In his second interview with Chapel Club, GIITTV’s Alex Yau meets frontman Lewis Bowman on the NME tour and probes deeper into the musical universe of the band. The reaction to their debut album Palace and finds out which song they’d ‘cover for the rest of their career’.
Your music’s quite reverberant ethereal. Would you say you’ve tailored it to your lyrics as they contain very grand images relating to topics such as religion and mythology?
I think the content of the lyrics kind of grew out of the sound of the band rather than the other way around because that was the way we wrote. A lot of the songs were written over a period of a year before we were signed and called Chapel Club. It was quite obvious to me that there was something quite grand and cinematic about the music the boys were making. If the first batch of songs were going to have a sense of grandeur musically, then the lyrics can live up to that. It’s quite an unfashionable thing and a few bands have done that, but there are a few reviewers who think that the grand images and metaphors aren’t to their tastes. They think it’s trying to be too clever but it wasn’t done to be clever. I wanted everything to fit and it wasn’t worth
writing dissident, sort of indie social realist drama when you’ve got this music with a huge sweeping surge. I just wanted the lyrics to feel at peace with the music. The music lead the way I think and now we’re moving forward and it’s going to change again along with the lyrics.
Would you say it’s hard to get these images into your writing?
Not really because I think at the time, and now to an extent, I was reading a lot of poets such as Ted Hughes and R S Thomas. They’re not overly grand but they do use grand images. There was one review, I kind of keep doing this, and in the new interviews I refer back to one or more negative reviews which I shouldn’t do. In the review they criticise me for “not calling apples, apples.” They said I use too many metaphors likening things to something else. I’m in the mind that it can fit more meaning into a song and whilst recording this album, I was reading stuff like The Horses by Ted Hughes which is a poem about him stumbling across a group of horses
at dawn. It starts with him and the horses and ends with him imagining this quasi mystical, cosmic quake as the world shakes itself to pieces around him. That was the vibe I tried to tap into and although I’m quite agnostic, verging on atheist, I wanted to tap into this idea that there’s this grandeur whether it’s in the natural world or our emotions that can be suitable for that imagery. Landscapes is a big one for me and the Greek myths came out of a book on Greek myths when I was little and it stuck with me. After the Flood is the main one with all these images of Orion and it’s about recollection and how the world’s natural forms can be suggested of emotional events. That’s what the whole song is about, driving through landscapes making me think of emotional events in my heart. It’s what Greek myths are about. The story of Echo and Orion and how they’re used to explain to why natural forms are the way they are. I thought it was fun to put that in our music but obviously a lot of reviewers don’t think so (laughs).
On that note, what do you think of the NME’s Laura Snapes negative commentsabout you on the review of Palace?
I don’t really have anything to say to her. I’ve met her before and she was a nice girl who seemed into the band. She’s a good writer who champions some good bands. I knew we had a six before the review came out and I was like “Oh that was what I predicted” which I thought was quite harsh. I thought she wouldn’t like the grandeur or the production, which is not to her taste of what I know of her. I didn’t think she’d write a review of me which is what she did and I don’t know why. It hurt a bit because there are the other guys in the band and it’s there baby as well. You’ve kind of ignored the album really and just focused on the lyrics. I’ve never seen an NME review target the lyrics so much. They’re not the worst lyrics out there and it was a
shame in a way. Suppose she can’t ring me up and ask me because it’s a review, not an interview. She’s met me and I hoped she didn’t see me as the character that the NME made out in a couple of their features, this arrogant guy, and I hope she realised I wasn’t this person. It was upsetting. Like I said After the Flood is a song about recollection and emotional forms. In that sense, what the ancient Greeks did with their writing is pertinent and if you look at my lyrics on page, they read quite well. It’s all pretty and I’m not being arrogant, I think they’re alright. Obviously she took it to the cleaners so what can you do?
