Chase Atlantic are going places. And so are we. Heading over to New York City for a huge headline show in support of their brand new, future-baiting album ‘Phases’, we discover a band revelling in their own creativity.
Words: Ali Shutler.
Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.
“Nobody’s ever said to us that we’re going to amount to nothing. No one’s ever said that we can’t do this,” starts Christian Anthony before Mitchel Cave breaks into a smirk. “And if they come up to us now, it’s too late. They missed their chance. We’re here now, in this room, about to play the biggest headline show we’ve ever played. Sure, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not the biggest thing in the world, but for us it.”
They’re not alone in that belief. Tonight Chase Atlantic play a sold-out show at New York’s Webster Hall for 1300 people. It’s the second to last date of a 5 week, 29 show tour built around new album ‘Phases’. Their parents have flown out from Australia to see them.
Nine months ago the band were in the city for a show at the 499 capacity Gramercy Theatre. They’ve spent most of the time since out of the spotlight, working on that new record but still, everything’s gotten bigger. It’s the same story everywhere they go. “Everything’s doubled, some things have tripled, it’s crazy. We’ve only been touring America for two years really,” continues Mitchel. “These shows are so much bigger than anything we’ve ever done. Even when we’ve supported other bands, it hasn’t been at shows this big. It feels very surreal. It’s felt like a long process, but in retrospect, it’s been quick.
“It’s easy to become complacent and feel like this growth is normal, but it’s really not. Natural progression doesn’t really happen this rapidly; we’re not part of that blow-up culture. We haven’t got hype around our name, and we haven’t caused controversy.”
They’ve just worked hard, fast and honestly.
“We certainly haven’t been one of those bands that’s just blown up overnight with one hit or something,” continues Christian. “It’s been a long, hard road. Maybe we’ll still have that breakout moment, but what we’re doing now is working for us. So we’re just going to keep doing it.”
“If we keep at it and keep working, eventually we’ll have 100,000 people at a show,” adds Mitch with a look in his eye that means you wouldn’t bet against it.
Their music demands attention, building worlds as it goes while their fanbase is dedicated but welcoming. Laura Sanderson has been touring with Chase Atlantic for the past five weeks, and tonight, she could be headlining based on the reaction her skate park pop receives. She’s become one of them. As for the Chase Atlantic, their live show barely fits into the venue.
The production is “larger than life, but we wouldn’t change it. It’s not about money or the cost,” reasons Mitchel. “If we wanted to make money on tour, we’d just put up a banner and play the songs in front of that.”
Instead, they’ve got an ever-shifting flurry of lights, video screens, co2 cannons… the works. You could take it into a room much bigger than this one, and it wouldn’t get lost.
“We want to make it an experience. You go to a limited amount of shows in your life,” so why not make them the best they can be for your audience. “The shows that we’ve seen that have inspired us the most are the ones that have the most impact. ‘I will remember this forever because it was actually very cool and it wasn’t just me going to see an artist that I liked’. It’s that extra mile that differentiates a show from an experience.”
Last year saw the band at the tail end of an eighteen-month stint on the road. “That was the biggest investment of our lives,” Mitch continues. “There are not a lot of artists out there that are willing to make that kind of commitment – and we made it by mistake; we accidentally committed to that many shows.
“We weren’t told we were playing that many shows. If we were, we would have said no,” promises Christian. “I’m just thinking about us sitting at home in Silver Lake all those years ago with some A&R guy, having never played a show and calling my parents and telling them ‘this guy says we’re going to play Madison Square Gardens next year’. And we believed him.” But no, it doesn’t happen overnight. “You’ve got to put in the work, and you’ve got to go year by year.”
“And we did put in that work,” beams Mitchel. “Even if it was by accident.”
Despite the leap, this run of shows has felt “so comfortable,” Clinton Cave explains. “I can’t remember the last time we did feel uncomfortable onstage though. Maybe it was a big festival like Bonnaroo or Reading & Leeds where there’s like, 10,000 kids. That’s when it’s scary because it’s not your show.”
