Sitting Down with Chase Tremaine

By Ryan G

Over the past few years, Chase Tremaine has made a name for himself in what I can only describe as the indie-alt faith adjacent world. But his sound is one that everyone should find intriguing.

As he alludes to below, Chase and I have crossed paths in some unlikely ways and at this point hung out in 3 different states, as well as on Zoom during some Covid-era online mixers. I’ve grown to appreciate his friendship (and Twitter discourse) but that’s not the only reason I did this interview. Chase’s music is rich, genuine, and down to earth. His latest album, Accidental Days, feels like the most cohesive snapshot of the essence of Chase Tremaine music yet.

I hope you enjoy this interview with Chase. There’s a lot of good insight and entertaining anecdotes here. And you just might get caught up in your feels a few times.

What would make up an Accidental Days cocktail?

Accidental Days would be a negroni that’s diluted with plain seltzer water. It’s a fizzy, flavorful sipper, enjoyed consistently over a forty-minute full-course meal, with bitter flavors that excite yet don’t overwhelm, with a juicy orange slice to enjoy at the end of the drink.

What’s a strange/memorable way a fan has connected with or discovered your music?

Since this interview is for TunedUp, I can’t pass up the chance to share how I met TunedUp’s Ryan G. Back in 2015, I was unexpectedly laid off, and I took the opportunity in between traditional jobs to try to create my own music business: a personalized song shop where people could commission me to write songs about whatever they wanted, in whatever style they wanted. This was long before now-popular services like Songfinch and Songlorious even existed, and my business also had a unique twist to it: making music that sounds like any artist of your choice. It was an exciting prospect, but as a one man job, it turned out to be too hard to find customers and too hard to price the product. But in March of 2015, when I took a trip to attend SXSW for the first (and only) time, this business was my bread and butter, so I came with business cards galore, ready to pass out to people. One of those people, as you may have guessed, was Ryan, who took an interest in my ideas and had a wonderful conversation with me and my brother. Lo and behold, I performed at Audiofeed Festival over two years later, playing bass for a band called Blind Breed in 2017, and I ran into Ryan, who instantly remembered me and the song shop. The fact that he remembered our interaction at all was such a testament to his care and commitment to the music scene. He’s the real deal, and his passion for music and community is a huge part of what makes TunedUp a fantastic website.

Has anyone ever shared with you an emotion you wouldn’t have expected to connect with your music?

One of the unfortunate circumstances of recording music is becoming a bit numb to the original emotions of your own songs. By the time you’ve sung a lyric thirty times while recording vocals and harmonies, then listened to the song dozens of times during the mixing and mastering process, you’ll start to feel pretty distant from where the songs started. So when Accidental Days came out, on the very first day, one of my close friends from Texas texted me to say that she loved the album, BUT (and her exact words were) “why you makin me cry tho? Some of those songs are sadddd.” And I was confused because I had forgotten that anything on the album was sad. I had to ask her which songs she was talking about, which in hindsight was embarrassing, but it was a great way for me to reconnect with the original emotions — the sad, the mournful, the bittersweet — behind these songs.

If money/resources were no object – what would go into the production of a quintessential Chase Tremaine live experience?

Since I do the one-man-band shtick (performing all the instruments myself), I don’t have a “live band” at the moment. My solo career kicked off in early 2020, so the pandemic squashed any hopes I had early on of getting a band together. As of now, all of my performances and livestreams have been acoustic, which has provided a fun challenge for me to use looping pedals to expand upon my sound and better recreate the album versions in an acoustic context, but it still can’t capture the full-band intention and style of my music, which is deeply rooted in emo-pop, math rock, and post-hardcore. So the quintessential live experience, no holds barred, would definitely revolve around me hand-picking my ideal backing musicians. (Can I just hire Dirty Loops to play bass, keys, and drums?) But along with killer hired guns to do some of the heavy lifting, I’d want to fill the stage with all of the amazing guest musicians who’ve appeared on my albums thus far: my brother, my wife, my friends Daniel and Ray, solo artists Theo MacMillan and Nick Schrader, and trumpeter extraordinaire Brendan Dorman. Beyond simply who’s playing, it would be fun to have some coordinated outfits and dance moves; as a huge sucker for boy bands, I love stuff like that. And lastly, I’d want to have some visuals going on in the background, perhaps a slideshow of paintings made by friends, fans, and my wife.

