While local music staple Chase DeMaster often presents himself as effortlessly aloof, beneath his carefully crafted lackadaisical persona hides a sage-like understanding of the larger world of music and all of its accumulated knowledge. He’s known to get pretty philosophical concerning his role as a musician in the contemporary age.
Throughout his years in the Houston music scene, DeMaster has been active in an ever expanding number of projects. His latest venture, slacker rock group Get A Life, comes off as a stab at the commercial rock world, with DeMaster often taking bold and almost nonsensical moves with the project’s marketing, such as changing the band’s instagram handle to @tvgirlsimyfavband. For some reason, all of these questionable actions miraculously make sense for the band and create an endearing and unique ambiance for the group, one that values authenticity over pop presentation.
The group’s latest album, Our Band Could Be Your Life or Debt, is the culmination of the grind and burnout that seems to be so universal in local music scenes. The album was release in collaboration with local label Artificial Head Records, and it features Houston acts such as The Cops, Funeral Horse and Darwins Finches.
DeMaster sat down with Byline Houston ahead of the band’s release show tonight at Deep End Records to discuss the band’s latest album, the importance of artistic growth plans, and what it was like collaborating with Shins’ band member Yuki Matthews.
Byline Houston: It must have been pretty insightful to work with an established professional in the indie-music blogosphere. How did you and Yuki Matthews start working together?
Chase DeMaster: He helped me produce [the album], and he mixed it. I went to a party and he was holding a beer. I walked up to him and said, “Hey man, I wanna send you some music.” He said sure, and we took out our phones. I sent them, and he listened to it. Some of it he thought was pretty cool, and some parts he thought he could be a part of. And that part was Get A Life. I’d send him stuff and he’d mix it down, and we would go back and forth and make the record… He is kind of like a big brother, in my head.
Byline Houston: You’ve been active in the Houston music scene for a good while now. You run a label, lead a band, teach music, study music. Give our audience some background on the day-to-day and how you stay focused.
DeMaster: I am a list freak. I am just all about lists, man. So, I make a list every night of about 15 things I try to get done every day. I’m lucky if I get two or three, but I start swinging at the other ones. My mantra is I work on myself before I work on anyone else. That means, I drink a glass of water; I reflect on my positive perspective of my goals; I recenter myself, and I do a bit of journaling… It’s working on music, reading, and learning about stuff.
Byline Houston: You’ve made some headway in achieving some sort of success in the music industry. Do you have any words of wisdom for all us kids who are still trying to make something happen in the music biz?
DeMaster: One of the things I try to do in the morning is digest one or two mental models. One of my mental models, I stole it from New York. In the subway, they have a public service announcement that says, “If you see something, say something,” trying to combat crime. And I have a mental model that I use, and I say, “When you see something, say something.” I try to be as sensitive as I can, that whenever I recognize somebody doing something that I find to be inspired, that I somehow focus my energy on them.
Byline Houston: Do you feel that helped you break through some barriers?
DeMaster: I think in the beginning I didn’t understand how to do anything. I still don’t know. Constantly arriving while in a state of departure. Like, I still don’t know. One of the things I am testing continually is, I want to build a life, right? That is surrounded by inspired people. So, when I recognize people acting on their inspirations or passions or the development of their personal skills, that pops out of the texture in some way, and I feel it. Or if that resonates with me, one of my mental models is that I recognize that in some way. Not that I’m special, or whatever, but I just try to make sure that I tread a path of energy to them, and maybe potentially that energy will come back on the same path or transmute from another path. Always be on a growth plan. Goals are fine and dandy, but growth plans are divergent.
Byline Houston: Let’s talk about the album. How was working with Yuki Matthews?
DeMaster: He’s great. While he was working on Get A Life, he had just finished the new Shins record, and it was right before he finished the new David Bazan record. Then he did Get A Life. It was fucking crazy man. It was like, we were going through it, I can’t even — It’s hard to put it into words.
Byline Houston: It’s probably something that you would have once just dreamed about.
DeMaster: Right? It’s cool. I’m just trying to keep a balance between being grateful for that and trying to make that the norm.
Byline Houston: Who else did you work on the album with?
DeMaster: Gabriel Lopez, Josh Cano and Nathan Dietrich. We’re like the best band, not because we are a good band, but just because they are easy to work with. Like, we never rehearse, and some people hate that. And they’re totally chill, because I don’t wanna rehearse.
Byline Houston: What was the process of making Our Band Could Be Your Life Or Debt like? Was it different than past Get A Life releases?
DeMaster: Typically, I kind of get into a space where I think too much, and I wanted this to be very simple. I wanted it to be a polarity of production. I was getting really invested into the hard skill that is producing music on a computer, and I wanted to just try to write a song in one day and record it. And that’s what the album ended up being like. Most of those songs were improvised takes on ideas that I was trying to spin out. That’s why there are so many mistakes. If you listen to it, sometimes I play the wrong notes, because I forgot what I was supposed to play.
Byline Houston: There weren’t too many extra takes. You just went through with what you had.
DeMaster: Yeah, If I had a fuzzy feeling on an idea, I tried to get it from the germ of the idea to the shake shack [sic] in one day. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes I’d round other ideas out. Most of the time that was it. And I would use my four-track tascam, and I had a MR3 drum machine. I bought this squier bass. I was just playing guitar.
Byline Houston: Gear is an important aspect of album production. What other kind of gear did you use on the album?
DeMaster: Mostly just one guitar that I bought for, like, sixty bucks. A Japanese toy guitar. It was terribly out of tune, and it sounded so cool with some chorus on it to mask it a little bit. I used that a lot. A little squier bass I got off the Guitar Center website. Just the cheapest bass, a little mustang ¾ scale. And the tascam is just a four-track, a real simple one. I don’t even know what the model is. At that time I was using an interface to get to the computer, an Apogee Duet, and I had an iMac at the time.
Byline Houston: What makes you want to keep going? What are your plans going forward?
DeMaster: I came up with this idea today: Winning is boring, dude. I think that’s why I’m having so much fun. Because, like, the label, I put way too much time and money and energy into than I think I could ever get back. But I think that is exactly how it should be, and if there was any other way around it, I wouldn’t deserve it. So, I came up with, “Winning is boring.” I think that is why I’m having so much fun. Because if I was winning, it’s like having an older brother, and you are playing basketball and he lets you score. It just doesn’t count anymore.
Generally with music I am trying to stay inspired. I’m always studying the instrument of the guitar and the piano, and my own paradigm of how I see “good” music and how it should sound in what setting. And with the label, at first, I thought the point was to help people release music, but I am realizing that this is switching. I’m starting to see that the label isn’t to help people release music. The label is just there to help as many people make as many things as possible, and the label is just the scapegoat. I was doing that, but I didn’t understand that I was doing that. Like, finding a cool artist on the internet, and then reaching out saying, “Hey, I really dig what you’re making.” And only now am I, like, oh cool, maybe the label needs to be a place where, when I see something say something, and I can hook as many people up with each other so they can make something.
Byline Houston: Let’s close it on this one. Tell me why I should get a life.
DeMaster: Oh, man. I think it’s more the opposite of that. I think it’s maybe more like you should never get a life and continue to question. Just stay on the edge of it.
Get A Life is throwing a release show for their latest album, Our Band Could Be Your Life or Debt, at Deep End Records in the East End on Saturday, April 13 at 7 p.m. with Sailor Poon, Mantra Love and Meet Me at Midnight.