Charles Griffin Gibson, aka CHUCK, is the type of artist who not many know, but those who do, instantly fall in love with. The New York native, who describes his music as "eclectic weird kid alt. pop", released one of 2015's best, yet most unheralded records, My Band Is A Computer, a gloriously unhinged collection of songs that combined bedroom pop and DIY indie with wry lyrics and a wicked sense of humour.
His new record, out today, continues right where he left off; sweet acoustic tracks and catchy melodies abound, everything tinged with a sense of hope and brightness. His songs are fuzzy and rough around the edges, but the out of focus quality simply adds to the charm and beauty that he finds in everyday life and the mundane; truly CHUCK's world is one that harks back to simpler times, and a pleasant escape from the madness currently enveloping us all. He sat down with DiS to give us the lowdown on the record, which you can stream below. Enjoy.
I built the basics of this song out on a drunken Friday night four years ago. I was 26, single, and probably a little emotional about something that just happened at a party. The gurgly, chunky synth line at the middle is where it all started. Then I laid the bass down and it started to sound like ‚Golden Hair’ by Slowdive. I didn’t think I’d release ‚Stoner’, but I kept periodically returning to the project to poke around. Yelping vocal samples. Guitar solos. Multiple synth lines. I gotta be honest, there’s probably too much going on in the song. But I couldn’t bring myself to cut anything out. I like how messy it is. It’s very manufactured and digital, but also very rumpled. It has a mad scientist vibe, and that’s why I made it the opening track. Proceed with caution, there are other Frankenstein Songs ahead.
I’ve worked at this production company on 34th St. and 10th Ave. for a few years. It puts me right in front of the New Yorker hotel on the regular. I would see this “New Yorker” sign all the time and I came up with the chorus for this song one day and recorded it on my iPhone. I think I was having one of these: “Why do I live here if I just have to work all the time to afford to live here?” moments. When I sat down to build the song out, it took me a while to find the narrative. But once I started writing lyrics about the origin story of the typical 30-year-old New Yorker, I knew I had something. I got my love for pretty pop songs with droll lyrics from the king, Stephin Meritt. The plucky synth line reminds me of this band I used to like called The Shout Out Louds.
It’s Gonna Rain
This song was born on the roof of Trump Tower. True story dawg. Typically, the hook of a song will come to me, I’ll sing it into my iPhone, and then I’ll build it out later. This melody presented itself to me on a very early morning in 2009. I was working on The Celebrity Apprentice. I had to support a camera team on the roof at like 6am. It was sprinkling rain, and I just started singing: “Oh and it’s gonna rain...” The melody never went away, and about two years ago I finally structured out a song and recorded it. On another note, this is the first song that Lou Waxman sings lead vocals on. He also plays drums, horns, and keyboards on the album. I thought it would be cool to have him take the lead vocals on a few tracks because his voice is nice and I really like when bands have multiple members who take turns singing songs. Shout out to LVL UP.
This is the Frankenstein-iest Frankenstein song of all. Man. This song is pieced together from five years of recordings. I really didn’t think I’d ever finish it. There’s always been something wrong with it. It used to have a totally different set of lyrics. Once I got live drums and synths (shout out to Jon Sirlin) the song started to congeal. At some point I also shifted the melody and came up with lyrics that clicked. The chorus may not be the catchiest thing in the world, but I think I kept it real on this track, and I’m proud of that. Sonically, ‚Becky’ started as a direct rip off of ‚Sweater Song’ but I hope it feels like it’s own thing now.
As a filmmaker and television editor, my goal is to tell a compelling and clear story, at all times. I bring those instincts with me when I work on my music. Sometimes it’s a nuisance. Songs can live in a more abstract, poetic landscape. They don’t always need clear narratives. On ‘Cherry Tree’ I tried to forget about the narrative. I wanted to be playful with the lyrics and I decided to keep whatever felt right at every turn, even if it didn’t make sense. I’m not sure how other people read it, but for me, the song is about the connection between emotions, food and physical health.
This is a song I originally wrote in 2009. I think I was going for a ‘Twilight’ by Elliott Smith vibe. About a year ago I won a free day in a recording studio through Converse Rubber Tracks, and I decided to re-record ‘Bodies’. I tweaked a few lyrics and then added Jon Brion-esque orchestral elements at home later while mixing. I really like the lyrics. Not patting myself on the back, but I think I’m the only person to mention Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in a song. I just Googled and I see Fall Out Boy did as well, but they don’t count.
