Stepping out with Chowderfoot
With a name like Chowderfoot, you might expect an amusing story behind the origin of the young Seaford band. The truth is, however, the laid-back foursome just wanted something catchy, something likeable, something that people would remember. Through nearly a decade and a sprinkle of band mates, the close friends have found their forté. With the addition of a second drummer and the release of their second full album, Chowderfoot is sharing their take on music, marketing, and good ol’ southern Delaware living.
“We’ve been doing this since our freshman year at Seaford High,” admitted lead guitarist and singer, Trevor Young. The music scene was a binding one for a handful of talented songwriters, singers and musicians in Sussex County, and the group eventually developed after members of separate bands started drifting together.
“We shared the same tastes when it came to the songs we listened to, and we just sort of merged together,” said drummer Joey States. “Chowderfoot became like a high school supergroup.”
Original bandmates, States and Young, were surrounded by music in life since an early age. Young’s father had dappled with the guitar, and Trevor quickly followed suit, developing his skills rapidly. “I caught onto it pretty quickly,” he said, “and everything started to come naturally.” With a few lessons in school for classical guitar to get him on his way and a knack for writing, Young was soon developing his own songs. The two started pulling their influences from their parents’ generation; Led Zeppelin and Blue Oyster Cult. “My dad would hear us play something then tell us, ‘You need to learn to play this one.’ We grew up with his music.” Before long, they were finding their own preference in the alternative bands of their time, like 311, Incubus and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
“These were the bands that we knew and loved,” said bassist Justin Brooke, who joined the group, bringing funky, soulful licks to the band’s sound, as well.
Long-time friend and musician, Joey Todd, became a Chowderfoot in only the past few months, but the band’s second percussionist and back-up vocalist brings a new element to the group that helps give them a prominent sound. Todd’s auxiliary percussion set-up, ranging from congas, bongos and more, compliment and accompany State’s traditional drum kit, or trap set. A drummer since elementary school, Todd had juggled a variety of instruments over the past 18 years.
Still plenty of years ahead of them, the group has managed to already tackle a variety of venues, from Marina’s within their Seaford stomping ground, to Bethany Beach and Ocean City night spots, to the city shows in Baltimore. “We’ve played a lot of places,” said Brooke, “but it would be nice to make a living out of it. I think we all want to move from here [but stay together].”
“Ultimately, we’d like to be able to do this as a full-time job,” said States, “but there’s a lot of work that comes along with it. You can’t expect it to just happen.”
With so much still going on in their lives, from work, girls and other personal aspects, ascending to where Chowderfoot strives to be is not as simple as it seems. “There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that’s involved with getting something like this together,” said Young. “Everyone has their schedules and lifestyles to work around.”
Young has shared a love with writing, and has even written his own poetry, but the group has been very lenient when it comes to drawing influences for a song, both musically and lyrically. “It seems like we always have random parts of songs floating around,” said States. “We had just finished a song, and we’ve had parts to it for about a year. It just all seemed to come together. You never seem to really know what to do with it, then somebody will throw in a line that works with it. A lot of our songs end up with messages to live by. We all make it happen together.”
A bass riff may fit nicely with a bongo line, though the words might not flow just right. The four work through a lot of trial and error before a song finally comes together. “It’s all a big experiment,” said Todd. “We all have a say in everything.” In most cases, the lyrics are the last part of the song to make it onto the paper.
At the start of this summer, Chowderfoot managed a show every weekend, some twice in a weekend. Different venues provoked different crowds to come out, but the ages still range across the board. “We definitely have a young crowd that comes out to the shows,” said Todd. “A lot of them are guys we grew up with, and they listened to the same stuff we like, but there is definitely a wide range out there.” Small, familiar restaurants and bars and city venues allow for the band to play their originals, where colleagues sing along with the melody and new music is introduced and discovered. The more-seasonal and resort spots, such as the beach, prompt the well-known covers, and Chowderfoot brings it all. “If we play a long, three-hour set,” said Young, “we’ll throw in some covers. It just depends on where we’re playing.”
Although the group excels in the performance department, it’s the marketing scheme that has given their publicity a slow start. In 2003, the group introduced their first album, “Left Field Funk.” Five years later, they were back in the recording studio, (aka Young’s home), putting the finishing touches on their second record, “Binge Thinking.” Working on the album without a major deal is no easy task, as any of the members will tell you. “We’d be recording all through the night, every night,” said States. “It got pretty exhausting, but we’re pleased with the outcome.” Over the past decade and two albums in circulation, the group has managed to perfect almost 30 regular tracks. “We’ve probably played each song over 200 times, too,” he added.
With a new list of songs to introduce to the public, the main focus of the guys is centered around exposure. “Our goal right now is to get our name there and let people hear who we are,” said Todd. “We don’t have a whole lot of fans outside of this area because not too many people have heard of us. We have people around different colleges who enjoy our music, but there aren’t a lot who have even watched us play.”
Young would like Chowderfoot to be a band for the fans. They’ve talked about introducing a marketing tactic with the release “Binge Thinking” that other bands have recently practiced. While profitable revenue would be favorable, he is very much in the mindset of giving his fans what they want. “We’ve talked about selling our CD’s for whatever people think they should pay for it,” he noted.
After all, it’s the fans’ feedback at shows that helps fuel the group’s performance. “When people are jumping up there,” said States, “singing along and dancing, that’s what does it for us. That pulls us into the music and makes the show a lot more enjoyable for us.”
It isn’t just the audience participation, though. “We feed off each other a lot,” said Todd. “We always do something new each time we play. Our shows are a good time to try out new things, too, and people enjoy that. There aren’t a lot of bands out there with two drummers, and it’s especially fun for us because we really get the opportunity to try new stuff out.”
Growing up as the World Wide Web was on the rise has definitely been a blessing for the guys of Chowderfoot. They’ve managed to go mainstream, with a personal website, courtesy of the friend and band-networking phenomenon, Myspace.com. Fans can keep in touch with the members, share comments, pictures and check show dates by visiting www.myspace.com/chowderfoot, a site that Brooke helps monitor closely. The group’ album, Left Field Funk is also available for preview and purchase through the file-sharing network, iTunes. Visitors can listen to songs and even write a review of the band. Recording sessions are even available for web surfers to watch at YouTube.com.
With plenty of potential publicity on the rise, Chowderfoot hopes to reach out their fan base, and although five years separated the release of their two albums, the group plans to turn around with another one shortly. “We’re not taking a breather,” said States. “We want to do another [album]. We already have more songs to put on next record, and this last one was a lot of fun because we did a lot of the work ourselves. We can look back and really appreciate it.”
Chowderfoot has the rest of the summer season lined up, including a “Booze Cruise” this Friday, Aug. 1, sponsored by local radio broadcasters 93.5 The Beach. They’ll follow up this month with a show on Wednesday, August 6 at Bamboo’s Tiki Bar on 9th St. in the Paradise Plaza Hotel in Ocean City, MD, and on Saturday, Aug. 9 at Marina’s in Blades, DE, just outside of Seaford. Be sure to visit their Myspace Web site for more updates and free previews of their songs.