By: Josh Malett
*At press time, the band's name was stylized "Chipper Jones." It has since been changed to "Chippr Jones."
In August, I walked into the Raw Paw Alien Zine release show and heard guitar looping that was rhythmic and powerful. I later found out it Chipper Jones – a duo composed of Charlie Martin and James Lambrecht – who reeled me in with their unique and overwhelming sound. They’ve played some of my favorite shows in Austin in the past year, and their style is quickly catching on in and outside of the city.
February 26 marks the release of a split EP the band made with another local artist, Chris Lopez. I sat down with Lambrecht and Martin to talk about the release, being a two-piece and what’s in store for the band’s future.
SMEAR: How did the two of y’all meet?
James: We met as neighbors in the mid ’90s in Dallas. We moved in a couple houses down from Charlie when I was a child. It was a far enough distance for this kid on his bike (Charlie) to pop in. There was a group of kids – maybe ten of us – hanging out all of the time. It was like the Sandlot.
Charlie: I’m a year older than James so we didn’t hang out one on one. In 1998 or 1999 James’ family moved to Austin. When I started going to UT, I knew James was going there as well and after not really keeping in touch we ran into each other on campus. Maybe like 11 years later. Through Facebook I knew he did music but we didn’t really keep in touch.
James: My old housemates and bandmates were moving out of my house and I had Charlie over to jam for the first time. It was so strange that as my old band was moving out Charlie and I were playing music together and it felt more natural than it did with any other band I had ever been in. And that’s where the relationship we have now really started. The fact that we knew each other as kids is just a fun little relic we have. We definitely re-met as adults. But it was really fun to tell mom and Dad once we started playing together.
S: Your sound is so unique, how did y’all start making the music you do?
C: We both have our own backgrounds and musical influences. James put out a solo guitar album under the title “Thousand Mile Channel,” which was all guitar tapping and looped based stuff which I really felt a connection with. We were old friends and hadn’t lived in the same city for a really long time.
J: Both of us developed our tastes separately. Once we met, those tastes meshed really well as there were definite crossovers between our two tastes.I was always in a group of people who wanted to play technically and I was always the one trying to simplify things. Whereas now I’m the one pushing the boundaries and Charlie is trying to simplify and reign me in.
C: James pushes himself to simplify and its me trying to push myself to do more than I would and it’s a good mix of the two. It’s mostly James and his looping work which is where our sound comes from. I do simple beats behind them to give it an electronic music type of feel whereas the chord structure comes more from post rock.
S: What's the dynamic like being a duo?
C: We’re definitely very compatible as people and musicians, and also real different as people and musicians. So I guess we try hard to use our similarities and differences in a way that aids the music. It being just the two of us really simplifies things sometimes, and really complicates them other times – that’s about all I can say about that dynamic.
S: Is there a thriving ambient/post rock inspired scene in Austin still or has that subsided?
J: Austin’s music scene as a whole seems to be thriving, but in a self-sufficient community kind of way – and I don’t think ambient/post-rock specifically gets more attention ahead of anything else here. As a genre though, it’s beginning to dominate the undergrounds throughout the world. I feel like most musicians have always started out writing instrumentals, but tend to venture away from it due to cultural expectations of what a band / a song consists of – singer, lyrics, rhythm section, chorus, etc. Nowadays though, I feel like there are less of these expectations, so younger musicians feel more inclined to follow that instinctual urge towards the feelings that not all words can describe. That, and you don’t need to know crap about music to make post-rock/ambient, so the barrier for entry is pretty low.
S: As y’all are an instrumental band, what it’s like writing songs that convey a message when you aren’t literally saying that message? Is it difficult to be evocative without actually saying words?
C: I think instrumental music is a completely viable way of saying – communicating – something. Although I never have much of a message or a distinct image in mind regarding our songs, I think James does. Usually what I’m hoping to get across is a feeling, and hopefully it’s a pleasant subjective experience.
J: I feel like it’s no different from abstract painting. Instrumental music tries to create an atmosphere, a mood, an environment. And for people with a liking for it, it seems to be more evocative due to fewer narrative cues, allowing some to associate it with a variety of different contexts. An instrumental to one person could remind them of their dead dog, and another person of their beach vacation last year. Which is awesome. I’ve always felt like instrumentals go to, not necessarily a greater place, but an altogether different world of music – more interpretation & wandering.
S: How did the idea to do a split with Chris Lopez arise? Are there any collaborative tunes on the split?
J: He’s always been one of our favorite local artists and a while back he was looking for people to do a split with. He just put the question out there and we hopped on the chance to work with him.
C: It hasn’t been so much of a collaborative project. There aren’t any collaborative tunes on the split. I might end up drumming on a song or two of his but there aren’t any extensive collaborations