Family ties

Kingsley Chapman tells Lianne Steinberg why his band The Chapman Family had to take some time out

Hero image

It was back in 2007 when Stockton-on-Tees four piece The Chapman Family began turning heads with their debut double A-side single You Are Not Me/You Think You’re Funny. The band were chosen by a panel of Radio 1 tastemakers to play at Glastonbury in 2008 and were subsequently the ones that every industry mogul was salivating over at the In The City festival in Manchester.

Their intense, energetic performances had a shade of dark, disaffected punk energy that set them apart from the happy-clappy sound of the Kaiser Chiefs and The Kooks. So when they were chosen to play on the 2009 NME Radar Tour alongside La Roux, indie kids Magistrates and synth poppers Heartbreak, it seemed as though their time had come, if in slightly incongruous company.

“It might have seemed that way on the surface but not really,” says Kingsley. “Even though there were some nights where I’d come off the stage absolutely enraged due to the fact that the audience sometimes didn’t seem to get us. We were portrayed a bit as the horrible scruffy punk kids who refuse to dance at the school disco and went round nicking everyone’s vodka but it was all fairly jovial in truth. I like eclectic bills at gigs anyway so it really didn’t phase me to be slap bang in the middle of a mix of electro-pop, indie-funk and Italo-disco.

“When I’d put on little gigs in pubs in Teesside I liked to mix hardcore punk acts with acoustic and drum and bass. I’m always quite wary of people who only stick to liking one genre of music – I find it weird. Saying that though, the whole NME Tour was quite rightly centred around La Roux so the first few rows of people were always confused electro-popper teenagers wearing sparkly outfits and make up. Having four noisy northerners climb all over them as the opening act didn’t always go down too well with them.”

Although the band clearly negotiate pop’s slippery ladder of fame with good humour, their debut album didn’t emerge and 2010 was a year of reconciling their strengths and weaknesses.

“We’d gone from literally nothing to supporting La Roux across the UK and playing at major festivals all over Europe – rubbing shoulders with the big boys, taking everything we could get and not really knowing what we were doing,” he says, exasperated.

“We were kind of swept along with it all – probably assuming it was always going to be like that – and then we crash landed in fairly spectacular fashion with nothing much to show for it, zero money and no real prospect of dragging ourselves back. We could have released an album during the time we were smashing equipment up at every gig in mid-2009 – and probably should have done something at the very least – but it would have been a bit half formed really. We were still learning our trade and due to the fact you only get to make your debut album once we wanted to get it dead right. We wouldn’t have been proud of an album consisting of ten versions of our ‘hit’ song Kids but we’re proud of what we’ve managed to create now.”

Working with Future of the Left producer Richard Jackson, their debut album Burn Your Town is out now and is both brutish and anthemic.

“It’s essentially all about the bass and drums – we were after a thunderous apocalyptic sound that would jar against the usual jingly-jangly preconception of indie music and be the absolute antithesis to the rebirth of the folk scene, which speaks to me in no way whatsoever.”

In previous live appearances it wouldn’t be unusual for Kingsley to begin smashing his equipment to smithereens. Was it out of frustration or a sense of celebration?

“At the time it is absolutely all about celebration. It’s nothing new, of course – I suspect since electric guitars were invented there was someone waiting around the corner ready to tombstone it into the concrete. I just see it as an extension of trying to destroy the great rock and roll myth.”

“Bands get so reverential about their equipment and songs and style and I just wish that more of them would get rid of their posed façades and forget what their PR team tells them to say and just for a couple of minutes let themselves go. If I had the money that Bono had I would be taking a chainsaw to the stage every night without question.”

The Chapman Family play Fibbers, York, 14 March, and Ruby Lounge, Manchester, 15 March.

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Family ties

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.