Plus, the Chase Atlantic computer loves to break at festivals.
“You have to prove yourselves at festivals,” adds Mitch. “From the shows we’ve played on this tour previously, it led up us being assured with a sold-out crowd this size. If this were the first night of the tour, we’d be freaking out. We don’t really need to prove ourselves here. They’re singing every word. We’re not winning the crowd over,” because they’re already on the same side.
There’s an ambition to Chase Atlantic. They come from the generation of kids who were told they could do anything they wanted, but not how. They’ve had to find their own way forward, crossing boundary lines that have worn down by the likes of Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco and Paramore. “It’s just how has culture shifted. It’s cool to be pop now. The musicians that came before us set that tone.” They share the same sort of fanbase that’s made superstars of Billie Eilish, The 1975, Twenty One Pilots and Waterparks, all bright colours, belief in their gang and unpredictable next steps. They sing without shame of issues of the head and the heart. They’ve got nothing to hide.
“I guess the next venue we’d play here is the PlayStation Theater and then I guess it’s Madison Square Gardens,” Clinton offers, which causes Christian to remember: “I had a dream last night Jay-Z came and gave us a million dollars just to keep playing Madison Square Gardens.”
“It’s an enticing offer, but it’s really not worth it,” adds Mitch. Sorry, Jay.
It’s easy to get caught up in the momentum of things when they’re moving so fast, but Chase Atlantic aren’t gazing skywards. The next thing can wait.
“We’re not going to approach this show thinking, we’re going to do better next time,” promises Mitch. “I will remember this show for the rest of my life, forever and always. We’re sitting here like we expected this to happen, but we absolutely didn’t expect it to happen. At all. When we saw these rooms getting booked, we thought if we get 400 people in the room with us, that’ll be good. We saw Webster Hall, and it scared us. But now it’s sold out.
“It’s important to appreciate the shows and really get a deep involvement with them. You’ve got to try and hold on to the memories you make here because you never know what’s going to happen in the next six months. It’s just really important to really grasp the moment. Seize the day. Carpe diem.”
“Seize the fish,” smiles Christian.
Written about their lives and drawing aesthetic inspiration from the film The First Man, ‘Phases’ is an album about space. Kind of.
“That’s a great movie, and the sound design is just crazy,” offers Clinton. “The emptiness of the soundtrack, it felt like we were stuck in that spaceship as well. It felt like we were shooting for the moon and anyone can die, which is a bit like what we’re doing, but hopefully, we don’t die. We were just very inspired by that, but we didn’t want to make it tacky. Space can be tacky, so we tried to do everything around space without really mentioning the word.”
“It’s not like we’re singing ‘I’m going to go to the moon, you’ll never see me again’,” Mitchel reflects. “It was more of an aesthetic thing to bring it together rather than let’s make an album about space.”
“‘Phases’ is “the first time we’ve ever intentionally made a body of work. It’s not just a collection of songs we decided to put together. The EP was conceptualised, but we grabbed the songs that we thought were going to work best and our debut album, that was just every song we thought was good plus what our record label was telling us was good. That was also three years of writing.”
‘Phases’ took six weeks.
“There’s never going to be a right time to make an album. The wrong time is the best time because that’s when everything’s going to be as honest and as raw as possible. There’s no dilly-dallying or waiting for the right songs to come about. You have to commit to the process and just do it.”
The album “is open to interpretation,” explains Mitchell. “The whole thing. We’re not exactly honed into what our message is when we make music, it’s a creative outlet. We’re predisposed to creating music with such a broad interpretation because we really have no agenda.”
“[The title] is bold and vague enough for it to be interpreted in every kind of way. Phases of the moon, phases you go through in life. Creating a body of work is a phase. Everything in life really is a phase that you go through, it changes you, and you evolve.”
