorate the 20th anniversary of their final studio album, “The Moon My Saddle.” But beyond celebrating old glories, that time together led to something quite unexpected: a renewed commitment to the creative spark these musicians first discovered when they were teenagers, and the first new Chamberlain album since the turn of the century, “Red Weather,” which will be released Nov. 20 by Arctic Rodeo.

The 10-track project was produced by My Morning Jacket guitarist Carl Broemel, a longtime friend who grew up playing in bands in the ‘90s alongside the members of Chamberlain (vocalist David Moore, guitarists Adam Rubenstein and Clay Snyder, bassist Curtis Mead and drummer Charlie Walker) first in Indianapolis and later Bloomington, Ind. Adding to the familial vibe, “Red Weather” was funded largely by Chamberlain’s legions of fans via a Kickstarter campaign and includes a new version of the song “Some Other Sky,” which was debuted during the 2018 reunion tour and later released as a single.

A quick primer: Moore, Rubenstein, Snyder, Mead and Walker first played together as teens in the seminal Midwestern band Split Lip. With their passionate songs and poetic lyrics, the Doghouse albums “For the Love of the Wounded” (1993) and “Fate’s Got a Driver” (1995) helped define the emerging emo-core genre and influenced such future stars as Thursday, the Gaslight Anthem, Taking Back Sunday, Rise Against, Dashboard Confessional and the Get Up Kids. In 1995, the group changed its name to Chamberlain and introduced a refined, more roots-oriented sound exemplified by “The Moon My Saddle,” which has gone on to become a cult classic.

Chamberlain disbanded in 2000, with its members moving on to a variety of other musical pursuits in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and Indianapolis. The group briefly reunited in 2009 before coming together again for the “Moon My Saddle” anniversary tour in 2018, which included its first shows in Europe in more than 20 years.

“Every time we’ve had an opportunity to play together over the past decade, we’ve talked about how fun it would be to make another album,” Rubenstein says. “But we’ve always returned to our respective lives and not taken the next step. This time, we put some of that old preciousness aside and let our creativity steer us to the right place.”

“We have always been so deliberate — it’s that old Midwestern emo mentality of slaving over every verse and transition. But this time, a lot of the songs were played live in the studio, and several of them have scratch vocal takes,” Moore adds. “That immediacy of the songs is what I’m drawn to most on the record.”

“Red Weather” is a welcome return from a band that helped define the Midwestern post-hardcore scene, deftly balancing moments that recall its revered ‘90s work on albums such as “Fate’s Got a Driver” and “The Moon My Saddle” with a forward-looking sound and spirit born from nearly 30 years of friendship and collaboration.

A number of the songs are truly unlike anything in the Chamberlain catalog. The groovy, falsetto-tinged “Lion in the Well” wasn’t on the original list of songs the band planned to record until Walker told his bandmates it was his favorite amongst all the demos. Moore wrote it as “an unabashed, sexy song about finding somebody that you really, really are into and those beginnings of a relationship when you want to dig in.”

Elsewhere, the propulsive, overpoweringly catchy “Every Trick in the Book” clocks in as the only Chamberlain song to date shorter than three minutes in length, while “Reign of the Two Kings” revels in harmony-drenched, acoustic Big Star vibes as Moore sings about “finding the strength in both sides of your personality and then thereby finding your total self.”

Other songs demonstrate Moore and Rubenstein’s ever-potent creative bond in new and exciting ways. Opener “Not Your War” began life as a fully formed acoustic track Moore had written on his own, but which he felt “was clearly not a Chamberlain song.” Rubenstein sent Moore a separate instrumental demo of his own, which had an intricate bass line and a slow, disco groove, and once in the studio, the pair transplanted Moore’s original lyrics into Rubenstein’s demo to form “a musical love child” in a way they’d never previously experienced writing together.

Initially dubbed “The Outlier” because it wasn’t picked to be recorded by the full band, “Calling All Cars” only revved up after most of “Red Weather” had already been tracked. Rubenstein still wanted one more up-tempo track to round out the album and re-sent Moore the demo, fearing he’d hate it. As it turned out, Moore received it while driving en route from Indianapolis to Nashville to finish his vocal takes, loved what he heard and arrived at Broemel’s Mountain View studio determined to finish it.

“Within 10 or 15 minutes, Carl was helping me rearrange all the parts, while I was singing vocal ideas right over his shoulder,” Moore recalls. Adds Rubenstein, “It started out just being an extra song and now it’s a focal point of the record. It had such an interesting genesis and sounds very different for us.”

Moore’s signature turns of phrase about youthful, naive bravado highlight the acoustic “One Soul At a Time,” which he wrote nearly a decade ago. Beyond Broemel’s gentle piano accompaniment and harmonica contributions from longtime Willie Nelson band member Mickey Raphael, the track is presented almost exactly as it was on Moore’s original demo. “As it is with a lot of songs I write, Adam sometimes says, well, maybe it should actually change parts or have a bridge,” Moore says with a laugh. “But the guys were gracious enough to just let this one be the way that it was.”

To be sure, Broemel played an invaluable role in the “Red Weather” story, drawing on his nearly lifelong friendships with Chamberlain’s members to offer encouragement, support or a surprising musical idea on pedal steel or piano when it was needed most. “He was the only man for the job,” Moore enthuses. “There was no way with Carl at the helm that it wasn’t going to work unless we just wrote duds of songs. There was no way it wasn’t going to be something worthwhile.”

Adds Rubenstein, “The trust with Carl comes from him knowing who were are, and all of our individual personalities. He knows what the band was, what the band evolved to and what the band aspires to evolve to. That takes really knowing us, which can’t be fabricated.”

With “Red Weather” finally ready for release, Chamberlain’s members find themselves happily reflecting on their unique journey from Indiana basements to the hearts and minds of fans all over the world. “It has been a recurring theme throughout this whole process,” Rubenstein says. “We lived in an era where we tried to chase the A&R guy and hope that someone would bail us out and make us successes. But now we realize, we were successful in our own right and the fact that we still have fans is a success. A lot of those people are still with us and still want to be part of the family.”

Adds Moore, “The whole family feel of this record and it getting off the ground because of the people who actually really care is probably the greatest success story of the whole thing, even before it comes out.”

Arctíc Rodeo releases:
CHAMBERLAIN – “Red Weather” – vinyl LP (arr084)
CHAMBERLAIN – “Some Other Sky” – vinyl 7″ (arr079)
CHAMBERLAIN – “Raise It High E.P.” – vinyl 7″ – re-issue (arr020)
CHAMBERLAIN – “Raise It High E.P.” – vinyl 7″ (arr020)