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The Interview: Chin Up Chin Up

By Sarah Dahnke in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 4, 2006 8:53PM

Simply reading Chin Up Chin Up’s current bio is enough to inspire anyone who’s ever picked up a guitar/drumstick/microphone/set of spoons to get out there and start a band, just as our old friend Tim Tuten kept droning on and on about last weekend at Pitchfork. 2006_8_4_chinupchinup.jpg

“Chin Up Chin Up makes music about hope, about persevering through tragedy, and the redemption of optimism.”

While death and rock and roll have been intertwined for as long as anyone can remember, it rarely strikes a band so young and so early in its career. In 2004, Chin Up Chin Up lost bassist Chris Saathoff after he was struck by a hit-and-run driver. The band was in the midst of composing the music that would become their current album, We Should Have Never Lived Like We Were Skyscrapers, and Chris’s untimely death temporarily halted their musical ambitions. After some time, they were able to finish the album by lifting some of Chris’s rehearsal tracks and set out on the road to do what they do best: play live shows.

Chin Up Chin Up has had quite a busy 2006 thus far, as the band finished up a North American tour, recorded a full-length album and agreed to a few summer performances, including one at last weekend’s Pitchfork Music Festival. The band was kind enough to sit down with Chicagoist after their set on Saturday, as we challenged them to define the term “math rock.”

Chicagoist: First of all, how do you guys feel about playing at an outdoor venue?
Chin Up Chin Up: This is the first ever.

C: Wow! Did you experience any hardships out here as compared with an indoor show?
Cu Cu: Well, it’s really hot, but that’s about it.
It’s easier than I thought it would be, actually. It’s because this is done so well. Everything sounded really pretty good today.
C:Tell me about what you’ve been doing over the past few months. You’ve been on a little break from performing over the past couple of months.

Cu Cu: We’ve been pretty busy, actually. It hasn’t been break time, really. We’ve been recording.

C: Yeah. How’s that coming along?
Cu Cu: We’re done. We recorded it a couple of months ago and wrapped that up. We’re just playing a couple of shows this summer, this being one of them. Then that comes out in the fall.

C: Tell me a little bit about the feel of the new album.
Cu Cu: A difference in the way it sounds … I know it is clearer and higher in the mix.
I think we made a conscious effort to not make our songs like 30 million parts. Simplify a little bit … we think so. I don’t think everyone will think we simplified.
It’s got a little bit more of an edge.

C: Were you making a conscious effort to make it more simplified?
Cu Cu: I think so.

C: In reviews, everyone wants to call you a math rock band. How do you feel about that label being placed on you?
Cu Cu: I think it’s because we all come from that. We’ve all played in “mathier” sounding bands, but that was so long ago.
I think people equate it with Chicago as well.
Yeah, and we have a lot of parts to our songs, but we mostly play straight-ahead 4/4 … I don’t know.

C: So math rock isn’t necessarily a title you’d want to put on yourselves?
Cu Cu: No. Not the math rock that we all know and we’re familiar with.

C: Is there anyone you’re looking forward to seeing out here today?
Cu Cu: Liars, Spoon, The Walkmen … Band of Horses is one of our favorite bands.

C: I’m sorry for making you do this interview during their set!
Cu Cu: (laughter)