ATLANTA’S CHEW has been making Savannah a regular stop on their many national tours since the beginning of their career making intricate and lush psychedelic instrumental music.
The band, who’s latest run brings them to El Rocko Lounge on Sept. 8, consists of guitarist Brett Reagan and drummer Sarah Wilson rounded out by somewhat of a revolving door of bass players.
The band evokes the improvisational spirit of the psych rock of the 60s, and effortlessly weaves in complex arrangements similar to prog heroes King Crimson. All of that is anchored by Wilson’s groove-heavy drumming, which calls to mind the virtuosic performances of noted session drummer Mark Giuliana on David Bowie’s final release Blackstar.
One would think that a band whose members have such a tight musical thread between them would have found each other through their shared musical interests.
As Reagan noted when we caught up with him ahead of the El Rocko show, that wasn’t quite the case.
“Since we picked up instruments, we had both always been in heavier bands,” he explained. “We always had, in the back of our minds, wanted to do something more accessible. We’ve always had that desire, and never really the opportunity to explore it. Sarah’s band was dissolving, and I was actually playing as a touring guitarist at the time. That band was dissolving, and I didn’t really have a band.”
Reagan, who had moved from California to play with his former group, said he felt disappointed when the band fell apart, but quickly capitalized on the opportunity to work with Wilson.
Their improvisational backgrounds led to the formation of CHEW, and the duo quickly stumbled upon a unique writing process that allowed them to bring ideas to their practice space, then immediately workshop music on the road and incorporate audience feedback into the arrangements.
“A lot of the instrumentation comes from feeling things out, and the jam will eventually take its own route. We’ll take that loose form and then we’ll take it on tour for a year, and it’ll completely stretch and warp, and that’s the way we like it,” Reagan said.
“We’ve built in, now, improvisational song pockets that can actually morph naturally in an organic environment. Then we’ll come off that tour and book some session time and record.”
CHEW’s music is often centered around Reagan’s imaginative guitar work, which is highlighted by the use of effects and noise manipulation.
But the guitarist insisted that at the end of the day, most of what he writes has to sound good on its own before it’s filtered through his effects units.
It’s the philosophy that he navigated on their first two EPs, 3D EP and A Fine Accoutrement, and something they’ll continue to employ as they begin their next project prior to their El Rocko performance with Charleston’s Gold Light.
“We’re evolving right now. We’re really laying it on thick with the improv, and we’ve got a new sensibility for new songs. Definitely some new stuff you’ll be hearing,” he said of what fans can expect for their upcoming Savannah stop.
“We’ve been working a lot with a new bass player that’s been really changing our perspective on all of our songs.”