INTERVIEW: Chase Atlantic confidently faces mental health on ‘Phases’

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Chase Atlantic

Chase Atlantic. Courtesy photo.

When Australian pop band Chase Atlantic went into the studio last spring to record what would become its sophomore album, Phases, brothers Mitchel and Clinton Cave, and best friend and bandmate Christian Anthony didn’t even have the lyrics formed yet. While that’s a stress-inducing formula in most cases—studio time is expensive and a second album can make or break a band—the trio felt no pressure.

Chase Atlantic
8 p.m., Monday, July 1
August Hall
Tickets: $18.

The entire record, which immediately followed the late January release of an EP, came together in a month and a half from the point of origination. The members spent two weeks writing in their childhood home in Cairns, Australia, a humid, rainforest town that’s best known as the jumping off point for seeing the Great Barrier Reef. Then they returned to their L.A. studio for 27 days, vocalist-bassist Mitchel Cave said in a recent phone call before the group’s current tour kicked off. He and his bandmates pulled the lyrics from the recesses of their brains.

“It wasn’t rushed or anything like that, but just looped over and over in our heads until the point where we were comfortable,” Cave said, speaking to the confidence Chase Atlantic felt at being able to pull off the task. “It just kind of happened organically. If it felt rushed or incorrect, then we didn’t use it.”

In just a few years, Chase Atlantic have become one of the most popular young bands in Australia. The Cave brothers grew up studying classical music and jazz and were admitted into higher education through music scholarships.

“I played the saxophone; I went from clarinet to bassoon,” Mitchel Cave said. “I love a little bit of brass, every now and then.”

The well-rounded education helped the brothers learn composition production and mixing techniques, as well as chord progressions. Mitchel Cave’s initial success came not with jazz, but alongside Anthony in a short-lived boy band, which made an appearance on The X Factor Australia. Nothing from that brief experience, not even the obligatory dancing, carried over to the moody, slick pop of their current project.

“That was light years ago; that doesn’t count,” Cave said. “Nothing from that show kind of transferred over to what we’re doing now, fortunately enough. … We had to start from scratch with Chase Atlantic.”

In 2014, Mitchel Cave, guitarist-saxophonist Clinton Cave and singer-guitarist Anthony formed the band after writing songs together at home and experimenting with electronic production. After releasing a couple of EPs, the band caught the attention of Good Charlotte siblings Joel and Benji Madden, after the two heard Chase Atlantic’s first hit, “Friends.”

The Maddens turned into mentors of a sort for the young band, bringing them under the wing of their artist development company, MDDN. The development deal was a handshake contract until recently.

“We didn’t have to sign anything; they were just there as mentors to kind of give us a helping hand,” Cave said. “They brought us over to Los Angeles. They brought us to a studio to complete our first album. Only recently we signed a management deal with them. … They taught us all the things we shouldn’t do and all the things we should do; things that they’ve had to go through so we wouldn’t have to go through them, like life experiences.”

Besides suddenly having access to professional studio equipment, the members of Chase Atlantic learned important lessons like not to sign any contract without having a lawyer present, and not to make enemies in the small ecosystem of the music industry.

“It’s good to have someone to look up to that you can trust,” Cave said. “I feel like a lot of artists these days don’t have another artist they can look up to for guidance, let alone someone they can trust to manage them. That’s pretty important to us. No matter how hard times get, we can go to them.”

The band continued to make and release EPs regularly leading up to a 2017 self-titled debut album. But then the production trio has centered on a sound that blended pop with hip-hop, R&B and electronic production and a pop-punk core. Apt comparisons include The 1975 and The Neighbourhood.

Phases follows the EP Don’t Try This, which the band released at the end of last January, much of which the Cave brothers and Anthony wrote while on the road.

“I think it was about time that we delivered a secondary body of work,” Mitchel Cave said of wanting to follow the EP with an album so quickly. “We had our first album out for two or three years. … We wanted to give people a new era; a new solid piece of body to look at and digest. We felt about ready, and we assumed if we can do this every time, then we can just keep making records for the rest of our lives.”

Like on the EP, a dark undercurrent runs through Phases, even alongside the lush, club-ready sonics. Cave said the gloomy aesthetic comes naturally as he writes about his own life and always being in the moment, rather than with the safety net of the passage of time. The darker times just happen to bring out the trio’s creative side more than the happy times.

“Whatever you’re hearing is literally how we felt at that time,” he said. “Being creatives, obviously it’s easy to fall into bouts of depression and anxiety, so it’s kind of easy for us to express those lapses. … It’s important to express exactly how you feel because it’s the only creative outlet we have, really.”

Writing from his heart is the way Cave knows he can connect to the band’s audience. Being raw and honest is what he knows best.

“When you have these pop artists sing songs that were written for them, you don’t really feel the emotion in their voice,” he said. “You can’t hear the telltale signs of a real story.”

It just so happens that Chase Atlantic’s stories are told alongside an unescapably fun sonic dynamic. The album’s lead single, “HER,” emerges as if out of a hazy dream. The lyrics carry heartbreak, but it’s most definitely a song meant for dancing. “STUCKINMYBRAIN” is more noticeably a downer, hitting the topic of mental health straight on with a personal story about the debilitating power of depression.

“At that exact point in time, I was expressing how I felt,” Cave said. “It’s OK to talk about things they don’t necessarily want to talk about. It’s OK to be honest with yourself. It’s OK to just tell the truth. I didn’t really give any reason or ways to escape the feeling of being stuck in your brain, but if you talk about it, that’s the first step toward fixing the issue. You can’t come up with the answers on the spot, so you have to just have to talk about how you’re feeling, and hopefully people can know that they’re not alone.”

That’s one of the songs that may be difficult for Cave to perform live, depending on how he feels on a given day. The incapacitating feelings return from time to time.

“If it’s one of those days, it might be a little difficult at that point in time. It might be a little overwhelming,” he said. “But it’s still, like, a fun song. People are still going to go crazy, even though it has that true emotion in it. We’re not making any songs that are straight up melancholy. We still want people to bump along and have fun.”

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