Feature Stories

Chambers Set Their Sights on the Top with Debut Inner Room

No one actually hates Chambers. Their recent series of clever promotional videos may have depicted members of various notable local bands chastising their debut record, Inner Room, but they are essentially a beloved member of the landscape of Dallas-Fort Worth and Denton music. That won't necessarily stop them from feeling at least a little self-conscious, though. It's merely a function of their quietly ambitious nature.

See also: Chambers Premiere "Midlake Hates Chambers" Video for New Record, Inner Room

"There is a goal to get our music to as many people as possible and that takes a lot of hard work," says guitarist and lead vocalist Judson Valdez. He and his bandmates' quick evolution owes a great deal to their desire to aim beyond weekend shows at provincial venue mainstays. "A lot of people maybe don't -- well, I don't want to say don't like us -- but a lot of people don't like the fact that ..." He pauses, choosing his words carefully. "We try so hard?"

If Chambers have their sights on big-picture goals, they started off humbly, even accidentally, enough. Valdez and drummer Chase Johnson began collaborating between gigging as back-up musicians for a singer-songwriter friend of theirs. They began to feel out their creative chemistry as Chase started playing along with Valdez's solo material. These informal practices ultimately laid the groundwork for what would take shape as Chambers.

Around six months later, Piper Johnson, vocalist and synth player, would become the third member. After various band member rotations, exhaustive writing and rehearsing, and some help from their booking agent and promotional team, Chambers have earned firm footing in local music circles. The culmination of these efforts comes with the release of Inner Room, a moody and atmospheric effort and induction to their amalgam of creative influences.

The album begins with the gracefully effervescent track "Not the Same," which, much like the rest of the album, possesses a cinematic quality with its alternating periods of ethereal instrumentals and climatic bursts. "Make It So," "In Your Blood" and the title track reveal the efforts of their carefully crafted three-part harmonies, to which Chase refers as having an "Americana" influence, a result of their roots playing with the aforementioned friend.

Phrases like "atmospheric rock" have quickly come the band's way, but there's more to it than such a label suggests. "There's a difficulty with us always trying to nail down our music into a genre. We haven't been able to," Chase says, pointing out influences as incongruous as Simon and Garfunkel and Joy Division. The latter band, one of the most critically respected and fashionably accessible of the past few decades, makes for a particularly fitting comparison. Chambers are a band that focuses on the small moments, the spaces in between. It's not exactly the type of thing you'd associate with big egos.

"Beforehand," Chase says, "Judson and I were in bands that wanted to win over Denton. We wanted to win over Dallas. We wanted to win over Fort Worth. ... We wanted to be No. 1 in the scene." But with Chambers they've outgrown that attitude. "Our concern isn't with that. Our concern is that we want to be nationally ..."

"Internationally," Valdez interjects.

"Yeah, internationally, we want to be present," Chase says. "Maybe that makes us sound like a bunch of pretentious assholes, I don't know," he adds with a laugh.

When the band hit the stage earlier this month at Dan's Silverleaf for their Denton release show for Inner Room, there was nothing pretentious about their performance. It was a hometown release show in a city they still adore. It was also a demonstration of how they share the load between members.

As Valdez and Piper traded turns at their respective mics for each song, Chase and bassist Daniel Pelletier augmented the melancholy with a rhythm section that cut in and out in fits and starts. This seized the crowd's attention for the entire duration of their set, a testament that Chambers possess a magnetic energy, even amidst some of their more low-tempo and drawn-out instrumental sections.

Admittedly, their energy can taper off at times; they are nothing, if not moody. Whether or not their music will ever lighten up, however, remains to be seen.

"I think that we definitely could transition into that. I think that a lot of our music, though it's hard to tell sometimes, [with] the lyrics especially, there's a small glimmer of hope," Chase says, trailing off thoughtfully.

"Aside from the lyrics I don't think that our dark sound is really a conscious decision. It just kind of happened," Piper says. "So I don't know, we'll just see what happens. Maybe we'll make more of an effort to make it happier. But ..."

"I doubt it," Valdez says with a laugh.

As Chambers wrap up an 11-day tour, they will return to Dallas for a show Friday at Dada. Their collective team of promoters and agents has been instrumental in spreading the word, aiding in the booking of their tour. That, as Valdez attests, is something he's not used to.

"It's a world of difference from us just, you know, fighting for every little connection we have. Because we know a lot of people from playing a lot of shows, but like I said, there are places we've never played, and there are cities that we don't know anybody in. So it's nice to have a campaign, I guess."

It may be that very type of campaign that somewhat divorces them from the sense of community that the artists of Denton pride themselves on. Such is often the price for big ambitions.

"It's kind of a difficult thing," Valdez says. "Because we're friends with most of the creative people in the city, especially in Denton, and love all of them and all of the music that they make."

"And we love Denton," Piper says.

The "Hate Chambers" videos were all in good fun, and as the release of Inner Room approached, there was nothing but enthusiasm and support from their friends and peers.

"You know, everybody probably does this: You make fun of the art that you are a part of, and half jokingly and half to make yourself feel better when you're not enjoying your art," Valdez says. "Everyone in those bands I know and our band [too] take music very seriously, but at the same time, it's nice to lighten it up every once in a while, you know? Can't be so serious all the time."

As if on cue, Valdez cuts the sincere sentiment with a self-deprecating joke. "We've had a lot of people going, 'Man, you gotta call me up next time, I'll make fun of you,'" he says. "We've got a long waiting list."

CHAMBERS play an Inner Room release show with Air Review and Borrisokane, 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 27, at Dada, 2720 Elm St., dadadallas.com

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Aaron Ortega
Contact: Aaron Ortega