As the saying goes,“There is no such thing as bad publicity.”
Which might have been true until Andreux Hirsch happened.
“Now I have the balls,” said Hirsch, stroking his chin and narrowing his eyes for emphasis, “to not talk about how I don’t have the balls to talk about stuff.” I had asked the band about their next album, its subject matter and such. Hirsch then paused for an applause that never came, and looked around—at me, at his fellow Chasers, and finally, at and within himself, as if picking a smarter, more polished and publishable response. “SHUT YO’ FuckIN’ FACE!” were his next words. No one had even been talking. And for the first half of our interview, Hirsch himself had not even been talking, having arrived un-fashionably late. And in one month’s time, give or take a week or two, Chaser—the band you love but just don’t know it yet—will itself not even be talking, will not be able to, will be deep-sixed, disposed of and done: perhaps.
I first met Chaser sometime late March—under an awning on a handsome porch amid a misting rain. Their roster contains five but on that fateful day only three were porched: Erik Tee (who raps and owns the porch but not the rain), 400 lb. Jeff (who sings and plays bass and strums mandolin), and an American bloke named Brit. Brit is not Chaser’s drummer; Chaser’s drummer was absent. And of course coming later would be our hero, Andreux Hirsch, the band’s composer. A classically trained pianist afflicted with social halitosis, Hirsch just composes music, and nothing but. Not the band’s public image, press releases, publicities. For these we must return to the porch owner, Erik Tee.
Erik Tee is an energetic man, the kind who gets things done. When I arrived he was wrapping up a video shoot for an unrelated project that involved no rapping. He dabbles. Before he was the band’s rapper-manager, he was the band’s manager, and before everything, he had a dream: he wanted to be like 400 lb. Jeff—the big guy was going nuts, bonkers, in-need-of-a-straightjacket insane shredding a Beatles classic on guitar. 400 lb. Jeff—a former fat man (think Cartman, the Nutty Professor, Fat Bastard)—weighs about half of what his name suggests, says things like “in the interest of full disclosure!” and sings like an 8 a.m. spring breeze. And he bench-presses 400 pounds; the best nicknames are earned.
But back to Erik—for him, time passed and epiphanies struck. “I realized,” he says, channeling his inner Socrates, “that I sucked at guitar.” (No one on the porch could disagree, not even a little.) But here’s the thing, Erik had parallel realizations: (2) he already knew a guitarist of enormous talent, the round mound of sound, Big Jeff, and (2) Erik also knew Andreux Hirsch and un-British Brit, who made beats and cyphered and things like that. So Erik put two and two together; the best course of action, his new destiny, his ruling obsession would be to “bring these guys together. I’m gonna be the manager of this.”
The men gelled. For six months they played at a house-party here, on a street corner there, their money pails staying fully empty, nothing too official, without a defined vision or shape or even a name. Erik’s first step as rapper-manager guy was, crucially, to pick a name. He found divine perfection in this three-worded beauty: “Supernovas and Splooge”—a tribute to celestial bodies, a taunt to celibate ones.
Erik’s second step as rapper-manager was to pick a good name. Which would require more manpower, a sailboat, and something to sail on—known today by scholars and historians as The Great Commotion in the Ocean. (Or was it a lake?)
Screw the details. Brit, Erik, and 400 lb. Jeff tell the story something like this: In a small vessel under a full moon, midnight glow casting shadows and silhouettes, wolves howling at an unsafe distance, with everybody there (even Mr. Bad Publicity himself), they found fulfillment and life-purpose in a mandolin. Jeff was at it again, strumming for the ears of the angels. A stupefyingly sensual series of strums. And then, at that very moment, Chaser was born.
About the name they say, “it just came to us.” And not unlike a certain sticky goop, the new name stuck. It means a couple things, Chaser. It’s not only a nod to alcohol neutralizers, but also one to that timeless Mars-Venus pursuit. (As in Chase-HER…see what they did there?)
Chaser does prioritize their chases: not 24-7 are they prowling for ladies to apostrophize. There were “two beautiful women” on the sailboat as well and Chaser “completely ignored them. We completely ignored them. For 4 days. To talk about our band. And they haven’t forgiven us since.” How dare those silly girls…trying to get between men and their tribal boat rituals and shit.
