by M. L. Lanzillotta
I’ve never met local punk rocker Chaz Monroe or seen them play live. Alec Pugliese (Copes’ bass player) recommended their music via Instagram DM. That’s when I decided to listen to their 2017 EP – This Suffering Shall Not Be In Vain – on Bandcamp. Their voice alternates between delicately heavenly and powerfully emotional. From softer, sweeter sound of ballads like ‘Love Thyself/Love Each Other’ to ‘The State We’re In’s’ political punkness…. there’s a beautiful intensity to all of it. Though Monroe isn’t the most skilled musician, their passion and energy sure makes up for it. Also, the occasional mistakes give the music a more honest feel. It’s so real. After all that listening, I knew I had to talk to Chaz Monroe. They soon agreed to be interviewed.
Alchemical Records: Why did you decide to get into music in the first place?
Chaz: Um, for me it was, like, I just grew up in a family of musicians. My grandparents were musicians, my father is a musician… so, it wasn’t weird that I got into music – y’know? – it’s just something that was always there.
AR: Which instruments do you play?
Chaz: I mainly sing and play guitar, but I can play bass, mandolin, dobro… little bit of piano, little bit of drums. Whatever I need to do.
AR: Do you mostly play in bands?
Chaz: Um, so, I used to play… well, I played in bands growing up my whole life. I eventually started a project called Imaginary Hockey League which was kind of a solo project that became a band… um… eventually, the band that it became broke up. And then I started my Chaz Monroe project which is essentially the same project where I write all the music but I now also have a pretty regular group of people that are my band.
AR: How do you write your songs? Do you start with music or words?
Chaz: It can vary. But I would say, typically I’ll be messing around on my guitar… and I’ll come up with some sort of idea… and I’ll build on it. I don’t do this as much anymore but, when I was younger, I’d just like play guitar for like five hours every day just trying to write new stuff. But, now… I would say it typically starts with music, and I kinda form a bunch of musical ideas and write words to it. Although, occasionally, words will happen first. But it’s usually I’ll write music and then words to go with them.
AR: Was last year’s your first time in the recording studio?
Chaz: I put out two albums with Imaginary Hockey League. Um… those, uh, were pretty much me playing every instrument except the drums on both records… a different drummer on each record. Um… then after that project ended I recorded that little acoustic piece you’re referring to… um… just to try to get some new songs out there. I’ve actually been working on a new full length record and it’s almost done actually, I’m looking to put it out sometime in the next month. Um, just putting some kinda finishing touches on it… and then its gonna get mastered, and that’ll be the first full-length Chaz Monroe Record.
AR: Cool. Can you tell me more about it?
Chaz: Yeah. Sure. It’s different from the other records in the way that I recorded it, um, in that I only play guitar and sing on it. I have another guitar player, a bass player, and a drummer from part of my regular band who actually recorded the record with me. It’s different in that I didn’t play everything on it. And I’m also the one who is mixing the record, um, myself – which I’ve never done before. So I’ve been working on that. It’s been very difficult, since I don’t really know how to do that… but I’m just about done and I’m feeling pretty good about it.
AR: Do you prefer playing live or recording?
Chaz: I really love playing live. That’s where it all really comes together. I love recording, uh, because I love getting songs out there and into the canon of music but… performing is just… I am a very energetic person and I feel like I really come to life onstage. And I really just… the energy flows through me when I’m in those kinds of situations. I don’t – I’ve never thought of myself as being a particularly great musician. So, part of the thing about records for me is that they kinda show… like, my flaws are more obvious on them. Like, whether it’d be my guitar playing maybe not being the best or my singing not being the best. Where as live I’m a really strong performer so I can mask my flaws more with my ability to perform.
AR: Were you ever involved in theatre?
Chaz: Actually, yeah. I actually have a Bachelors of Fine Arts in acting. Um, so I’ve done theatre for most of my life. These days I do a fair amount of directing children’s theatre. So yeah, I do have a big theatre background. Definitely music came first but theatre has been interwoven into the fabric of my existence.
AR: What influences and inspires your art?
Chaz: I mean, when I’m writing lyrical concepts for music I tend to be influenced by events in my life and also events in, like, the world as a whole and how they converge, I guess. So, I’ll write songs often that have these personal elements and sections to them and, then, also these grander parts to them that are more about – I don’t know – the human condition, than about me. And as far as musical influences go? Uh, they range all over the place. I listen to a lot of music but some big ones for me are Jeff Rosenstock, Death Cab For Cutie… um… Blink 182 was a big one for me growing up… um… and lots of punk bands, and a couple emo bands that have been, like, big in my life. And then, I also – I mentioned theatre – I do have a taste for showtunes, though I don’t know if it influences my songwriting too much, certainly something I listen to a lot. And, uh, I love jazz. Jazz does have a mild influence on the music I write. I don’t in any way consider my musical projects to be jazz. But, like a lot of chord voicing and melodic ideas and harmonic progression I’ve picked up from my knowledge and love for jazz.
AR: That’s fascinating. I haven’t got any more questions. Is there anything else you’d like to say? Maybe about your new record?
Chaz: Sure. The new record… I’ve been working on for a while now. Uh, started writing it in probably Spring of 2017. Some of the early songs started coming together and then I kinda worked on writing it for like a year and I started recording it last summer and I’ve been mixing it for the past, like, two months or so. So I’ve been working on it for a really long time and I’m very excited to be finally wrapping it up and putting it out very soon. So, uh, I haven’t 100% settled on the title, but I think it’s gonna be called The Love We’ve Shown. It’s very much a record about just kind of examining all the different aspects of your life… both the beautiful parts and the harder parts and the composite of the two of them… and kind of choosing to live for the greater good as a result of your understanding, I guess is the way I’d sum it up.
AR: Wow. That’s really interesting, in a complicated way. Thank you for talking to us.
Chaz: Thank you for taking an interest in my art.