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Complex Sentences: A Q&A with Eric Krewson of The Chairman Dances

November 20, 2018

Story by Emily Kovach. Photo by Charles Shan Cerrone.

Tightly wound, drama-tinged indie rock shot through with synthesizers and anxious lyrics is what you’ll find on Child of My Sorrow, the newest record from The Chairman Dances, released in early September on Black Rd Records. It’s the follow-up to the band’s 2016 full-length, Time Without Measure, which earned a spot on CMJ’s Top 200 Chart and garnered positive critical reviews.

It can be tricky creating something new after a warmly received work. Do you replicate the process or go in a wildly different direction? The Chairman Dances took another path: pushing forward, leaning into layered instrumentation, watering the seedling of the band and coaxing it into a state of full bloom.

Dan Wisniewski, 32, of Northwest Philly, from the Philly band Spelling Reform, was in the first iteration of The Chairman Dances back in 2010. In the almost-decade since then, he’s observed a deliberate shift and growth in their sound.

“The most obvious change is the shift toward these complex, synth-saturated arrangements, which are quite engaging,” he says. “This most recent record is also notable just for the amount of ‘stuff’ that’s going on … I hear different things every time I listen to the new record, which is super fun.”

We chatted with Eric Krewson, 32, of Fishtown, lead vocalist, guitarist, and trumpet player in The Chairman Dances, to learn more about the band’s evolution:

JUMP: Who’s currently in the band?
EK: The current lineup of the band is Dan Comly (synthesizer, piano), Dan Finn (synthesizer, piano), Maria Mirenzi (vocals, baritone and alto saxophones), Will Schwarz (bass guitar), Kevin Walker (drums) and myself. Over the course of the band’s lifespan, a number of other musicians have been involved. Thankfully, all those members are still in touch with us, and a few of them contributed to the new album.

Were there any particularly strong takeaways from making the newest record?
EK: Child of My Sorrow was an all-consuming project. There were many stages of editing before recording. That sounds like it’d be boring and enervating, but it was exciting for everyone. Each band member took an active role in building the arrangements. We took turns taking the lead, so to speak. I should add—not everything was planned. I brought “No Compass, No Map” to the group at the last minute. It wound up being a single, and it might be my favorite track on the album.

In addition to the core group members, there were many guest musicians this time around. It was a thrill working with Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner, who played on my favorite Magnolia Electric Company and Songs:Ohia records.

Also, the name of the record seems pretty dark. What’s behind that title?
EK: The title comes from the last song on the record. While that song does not seem to end well for its narrator, I think it’s implied that their grief is bearable, that it’s temporary, even as it feels otherwise. I don’t think the album is especially dark. A number of songs are supposed to elicit laughter. There’s a song for the Chick-fil-A mascot. The Acme at Girard and 2nd Street is the setting of the opening track.

The phrases “bookish” and “literary” are often used to describe your band. Is your songwriting inspired by literature?
EK: I hope the songwriting is literary. I love novels and essays, theology and history. There’s nothing like creating characters, even if they exist for just a few lines.

Songwriting aside, sometimes I think the term is used to describe the tone of the band. By that, I mean my bandmates write and perform thoughtfully and deliberately. That’s not always the case with rock bands.

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