Picture a crowded family roadster. The driver, eyebrows furrowed, weaves through detours and calls directions through the commotion of kids spilling over the backseats. Pranks, insults, inside jokes, and laughter accompany every cross-country mile.
That roadster could belong to Chalkline, the Mentor-based hardcore band that takes pride in its collective immaturity. Consider Matt Jauch (guitar/vocals) behind the wheel leading the way, with Tony Grabowski (drums) and Don Tyler (guitar/vocals) in the backseat stirring things up. Chalkline picked up newest member Dan Kafilmout (bass) last January. With a new CD, a collection of overseas fan mail, and an East Coast tour under its belt, Chalkline seems to be on the road to recognition, joking and jabbing every mile of the way. Grabowski explains it simply--they're like brothers.
"We have a really good relationship in the band," he says, adding his preference to be called by his stage name, Tony X. "We all like to make fun of each other and have a good time. It goes in a circle. We'll make fun of Matt and they'll make fun of me, and then we'll rotate. Although I am the one in the band that people gang up on. They actually had a song a couple of years ago that they would play acoustically, called 'Tony X!'"
"Tony is whipping boy," admits Jauch. "For myself, I act as the leader. I'm more strict and structured, and Don is more likely to try more off-the-wall stuff. Dan . . . you don't know what to expect from him, but he's super-dedicated and super into it."
Their variety of quirks and characteristics goes beyond their distinct, yet complementary, personalities. While Jauch considers hardcore his primary interest, the last two CDs Tyler added to his collection were Billy Joel's greatest hits and a Frank Sinatra album. Their day jobs range from salon staffer (Tony X) to record store clerk (Kafilmout), mechanical engineer (Jauch), and mortgage broker (Tyler).
In some respects, the foursome seems almost a random collection. But in other ways, the cliquishness of a boys' club seeps through. Group haircuts, for example.
"Tomorrow we're all going to get our hair cut at Dino Palmieri together," says Tony X. Four Hardcore rockers at a haircut outing may seem unusual, but a photo in the CD booklet reveals this activity as more than a one-time-only occurrence. Apparently, their differences do not lie in their hairdresser. "He's a tough guy," Tony X adds, digressing into a spiel about one of the hair product lines he sells at the salon where he works.
No doubt these 'dos were in preparation for last Friday's CD release show. In the Pres-
ent Tense is the band's first CD after three years of playing together. "Our first show was in Tony's garage," recalls Jauch. "There were fifty or so people there, and we made flyers and everything. We had everyone in the actual garage--people were sitting on rafters and stuff."
Then, Chalkline was five members, the sound was heavy, and the fans were hardcore kids.
"It was very chuga-chuga metal sounding," Jauch says. "At our shows our fans would be killing each other with the moshing and stuff."
After a high turnover of bass players and dabbling with mellower sounds, the band began to reinvent material, meshing melody with metal. The lineup was solidified with Kafilmout's arrival, just in time for recording In the Present Tense.
"As time went on our perspective changed and members changed, and we started experimenting with more melodic stuff," Jauch explains. "We wanted to strive to be a better band, and we knew we could be more creative by trying more melodic stuff."
The band still attracted those with hardcore music interest, yet its softened edges turned away some. "Our band has gone through a lot of musical changes," Jauch says. "We have lost fans in the process, and we have gained fans in the process."
After a summer tour of the East Coast with North Olmsted-based band Light, Chalkline got a taste of band life as a full-time job.
"It's definitely a lot of fun when you go out on the road," Jauch says. "You feel like you're actually living and doing what you want to do, instead of working regular jobs. When you play in different cities, and people like you and are interested in your stuff, you feel like you've actually accomplished something. It seems a lot of Cleveland bands don't really go play out of town and see what this is like."
Jauch says he receives numerous phone calls from Malaysian fanzines, along with various letters from European fans. Working with Threesome, a record label in Holland, Chalkline will have its 12-inch released in the European market. Jauch's own label, Shandle Records, will send CDs to Holland in return for vinyl.
"A lot of good things are going on for us right now, but what's going to happen is uncertain," says Tony X. "For now it's about writing and having fun with it. Matt and myself and Don have wanted this to happen for a long time, and looking back, it's exciting to see where we started and where we are now.