Bark and bite
Five years of making noise and backing it up with Chico’s Teeph
“First and foremost, we’re screaming at you.”
That’s Teeph bassist/vocalist Matt Shilts talking about the band’s sound, and it’s a good place to start with the Chico three-piece.
“There’s something really cathartic and just awesome about playing too loud and screaming too hard,” he added.
Teeph first started shrieking in Chico’s face five years ago as a two-piece with guitarist/vocalist Sesar Sanchez and drummer Alex Coffin. Then it grew into a trio with former bassist Gavin Fitzgerald (of Bogg, the Pageant Dads), then again became a two-piece for a short time before Shilts joined in 2011.
Sanchez and Shilts do lead Teeph with typically metal screaming vocals, but the band on a whole is as fun as it is intense. The members have a physically and musically unhinged approach (especially live) that is often mathy but unpredictable and loose in a way that stands out at a typical metal show.
Over beers last Thursday evening, Shilts and Sanchez talked energetically about local heavy music as well as the CD-release party for their new EP, Solid Jobs, and the subsequent week-long western tour that will kick off June 6 at Crucial Fest in Salt Lake City.
“[Teeph] started because me and Alex heard some Helms Alee, and we were really into it,” Sanchez said of the Seattle three-piece, which has been one of the most frequent, loudest and hardest-to-categorize bands to come through Chico in at least the past five years. Helms Alee’s energetic no-rules approach to making sometimes difficult—and always heavy—music clicked with the two founding members, and Teeph has crafted a sound that similarly doesn’t fit neatly into a category. “We are not metal; we are not punk,” Sanchez said. “I think we’re kind of like a mathy sludgy band.” They simply try to not force any sound, he said; they just let it happen.
“I just want it to sound real,” Coffin added via email after the interview. “It’s possibly about finding the balance between trying and thinking, and the visceral nature of how I feel loud, abrasive music should just come out of someone. You shouldn’t fake it. … I absolutely love it though when I exert myself to a point of depletion, because [that’s proof that] I meant it. It also means I should probably be in better shape.”
The sound has evolved some over the course of the band’s three albums, tightening up into more focused heaviness for the new CD (recorded by Scott Barwick at Origami Recording Lounge)—which is the first written equally by the current trio.
Some of that extra polish might just be some bleed-through from one or more of their other projects. Each member of Teeph also plays in another two active bands, with Shilts in a couple more heavy ones—on guitar in Touch Fuzzy Get Dizzy and on bass with the very hectic Into the Open Earth. Sanchez is on guitar/backing vocals for metal powerhouse Cold Blue Mountain, and also guitar in the instrumental indie three-piece CITIES. Coffin’s other projects are much less noisy—playing drums in the Broken Bones (the backup band for local rocker Aubrey Debauchery) and drums/guitar/vocals in prog-ish comedy rockers the Pageant Dads.
As busy as they are playing locally, the guys are also very involved in other aspects of the local music scene. Coffin is part of the Uncle Dad’s Art Collective—which puts on a variety of original concerts, plays and other performing-arts events—and Sanchez is responsible for booking and promoting dozens of shows in Chico each year featuring some of the best touring heavy and noisy underground acts paired with bands in the local scene.
And the health of the scene is something Sanchez—who goes to nearly as many shows as he puts on and performs—is pretty vocal about. “Fuck your band. Your band is only as important as other people think it is,” he said, pointing out the growing tendency he sees with many young local musicians who only go out when their bands are playing and who are content to take a back seat (aside from Facebook blasts) when it comes to booking and promoting. “A lot of the younger bands aren’t stepping up,” he said.
“The personal side is being pushed aside,” he added. “People have to start caring. … The best times I’ve had are [at shows with] the people with whom I have a personal relationship.
“Dude, go out and be personal with people, and build something with them.”