INTERVIEW: Chapter and Verse

"That sense of joy and enjoyment is a huge thing, that’s part of the reason I personally am into music in the first place. I don’t want to just write miserable shit."

INTERVIEW: Chapter and Verse

By Gem Rogers

Apr 29, 2020 10:30

This time last year, London five-piece Chapter And Verse were part way through one of their busiest years to date. 2019 started with a cross country tour supporting Emarosa and the release of sophomore EP ‘Glow’, as well as the addition of new full time member Kevin Miller on drums, and was swiftly followed by a solid year of festivals, headline shows, and a growing fanbase. The tail end of the year also saw the beginnings of a new era for Chapter And Verse, and it was with a rumble of excitement that 2020 crept in, full of plans and promise.

There’s beaming, warm sunshine outside when we sit down to chat with vocalist Josh Carter, and it could almost be a summer festival… Only this time we’re not outside, sitting at a picnic table cradling a beer on one of our favourite weekends of the year – instead, Carter is on the end of the phone as we sit indoors in our respective homes, cocooned from the pandemic filled world outside. This is the new normal – at least for now – that many artists have found themselves navigating, and just a few days before the release of new EP ‘Love & Error’, we caught up on all things pop, community, creativity, and the impact of lockdown life.

In this unusual and, frankly, slightly perplexing situation we find ourselves in, it feels like most of the last few weeks have consisted of nothing but cancellations and announcements of delayed album releases – but, with their third EP, Chapter and Verse have pressed on. “We did consider it,” says Carter, when asked whether they considered joining the ranks of bands pushing back release dates. “Completely moving it or something, but in the end we just decided to stick to our guns. At the end of the day, the people that are waiting and excited about it aren’t going anywhere – we might not be able to see them face to face at a show, or get support for it that way, but the people that are anticipating it are still anticipating it whether we’re in lockdown or not.”

It’s a move that makes sense. After all, not only have the band put huge effort into the build up to the EP with teasers, single releases, and a colourful new aesthetic over the last few months, but new music is providing a sanctuary for a nation stuck at home – “People still want to be entertained by music and listen at home, and we were looking forward to dropping it as much as other people are”.

And realistically, ‘Love & Error’ couldn’t be a more perfect collection of songs for a time when many of us are feeling low; the vibrant, hooky pop melodies exude joy and light throughout, but it still represents something of a new beginning for a band whose foundations were in heavier rock music. “When we first started out, when we released ‘The Wolves Back Home’ EP, most of us were listening to much heavier stuff,” Carter explains, “and we’ve all loved pop music a lot… like, pop pop music! It’s just kind of eked into our music taste more as time’s gone on and that’s ended up translating into the band a bit more.”

“We don’t want to lose the root of where Chapter and Verse started, we started as a much heavier band and I, personally when I was 16 years old loved hardcore and metal and all that kind of stuff, but as we’ve got a bit older and kind of grown into ourselves as artists a bit more, our tastes have just turned towards more pop material so it ended up working its way into the stuff we record and write – and that’s just the kind of band we want to be. We don’t want to be a heavy rock band anymore, we want to write just good tunes!”

To a certain extent, a lot of that is down to the confidence that comes with age, not just as creators of music but also as fans – who didn’t go through at least a brief phase where pop music was too deeply uncool to enjoy? The moments where you shuffle your feet and maybe, just maybe, admit to listening to something as a ‘guilty pleasure’, as though music that makes you happy should ever be something to feel shame about.

“That is definitely true!” Carter agrees. “We’ve all loved cheesy pop music for a long time, and not that we’re ever going to become a cheesy pop band, but it’s definitely a case of wanting it to be edgy in the early days… whereas now we’re less ashamed of that side of us and we don’t really care so much about what’s edgy, we just wanna write cool shit.”

