“We took a little bit of a step back but now in 2020 we have a better picture of what we want to do."
Chunk! No Captain Chunk! have just reissued their 2013 album 'Pardon My French' on vinyl courtesy of Craft Recordings.
Why is this important? Well the album served as a catalyst for the band, pushing them into a lane all of their own and finetuning their razor sharp and cathartic sound more so than they ever had before. What that album did for the band is also having an effect on what they are doing in 2020 as they head towards the release of their 4th full-length album.
We jumped on the phone with frontman Bert Poncet to chat about 'Pardon My French', what it means to the band and when we can expect to hear new Chunk! music...
What does ‘Pardon My French’ represent for you?
“I think that ‘Pardon My French’ is the album that is the most important to us for a lot of reasons. First of all, that album was the point in our career as a touring band where we decided to be professional and a bit more mature and have our actual sound under control. With our first album ‘Something For Nothing’ , it was more of a teenage release. There’s a lot of joke songs and it wasn’t as serious. That album was also released before we signed to Fearless Records as well. So we never really expected what was going to happen next after recording those songs.
“So, ‘Pardon My French’ was the moment where we realised that we wanted to be taken seriously. Sure, there are a few songs that people remember from ‘Something For Nothing’, but ‘Pardon My French’ really was the turning point in our career. That’s when we wanted to really have our own tone and sound.
“It actually took quite a while to write it because we wanted every single thing to be perfect. We wouldn’t leave anything that could be considered not certain or under our control. By that I mean that we wanted people to stop saying, ‘Hey Chunk! sounds like A Day To Remember or Four Year Strong’. We wanted to have our own identity.”
The biggest difference must have been going from that mind-set of just making music for fun to actually considering making it your career. That’s not as easy as it seems, is it?
“I think that at that point it required a lot of thinking and a lot of talking. That was not just with the label but also with our fans and each other. Now we all of a sudden had a team around us and we knew that we couldn’t screw this up. So when we had this transition taking place, we had already been touring non-stop for two years. We had been able to meet people and see what was going on. We also had our years ahead pretty much planned out as well.
“So yeah, this was no longer just us jamming some new ideas in a room. It was a lot more. It was a painful process in a way because there was a lot of pressure.”
How do you feel about ‘Something For Nothing’ in comparison to ‘Pardon My French’ then? What was different about stepping into the studio that second time round?
“There are a few songs on that album that really do have their own identity. There were a few bits and pieces on there that we absolutely had to keep as we moved forwards because those were the bits that people liked about us.
“We went into the studio in January 2013 and said, ‘We are going to do this and this only’, because we already had all of the pre-production done and sounding the exact way we wanted them to sound. Our producer was like, ‘So you won’t let me pitch any ideas or anything?’, but he understood that this is what wanted this to be. We almost left him with no choice but to work with it.”
So how has what you did with ‘Pardon My French’ influenced you in terms of what you are working on now?
“Right now we’re writing new stuff and new songs and it all feels a little bit strange to be back at it because it’s been a while. For a band like us in such a niche genre, it’s hard for us to come up with what could be a fourth album that could still be seen as interesting. We’ve questioned ourselves and said once again, ‘What is our sound?’ What are the things that our fans will like but that we will like just as much? That’s where ‘Pardon My French’ plays a very important role. This is the album that defines us the most. Not that the other two are any less interesting and important but ‘Pardon My French’ signals that specific place in our career. Our third album may be called ‘Get Lost, Find Yourself’ but I think we found ourselves the most on ‘Pardon My French’. I can only say that now because I can see a bigger picture of what the band is and what it has been. That’s how I see things right now.”
So it has been four years since a new Chunk! song has been released. What has the timeline between then and now really been like for you?