Shout out your friends/underrated pals here:

I’m close with some of the guys from Out of Service, who released an excellent album last year titled The Ground Beneath Me. I’ve recently gotten to know the dudes in idle threat, whose debut blurred visions is easily one of my favorites of the 2020’s. In the Twittersphere, I’ve become e-friends with a cool band named A Place for Owls, and one of their members, Nick Webber, recently dropped an incredible solo record titled All the Nothing I Know, which is my favorite album of 2023 thus far. I’m part of a music collective/pseudo-label called Post Emo Records, and two of our other artists, Benjamin Daniel and Dylan Case White, will be releasing albums later this spring. Lastly, I don’t know these people at all, but I have to take every chance I get to rep a freaking incredible Japanese rock band named Cinema Staff, whose 2021 album Kaitei is the biggest musical obsession I’ve had in the past five-plus years.

What encourages you about being a musician today? What do you find the most challenging?

The ongoing struggle of the music industry — something that’s perhaps been the most challenging aspect for over a decade and one that’s only ever getting worse — is the supersaturation of the market. There’s debatably too much music being made, and every new or young artist is competing against millions of songs by millions of other artists. That places each artist within the external struggle of asking, “How do I rise to the surface and get my music heard?” while dealing with the internal struggle of asking, “Why am I even releasing this? Does the world need any more music from anyone, let alone from me?” Yet what I find to be so encouraging in the midst of those monolithic, everpresent frustrations is word-of-mouth. I doubt I will ever land a big record deal or get a single on an official Spotify playlist, but here’s what I do have: friends and fans telling other people about my music. It’s very cool to suddenly have thousands of new listeners thanks to a popular playlist, but it’s even cooler (and way more satisfying) to see a friend post your album on Facebook or to see a total stranger recommending it on Twitter.

What, if anything, do you find to be an under-utilized opportunity in the music industry today?

In recent years, I’ve become increasingly convinced that the more things musicians can do or offer for free, the better. I obviously want to support bands financially, and I never want a great artist to quit because there’s not enough money in the game, but at the same time, I think two incredible things can happen when we start from a place of inviting people into our music for free: 1) the net widens for more people to hear our music or attend our concerts without an immediate paywall, and 2) we get to enjoy the freedom of making art that doesn’t carry an exact dollar sign over it. Most artists are paying thousands of dollars to produce, mix, master, release, and promote each song, which is then sold on iTunes for a mere dollar. That piece of art is worth far more than a dollar — in fact, I’d dare argue that a great song is priceless — but alas, we’ve been forced to turn music into a commodity. Yet when we offer up music for free, we’re inviting people into a position where they can pay us after having an experience with our music (whether that’s buying a T-shirt, leaving a tip, etc.) instead of paying us first for the possibility of having an experience with our music later. If this topic interests you, I wrote a longer essay about it on my new album’s Bandcamp page, where, fittingly, the album is downloadable for free: 

What’s the most unique piece of music merch you own?

It’s not exactly “merch,” but my favorite band is Thrice, and I have a handmade leather wallet made by Thrice’s guitarist Teppei Teranishi. When the band went on hiatus from 2012 through 2015, Teppei went into leatherworking full-time, and as a Christmas gift, my brother bought me one of his wallets, which I cherish and continue using to this day, nearly a decade later.

What’s exciting to you at the moment?

I’m getting really jazzed about collaborations. Over the course of making these first three albums, I’ve become increasingly convinced that the more creative control I give to other people, the better my music becomes, despite the fact that I’m generally writing my songs and playing most (if not all) of the instruments. It can be hard to loosen my grip on what could very easily be a one-man-show, but whenever I do loosen up, the results are wonderful. So now that this first trilogy of albums is out there, I’m hoping to spend the remainder of 2023 focusing on co-writes and collaborations with other artists, meanwhile planning out albums #4 and onward in a manner that will make them even more collaborative than these first three have been. And perhaps I’m projecting this onto other people, but I think the current industry trends of home studios and digital workstations have made it far too easy for artists to make music in a silo. I would love to see more artists learning the lesson that I’ve learned over the past few years and returning to a place of playing instruments with friends in their garages and finding the magic that comes from bringing different hearts and minds together throughout the creative process.

Follow Chase on Twitter and Instagram.

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