Interview: A Conversation with Loner Chic
Written by Scott Fugger
Loner Chic is Broken World Media’s latest bid for total world domination. The power pop outfit from New Haven, CT just released their debut Year of the Goth, but the album has been complete since November 2014. Because of this, frontman Chris Cappello feels “divorced to a certain degree from the product itself,” but is glad to finally let this collaborative effort out to the world. With a record release show the same day as the release itself he has a sense of cautious excitement. “I don’t usually get nervous or get stage fright, but this feels like a huge moment.”
For those familiar with the band’s demo EP, “Pretty Void,” this album feels like a major step forward. When you take into account that Year of the Goth was finished less than six months after the EP’s release it really is astonishing how much Loner Chic grew. The most notable change is in the song “Christie,” which is broadened from a stripped down, acoustic track to a full sounding, full band jam. And that’s how it was always meant to be. The song was “directly inspired by seeing Elf Power open for Neutral Milk Hotel at Webster Hall” in New York City. The band covered “Jumping Fences” by Olivia Tremor Control and it really stuck with Cappello. The crisp, catchy power pop sound that this cover encapsulated is how he always envisioned Loner Chic.
This power pop aesthetic is something that seems to be once again gaining traction with audiences. Acts such as Pet Symmetry, Sorority Noise, and, of course, Loner Chic are all tapping into this vibe to positive reception. This sound is “the myth of rock and roll, [it’s] a fundamental sound so that’s why I think it will always be timeless,” said Cappello. He went on to say that “power pop will always be there, it just comes in waves” with each new generation tweaking and building on the last. “Just like everything in philosophy is related back to Plato, everything in power pop is a footnote to The Beatles.” The classic power pop song structure is simplistic, but has a beauty to it and so much can be worked into it, especially lyrically. “It’s consistent, it’s familiar, [and] I was trying to build on that tradition.”
Music has always had an influence on Cappello’s life. “My dad was a record collector and was very involved in the music scene since college, and even before that.” A young Cappello was first introduced to indie 80s rock and power pop, including bands like The Clash and The Jam. He remembers REM being an early source of inspiration. “The influential lines and stylistic fields have remained consistent,” with jangly sounds and chord progressions juxtaposed with sad lyrics. Other artists he has tried to channel in major ways include Titus Andronicus, Desaparecidos, and The Lemoheads. Cappello’s defines his previous solo work as “catchy pop music with a punk edge, but not pop punk.” Aggressive, but catchy. “I wrote pretty much from the heart for my solo stuff” he said. Looking back he thinks he slightly over shared.
Under this new moniker, Cappello tried to write more from the perspective of characters – some invented, others the composite of people he’s known. He said he has tried to put a bit of irony and lyrical subterfuge into this work, taking the approach of writing about things that he himself wouldn’t say or feel. Before working on Year of the Goth, Cappello did not have any creative writing experience. As an English major at Yale, he has taken some of what he’s learned to form a more crafted songwriting method. This album represents the first songs that were premeditated in this way rather than spontaneous, working in a more story-like fashion rather than as poems.
There is a certain disconnect between the title Year of the Goth and the power pop music that lies within, which is aptly reflected in the album artwork. The name originally came from Jason Rule of Queen Moo. “I don’t really remember what the joke was but for some reason in 2014 everyone was always like ‘2014: Year of the Goth.’ It didn’t really mean anything, but everyone was saying it.” The idea for the corresponding artwork came from Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak, the owner of Broken World Media. The cover is laid out like a page from a yearbook, with various people dressed in gothic apparel and blood on their faces set against a floral background. “The joke is that they’re all posing or pretending to one degree or another.”
Being part of the Connecticut scene is not just characteristic of Loner Chic, but something that runs throughout the album. There are many lyrics that specifically reference being part of the local music community. Others speak to “the artificiality of music scenes” and the tendency to create a framework out of the trivial, such as location. “But it’s nice to have something to believe in,” and Cappello grew up in Connecticut. He recalls being a freshman in high school and seeing The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die in a basement with 20 other people. Five years later he watched them play a record release show at the legendary Toad’s Place to nearly 1,000 people. “It’s surreal to see it happen and makes you wonder how it all works out that way,” he said. “This album is a documentation of growing up watching that happen and wondering if it’s possible to happen to you.”
From the looks of it, it could very well happen to Cappello and his band. Since recording Year of the Goth the band have added a second guitarist, Jason Moriarty of another local band called Milkshakes. Together the members of Loner Chic have been working on new stuff and have “at least an EP’s worth” of songs. The new songs have more abstract ideas and oddball images, working away from characters towards more complex expressions and what they represent. First, though, comes the support of this album kicked off with a record release show with Pinegrove, followed by a trip to SXSW in March, and a tour during Cappello’s spring break. Loner Chic is going places, both literally and figuratively.