My friend and No Echo contributor, Michael D. Thorn, often get into conversations about what is and isn't really hardcore. He thinks a lot of the stuff I cover on the site is really just metal, but that's an argument for another day. You see, I respect Michael's musical tastes, so when he tells me about a band he's really digging, I have to investigate. That's exactly how I found about C.H.E.W.
Michael just caught the Chicago hardcore punk band a few days ago in Oakland and raved about their performance to me. I checked out the group's Bandcamp page and was instantly hooked. I reached out to C.H.E.W., and since Michael's description of their sound being “spazzy hardcore," I asked them what they thought of that assessment. "We like Spazz and consider ourselves a hardcore band, so that’s great," says bassist Russell Harrison. "We all like a lot of different kinds of music/styles and just try to reflect that and not feel constricted by sticking to a particular style."
Russell offers up the C.H.E.W. origin story: "We (Jono, Ben, myself) found ourselves moving to Chicago in 2013 for various reasons. The three of hadn’t played in a punk band in a while, so we started writing together in 2015. After a few rehearsals, it was time for a singer and Doris — who was a co-worker of Jono’s — was suggested. She was way too good on the first 'audition' for us to think of anyone else so that was that."
Listening to the material on their various releases, I can see C.H.E.W. playing with a band like Career Suicide and going over insanely well, but at the same time, I could also see them on a bill with someone like Power Trip or Krimewatch and connecting. "We do not have a preference for the kinds of bands that we play with. If we consistently played with bands that sounded the same it would be boring! But, if any of those bands want to go on tour with us, we have a sick van, and an equally sick backline, they are welcome to take full advantage of [laughs]. Most of the shows we play we are well received.
"On our current tour, every band we’ve played with was good, and every show had at least one band that was really good. We’ve never really been able to say that about any of our past tours (including those with bands that are not C.H.E.W.). We also can’t say we’ve had a show where we didn’t 'go over' at least decently in recent memory."
Since C.H.E.W. call Chicago home, I asked Russell for a scene report of sorts. "As for the punk scene in Chicago, there are a few micro-scenes that overlap each other. The environment is very good, positive, evolving, and free of haters or people who only want to get fucked up. We definitely feel like we fit in, but we also end up playing mixed bills a lot which we actually prefer to style-specific gigs. It’s also a big city, so we’re sure there are entire scenes we are unaware of due to our own ignorance or laziness.
"Some current Chicago bands that we like are Accela, Melanin, Side Action, Rash, and Ritalin OD."
Though they've been in action for a few years now, C.H.E.W. have yet to bless us with a proper album, and I complained about this fact to Russell. "A full-length LP will come out before the end of the year. It was mastered about a week ago and the artwork will be finished soon. Don’t miss it." Nope, I definitely won't, Russell.