I LOVE how this song came out. It’s probably the happiest I’ve ever been with any song I’ve engineered. It might be because the drums sound so good to me. I don’t know. All the elements are on point, and listening to it makes me very nostalgic. The mood I was going for was “staring out the car window on a road trip”. Also, if you can’t tell, I really went after (Sandy) Alex G on this one. It’s very inspired by the ambiance on his record Beach Music. The title is a reference to the town Hudson, which is in New York. It’s part trendy getaway for city assholes, and part real ass American town.
I wrote and recorded a lot of complicated intertwining skits and interludes that I had to scrap, but I wanted at least one on the record. I remembered enjoying Mac Demarco’s fake radio host on one of his earlier records, so I decided to do my version of that. It’s just nice to have a little breather from the music, and I actually think I’m better at the skits than the songs. I love playing characters in voice over, I got to do a few in my film, The Meteor.
This was, and still is, pretty much a joke. One night I recorded the demo for this and had a laugh because it sounded like The Dandy Warhols. I played it for my wife and she urged me to release it. I never in a million years thought I’d finish it, but my wife’s words stuck in my head, and one day I decided to just go for it. It’s kinda funny because, to my point about narrative storytelling above, I felt I had to write verse lyrics that motivated the “Meow!” in the chorus. I like that it’s a song about dogs and cats. I wish I coulda got Girlpool to do the those “Meow!” lines. Instead, it’s just Lou and I. Speaking of Lou, he sounds great in the lead vocal role on this one. He’s also banging on the drums.
‘Oceans’ is probably my best song. The original version appeared on a split EP I did with Lou, but I wanted to re-record it with a full band set-up. The song is about a time when my wife had to spend three months in Norway because of a Visa issue. I was going for, again, a (Sandy) Alex G sound. I had a live version of “Mis” in my head. The chorus kinda reads like an old Coney Island postcard. Read a book! Take a look around! Pretty young girls! Oceans of sound!
On ‘Caroline’ I had Leonard Cohen’s romanticism on my mind. I wanted to make a quiet, simple love song with funny, visual lyrics. I guess it’s also inspired by Bob Dylan’s ‘Ballad in Plain D’. It’s kinda Celtic as well. My heritage is predominantly Irish, and even though I don’t celebrate that heritage on a regular basis, I do think I have some connection to Ireland that comes out in my music. I’m not religious, but I believe in past lives and energy and shit like that. Never been to Ireland, but I wanna go.
Kiss [For Janne]
I dedicated this song to my wife. It’s the closest I’ve gotten to a true love song without any sardonic undercurrent. It’s also the most country thing I’ve ever produced. I wish I would’ve gone even further with the country elements, but I can only control the songs so much. Lou slays on the lead vocals one last time here. Shout out to Jon Sirlin for the piano work as well. This one is for the Wilco heads.
Grocery Store [Interlude]
I felt the record needed a little breather before ‘Happy Birthday’ so I recorded this in my local grocery store. The grocery store became a motif for me on this album for a few reasons. For one, I actually like grocery shopping. It relaxes me. It’s a space where everything is organized and fully stocked and fresh and new. It’s a safe space in a complicated world. But also, the grocery store sort of merges the themes of food and humdrum daily life, which I reference throughout the album. The album is about confronting the long, complicated road of life, and on that road, there are grocery stores.
I originally wrote this track for my first CHUCK project. 2013’s Let’s Make Out EP. I’ve been sitting on the song since then, and even though I don’t connect with the sad sack lovelorn lyrics as much as I used to, I felt it needed to be on this record. I have no idea what influenced the sound of it. I guess I wanted the emotional resonance of some Broken Social Scene songs I really like. I have a bad habit of making slow build songs that are too long for their own good - but I tried to curb that on Frankenstein. ‘Happy Birthday’ is actually the only song that breaks the five-minute mark. Shout out to the guitar solo at the end. I was ecstatic when that came together. Also wanted to throw the Wilhelm Scream in for the film buffs out there.
I wrote the chords for this hungover at some friend’s house in Philly. It was probably 2012. When I recorded it, I was thinking of Slowdive and the Pixies. The backing vocals are a direct rip off of Kim Deal’s backing vocals on ‘Where is My Mind?’, I decided to end the record with this song because it feels like credits music. I also like that it has a bittersweet, but hopeful mood. It’s the end of a journey and time to move on. If you’ve read this far, thanks a lot! I’ll see y’all in the funny pages...