“First of all, and I don’t know why, I saw a lot of rumours on the internet in 2017 or 2018 where people thought that we had just broken up or that we were done. We never announced such things. The truth is that we did Warped Tour in 2016, which is when ‘Blame It On This Song’ came out, and at that time we were supposed to go back home afterwards and write another album right after. We were very exhausted from touring at that point and realised that we had been on the road non-stop for 7 years. All the time that we weren’t on the road had been spent back in the studio. It was back and forth. We just knew that we needed to take a little break and settle down a bit. That was needed at that point.
“When we released ‘Blame It On This Song’, the lyrics go, ‘If I don’t come back, blame it on this song’ and we never thought that we would be taking such a break after releasing a song like that. I now understand why people have interpreted that song in that way, but we never thought it would end up this way.
“So I remember sitting down with my brother for 3 or 4 months just jamming stuff and that same question of, ‘Where do we want to go with this?’ kept coming up. For a band like us, it’s hard to write Chunk! songs after we have mastered our own style over three albums. So we had a few good ideas and a few interesting directions, but at the end of the day is it good enough? Is it going to be something that people will remember and is it something that make this a good Chunk! album? The answer was maybe not. Maybe we need to give it a little more time and see what happens.
“We took a little bit of a step back but now in 2020 we have a better picture of what we want to do. Even though this has been a weird year, we know that everything in our process has been good.”
It takes a lot as an artist to be that ruthless with yourself and not settle for anything less than the best you have. Especially with the amount of stuff you had done in the past and at the speed you had done it, it’s hard to put your foot on the peddle...
“I feel like when an artist releases an album that’s not as good as it could be, it’s really hard to get back on track after. When you feel that the artist was not totally passionate about the music they were making, it’s really hard to get back at it. It takes a lot more effort. I don’t feel like rushing anything and we have never felt that way.”
So what exactly does Chunk! No Captain Chunk sound like in 2020? How does it compare to the paths you were treading in the past?
“Like we did on ‘Pardon My French’, we know and we have mastered our niche. It’s not that we have a lot of pressure to make some good songs within that niche. What we want to do is make an album that takes it even further. We don’t want to do the same album over and over. Though we still need to understand and appreciate what our fans want. We don’t want to start making funk or anything.
"So in 2020, I don’t think there has been any really good releases. When I think of a year like 2015 or 2013 or even 2012, there were a lot of good releases. There were all of these great albums that set the path for the scene. In 2020 I don’t want to believe that everything has been done already. I want to believe that anything is still possible.
“For Chunk! I don’t want to take into consideration what’s trending right now. There’s a lot of rap and hip-hop and stuff, and we don’t want to go there. But honestly, I can’t really put any words or adjectives together to describe what these new songs will be. All of the friends we have who have listened to the new stuff so far are all like, ‘Wow, that sounds like Chunk! 2020 and that’s the right thing for you to do’. That makes me feel a lot more comfortable in terms of the direction we are going. So we will please old fans but also have people who have never heard us saying, ‘That sounds new’.”
Chunk! has always been about you pushing your own limits. To still get those same tingles as when you first started is something you shouldn’t take for granted and if you felt like you were making something you didn’t believe in you wouldn’t be putting it out…
“Absolutely, and I think that one of the problems in music at the moment is that you listen to an album and you can hear what has been copied from somewhere else. I don’t want to sound too critical, but you listen to the first 30 seconds of a song and you can tell what the chorus will sound like and what the whole progression of the song will be. I don’t think that’s a recipe that can last for long. That’s why we didn’t want to rush. We wanted to make something that was interesting.”
So finally, when can we expect to hear something new?
“The plan has changed a lot. Originally we were just supposed to release an EP, which would have been cool for when we played Slam Dunk Festival this year. The thing is that Slam Dunk got cancelled, as did everything else. So that’s when the label said, ‘Let’s turn the few songs that you were supposed to release into an album’. The great thing is that we still have our contract going on with Fearless so it would make sense.
“So now the goal would be to release that album for Spring 2021. I can’t give a date because it hasn’t been decided but that’s the aim. We’re still working on it now and everything is in pretty good shape and the songs we have are really convincing. We’re still in pre-production mode now, but it’s some good stuff.”