Brooks Kossover, left, and Jenghis Manning-Pettit of Chaunter. Image via Facebook.

What do indie heads and some of Baltimore’s more acclaimed musicians have in common with Corey Feldman and furries? Well, for one, they all like Chaunter, a band made up of local scene veterans that has just released its debut album, “Dream Dynamics.”

Chaunter was started last summer by Brooks Kossover and Jenghis Manning-Pettit, who’s one half of Melanin Free and a solo artist as Segregated Witness. The band has since grown Avengers-style as talented musicians steeped in Baltimore DIY joined the group. The band now includes Dallon F. Anderson (Two Heavens) on bass; Katie Ewles (Sam & I) on vocals, guitar, and keys; Francis Dempster (The Lushpockets, Magic Item) on synth; and Brett Neidecker (Sam & I) on drums.

Chaunter is a true rogue’s gallery of the Baltimore scene, as is the band’s album, which features appearances by 83cutlass, Samuel T. Herring (of Future Islands), Matmos, Super City, Dan Deacon and more. Both their leading singles, “Mirror|Mirror” and “Boo Cat,” are bizarre prog-rockish adventures, almost like the B-52s with cooler guitar riffs and more experimentation. The video for “Boo Cat,” as well as Chaunter’s public persona, has given the group a strong image, which is part the anime “Bleach” and part Adam and the Ants.

To understand what’s behind Chaunter and their star-studded first album, we spoke to the band about their origins, their art and their city.

Baltimore Fishbowl: How did you all get together and when did you start Chaunter?

Brooks Kossover: I started writing a bunch of music. Jenghis and I started playing stuff together in 2015, then Jenghis started a separate project, Melanin Free, and I just worked on writing a bunch of different stuff that I didn’t really show to a bunch of people. Then slowly I ended up showing it to people and here we are.

Dallon F. Anderson: That was spring 2018 right?

BK: Summer 2018. Summer 2018 is when everything really truly came together, but the songs had been in progress for a while.

Jenghis Manning-Pettit: I was just hanging out with Brooks; we were drunk and Brooks showed me the demos and was like, “Do you wanna be in this band?” And I was like, “Whatever dude,” (laughs). But then, like two weeks later, he was like, “We’re going in the studio next week.”

BK: It was pretty immediate. I’ve always been like, “Jenghis, they are the one. I know we’re gonna do something together; I can feel it in my spirit.”

BFB: So did it start off with just you two and then did people come on as it progressed, or did it start with everyone?

BK: Well, it initially started with me wanting to make a recording project. I wasn’t really sure what format it was going to take, but from there it was really Brett, the drummer. A lot of Chaunter revolves around Brett, because not only does he play drums, but he plays to a clicking track with some backing stuff as well; he runs things from his computer. So a lot of the stuff that Brett does is pretty key.

DFA: We practice at his house.

BK: Not to mention—it’s kind of funny—when I first met Brett in the summer, he was not a drummer. He had a drum set at his house and I was like, “Yo man, do you want to maybe play drums for this project I’m starting?” And he was like, “Well, I don’t play drums—but I do have a drum set.”

He actually started taking lessons from [Future Islands’ touring drummer] Mike Lowry. It’s kind of insane; I don’t know what kind of Mr. Miyagi techniques he’s got Brett on, but in the past several months Brett has elevated. It’s amazing.

BFB: And how did everyone else get involved?

Francis Dempster (to Brooks): You just hit me up.

BK: It was kind of like “Ocean’s Eleven,” where at the beginning he’s like, Now to find all of the best at what they do (laughs).

DFA: In 2015, Brooks hit me up, like “Hey, do you want to be a band with me and Jenghis?” And I said yeah—and then it never happened.

(Laughter)

BK: His amp was broken.

DFA: And that amp is still broken (laughs). But then, he hit me up again in the summer and I was like, “Let me listen to the demos to see if I’m feeling it or not.” And then I heard them and said, “Let’s do this.”

BFB: So, you all have other things going on. With that in mind, was it a conscious choice to create such a collaborative album? Did you plan on bringing all these artists together?

BK: Well, the band I worked with before—since 2014, I was recording pretty heavily and playing shows with this band called Drugdealer. This dude Mike Collins, I learned a lot from his process of working and learning by collaboration with other people.

But rather than collaborating with people from all over the world, I was very focused in on, How can we elevate this community? How can we find people in Baltimore and make an homage to this city?

The people that have collaborated on the album with us, a lot come from them doing very specific parts that either we wrote for them to do; or they arranged based around what we had already done. None of the songs that anyone collaborated on—except for the one with Matmos—were made entirely from scratch.

BFB: What’s the relationship between the band and the Baltimore music scene, as well as the visual arts scene? I know you, Brooks, are one of the founders of Terrault Gallery.

BK: That’s a bit of a secret (laughs). I’ve done a lot of crazy things.

DFA: He’s a Renaissance man.

