CBB Interview and Performance on MVY Radio, 88.7fm.
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Original article can be read here.
Listening Local: Chandler Blues Band Going-Off Island To Play At Grumpy's
By LUKE VOSE
Apr 29, 2016
Martha’s Vineyard natives often tell me they’ve never really been to Falmouth. Well obviously they’ve been here but usually only passing through on the way to Boston or out of state. Lots of people in Falmouth tell me that the last time they went to the Vineyard was for a day trip when they were kids, grabbing a few rings on the Flying Horses Carousel, eating an ice cream cone, getting a sunburn, and taking the last boat home.
I never spent much time on the island myself until the last few years when I started playing shows over there. Now I’m there all the time. I see the Vineyarders as Cape cousins. We have a lot in common. Both areas have great music scenes that are fueled by hectic summers and hard winters (the dynamic being a little more intense on the Vineyard). The combination of being somewhat isolated then flooded with visitors from around the world makes for an interesting creative Petri dish.
The Chandler Blues Band is the latest musical export from the Vineyard to be booking shows in Falmouth. They released their debut album last winter and will be at Grumpy’s Pub tonight. I caught up with guitarist Mike Chandler on the phone and talked about blues, island living and great dive bars.
Luke Vose: What is it about the blues that’s so enduring and universal?
Mike Chandler: I think a big part is the rhythms, the shuffle and the swing. It awakens something primal in people. There’s happy blues and sad blues but it all tends to be relatable and honest.
LV: Where do you think you fit into it?
MC: That’s tough to say. We are a product of our influences—British blues, Chicago blues, early southern rock. We are an amalgamation of all those things.
LV: Does island living influence your music?
MC: Not really, at least in a blues context. Maybe in some of the lyrics. Kyle [Higley guitar/vocals] does a lot of the writing and you can hear his personal experience in it. He’s a stone mason so he’s out there breaking his back hauling rocks. On the song “Bad Luck Blues” he sings, “I’m tired of breaking stone/ My hands are bleeding/ I ache to the bone.”
Island living dictates a certain way of life. There are a lot of skilled laborers here. Many of them are first class musicians, too. You might know someone who is a fisherman or landscaper and then you hear them out playing and they are amazing. There are so many greats here like Johnny Hoy, Mike Benjamin, and Tom Major from Entrain, who also toured with Bo Diddley. It’s a really supportive scene, too. Musicians tend to help each other out with gigs and not be super competitive.
LV: What keeps you coming back to Grumpy’s Pub?
MC: The desire to grow. We’ve made a pretty good name for ourselves on the island and there is a great scene there but limited places to play. Grumpy’s, specifically, because it’s the coolest place. It’s right up our alley. It reminds me of the Ritz [famed Oak Bluffs dive bar/music venue]. The staff is really great and we’ve gotten a good reception there from the crowd. Basically it’s a cool place where cool people go to listen to live music.
LV: If you could have any musician, dead or alive, sit in with you for a set, who would it be?
MC: Oh man...B.B. King. You would probably get a different answer from everyone in the band but that’s my answer. To be able to hear him and have him hear you. He was one of those musicians who gave everyone space to play. Some of the other guys might say people like Duane Allman or John Bonham.
LV: How has the new album been received?
MC: We’ve sold a lot locally and a lot of people are streaming it. Bill Narkiewicz has featured us several times on his WMVY radio show, “The Blues At 8.” The first time we heard ourselves on the radio we were all freaking out! We’ve also had some radio stations out in Poland and France reach out to us. I’m always obsessively checking our website hits and there are a lot from European countries. They have a real appreciation for blues music over there.
LV: Maybe a European tour is in the cards.
MC: That would be amazing.
LV: What are your future plans?
MC: Getting more people to see and hear us. The downside of the island is that touring can be difficult with everyone’s work schedules and transportation. This summer we will mostly focus on our island venues then play off-island more in the fall. We are continuing to back the album and push our original songs. We have a lot of new material, as well, so there may be another album in the works next winter. We just keep writing and playing.
The Chandler Blues Band will be performing at Grumpy’s Pub on at 9 PM. To hear their new album, go tochandlerbluesband.com.
Original article can be read here
Heavy blues played live, the chandler blues band way
By Heather Hamacek - Mar 26, 2016
Starting a band is all about the music. But there’s still a matter of what to call it. The Chandler Blues Band decided on a democratic approach by trying out all of their last names — Higley, Baird, Fullin, Medeiros and Chandler.