I then ask the natural question. “So did you guys originate that one ‘I’m on a boat’ song?” The answer came before I could finish. “The copyright lawsuit is pending,” Jeff says, straight-faced and with a sequence of beautiful and bold muscle flexes, suggesting an alternative to the courtroom.
We laugh uproariously and talk to the point of wild glee, our interview threatening to become an enemy to residential peace. Then it does. “Put a sock in it, for cryin’ out loud!” yells the neighborhood Cat Lady, punctuating her cries with fist pumps and a raised central finger. We just shrug, showing our appreciation with a brutal volume increase.
And then, as if the Cat Lady had put a curse on us, on our banter, on the weather itself, the sky darkened. Cats swarmed, cackling and swirling in the street before disappearing back to nowhere. Everything came to a standstill, silence for two whole minutes—except for muffled footsteps approaching, amplifying. The mood on the porch was toxic. Why.
Like an unordered side dish, like a surprise herpes outbreak: it was Andreux Hirsch. He had made it to Erik’s porch, a horribly sinister agenda on his mind. He was aiming for, and achieved, slacker-chic, dressed in flip-flops, basketball shorts, and an uncrisp gray T-shirt, the better to display his frailty. The poet laureate wasted no time getting down to business, greeting no one, extending no handshakes, taking a hostile seat directly across from me on the outer ledge of Erik’s porch.
“Okay. Okay. First of all, how legit is this interview…?” Hirsch asks, to no one in particular.
“Very,” I say.
“Who are you even?”
I tell him I’m a man of wealth and taste.
He just stares, wordless, eyes full of doubt, seeming to consider my response on several levels.
“I’m a Doctor of Journalism. SYFFAL, they sent me here,” I say.
“It stands for ‘SHUT YOUR fucking FACE and listen!” I scream with wicked joy, before continuing and getting more serious this time: “We’re huge, we interviewed Tyler The Creator before anyone knew who he was. We’re big timers, bruh—recognize.”
“Okay, Okay, Okay, so why are you on MY porch?”
“This is Erik’s porch.”
Hirsch looked dumb.
“What is your goal?” he says.
This catches me off guard so before I know it I confess my deep true motivation: to establish a kind of forbidden erotic union with Erik Tee, the porch owner. This puzzles Hirsch (as many things do.) The rest of the porch, learned in the high science of sarcasm, breaks into squawks of laughter. 400 lb. Jeff chimes in, saying, “That’s Full Disclosure for you! If we’re playing face up with our cards right now!”
Hirsch stops interrogating me and, instead, directs his angst toward Erik. He demands Erik get him up to speed, tell him what he’s missed. Erik recounts it all with stunning accuracy, and Hirsch looks, for once in his life, satisfied. But no. The Most Question Askingest Man In The World had a name to live up to.
“At what point did we make a conscious decision, like, this is something we’re going to pursue?” Hirsch says, wondering when the official creation of Chaser was.
“On the boat,” say Erik and 400 lb. Jeff and Brit, in perfect unison. Hirsch looked more than skeptical.
“Hirsch wasn’t sold,” says Erik.
“I wasn’t sold,” says Hirsch.
Who cares if Hirsch is/was/will be/is not sold? I pull the reigns of discussion in another un-Hirsch-centered direction, getting him off mine and everyone else’s backs. “So, when did you guys decide to do the rock-rap thing?” (that’s what Chaser does: rock-rap, a mesh, the best of both worlds) I ask, looking at everyone but Hirsch.
Hirsch responds first. “I think it comes down to the fact that, you know, Erik was there—when we made the band and…he doesn’t play any instruments so we had to let him rap.”
Erik responds to Hirsch with heroic menace, like the lion correcting the zebra. “At one point, you were impressed with what I wrote.” Hirsch just nods, revealing neither agreement nor its opposite. Erik continues, “At one point, you were impressed. You were impressed with what I wrote.”
It is damn near impossible to be unimpressed. John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, The Medvedev Family, Jeremy Bentham, God, Obsolescence, Severed Mannequins, Existential Mystery, Gene Propagation, Indecision, Time Travel: these are mentioned, every last one of them, by Erik Tee, on the band’s EP. More precisely, they are mentioned in ONE.SINGLE.SONG. Somewhere, Justin Bieber and Drake and Lady Gaga are plotting the demise of Erik’s enlightened lyricism. The nonsense, everyone knows this, should be numerous, not nonexistent.