BK: (laughs) So, I started Terrault when I was at MICA—named it after the street I grew up on, fun fact: Terrault Drive in Greensboro, North Carolina. I moved here in 2011 to attend MICA for painting.

I really was infatuated with the excitement and the colorfulness of it all, the Baltimore scene. That’s what first drew me to paint all the local musicians and artists I did, and then one thing led to another and I was like, I really love what these people are doing. It’d be really cool to make music like them. It got to the point where Chaunter came together and we started making stuff on a level where it was like, Oh, these people are actually willing to collaborate with us now.

JMP: Am I the only person that was born here?

FD: I was born here.

JMP: I think that for me, me being in this band is kind of like me saying, “F— you” to a certain part of that scene that is very segregated from Baltimore. It revolves around the transient nature of MICA, and that revolving door that a school is. I feel like a lot of it was not meant to be permanent for the city. I feel like the Baltimore scene, people will get big in it and then leave and kind of give nothing back.

BFB: So, it’s kind of like a stepping stone and then people go on to what they think is a greater thing?

JMP: Yeah. So I think that it’s kind of funny that I’m in this indie band, but I’m still playing weird-ass shit on guitar and doing what I want to do. I’m in that space now.

BFB: It seems like we’re at a moment in Baltimore where the music scene is changing. Jenghis, since you’ve been in the scene for so long, how do you think the music scene has changed over time and how has your relationship to it changed?

JMP: Baltimore’s been hot a few times, like in 2016. Certain people took that opportunity to go onto different places and different things. So, for me, that is just another part of our scene, where it goes through these crests and troughs. I do think that now there are more people doing what I’m trying to do and reclaim that attention for people that are more invested in Baltimore.

BK: Another thing about “Dream Dynamics” is that we wanted to come out with something really weird. There’s some songs that you would not expect at all.

And it’ll be interesting to see some of the newer stuff that we’re working on—we’re planning on coming out with an EP later this winter and then an album again next year. Both of those are going to be vastly different. We wanted to come out with something that was like, “We’re not a definable band. We’re weird and we want to do cool shit, but at the same time we’re not going to come out doing some chill indie vibe.” We want to keep people guessing, like, How are they going to progress?

BFB: Are the visual aspects and the image of the band important, or is it a consequence of your relationship to the visual arts?

BK: I don’t know guys, is it important? (laughs)

DFA: We’re definitely aware of the image.

BK: Jenghis and I, we bonded on this way back and this has kind of been a core part of my essence since Jenghis really introduced it to me: visual kei, a ’90s to early 2000s movement in Japan. It’s very theatrical.

Another thing that’s interesting is one of the first shows I went to in middle school was an Art Lord and the Self Portraits show, which was Future Islands before they were Future Islands. This was like 2005, 2006; I went to a house show they played that my friend who was older took me to. That was the first time I went to a show and was like, These people are dressed up. They’re doing really dramatic stuff. It’s super fun. I’ve always been a big fan of weird stuff like that. So when I moved to Baltimore and they had kind of elevated and refined who they were musically, it was cool to see that. Even though they don’t dress up as much anymore (laughs), they still have this very intense theatrical presence and I find that really inspiring.

And then Jenghis introducing me to visual kei in 2011 when I moved here, that kind of felt like the most natural, Okay yeah this is what I’m into. Pursuing that as an inspiration, I think that really brought us to where we are now. I know for a fact that Francis knew about it before he joined the band, too.

FD: Yeah.

JMP: Also, we got anime fan art (laughs). For me, that means I’m doing it; I want to elicit anime fan art. I want someone to see me and be like, That is an anime person.

BK: We’re all involved in the scene, which is so heavily based around visual arts.

FD: I’m a graphic designer.

YouTube video

BFB: I feel like anime fan art is a sign that you’re doing it.

BK: I think a lot of it came from the furry fandom that we definitely have. After the “Boo Cat” video (laughs)

JMP: If you look at the comments on the YouTube video, its mostly about [a furry character] Strobes. Strobes killed it.

JMP: Now we are a band that has a very strong visual presence, and we’re crossing over into anime people that are willing to make art of us.

FD: And then there’s Corey Feldman (laughs).

JMP: Yeah, have you seen that?

BFB: What? Corey Feldman the actor? (Feldman recorded a video on “Boo Cat,” praising it as a possible sequel to the musical “Cats.)

YouTube video

Everyone: Actor and musician.

DFA: We f— with Corey Feldman heavy. We want to play a show with the Angels.

Until then, you can catch Chaunter at their album release show tonight at the Metro Gallery. They’ll be playing a show with Xiu Xiu and Natural Velvet on May 10 at the Windup Space.

One reply on “Q&A: Chaunter discusses the band’s origins and new album ‘Dream Dynamics’”

  1. Right, but isn’t it true that there are multiple people saying the drummer from Chaunter, Brett Niedecker, is terribly abusive and problematic.

    Cancel Chaunter until they show they don’t wanna work with abusers like bret

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