They decided Chandler fit the bill, and The Chandler Blues Band was born.
“I tell everyone it’s because he’s the tallest,” said Kevin Medeiros.
The Chandler Blues Band started playing together in 2013, during a live music drought on the Island. The band has an urgent, gritty sound that matches the low-lit, low-ceiling Vineyard Haven basement where they practice. They call it heavy blues and it is a sound for crowded bars and audiences that like to dance.
“Watching people enjoying the music that we’re making and dancing to it and having a good time, it gets you into it, it gets you fired up because they are fired up,” said Lance Fullin.
The band first cultivated a presence on the Island by playing at Chilmark Potluck jams and performing weekly at the Seafood Shanty.
“That first summer we played at the Dive Bar a lot,” Mr. Fullin added. “It’s all become a blur at this point.”
Over the years they have learned from and worked with other Island musicians. The band added more and more original music to their repertoire which they have now collected for an album to be released on Saturday, March 26, at the Ritz, one of their regular venues. In addition to playing at Vineyard venues, the band has also made trips across the Sound to play in Falmouth.
“It’s validating in a sense, to go somewhere new, and have people really respond,” said Mr. Fullin. “It’s validating as a musician and as a person,”
The Chandler Blues Band consists of Kyle Higley (guitar, vocalist), Mike (Icey) Baird (harmonica, vocalist), Kevin Medeiros (drummer, vocalist), Mike Chandler (guitar) and Lance Fullin (bass guitar). Band godfather, Gordon Healy occasionally accompanies them too.
“When we have Gordon play with us, we don’t have to do anything, he does everything,” said Mr. Medeiros. “He sings, he calls out songs, he just turns around tells us what to do and we do it.”
Mr. Healy and other friends will step in on Saturday to join the band onstage at their CD release party. When performing, the band plays a mix of standards and originals, but the album is all them. Many of the songs were written by Mr. Higley and then brought to the group where they worked out the rhythm and riffs.
“A couple of the songs were written some would say backwards, instead of lyrics, guitar first,” said Mr. Medeiros. “We would jam, and then afterwards someone would end up writing lyrics to that song.”
The 13 track album was recorded over the winter.
“We thought it would be an EP with just a few songs at first,” said Mr. Fullin, but the band kept thinking of songs to include and kept writing lyrics in the studio.
The first track, Sister Strange, was coincidentally the first one the band created together. Producer Phil DaRosa suggested that it would make a good opener and everyone agreed.
“You don’t need to know the song to dance to it,” said Mr. Medeiros.
The Chandler Blues Band CD release party is on Saturday, March 26, beginning at 10 p.m. at the Ritz. CDs will be available to purchase for $10.
You might have seen them perform at The Ritz recently, or at the Seafood Shanty or the Port Hunter last summer. Maybe you heard one of their jam sessions at a Chilmark Potluck last winter, when they were still honing their skills, or maybe you’ve seen their iconic band poster around the Island — the one with the rustic-looking photo featuring a distressed cocktail napkin that says “Chandler Blues Band.”
If you’re lucky enough to have caught one of their sets, you know they bring a refreshingly new, harder, louder blues sound that keeps the crowd moving, and they’ve become a fixture on the local music scene. If you haven’t seen them yet, you’ll have another chance tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 27, when they take the stage again at The Ritz.
The five-member Chandler Blues Band is made up of Kyle Higley on guitar and vocals, Kevin “Skip” Medeiros on drums and vocals, Mike Chandler on guitar, Michael “Icey” Baird on harmonica, and Lance Fullin on bass.
Last week we took some time to get to know the boys behind the band over a round of drinks at The Ritz. (They all drink beer, except Mr. Fullin, who’s a Scotch kind of guy, three fingers of Johnny Walker Black to be exact.)
Mr. Higley and Mr. Medeiros played in a band together years ago, and through mutual friends, an ex-girlfriend and her mother, the rest of the band was formed by late 2013. Mr. Baird was initially recruited to play harmonica when the band decided they wanted the sound of one but didn’t have a harmonicist. He picked up the versatile instrument, and has been playing ever since.
Mr. Chandler moved to the Island a few years ago, and had gone 10 years without playing in a band. “I had wanted to be in a blues band. Then I met these guys. It was a lucky, happy accident,” said Mr. Chandler.