“At first I thought I was boring, but now it makes sense,” adds Clint. “It took me half an hour or so to get it. ‘Phases’ is one of those albums that will grow on you. At first, it’ll seem different or not what everyone was expecting, but you’ll end up loving it. You’ve just got to give people time to figure it out.”
It’s been the same for Chase Atlantic, but it feels like things are falling into place.
“We’re always growing,” explains Christian. “The music is always growing, and the fans are growing with us. We mature, and some of the lyrical content becomes more personal, but we’ve always been an honest band. It’s definitely changed in a unique direction this time though. It’s a step forward, but it keeps that true authenticity of what Chase Atlantic is.”
While they were still in school, Mitchel and Christian were in the X Factor formed band What About Tonight that saw them support One Direction, and the pair did covers on Youtube, exploring their voices and what it’s like to show different sides to yourself. That world was never for them, though – too many expectations and not enough freedom.
The Cave brothers, who grew up studying jazz and classical music, would continue to use the platform to explore sound, voice and direction. After reconnecting with Christian, Chase Atlantic formed in 2011. The band has never been about grabbing the spotlight or making sure the camera is focused on them, though.
“It’s nice to perform, but I’ve always just wanted to make music. It’s a safe thing. You sit behind a computer and write songs,” starts Mitchel, as Christian admits: “I forgot we had to tour. We just never toured when we first started out.”
It was never about being seen. It was about being heard. An outlet to work through storms in head and heart, Chase Atlantic was always an outward-looking vessel, driven by the hope that they’re not the only ones feeling this way.
‘Don’t Try This’, the EP released at the start of the year, is an aggressive, boisterous freefall that sees the band try to hold themselves together with excess, escapism and attempts to numb the pain. “Here’s an EP about drugs with the disclaimer, ‘don’t try this’.” The title is a warning that it doesn’t work, so ‘Phases’ sees them out to find another way. A brighter way.
“We’ve never been a preachy band,” says Mitchel. “We’re not trying to give a message or push an agenda politically, emotionally or anything like that. We don’t really have the answers to anything. We have no resolution to the issues that we deal with in the music. We’ve got no idea. Music is our creative outlet. It’s all very personal and anecdotal.”
“We’re telling people how we deal with things, not necessarily how they should deal with things,” adds Clinton. “We’re telling people we go through the same stuff they do without telling them what to do about it. We’re just sharing what we did or didn’t do right. We know we can’t offer a resolution. We’re still trying to figure it out for ourselves.”
“And that’s what works as well. People don’t necessarily want a resolution, they just want to know that there’s someone else out there going through something similar to them. Sometimes relating to someone is enough for you to feel like you know how to deal with it.”
“We’re like an angsty, anxiety, depression club that and people can join in with whenever they like,” adds Christian.
“But we like to make catchy music,” reasons Mitchel.
When was the last time you heard a song as infectious as ‘Angels’ with the lyrical bluntness of “I’m starting to get anxious, nobody told me I’d be lonely when I’m famous”?
“Obviously I’m not famous, I should change the lyrics to semi-successful,” grins Mitchell. “It’s important, I think, to have that little bit of depth and personality to it. Let’s have that honesty, but let’s make it sound cool.
“Everyone can resonate with a simple, realistic lyric. We don’t try and conceptualise the lyrics by pushing a message or an agenda. A lot of UK music is very politically-based right now. Look at Yungblud, he’s talking about The Man and parents not always being right. It’s a very pushy, forward-moving culture. We feel bad because we don’t have the mentality to be like, ‘ok, we have something to tell you so listen up’. But that’s the beauty of Chase Atlantic. It’s just direct. There’s no beating around the bush.”
Throughout ‘Don’t Try This’ and ‘Phases’ there are references to drugs and addiction. It’d be easy to accuse the band of being a bad influence, but you’d be underestimating just how smart their audience is. They’re not going to start shooting up with diamorphine just because it’s mentioned in ‘Heaven & Back’. With the world crumbling around them, a band mentioning it in a song is right down the list of reasons kids might be using opioids.
