The Chapman Family

Posted: July 6, 2011 in The Chapman Family

Bono Knows by Kingsley Chapman

In our continuing quest to bring you the finest new music on the planet we are proud to bring to your attention The Chapman Family. A compelling act on record and simply stunning live they care a lot. Buzzbands spoke to Kingsley Chapman about some of the things they care about and why you should too.

Early on you circulated a few myths about the origins of the band, playing on the cultish association of The Manson Family and Mark Chapman. Are you now trying to distance yourself from this image with your statement that The Chapman Family is not a cult?

I think I tried to distance the band from stories I blatantly made up pretty much as soon as people heard about them – usually for damage limitation purposes. My favourite was probably that we were the bastard sons of Mark Chapman and we were going to continue to play songs without chorus’ or tunes until he was released from prison. However, for some reason a few people from Liverpool took an instant dislike to this and I ended up getting some rather threatening messages on the bands MySpace account. Like many naive and stupid things I’ve done and said though the point that got lost somewhere along the way was not to glorify a man who murdered a man of unquestionable genius in cold blood but was to question the almost unparalleled glorification of the Beatles. I realise that they were a good pop group for the time they were in but to have them wheeled out time after time as the personification of musical and cultural perfection in my eyes is ludicrous. The more I hear “Hey Jude” bellowed out half heartedly during an encore at a massive festival the more I feel like the end of the world is nigh.

What’s the real story behind the birth of The Chapman Family?

To cut a very long story short I ended up living in our guitarist Paul’s loft after I left university and via a combination of working in a soul destroying call centre, watching tiresome Libertines copyist bands, and growing tired of life we decided to sit down and write some songs after we got in from the local club one night. We were so sick of complaining about how bad other bands were that we decided to give it a go ourselves – with varying degrees of success and failure.

The industrial landscape of Teesside features in your videos and comes through somehow texturally in your sound. How important do you feel coming from Teesside is to you and your sound?

Teesside is where we grew up and where we live and as far as I’m concerned it’s only natural that it should come across in the songs we write and the sounds that we create. I don’t have any aspirations to write songs about an imaginary life surrounded by palm trees and dancing girls or the various goings on in New York City so I try and stick to what I know : steel, unemployment, grey skies, the north east wind battering the coast, violence, a sense of danger in town centres, and the inescapable feeling that you’re stuck here forever. I think you should only write about what you see and know and reflect the times that you live in – if I lived in an affluent part of the country I’d be writing different songs. That’s not to say that I don’t love the area that I live in because I do. I love the fact that in our little microcosm of a region I can drive for quarter of an hour in one direction and be confronted with a spectacular coastline yet if I go in the opposite direction I find myself in awe inspiring wild countryside, and to get there I have to drive through endless miles of futuristic silver towers bellowing chemicals into the atmosphere. All across the country there are towns like Middlesbrough and Stockton – the same shops, the same attitudes, the same nightclubs playing the same music but there’s no where quite like Teesside. That you can go from areas of obscene wealth to the sterotypical perception of north eastern poverty by accidentally going down the wrong street to me is mind blowing.

Inevitably any band is going to have its haters and somewhat unreasonably you’ve been called the worst band in the world. How do you handle criticism?

I’d love to say I used to care about it but I don’t really think I ever did. Despite the popular misconception I’m not an idiot and I don’t suffer fools gladly – I understand that with “any band” no matter who they are and what they produce there will be some people who like them, some who don’t and others who are indifferent to them. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. As long as you take criticism and compliments with a hefty pinch of salt you’ll be OK. If I took every piece of criticism we’ve ever had personally I’d be veering from suicidal to big head at such breakneck speed I’d very quickly go insane. If you know you’ve done the best you possibly can under whatever circumstances were thrown at you then you should be able to hold your head up high.

What’s the spark that lights The Chapman Family fire? Can you tell us the stories behind some of the songs on your album Burn Your Town?

Apologies about this but I don’t really like doing this for individual songs – I really do think it’s up to the listener to decide what they’re about, I don’t want to ruin anyone’s preconceptions with tales of heartbreak and disaster!! I work in an art gallery and my biggest gripe is when people come into the gallery and without looking at the work ask me “what’s all this about then? I don’t get it.” My usual response is to make them look at the work and decide for themselves. If they’re still struggling I’ll tell them that I don’t know what the work is about and push them for some sort of emotional response to it. I don’t like being told what a painting/sculpture/video etc is about in minute detail (even if it’s being told to me by the artists themselves) – I figure I’m an evolved modern being and I have a brain and I like to utilise the power that’s been given to me and make decisions and judgements and feel emotions myself. I’m not trying to be flippant or obtrusive, that’s pretty much how I tick!

