By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Then September 11 happened. Then life happened. Then, strangely, little else.
In late 2002, the band signed to Phoenix-based upstart Aezra, but the album the group recorded, Let's Get to Second, has been awaiting release for more than a year now while Chomsky sat politely on their hands. In the meantime, they have remained a reliable local draw, known for clever songwriting, cheeky anthems like "00:15:00" (aka "15 Minutes to Rock") and guitarist Glen Reynolds' manic, booty-shaking stage presence. Finally, Let's Get to Second has made it to shelves. On the eve of the album's release last Tuesday, I met with Reynolds and vocalist Sean Halleck to ask them some questions. For art's sake, I made it 15.
So what took so long?
Sean Halleck: A lot of label stuff we had no control over. We're anxious to get the album out, because we were left in a holding pattern. When you don't have a CD to sell, there's kind of no reason to tour. We've just been maintaining, working on new tunes.
I heard a rumor that Aezra was paying you guys a fat stipend.
SH: Nothing to speak of, no. Did you see the Hummer that Glen drove in on? [Glen rode his bike.]
Glen Reynolds: No, I went significantly into debt last year. We've been ready to start touring for a while, and that's been the toughest part.
Let's talk about the decision to include four previous songs: "00:15:00," "Gravitate," "Light" and "Sigmund."
SH: The label chose them. When we went in to record the songs again, we said we wanted to try to make them better. Not more commercial, but we needed to up the energy or the performance.
So "Fine" is the first single?
SH: It's one of the singles. Music by bureaucracy is weird. A committee is still being formed to discuss what singles will happen when.
Have you learned anything about the way singles are chosen?
SH: That it's crazy. That it's black magic. That it's unpredictable. Actually, "00:15:00" was officially the first single. It went to radio six months before the record came out.
That's an odd decision.
GR: Yes, that is.
Do you wanna say anything more about that?
The album's producer is Gary Katz, who worked with Steely Dan. What did he add?
SH: He wasn't some kind of a Svengali. He mostly just watched and made sure we didn't screw up.
Are you Steely Dan fans?
SH: Yes. My parents were big fans.
GR: No. I hate that whole goofy, smoked-out-of-your-mind, free-form nonsense. I hate Phish. I wanna kick Trey Anastasio in the balls.
SH: Phish and Steely Dan are completely different things.
GR: Not to me.
I noticed the All Music Guide classifies Chomsky as "emo." What do you think of that?
SH: Uh, we love that.
'Cause I'm still trying to figure out what "emo" is.
GR: I think emo means "whitey."
Cute white boys with guitars, right?
GR: Punk rock for 15-year-old girls. "Mall indie." Is that emo? Then we're definitely emo.
I thought emo songs were supposed to have high emotional content.
GR: Then we're not emo.
Not too much emotional content in "00:15:00."
SH: "00:15:00" is so much unlike the rest of the Chomsky stuff. It's weird that song is what we're known for.
GR: It's become a bit of an albatross, really. I just can't wait to record a new album. An album that's entirely new. It's hard for me to sit still playing the songs I already know live. Then to sit down in a studio and go, "I wonder what this will sound like? Oh, right, I already know 'cause I've recorded it three times."
How many times do you think you played "00:15:00"?
SH: A bunch. Thousands.
GR: I have a videotape of us playing Fry Street Fair in 2000 when that was a new song.
SH: Parts of that song are really old. Really old.
GR: Moses had a third tablet, and it was the lyrics to "15 Minutes to Rock."