And the reason so many of us have a hankering for pop music – secret or otherwise – is due in no small part to the way it makes us feel. Yes, it has its sad moments, but there’s nothing else quite like pop to put a smile on your face and a dance in your feet, and that’s something Carter feels too. “That sense of joy and enjoyment is a huge thing, that’s part of the reason I personally am into music in the first place. I don’t want to just write miserable shit. Sometimes you do! Sometimes the time is right for something a bit grim, but not always. I want music to feel good.”

From the fingersnap beats of ‘Bad Blood’ to the mirthful, soaring epic that is ‘Always’, music that feels good is a target ‘Love & Error’ hits with ease – and that this is the kind of music the band truly want to make shines through in the strength and authenticity of its spirit. That evolution from rock into a much lighter sound is a topic Carter touches on again a little later, as we’re discussing the breakdown of genres and the ability for artists to experiment with their sound.

“That’s definitely something we’ve talked about a lot, from the transition from ‘Glow’ and into ‘Love & Error’ – this is a bit further removed from what we’ve done before, are people going to be like… ‘Oh, it’s not very Chapter And Verse anymore’? But then you’re like… well… who cares?” he laughs. “There’s no rules to say that you can’t do something different. It’s not going to take away from the other tracks that we’ve done. Just because ‘Love & Error’ might not have a track that sound like ‘A Devil In Blue’, doesn’t mean that ‘A Devil In Blue’ stops existing. It’s still there, if you want ‘A Devil In Blue’!”

And the reaction to the new music has, so far, been positive – with ‘Bad Blood’ having come out in September shortly before the band went on tour with Press To Meco, and ‘Beauty Sleep’ following in time for two huge shows supporting Poets of The Fall in December, there’s been plenty of time to see the reception. “I think it’s introduced a bunch of new people to the band that might not have got into it from previous records,” Carter says of the early response to the new sound. “Likewise, I imagine there’s probably people who really like ‘Glow’ and ‘The Wolves Back Home’ that aren’t vibing off ‘Love & Error’ as hard, but it happens. We’ve just got to do what’s right for us and hope that people get on board.”

And after a year of introducing themselves to new audiences across the UK, it feels – from an outside perspective – like things are now really coming together for Chapter And Verse. They have a strong and growing back catalogue of songs and, obvious global 2020 setbacks aside, the future is looking bright but is that momentum something the band feel themselves? “That’s a weird one,” Carter answers, “because sometimes when you do things, it really feels like things are building, you go to a show – like the Courtyard show [the band put on a sold out show in London’s Courtyard last November] – and you’re like wow, this is really going somewhere now, and other times you do something and it feels like nobody gives a shit and you’re like… wow… maybe it’s not growing at all.

“I think the only thing you can do is just keep going and keep pressing on,” he continues. The music industry is, after all, pretty fickle at the best of times, and it’s not something that just impacts Chapter And Verse. “Sometimes we all feel, not just Chapter And Verse, we feel supremely encouraged and supported and like we’re having successes, and other times it’s just like nothing is happening. You’ve just got to remember why you’re doing it and enjoy the ride.

“At the end of the day everybody’s in it because we want to make cool art and have fun and be part of a community that appreciates that stuff, so you’ve got to hold onto the good things of it, if it feels like it’s not going anywhere. You never know. Sometimes you just turn the corner and it feels completely different and it’s like wow, so yeah!”

With three years between debut ‘The Wolves Back Home’ and 2019 follow-up ‘Glow’, the 15 month gap that’s led to ‘Love & Error’ certainly seems like an acceleration – and at first glimpse, it seems an incredibly short time to develop such a well-rounded, confident new sound. As Carter explains, though, it didn’t happen quite so overnight. “We toured Glow for about two years before we actually released it, so we had it recorded and finished and on the back burner for probably about fourteen, fifteen months before it actually came out,” he says.

