The ’90s indie-rock legends in Chavez return with the amazing Cockfighters
There’s no doubt about it: Chavez may very well, sort-of possibly, be kind-of back together as a recording unit after 11 years of not doing so. Perhaps. Chavez’s crisply rocking new EP, Cockfighters, and the promise/hope of additional 2017 music and touring, says so. Then it doesn’t.
“I hope we can tour and record more, ’cuz we look and sound so good,” says vocalist/guitarist Matt Sweeney.
“We don’t make plans,” says guitarist Clay Tarver. “We can’t. We just do what we want to and can do. We have no idea what the immediate future is or what it sounds like. If you have any idea, please don’t tell me.”
Of course, there’s the company line among the quartet’s membership—Sweeney, Tarver, bassist Scott Marshall and drummer James Lo—that you can’t reunite a thing you never split. But spend 4,004 days apart without working together, and it’s mostly bust.
Then again, the mid-’90s angular-indie-math outfit made two era-defining albums in Gone Glimmering and Ride The Fader without applying itself to rulebooks, especially considering that each man does things outside of Chavez (script writing, surfing/filming, sound directing, session playing) that could’ve altered its path. Or not.
“No, no, no. God, no,” says Tarver. “When we started, we were on a mission. We were about doing a singular thing as good as we possibly could: making Chavez music. I hated outside-seeking stuff. I thought it was a distraction. I would make you feel terrible if you fell for it. But then it kinda happened to me, and I had to completely pretend like I never said any of that shit. Then we had to turn our full-time obsession into a ‘Let’s do it when we can’ obsession. Somehow it worked. It sort of worked. But you can only do that when no one cares about your band. And then once you stop playing, people start caring about your band. Generally, it’s pretty impossible. I’d say don’t try it.”
And no, no member has more special needs than the other. When Chavez has its four members ready to roar in unison, it roars—loud. “We agreed that we’d do Chavez when we could and that we wouldn’t complain when some ‘special’ member thinks he has something better to do than play music,” says Sweeney.
Both Sweeney and Tarver love what they’ve done with Chavez in the past, with the latter questioning people’s appreciation of the quartet. “People at the time said we sounded like Rush or something,” says Tarver. “I love Rush. But come on. People thought we were too ‘difficult’ or were just being weird for weird’s sake. The truth is we hated that kind of approach.” Sweeney claims that no man’s input was a given and that every track had to sing for its supper. “Each Chavez song works hard to earn its Meal Deal,” he says.
The four men of Chavez enjoyed playing with each other so much that they stopped. “With those two records, we were annoyingly pleased with ourselves,” says Tarver. “It was pretty much exactly the music we wanted to make. And we thought we should get medals for it. And yet no one really seemed to notice or care. So early on, we decided, ‘Fuck it, let’s not try to force it on anyone.’”
“I love playing with the men and even the babymen of Chavez,” says Sweeney. “I especially relish the faces they make when they are rocking out. Not kidding.”
So who gets together after so long to only do—so far—the three songs and nine minutes of Cockfighters?
“Chavez does, Mr. Ding Dong,” says Sweeney.
“We felt like we couldn’t just dine out on the old stuff over and over, so we decided to not play any more shows until we’d recorded new material, and that’s what we did,” says Tarver, who decided to reunite the gang so that he had no regrets going into the grave. “The thing is, if we’d never recorded these shits, my second-to-last thought would’ve been, ‘You’re an asshole, Clay. You never recorded ‘The Bully Boys’ (a song penned in 1997). Why?’ And then my last thought would’ve been, ‘Fuck. I don’t know why.’ So that was it.”