“We’re not condoning drug use. I mean, there was a whole EP called ‘Don’t Try This’,” offers Christian. “‘Heaven and Back’, ‘Stuck In My Brain’, all the ones that have overt references to drug use are always going down a negative path. It’s never positive.”
It’s never glorified, just echoed as a sad fact of being young and alive.
“People act so surprised by it. It’s not like Marilyn Manson hasn’t been doing it for the past 34 years, or The Beatles did it way back when. Everybody’s been doing it, we’re just talking about it directly.”
That attitude is one of the reasons they’ve forged such a connection with their audience. Their music offers an escape, but painted with the unashamed everyday, their struggles with anxiety, depression and general feelings of hopelessness are given very real weight.
“It sounds cliché, but I guess the music itself is the drug we’re giving out. It’s the experience of escape. Fans pick up on that, they say the drug is Chase Atlantic, which is cool.”
“People have our lyrics tattooed on them, or they tell us that they connect with what we’re singing about,” says Mitchel. “That’s always been a thing people have told us. And we’re still surprised by it; we didn’t anticipate it, we didn’t plan it out. We’ve always just had the notion to succeed, and I guess we went out on a limb by being as honest as we could. But it worked, and it keeps working.”
‘Phases’ is a lonely record. It sounds isolated. “It’s complicated, but I’m in the mood to spill my brains to you,” admits the first proper track ‘Angels’. Alone and losing signal, it’s desperate to hold onto some sort of connection. ‘Phases’ wrestles with it all. Losing faith but keeping belief. Wanting to be left alone but knowing that’d be the worst. Panic attacks, anxiety and a fear of the future, it’s a record about feeling abandoned but hoping, deep down, you never truly are.
And live, that energy changes completely. Chase Atlantic are so excited by it all, they can’t help but shout the words. “See, I would give my soul away not to feel this,” admits ‘StuckInMyBrain’. “Struggle with it every day, it’s like an illness. I just sit and lie awake, I’m on some real shit. Looking for a great escape, I might jump off a building.” A song very blatantly about depression, live it erupts.
“It’s very rewarding to hear people sing lyrics like those back in a way that they weren’t intended to be sung,” offers Mitchel. “The whole room is singing it and seeing that, it’s like standing in front of a mirror and talking yourself down from a panic attack. The fact is we shouldn’t be smiling when we’re playing that song, but we are. It’s therapy in itself to be able to say how you’re feeling on a record, and then have a whole room of strangers sing it back to you because they understand you, that helps.”
“Being able to go out, play music and connect with people, that’s what keeps us inspired,” starts Christian, who wants people to take “whatever they want” from their music. “We will never tell people how to perceive us. Or how they should think of us. It’s all up to them.”
The power is in their hands, and there’s no end in sight.
“You get more confident with experimenting because people are still listening. People are still coming to shows. We’re always growing into our own shoes as musicians. If we want to make 80s music, we’ll make 80s music. If we want to make like a trap song, we’ll make a trap song. We don’t want to box ourselves in and have people say ‘oh, I was disappointed in this record because I expected this from you’. If we just show our diversity now with our first and second album and show people what we can do, no one can really come back and lecture us about how we’ve changed.”
“I’ve got no idea where we’re going to go next though,” grins Mitchel. “We honestly don’t know, and that’s the beauty of it. We have no idea musically what’s going to happen next, and that keeps us inspired. If you know what you’re going to do, you’re limiting yourself already. We have no idea what we’re going to do next, and that’s the fun of it. We’ve made twenty instrumentals on this tour already, and that can all be conceptualised into a new body of work if we wanted. Or we could take 5 of them and put them into an EP. There have been multiple off days we’ve had this tour where we’ve pulled up at the hotel, and we’ve sprinted into the hotel to make some music. It’s just fun to create. And it’s therapy for us. I just want to prove what we’re capable of in the most like authentic way. It’s never going to stop.”
Taken from the September issue of Upset. Chase Atlantic’s album ‘Phases’ is out now. They tour the UK this November.