Erik flows, spits, machine-guns about famous philosophers and impressive isms with his lightning-quick but precise cadence (think a slower-paced, higher-brow Twista; think a coherent, non-non-sequitur Aesop Rock). He also at times embodies the intensity and rage, in songs such as Orientation, of, say, Rage Against The Machine’s Zack de la Rocca. There is nothing random about this: Hirsch commanded Erik to listen to de la Rocca, commanded Erik not only to listen to but to “channel de la Rocca’s capacity to go ‘OAGUGHHH!!!”
“And Erik,” Hirsch says, “never figured out how to do it.” Damn. Harsh, Hirsch. So, at certain points on the EP, covering for Erik’s painful inadequacies, Hirsch uses his classical training to Mozartian effect, ad-libbing the enormously poetic “OAGUGHHH!!!” and the charmingly polite “recognize Chaser…BIATCH!” His ad-libbery is a pillowlike comfort to those who worry that Lil Jon’s legacy might die.
Not all of Chaser’s EP consists of unsettling growls and screams and winning syllabi topics. The EP dedicates much of itself to the most well known though misunderstood and mysterious subject since Adam, in the garden, lost a rib—love.
90% of their songs grapple with that four letter word, in fact, with 400 lb. Jeff holding down the softer, gentler tunes. On tracks like When I Met Her and Good Morning Wood, with its winking title, Jeff rounds out the EP so that essentially no topic or thought ever thought of goes either unsung or unrapped or, for the aficionado of purer tones, unhummed. Chaser’s EP insists that you listen to it from start to finish, or not at all.
Too many have taken the “not at all” approach. No track in Chaser’s oeuvre, per SoundCloud, has been streamed over 200 times, excluding obsessive fans who chose instead to download and listen and listen and listen in secret. This undeserved unpopularity is owing in part to Chaser’s own lack of self-generated buzz, Chaser’s lack of performances, gigs.
“I don’t think it’s because we failed so much to get gigs as much as we’ve failed to try to get gigs,” Hirsch says.
“We do have one upcoming,” says Erik. “Do we?” asks Hirsch, Britton adding, “It’s my first time hearing of it.”
“I also think maybe we’re not cocky enough, I’m not. In a way to relentlessly self-promote. I feel wary of being like, ‘check us out, we are awesome!’” Hirsch says, terrified by the dark mechanics of hype.
“I personally actually do think some of our songs are pretty good,” Hirsch continues. “I’ve listened to them multiple times,” says Brit, before adding, in a studious tone, “I totally think we’re qualified to play at the Bling Pig [a local music spot] and perform and people will look up at us and be like ‘this band is really good, I’m happy I’m here listening to them.’”
“In that voice,” says Erik.
“Indeed, concert companion, I find this band’s music quite pleasant,” says Hirsch, mimicking imaginary fans in his best cultured-person accent.
“Why the lack of major hype? You guys are really fucking good,” I say, and not only do I say it, but mean it.
“We all know that, in a month, we’re just going to separate,” Brit says.
Because graduation is in a month. Erik, who studies macro and micro-economics, will be graduating and leaving the University of Michigan; Hirsch, who studies home economics, will be doing the same. 400 lb. Jeff—in the interest of full disclosure!—will be staying at the University’s law school, entering his second year fully excited to read and memorize and regurgitate at least 400 lb.’s worth of cryptic yet critical legalese. Brit, legend has it, will be staying out of Britain, and also will be staying out of the work force, pursuing a 1-year accelerated Master’s Degree in Engineering. All of this is to say that, of any band, Chaser has the highest collective I.Q. since Einstein’s days as a choirboy. Oh, and the drummer, one hears, is currently scheming to oust Energizer Bunny. WTF?
Even though it looks as if Chaser will, all too soon, flatline—poof, gone, dissolving just like that night’s misting rain was—blueprinting never stops. The porch quiets and Erik talks about how his next songs on Chaser’s next hypothetical release will be really different because he’s over the “being meta-into what” he’s feeling thing. Hirsch talks nonsensically about how upcoming tracks will talk about his balls, and how he does or doesn’t have any, who knows. Brit and the Big Man sit there, on the porch, contemplating just what to chase after their fellows move on.