Here’s a band that taught me a lesson. Many moons ago, Split Lip (Chamberlain’s first incarnation) showed me how fruitful it can be to think outside the box when it comes to music and where to look for your musical inspiration. Split Lip’s first album “For the Love of the Wounded“ sounded unlike anything that my bleached-hair-sporting, XL-white-shirts & krishna-neckbeads-wearing 90s-hardcore-kiddo self
had ever heard before. I was awestruck. And with every musical turn they took, they further challenged my hearing habits, or my understanding of “punk”, “hardcore”, “emo”, “rock” or whatever might have been in my head at the time. Their reunion song “Raise it High“, now also already a couple of years old, is as flawless as their classic catalogue. Totally stoked about their new recordings and the upcoming album! So glad we’ll get to see them live. “Look sharp now boys, it’s time to rise!“
„Chamberlain is an alternative rock band originally from Indianapolis. That’s a place in the middle of America that is exactly like dozens of other places in the middle of America. It’s not an interesting, memorable, or influential place like, say, Louisville, but you can’t really choose where you are born.
When I think of Indianapolis, I think of a show my band, the Metroschifter, played there in late 1995. Chamberlain didn’t play at this show, but some of those guys came out to see us play, because there really isn’t anything to do in Indianapolis, and if the Metroschifter is playing, well then honestly, that’s probably the best damn thing that’s gonna happen all year.
Wearing a fuzzy light blue sweater, a girl stood in the audience and stared at me the whole time I was singing. She was looking at me very intently and in a way that made me a bit uncomfortable. I have since learned that this is how girls look at you when they “like” you. I didn’t know that at the time, and even if I had known that, I’m not sure I would have known what to do with that information. But she looked really cool and that is what Indianapolis still reminds me of.
Oh yeah, and Chamberlain, I guess.
I’m not sure how Chamberlain got their name. I always presumed they were named after British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, but it is perhaps just as likely that they took the name from NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain, or from a city in Uruguay, a town in Saskatchewan, or the Louisville road where the Ford Truck plant is located.
I have known the guys in Chamberlain for nearly thirty years. (I’m talking about the band now, not the Canadians.) Before they picked the name Chamberlain, they were called Split Lip. People do all sorts of crazy shit when they’re young.
At some point in the early 1990s, I heard a cassette tape copy of one of their albums before it had been released. I thought it was pretty good and so I called singer David Moore on the telephone to tell him that I thought if they didn’t change the name of their band, they would be wasting their time by putting out a good record. If your band is named Split Lip, then it doesn’t much matter how good your record is. It will go unnoticed. They didn’t change the name right away, but to their credit they eventually did.
To clarify something here, I’m not taking credit for the band changing its name. I think all the credit goes to whoever came up with the name Split Lip in the first place. That’s a name you simply can’t keep, so it was inevitable that it would be changed.
And to be clear about something else, when I talk about the 1990s and I say I “called” somebody, I mean that a landline telephone rang at their home. The telephone was possibly even answered by a primitive cassette tape recorder. Cassette tapes were not only the enemy of the music industry before all you kids started ripping CD’s, but they also answered the telephone from time to time.
In these early years we’re talking about, I was in a band called the Metroschifter. We shared the stage with Chamberlain a handful of times. We were also friends as well as label mates on Doghouse Records, a small, fly-by-night check cashing service based out of Toledo.
To say we “shared the stage” with Chamberlain was never more true than on March 31, 1996, at Maxeluna’s, Plainville, Connecticut. This show was a Doghouse showcase of sorts, as the bands Cable and Omaha also performed. It was a “hardcore matinee,” which in the parlance of the times meant that a bunch of sweaty teenage boys would while away the after-church hours by screaming and pointing in a restaurant or pool hall, while unlistenable smashing occurred on third-hand musical instruments. This racket would continue until it was time for the bar to open, at which time the place would be hosed down and the Bud Light taps would start flowing.
At this particular matinee showcase, there was some confusion about whether the Metroschifter should headline or if Chamberlain should. As I recall, the problem was one of time limitations or a curfew, rather than egos. Metroschifter was always the type of band that preferred to play earlier rather than later, especially after we all started drinking the following year. The earlier we finished playing, the sooner we could relax (or begin the Party machen).
For whatever reason, it was ultimately decided that Metroschifter and Chamberlain would share the same equipment and alternative songs, thereby performing simultaneous sets. They’d play a song, we’d play a song, they’d play a song, we’d play a song. I could go on, but I think you understand the concept.
This approach was memorable because, well, you’re not supposed to switch bands after every song. It’s a terrible idea – especially if the bands are not similar in style.
Despite being on Doghouse together, our bands are not alike. Chamberlain’s songs are in common 4/4 time signatures with harmonic notes, soaring melodies, and singalong choruses. Metroschifter’s songs are episodic math problems that are 20% complete silence and littered with field hockey metaphors.
I wrote most of Metroschifter’s songs in Macromedia FreeHand, while Chamberlain was Aldus PageMaker all the way. If that analogy makes sense to you, then you know you can’t open PageMaker files in FreeHand. It’s that simple. In layperson’s terms: don’t put two bands onstage at the same time.
I could continue to write this mini-novella about Chamberlain, however, I feel like very little of it would be about their music. Rather, it would be about the fun times we have shared, how Curtis Mead played bass in Metroschifter for a stint, how I slept on his floor when I first moved to Hollywood, how someone broke into my car as soon as I arrived and stole half of everything I owned, how we spotted a homeless person walking down the street weeks later carrying my laundry bag, how I left his place and moved in with drummer Chuck Walker in a building on the other side of the 101 called the Shangri-Lodge, how I entrusted Curtis with a beautiful Macintosh Classic and a sensitive Yamaha G1-100 112 amplifier, or how Chamberlain was invited to perform a song on Metroschifter’s “Encapsulated” album but didn’t do it… See, I could tell all these stories and never get to the opening riff in “Uniontown,” references to “The Moon My Hammy” or “For the Love of (blank),”or how my spurs make a clink-a-link sound that ruins the quiet of this town.
There’s just so much to talk about when it comes to Chamberlain. A wiser writer assigned this task may have focused on their music, but I’ve always enjoyed something much bigger than that, and that is the stories and friendships that have grown as a result of the fact that they have made such memorable music. I feel that those are the feelings that will come back to me at Booze Cruise as I see them play again for the first time in many years. I hope to see you there in the audience with me.“
(Scott Ritcher / Metroshifter)