Interview with Commander Chameleon
indieSolo's Houseband: Commander Chameleon – by Mel in Toronto
Imagine a world where musicians are so talented that during a show band members get up, switch their instruments around and continue to play as if it was the most normal thing in the world: Welcome to the world of Commander Chameleon!
Commander Chameleon was founded ten years ago and consists of brothers Dave (guitar, keyboards, bass) and Ritchie Williams (vocals, guitar, drums, keyboard), their cousin Brad Metz (vocals, guitar, bass, drums), and life long friend Matt Tamisin (bass, drums).
In their first Canadian appearance during Indie Week Toronto in October 2006, Commander Chameleon impressed with a diverse song repertoire and a fresh, lively and very unique performance. The inimitableness of their performance is that they switch instruments during their set. While sitting on a patio in a Toronto bar, over a pint of beer, Brad's answer to why they do this is: "I think we do that because when we started our band we were all guitar players. Nobody played drums, nobody played bass, we all played guitar. So we all kind of learned together and I think we have different styles on different instruments. So it works well that way. If it is a really energetic song, I'll be good on the drums. Matt is more of a methodical drummer, I am kind of a crazy drummer and Ritchie more of a melodic drummer. So we just switch around, whoever fits the song the best on that instrument we usually play."
In 2003, Commander Chameleon moved as a whole from their hometown Jacksonville, Florida to Athens, Georgia, because "there is more of a scene in Athens" Brad explains. In June 2006, Commander Chameleon released their first self titled album including 28 tracks. This album was mastered by none other than John Keane, who, among other bands, counts R.E.M as his clients. The album is an extremely diverse compilation of songs written by the two songwriters in the band: Brad and Ritchie, as well as former band member Terry Wilson.
Being from the Southern United States, the influence of the Southern mentality is evident in Commander Chameleon's songs and lyrics. A song which was really well received by the audience during their Toronto show was "Smalltown". The lyrics of the song are influenced by the South and according to Brad sound like "John Cougar Mellencamp meets a morbid Lennard Skinnard." Another song that caught people's attention was "My Racist Uncle" which carries a controversial theme. "Basically My Racist Uncle' is a real guy," Brad comments, and the song "is just shedding light on people's ignorance." The album contains songs which clearly reflect the influence of the Bible Belt. "Hot for Preacher" and "Heaven is Hollywood for the Lonely" take a critical perspective on fundamentalism. "Commander Chameleon is very anti-racism. We are also freedom of speech too." Brad summarizes.
Musically Commander Chameleon is very diverse. It is impossible to put the band in one genre. The music spans from rock over alternative and even hip hop. "Our goal is just to make music we like and for people to enjoy it. We want to stay away from the labels, not the record labels, the genre labels." Brad states. A goal well achieved on their current album. Look out for Commander Chameleon in the future; there will be so much more to come!
And for those who live in Toronto, Commander Chameleon will be performing at the indieSolo showcase on October 10, 2007, the official launch night of Indie Week Toronto 2007. The show will be at the Drake Hotel featuring five bands, a show you definitely don't want to miss! For those of you who don't live in Toronto or can't make it to the show, treat yourself and check out Commander Chameleon's monthly jingles here on indieSolo!
"In your own words" – ONE on ONE with Mel and Brad
Mel: Are you excited to be indieSolo's house band?
Brad: We are extremely excited to be indieSolo's house band. I think it is a good chance for us to be creative with the jingles. We are very happy with what they (indieSolo) are doing and we are extremely thankful for the experience. He (johnny i) has a great attitude and is down to earth. That's a big plus.
Mel: What can indieSolo listeners expect from Commander Chameleon over the course of the next year?
Brad: Over the next year, I think indieSolo should expect a lot of really fun great social commentary holiday jingles, as well as a few videos. We are working on a video and it should be a terrific, very funny video. It will be for "Vivacious honkey" and I shall dance. We actually have a dance team that we hired for that. It will be a real video, all within our budget scale, but it should be a lot of fun, we are very excited about it.
Mel: How did you come up with your band name and what is the meaning of it?
Brad: It is a comic strip that my friend Shawn made up called Commander Chameleon, when I guess we were about eighth grade, and I thought it was pretty cool. So I said let's name it Commander Chameleon and we did. It means absolutely nothing except this guy's cartoon strip.
Mel: Who are your influences?
Brad: Actually, I think our biggest influence is Kids in the Hall, who are from Toronto, and we actually got to see the stage they started on. We all felt like we had to dance. Kids in the Hall, The Beatles, Captain Beefheart, Ween, Pavement, the dirty South. Yeah, those are our influences.
Mel: What does it mean to you to be an indie artist?
Brad: There are so many different ways to answer that question. I think, I'll go ahead and go with the pure indieSolo approach and that is you are not really playing for anybody but yourself and your fans. It's fun to be underground and it keeps you honest for sure. To us it just means that we really love what we are doing and that there is no kind of monetary factor that inhibits that. The only downside for our band is that we have to work crappy jobs that we don't like. All we want to do is play music full time, all the time.
Mel: What would you like to achieve with your music?
Brad: I think, what we would like to achieve with our music is a number of things: expressing ourselves, comforting others, entertaining others, and provoking thoughts in others. And doing it because we love it, of course, and that's an important thing. Certainly provoking thoughts with our lyrics, if that's making somebody feel comfortable, or making somebody think differently than they normally would, either way, that's a plus, I think.
Mel: Which artist would you like to record a song with and why?
Brad: I'd like to go with Ween, because they are great musicians and they just seem a lot of fun. They know when to be serious and they know when to have a good time. And they are awesome. I'd definitely say Ween, which I think is our closest match, if you could compare with another band. We are not trying to be like Ween, we can relate to it; they are doing a lot, that's for sure.
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