Kent-based Alternative band Chil will be celebrating 10 years of making music with a show at Musica in Akron on April 9th. The show will also include the bands Colorblind, Of Heart & Mind, and So Last Year, making this Chil’s biggest headlining show to date! These Ohio natives have toured much of the Midwest and east coast, scoring radio play in the US, Canada, and six different countries in Europe. We had the chance to talk to vocals/guitarist Nick Batton about this monumental accomplishment and what the future holds for Chil.
Whitney Shoemaker: For those who may not be familiar with Chil, how would you describe your band’s sound?
Nick Batton: Chil is a crazy blend of Alternative, Indie, Pop, and EDM music. The songs on No Sleep, No Silence pushed us into a place where we felt like we had the freedom to do anything we would like and found a place to incorporate some ideas from dance music and EDM influences.
WS: What was your inspiration for starting the band? Did you think you guys would still be here ten years later?
NB: I had always been very inspired by music before I could even play guitar. I used to carry one of those mobile CD players and listen to my dad’s Elvis and The Cars records on the way to and from school every day in elementary school. I remember a couple years later when American Idiot and A Hangover You Don’t Deserve came out, all I wanted was an electric guitar so I could make sounds like I was hearing on those records.
Fast forward a few years and I had learned a few songs on guitar. The band idea really came around when our intermediate school had a guitar club program that my friends and I would spend 2 afternoons a week playing music together in a tiny storage room in the back of the music room there. In 2007 my brother and I found out about a new music school opening in downtown Kent, Jam Sessions. We both bought into the idea that Kurt Reed and Ron Martin were pitching as a program that focused on building bands. By mid 2007 Ben and I had started playing songs in that program and the early version of Chil was born.
It’s actually quite strange sometimes thinking that we’ve been around for 10 years; I was just heading into middle school when we started playing together. People ask us a lot if we knew we would be around for this amount of time but to us it was never even a thought. We were playing professionally within about a year and a half and we found something that really worked for us as people.
WS: Do you have any advice to younger bands that are hoping to stick around for 10+ years?
NB: There are two major things that I wish I would’ve known or at least taken more seriously when we started as a band.
The first is to not limit yourself by thinking about what has been done before by other people, there’s no need to imitate anyone as an artist to appeal to a certain fan base that you think you are serving. Chil began at the same time that Ben and I were really learning our instruments so a lot of what we did early on was writing songs that could sound like Blink 182 or other bands we were listening to at that time. We didn’t really fully shake that habit until our first CD came out, even through it was still a very pop-punk record.
The second piece of advice I give to bands (younger or not) is to find someone outside the band to work with you on your music. Don’t be afraid of someone else telling you something just doesn’t work. It’s always good to have a fresh set of ears on a song that everyone in the band has played 100 times in a rehearsal or writing session, they may spark some new idea or interject a piece of creativity that wasn’t thought of before. I always say we weren’t a good band until 2011 when we started working with Jonathan Beverage (Producer of “Only Good Karma” and “Keep Us From Sinking”).
WS: What bands do you look up to? Do they have any influence on Chil’s sound?
NB: Personally I look up to bands and artists like The Black Keys and The 1975. I spend a lot of time listening to Prince, Michael Jackson, and other pop artists. I think people get a little taste of that Black Keys style on Back to Me with the indie-rock meets blues riff and that chorus. For the most part the other bands I look up to serve as more of an inspiration to branding yourself vs. any sort of musical aspiration.
Chil’s sound has become a hard thing to pin down. No Sleep, No Silence was the first time Chil found it’s own voice free from any genre or inspiration limitations. You hear these tracks that are not indie enough to be indie, that aren’t pop enough to be pop, and the songs that aren’t rock enough to be rock. We found a way to sort ourselves out and didn’t work from the “do it like them” perspective.
WS: Looking at the past ten years, what has been your best/most defining moment as a band?
NB: The most defining moment so far was our album release for No Sleep, No Silence. I was a bit nervous walking out in front of about 300 people to play them songs that were such a big departure from anything we had done before. That was one of the best shows we have ever played though, leading off that night with “Lionhearted” and having everyone singing the words the second that it started playing. That eased every worry that I had for the success of that record in that very moment.
