Members of Atlanta-based psychedelic-progressive outfit CHEW say they were on a mission when they formed the band in 2015. Having played together at different times as part of the local collective Psychedubasaurus Rex — a genre-mashing jam band project featuring a loose-knit, ever-changing roster of players — guitarist Brett Reagan, drummer Sarah Wilson and bassist Brandon Pittman knew they shared the same goals and the same musical outlook, and that they were all three ready to commence the serious business of touring and taking over the world with their kaleidoscopically diverse vision of prog.
“We were all in other bands that were fizzling out at about the same time,” Wilson says. “We were all influenced by Mars Volta and Black Moth Super Rainbow, and we all wanted a band where we could get on the road and go non-stop. We had had great energy when we played together in Psychedubasaurus Rex, and sure enough, when we got just the three of us together and started jamming out, there was instantaneously a great chemistry. So it was a no-brainer.”
In the short time since, and in spite of a heavy touring schedule, CHEW have managed two releases, including their debut “3D EP” as well as last year’s full-length “A Fine Accoutrement.” But while Wilson’s reference to Mars Volta and Super Moth certainly provides some inkling as to where CHEW is coming from, it provides only an inkling; the trio’s genre palette is so diverse and colorful as to stretch the boundaries of imagination for anyone attempting to figure them out. Are they prog? Are they post-rock? Are they psych? Or have they staked out a rarefied space in the musical stratosphere where such distinctions no longer have any meaning, the borders that separate them having long ago dissolved in the creative ether?
“We all have pretty broad tastes,” Wilson says. “Hip hop, jazz, indie rock. I’m a big Queens of the Stone Age fan.”
“We all have a deep appreciation for hip hop,” says Reagan. “That kind of bleeds through a lot. When we’re on the road, we listen to more hip hop than anything else. But it’s filtered through our jazz and progressive influences, the electronic influences, so we don’t really sound like a hip hop band.”
Notably missing from CHEW’s eclectic sonic mix is the presence of a lead vocalist. Wilson says the band never felt pressed to have a singer, and she doesn’t think that’s liable to change much moving forward. “I think from the beginning, we wanted to be an instrumental prog band,” she said.
“Three people in the band is easy to manage, and it works really well for us. I had been in bands like this before, and I was anxious to get back to that set up. We’re open to guest vocalists from time to time. But we each say so much with our instruments, having a vocalist might cloud that up a bit. We like this chemistry we have now.”
All of which — the taxonomically complicated, non-traditional songs, the lack of a front man/woman to manage the all-important delivery of said songs — would seem to make it more difficulty for CHEW to win over club audiences looking for a drunken singalong or a danceable groove. Not so, says Wilson. The CHEW members have are good with audience rapport, despite the lack of a frontperson, and get good mileage out of their enthusiastic and engaging live performance chops.
“We tend to win over audiences regardless of where we play,” she says. “We have a fairly energetic show. We’re playing some complex music at times, but our energy really gets people on our side. And if it doesn’t happen that way, we don’t care. We’re going to do what we do anyway.”
CHEW will play Funny Ears Fringe Festival Friday, March 23 at 9 p.m. at Preservation Pub.