In the age of the X Factor and twee indie bands it’s refreshing to come across a band that commits to their music with so much passion as The Chapman Family. What’s the message you want to communicate through your music?

The main message is (apologies for profanity) is for people to “give a fuck”. I’m not saying that people necessarily have to “give a fuck” about our music in some sort of shameless self promotional campaign, I don’t really care about that, I just think people should now and then act and look like they give a shit. Everyone is falling over themselves to be spoon fed success or to try and get as many people to like them as possible by being as inoffensive and bland as they can and, most importantly, by not being themselves. It’s not just something that’s confined to bands or music or anything it’s a completley cultural phenomenon. You can see it in the way politicians handle themselves with the public or how television presenters talk to autobiography hawking celebrities and it’s all utterly pointless. We have a generation of people who can only communicate their inner emotions via a little yellow smiley face on their phone and that’s a very sad thing indeed. We live in a country where the biggest band in it is a money churning boyband fronted by grown men over 40 years old singing Barry Manilow cover versions.
People think U2 and Coldplay are important bands of their generation as they sometimes say deep things about poverty and hang about with Hollywood celebrities. Festivals are currently cluttered with bands that split up without any interest or tears years ago but have then triumphantly reformed due to the imminent collapse of the music industry and the realisation that they can’t live off their royalties as no one buys fucking records anymore – it’s either bite the bullet and reform or get a proper job. Naturally like mugs the general public swallow it all whole and pay exorbitant fees to stand in a field and drink overpriced watered down beer whilst chomping down food poisioning from a beefburger that cost more than a family car hugging each other in the rain telloing each other that the bands in question are “just as good as they’re used to be” knowing full well that deep in their heart of hearts they know they’re not.

Influences like Joy Division are evident in your music? Which bands and artists do you feel have influenced your sound and are there any of your contemporaries you would comfortably see yourselves alongside?
How do you feel you fit in the current music scene?

I think that every piece of music you’ve ever listened to in your life influences you in some way or another and that can manifest itself in whatever way it wants both in positive and negative ways. Vague enough?! As far as I’m concerned listening to music is an ever-changing unfinished project, your brain is your library – people who get to a point and decide “that’s enough for me, I know what I like now” are just weird in my eyes. There’s always something new out there, you’ve just got to be proactive and find it for yourself – once you start buying all your “New Musak” in Tesco it’s game over. I never get totally stuck on one band or artist either (which has made me quite difficult to buy for at Christmas) – for instance, I love David Bowie, he’s a total hero to me, but if I’m being completely honest he’s made some truly awful music in his time (to go alongside the genius stuff). It’s the same with anyone I can think of that I even vaguely like – Adam Green, Morrissey, the Doors, the Cure, even Joy Division – they’ve made some truly great and life changing songs but (to take the Doors as an example) they’ve also made “The Celebration of the Lizard”.

How do we fit into the current music scene? Errr. Not very well. I honestly don’t know what “the current music scene” is anyway really – not that it should be a concern. Is it what was on display at Glastonbury on the tv? If so then Radio 2 and Q Magazine are truly the pioneers of modern music and the punk rock wars have been well and truly lost. It shouldn’t have been Zane Lowe and Lauren Laverne interviewing the bands as they self congratulated themselves off stage, it should have been Ken Bruce and Janice Long.

You really come into your own playing live and your shows have been fairly full on recently what with all the instrument smashing and microphone cord abuse. What should we expect in future from the Chapman Family live?

We’re undergoing some pretty dramatic changes at the moment but I don’t really want to discuss it too much. All I can say is that things are going to get more “expansive!”

You played recently at Evolution Emerging with some of the Norths best emerging acts. Did you manage to catch any other bands we should be watching out for?

I was so drunk I couldn’t really leave the stage at the Tyne Bar. However, that’s where I would have been anyway – I love Newcastle bands Retriever and Cult Image. Strobe lights and jumpers, it’s the way forward.

What’s next for the Chapman Family?

We took so long to release our debut album that we’re trying our hardest to not delay in releasing our second so we’re hard at work at the moment trying to write the best songs we possibly can. We like to see the first album as a statement of intent – that despite all the internal and external problems we eventually got it released and out there, (that was an achievement in itself.)

Our intention with the second album is for it to be a declaration of war.

Kingsley, thanks for taking the time out to talk to Buzzbands and especially for the Bono Knows picture which is pure genius. Until the new album comes out I highly recommend:

Buy Burn Your Town by The Chapman Family on CD here:

Listen to Burn Your Town by The Chapman Family

A Certain Degree

All Fall


The Sound of the Radio

1,000 Lies

She Didn’t Know

Something I Can’t Get Out


A Million Dollars

Virgins (Reprise)

Keep checking the Chapman Family website for the latest on tour dates and new releases:

Follow the Chapman Family on Twitter:


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