When the group first started jamming weekly in Mr. Medeiros’ tiny studio apartment in West Tisbury a year ago last December, they didn’t have a name and were still feeling out one another’s talents. Their first gig was at a Chilmark Potluck Jam last February. They embraced the “cool, local vibe” of the show, and took the opportunity to jam onstage together. They were the last band to play that first night, and most of the attendees had already filtered out, but a dozen friends remained, and they kept them on their feet. They continued to play the Potluck Jams through last winter, and expressed appreciation for the events and what they do to foster talent and camaraderie among local musicians in the off-season, in addition to giving them gigging experience as a band. The Potlucks also forced the group to develop a band name. After a few failed suggestions playing off one another’s last names via a group text, the guys settled on Chandler Blues Band, after Mr. Chandler, as Mr. Medeiros said, “because he’s the tallest. It just rolled off the tongue.”
The band played their first benefit show in May of last year, thanks to local blues musician Gordon Healy, who billed the band for a fundraiser to benefit the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard at the Seafood Shanty. Mr. Medeiros knew Mr. Healy, and had played with him before. “It was our first official gig in a bar. We were on a poster. It was the moment we felt legitimized,” said Mr. Chandler.
The benefit helped the band secure weekly gigs at the Seafood Shanty, where they played every Wednesday last summer, and some Sundays too. From there, opportunities snowballed, and they stayed busy, playing as many as two or three times a week, including sessions at the Dive Bar and P.A. Club in Oak Bluffs and the Port Hunter in Edgartown.
While the band welcomed their busy summer schedule, it took its toll. “By the end of the summer, it was getting weary,” said Mr. Baird. Like most artists on the Island, the band members all work full-time day jobs on top of their musical schedule. Mr. Medeiros juggles his job as drummer along with his job as barista at Mocha Motts, and there were many summer nights with the band that turned into long days at the coffee counter. “We’d get out of some shows around 2 am, and then I’d need to wind down, but only had a few hours until work. It was often a question of whether I should sleep or not,” said Mr. Medeiros.
Despite all of their own hard work, they’re eternally grateful to their friends and families, local business owners, and other musicians for helping to spread the word about their music while cultivating such an inviting local music scene.
“[Gordon Healy and Don Groover], those old blues guys have really helped us out,” said Mr. Baird. “Johnny Hoy, [the late] Maynard Silva … we wouldn’t be a band without those guys. We get props from the older generation [of musicians] and the younger kids too. Everyone seems to get a kick out of us. We’re cross-genre.”
And they’re still in the process of evolving their sound. To date, the band’s sets have been a combination of blues standards and originals. “We want to get out of basic blues, and develop our own style of blues. We want the focus to be on us as a band, not just what we’re playing,” said Mr. Higley. Mr. Medeiros added, “We’re working on an EP. We’re moving away from standards. Kyle is working on more originals, doing the writing and the lyrics. Then he’ll bring them to us. He’s our own Paul Simon.”
The band has been working with fellow local band Electric Pie at their recording studio. “They hooked us up big-time, and we’re very grateful for them,” echoed the bandmates.
While the band has limited their shows to the Island so far, they’re definitely open to venturing off the rock in the future. “The first phase was just us getting comfortable playing together, but we want to see new venues and new people. We want our voice to be heard, and we want to spread it around,” said Mr. Chandler. “We’ll play anywhere, anytime. There’s no such thing as a bad gig.”
For a relatively new band, the Island has proved to be a great launch pad. “The Island has a great music scene; it’s very opportunistic,” said Mr. Baird. “The Vineyard really gives us an audience. I used to live in Boston, and it was spread thin. In bigger cities people become numb to live music. There’s a real draw for live music on the Island,” said Mr. Chandler. “It’s a tight-knit community, and we can really vibe off each other.”
While the band entertained all summer, their winter sets are especially welcome. “After working a hard day, people want to go out and have a beer and listen to music,” said Mr. Medeiros. “And the owners are all really great. They make money, we make money, we get more opportunities to play, and people leave happy.”
You can catch the Chandler Blues Band at The Ritz this Friday, Feb. 27, at 10 pm. Admission is $5. They are also currently booking dates for the summer, and can be reached email@example.com or on their Facebook page,facebook.com/TheChandlerBluesBand. You can listen to the band here: soundcloud.com/the-chandler-blues-band.