INTERVIEW

After a false start in 2012, here come Seize the Chair, from Sheffield’s ‘meat scene’.

seizethechair

The streets of Sheffield are eerily quiet, with only the occasional hum of passing traffic. It’s that ghostly time between Christmas and New Year when towns shut down and lick their festive wounds and look to the foreboding, endless January. Enjoying this state of hibernation are local boys Seize the Chair, who are steadily recovering from a turbulent 2012. Nursing a brew in singer Nick Chantler’s, quite frankly, rather stylish kitchen it strikes me that this is not like the ramshackle digs that most bands call home. It’s nice.

Today it’s me, Nick and drummer James ‘Jam’ Freeman. Bassist Rowan Roberts has fallen prey to the God-awful Norovirus, while keyboard player Steven Mullins is in the Lake District with his family. It is still, technically, the family holidays, after all.

Gravitating towards Sheffield for University, Seize the Chair shared houses and a mutual obsession for 1960’s beat pop culture.

“Me and Rowan, we knew each other from our home towns,” starts Nick, “so we had been friends for some time. We studied Art and Jam did Film for a little bit.” Jam grins shyly. “Before I chucked it in,” he says. “I lasted the best part of a year!”

“I winged it somehow,” says a proud Nick. “I submitted a load of work in the summer, so I managed to come out of that first year black hole.”

Steve joined and they finally became a band in 2009, writing their first show of 4 songs in as many days. “At the time I was doing a lot of travelling around Asia and we thought ‘Fuck it’ the only way this is going to happen properly is if we book a show,” recalls Nick, “so I got back and Steve had been in LA. He got back five days before the show and we started writing straight away. It was intense.”

The band’s debut single, ‘You Who’, was released in 2011 through the Too Pure Singles Club, and dealt sharp blows at the minutiae of day to day life with its tight, shuddering riffs, but Seize the Chair’s outlook and song-writing style has taken a dramatic turn since then. Nick nods. “We’ve taken a big, fucking swing,” he says. “People seemed to like the single and that was cool, as it was the first thing that we’d released and was totally self-recorded and self-produced, but I guess we had no other songs of the same ilk so it was a weird time. We’ve changed subject matter and stuff’s a lot weirder now, a lot less relatable.”

A self-confessed control freak, Nick Chantler is also a record producer running local studios Bad Merchant. The band had their sights firmly set on further recording sessions there when Nick sustained a tendon injury to his left hand, the result of an accident when visiting his girlfriend in Canada. “We had to cancel all of those plans, which was awful,” he says with a solemn shake of the head. “I think we’re going to record an album in the summer. If anyone wants to put it out then that would be cool, if not we’ll fund it ourselves somehow, take out a loan and see.”

For a band named after a sketch on a Reeves and Mortimer show, Seize the Chair are notably fans of the surreal and arbitrary; collectively they have a concise obsession for 1960s music production, particularly that of beatnik weirdos The Monks. For the uninitiated, Nick explains: “They’re this bunch of ex American GI’s who relocated in Berlin and started this band that, well, I guess their record company was trying to build their own Beatles, but the Monks were far too fucking weird!”

“They were one of the first bands to do, sort of protest songs,” adds Jam, quietly, “so I think that freaked people out a bit.”

Nick: “They looked fucking weird together. They had the tonsure haircuts (traditional monk hair-dos) with the bald patches and the robes. They were totally 100% ahead of their time. Also, we enjoy bands like The Troggs and a lot of the Joe Meek groups, we’ve always had a bit of a thing for that era.”

These influences shine through the kaleidoscopic jumble of ‘Wackadoo’ – a surrealist torrent of surf rock that’s barely clinging to the edge of sanity – and in the confident stomp of ‘Shake Things Up’, with its Sunday morning chorus and striding guitars.

Whatever comes next for Seize the Chair, there’s no denying that exciting times are afoot in the Sheffield music scene, with cheap rents leading to a rush of creativity in music and art spaces in the northern city. They – the bands and fans – are calling it the ‘Meat Scene’, which includes fellow Too Pure clubbers Mad Colours and Best Friends, Avida Dollars and current 6 Music darlings Hey Sholay. Gigs are a wild affair for these bands and Seize the Chair are no different, becoming a seething mass of fractured energy. Someone nearly always gets naked. Jam does, in fact, on the cover of ‘Wackadoo’ – stark bollock naked. He grins sheepishly. “As a band we don’t give much of a fuck about taking ourselves too seriously,” he says.

But complete nudity, Jam? You could just drum in your pants?

“Nah, that’s too restrictive. Sometimes you need to be free!”

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