The Wintering EP was described as “not so Chapel Club.” Was this a conscious effort or did it come out on its own?
It started off with us having to record some B-sides. We had no money so we went to record it in the basement of the Universal Records in London. It was a tiny little room and we got a couple of guys to help us who we knew wouldn’t charge us loads of money. We ditched the songs we went in with and we wrote Bodies in a day and we wrote Tellurides in the next couple of days. We were just so surprised at how quickly and easy these songs came. We thought they can’t be B-sides because they were just so good. We had a Christmas gig coming up and we thought it’d be nice to give the people at this gig the EP. I don’t know how it’s “not so Chapel Club.” It’s definitely Chapel Club but I suppose it did surprise quite a few people. My idea was that a band grew and hopefully evolved in new and interesting ways. I thought that’s what the Wintering EP represented. We’ve got a lot to surprise people in the future.
Have you thought of any post Palace material?
Yes but I don’t know when they will be out. We’re focusing on this album and the live shows are going so well. People have responded well to it and 98 percent of reactions were much more positive than I thought they’d be. We’re focused on the UK, European and American tours alongside festivals. After that we’ll think more seriously about what’s coming next but we’re always writing with some exciting ideas all the time.
Would you say you’ve grown confidently from the start?
We’ve changed a lot and when we got signed, we’d only done four gigs and it was gratifying, amazing and so exciting. It seems so long ago. It was lovely the way things happened and lucky. We only came out of hiding and it was hectic over the last year.We’ve done so well and we’ve taken it a lot slower than we could have. The album could have come out sooner but it feels that we’re ready to do this tour and give people the album, playing much more together and tighter as a band.
What has been your best moment of the tour so far?
The best part, which is kind of cheesy and I’m not saying this because we’re in Liverpool, is that our tour manager used to live in Liverpool and knows it very well. He pulled up the van along this dual carriageway and we were like “what are we doing here?” We were outside this semi detached house which looks like the house I grew up in, not like I’m likening him to me, but it was the house that John Lennon grew up and I was glad that he did it without telling us. If he told us we were going on a Beatles tour we would have been like “Oh no.” But I was stood outside John Lennon’s childhood home and I loved that idea of a place connecting you so heavily to the past. I’ve been into history lately and we went to Paul McCartney’s old home which wasn’t quite so moving because there was a cab with “Beatles Tour” written on the side and loads of people standing around in horrific hoodies which took the romance away from it. We went to strawberry fields which was pretty amazing too.
You’ve also covered a Morrissey song. If you could have one song to cover for the rest of your career, what would it be?
Oh wow. I’d do Peggy Lee because that’d be quite suitable and Mike (guitarist) suggested covering that but we never got around to it.
Palace was a previous name for the band. What other names did you go through and if you could choose a joke name, what would it be?
Well a couple we went through were joke names, not that the people who suggested them realised it. Palace was the first and Golden Age was the second. Liam suggested Holy Bones which I thought was amazing but for another band entirely, a party band. I made a lot of suggestions with lists and lists tucked away somewhere. I really liked White Throats which is a bred of bird I think. I might still use that one. It sounds quite folky. That’s an avenue I want to go down in the future. Rich suggested an awful one, I can’t believe he suggested it and it was Lunch Money. We were like “what the fuck were you thinking?”
If you weren’t in Chapel Club, where would you be right now?
I probably would have gotten home from work. Hopefully something from writing, well not hopefully because I did jobs with writing previously and they were as soul destroying as other jobs. I would hope that I was living in another country where it was warmer and I would be living somewhere quite remote away from people. There’d be no media, no connection to the outside world but maybe a phone so I could connect to friends and family. There’d be me, my fiancée and my little dog spending my days like a farmer but not slaughtering animals. Maybe a crop farmer but I don’t think I’d deal very well with responsibility. This is probably the best life
for me because you get treated like a child by everyone.
Chapel club release their new single ‘Blind’ on May 16th.