It’s a long time to have music waiting and ready, but it was part of a conscious effort to keep things moving for the band, keeping the momentum rolling in the most sustainable way; “because in the beginning stages all the money comes directly from [the band], we didn’t want to throw every penny that we’ve got and then immediately release it and then have to restart and throw money back into it again. We wanted to kind of make it worth it and eke it out over a period of time so that we can put stuff out that audiences want to hear, but not have to bankrupt ourselves at the same time.”

It’s not only the music that has grown over the last few years, as any newcomers to Chapter And Verse will quickly discover – the sense of community Carter often mentions, and the people who care deeply for this music and the scene that surrounds it, form the backbone of the band’s ‘New Breed’ group, and it’s about more than just giving a name to a fanbase. “When we were touring, one thing that we quickly came to realise is that the people who come to the shows, they’re all very like-minded people – like to us as people, everybody feels like they came from the same place and are there for a similar reason,” Carter says, “and that combined with the fact that social media is as fickle a mistress as the industry is, sometimes we work really hard on something and we know that there’s a bunch of people who are really going to enjoy it or appreciate it, and because of the nature of technology they don’t get to see it.

“It came from a place of wanting to encourage that sense of community and that sense of likeminded people all in the same space, and we took it off social media so we don’t have to be answerable to it, we can do it in our own way.”

That feeling of community and togetherness is something that permeates everything Chapter And Verse do; from the buzz of energy at their live shows, to the way they communicate online, most recently with Zoom calls and live sessions in celebration of ‘Love & Error’. Central to The New Breed is a WhatsApp communication channel, used to share exclusives, early access to content, and announcements – and it’s a personal method the band really appreciate having access to. “It’s set up in such a format that when we send something, it goes out to everybody in the same way, everyone receives the same things, but then once that’s been sent people can message back as and when they please and it’s totally and utterly private and directly between the band and the person so, we really like that that’s how personal that is.”

Despite the current situation, Carter approaches everything with a positivity that is heartening and reflects his passion for music – and though they should have been going out on tour in support of the new EP right now and are dealing with the disappointment of changing plans, they’re rolling with the punches and trying to adapt as best they can. Although the future is still uncertain in terms of live performances, there are still creative outlets to be explored, and Carter has recently kickstarted an ‘Isolation Sessions’ project that features a collection of artists from across the alternative music world – including, so far, Dream State, Sun Arcana, and Courage My Love.

“We floated the idea to a handful of bands that we could do a remote writing project and it was massively well received. All the first people we hit up were like, “Yeah sounds great!”, so before you know it, in a couple of days we had a whole band line up, now we’ve got six artists and a mixing engineer who’s working on one track and we’ve already started building the line-up for the second song,” he says of the collaborations. It’s an exploration of creativity and a fusion of sounds, as he goes on to explain – “It’s really strange how the things that people throw into the mix are so quintessentially their band, you can hear their band in the things they submit, but at the same time it all works together, and it’s fascinating to hear how someone’s artistic brain, as an individual, isn’t necessarily wedded to their band. It can work in completely different contexts, which is really exciting”.

Carter admits to feeling a little guilty about being so excited for something during such a difficult time, but for many, it’s music that provides the fuel to get us through the day, and maybe attempt to make sense of a situation that doesn’t really make any sense at all. Most of all, for lovers of music, there’s something uniquely uplifting about seeing these new forms of creativity and collaboration – and, as Carter says, “if it’s exciting for me and makes me feel positive and makes me feel good, and likewise for the other people involved, then hopefully when that trickles out to the people that get to listen to it, fingers crossed they’ll feel the same way and it will bring some good to the table. We hope!”

In the end, 2020 might not be the year that goes quite as planned, but there’s a strength in Chapter And Verse and their music that transcends the confusion – and there are few more blissful moments to disappear into than the embracing warmth and joy of ‘Love & Error’. One thing we can be certain of is that the live shows, when they come, will be more than worth the wait – a combined (belated) EP release and end of lockdown celebration? Count us in.