Interview With Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! Vocalist Bert Poncet
Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! has just released their fourth full-length album, Gone Are The Good Days, on July 30th on Fearless Records. The band spent the pandemic getting busy with songwriting and fully produced the album themselves, something they haven't attempted since their debut. Lead singer Bert Poncet and I had a discussion over Zoom about the new album, self-producing, and how the pandemic gave Chunk the time to assess themselves and where they'd like to go in the future. Read on to see the full conversation, and make sure to check out Gone Are The Good Days!
I've been jamming to "Gone Are The Good Days," which I think is a fantastic song. What made you choose that as the album title as well? Bert: Well, I think that we felt, at first, that for some reason, that title was sketchy somehow. And we got a lot of comments from people saying it was a sad title and it's pessimistic and stuff, and I get that, but that was not the initial idea. That title is actually from the song, and it's more of a positive nostalgia. In 2020, with COVID and all of that, we all had a tough year. When we've been all alone at home, bored and all that, it made me feel a little frustrated and like, "Okay, what's left?" The world's going down, but what's left for us? I guess the best thing we have are those good memories and those good times with friends and family at shows, and things like that. And that seems like the best way to cheer you up, looking back at all of that. What's funny though, that song was written before COVID. If you look at the lyrics, it's more like us as a band looking back and talking about us on tour, remembering those good times on tour. I think that with the pandemic happening, a lot more people can relate to that song. Even with the music video, our director had a really good idea to translate that with a past relationship thing, which I thought was pretty clever. Our first single, "Bitter," is kind of about the same topic, just looking back at everything.
How has the band's sound evolved for this album? B: With this album, I think we managed to provide an album that's exactly the way we wanted this to be because we had the time. With every aspect, the songwriting and the mixing and everything is all self-produced, and that's the best way for us to make our sound evolve is by self-producing our album. But the other good thing that helped our sound evolve is that we took the time to experiment way further than we were used to. When you hear the entire record, you can tell that each song has its own vibe, but they each have their own Chunk flair to it. They're all different, but they're all from the same place. It's what we wanted to achieve. I'm very proud of this record, the first time we've had exactly the album we wanted, in every single detail. For us as an artist, it's actually very important and very rewarding to think that way.
Being in a band has its pros and cons, of course, like everything. Aside from writing and performing the music itself, what are some of your pros and cons about band life?
B: There are a lot of great things about being in a band, talking about Chunk specifically. We weren't made up by someone else. We're all good friends since the very beginning, and it's great to experience all the crazy stuff with your best friends. I think also being able to travel. I'm grateful for all those years of touring. We met so many people, made so many friends, and saw tons of new cities. As a French band that's singing in English, it's such a unique experience when you're touring in, for example, Japan. We're French, and they're Japanese, and we are all communicating and sing the same words in English. It's unique. We had a talk with the band not so long ago, and we experienced so many memories from those years of touring that it's hard to process what even happened. Right now, we had the time to think back a little bit, so we decided at some point, we should gather together and rent a house for a summer and just write a book. Just to put all those memories together because it's been so intense that even now in 2021, it's hard to process everything. Obviously, there are some cons, especially with touring life. Sometimes if you're not getting good sleep, you're getting up really exhausted, those are some bad times. But it's nothing compared to the good stuff. I'm just grateful for all the things we've gotten to experience already.
You mentioned being a French band touring in the United States and other English markets as you first began your career. Was there anything that was a huge cultural difference or something of a shock as you first started getting success while also having a language and cultural barrier? B: Kinda, yeah. Touring the U.S. is not like touring Japan or Southeast Asia, where you feel like you're on a different planet. You're more at home, but at first, what was really tough was the language barrier. Yeah, it was tough. French people are not famous for being the best in English; I guess because of our educational system, we don't really push for it. It's getting better now, but we grew up in those years where you learn English at school, but you know, it's one of those things that are not as important as the other things you're learning. So I remember I did one year in private school before our first tour, but it was still not… When it comes to language if you're not in the country actually talking to the people, when you're not speaking the proper slang, you can't tell if you're fluent or anything. You can know the entire English dictionary, but you're not fluent. So that was a big struggle, and it took us three tours in the United States to start feeling a little more comfortable. Another huge struggle for me as the lead singer is that you get those moments where you're supposed to entertain the crowd, and I remember those very awkward moments where I was confused, or I was saying a lot of mistakes. That's where I started trying to think of more cool things to say in between songs, but I guess if I put myself in the shoes of someone in the crowd at those shows, it would have been really funny.
Actually, what I notice here now is that since we haven't toured in the United States since 2016, my English isn't as good as it used to be. When you don't practice English much, you kinda lose it.
What's the best piece of advice that you've ever gotten from someone you've toured with? B: This is a good one. I have a good one; it's kinda technical and not so much in the life advice category, but still. I remember when we did our first tour in the United States; it was basically the very beginning of our professional career as a band. We were very excited about the tour, it was great, but it was a long tour. It was a full run. What I did not expect was my voice getting tired. I could do a tour in Europe that's like a week-long, and my voice would be fine. But after much longer, like three weeks, it would get tired, and at some point, I would lose my voice and could barely sing while on stage. I remember we did a show in Tampa, Florida, and my voice was gone completely. And we did the show, and I was really mad at myself. The show was not so good, to be honest, but it got way, way worse once I started getting a very frustrated attitude on stage. As the singer of the band, I should be the one that's most excited and ready to cheer the crowd up. And I started to have that bad attitude on stage, and the show was over, and I was off stage and started to throw things and just, getting really mad at myself. And one guy, the singer for A Loss For Words [Matty Arsenault], came to me and was like, "It doesn't matter if you sing well or if you don't have a voice or if you scream the entire show instead of singing. That doesn't matter, it's the attitude on stage is what matters the most. That's what people will remember the most." So I took that advice, and I'm not saying that every show since I've done in the best mood or anything, but it really helped. If I'm in a bad place before a show, I always remember that and how important it is. It was so long ago, especially with COVID we haven't been able to play on stage in a while. But it was the one piece of advice I always remember, and that's my main guideline for live performances.
What's something you wish people would ask you to talk about more often? B: Well, I already covered that the album is self-produced, but that's one thing that I really want to emphasize more during the band's career because the fact that I've always been really into music production and the only way for an artist to actually get to project the exact idea they wanted, the exact way they wanted, out to the public is where you get all those skills, especially the most technical ones, and it's where you get your hands on every aspect of the album. I really enjoy all that because I have a recording studio at home, I produce another band too, and I like to talk about those things.
Other than that, when we were talking about all the touring stuff earlier… Well, I was actually supposed to be a lawyer. I have a degree from a law university in France. When we wrote the song, "Taking Chances," what basically happened is we got the opportunity to have a professional career as a band, so I basically said, "Fuck law, I'm gonna do what I want to do." I think, especially with the pandemic right now, we all had a lot of time to think of where we wanted to go in our lives, and I think that's a good thinking process to figure out what you really want. During COVID, I saw with some of my friends that they were stuck in a life that they didn't really want. And that's where you gotta take actions, and that's what we did, we've been pretty successful with it. And I just want to encourage everyone else to do the same and have the same opportunity and to do what they love.
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