WS: What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
NB: I think breaking the stigma of the “High School Garage Band” was a pretty steep obstacle for us. We started so young that I don’t think we were really given a chance to do some of the stuff Chil was very capable of handling. I remember being told so many times by people that they “Didn’t know we were a real band”. Chil was born into the time of Guitar Hero and Rock Band and every kid had an instrument, it sort of devalued what we were doing to people who hadn’t seen us before (Keep in mind I had playing professionally since I was 12 years old). It was all about stepping up when we were given chances to open at bigger venues with older bands. That’s really what got our foot in the door for these eventual headliners in our hometown.
WS: Have you experienced any touring horror stories?
NB: When you travel you tend to pick up the touring horror stories like candy on Halloween. Ben had some guy threaten to kill him if he didn’t give him money when he was waiting for the rest of the band outside of a restaurant. Even worse, one time we had a spider in our van.
WS: The touring, writing, recording can get demanding and overwhelming. Were there ever any times you thought about calling it quits? How did you overcome it?
NB: As a band I think we’ve all had the ups and down of being a musician. Ben, Ian, and I have been doing this together for 5 years now and we’ve been through the wringer and back plenty of times together. This is one of those things that when you reach a certain level you either really want it in your life or it isn’t for you. It’s really all about focusing on the big picture and enjoying the time we’re on stage.
WS: Are there any specific songs or a particular album that you’re most proud of?
NB: No Sleep, No Silence is the album we are most proud of. We spent so many hours at the studio and all over the city writing and recording that record. It was easily the most hectic and stressful two weeks of my life but it was so worth it. In making that CD we developed something that was truly ours and unique from what anyone is doing right now.
WS: What impact do you hope to have on all your fans and the music scene in general?
NB: The best impact I could hope to have with fans is to be a part of their everyday lives. In a way, Chil songs are sort of like short movies. Every song has its own purpose and meaning. Take what you want from each story but you’ll find something that personally connects.
The best impact we can have on the scene is influencing the way growing musicians do business. Proper planning and marketing do wonders for putting you in front of people. I think we also serve as a good example for taking some risks with music. If I’m too comfortable, then it’s too safe.
WS: You’ve worked with Forever The Sickest Kid’s Austin Bello on your 2016 album No Sleep, No Silence, and on a few singles prior to that. What was it like working with him?
NB: Working with Austin, or Sweet Papa Bello (as we call him), was an incredible experience. Every day we show up and he interjects energy into the session. He keeps everything moving quickly which keeps everyone very focused and sharp in an environment where it’s very easy to burn yourself out.
Bello does a lot of work writing with us and doing track notes ahead of time so he definitely has a huge impact on every song and how it’s recorded. He is sort of a guide to the band. Austin has definitely called me out for doing stuff before that was too expected or “too easy” for us. It’s really valuable to have that kind of leader and director in a room and he works extremely well with all of us.
Austin is genuinely one of the nicest and coolest dudes around. He takes us around town to grab food and play soccer when we get a break for lunch or a half-day in the studio. We take a lot of imparted wisdom from him, not just music but life advice in general.
WS: The 10-Year Anniversary Show is your largest headliner to date, are there any nerves going in to it?
NB: Not really, I think for the most part we are excited to showcase everything we have achieved in the last 10 years. Chil has some special things in store for that event and we couldn’t be more prepared.
WS: What can we expect at the anniversary show? Will it be songs from the more recent albums or can we expect a little bit of everything?
NB: The 10 Year Anniversary Event is going to be a show of progression. We are doing some special things with some songs we haven’t played out in a long time and we are adding a new track that hasn’t been played live more than once. The main focus is going to be showing how much we’ve grown as artists and performers.
WS: If there was one thing you wanted your fans to know, what would it be?
NB: We sincerely appreciate everyone who supports us. It’s been insane to see the progression from playing in front of 30 people to where we are at now; it really is all because of the people who come out and are a part of this journey with us.
WS: What does the future hold for Chil?
NB: We are close to announcing traveling shows and we’ll be recording again this summer. We want everyone to hear a new single before the year is out!
Tickets for Chil’s 10 Year Anniversary Event can be purchased at chilrockband.com. Watch the video for the band’s latest single “Lionhearted” below!
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