INTERVIEW: Chavez Cartel

Based in Gold Coast, Australia, rock band Chavez Cartel dive headfirst into murky waters with their debut EP Lucky Lucky.

Led by lead singer Ben Simpson’s snarling vocals supported by grunge-fuelled instrumentation reminiscent of bands like Incubus and Nirvana, Lucky Lucky explores the highs and lows of sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and all that comes with it.

I had a chat to the band to learn more about life in Gold Coast, the nights out that inspired the songs and their plans for the year ahead…

Hey guys! Tell me a bit about yourselves and how you formed as a band…

Ben: Hey, how’s it going! Yeah, we’re based on Gold Coast but we’re all from everywhere. Calvin and Jack are local boys, Tom’s from Israel and moved here when he was young and I’m from over your way, actually, I’m a Yorkshire lad. Moved here a few years back.

Jack: I’ve been playing guitar since I was 5 years old, and I joined the band through Ben’s girlfriend April [when] she told me they were looking for a guitarist. 

Ben: Me and Tom started the band with another mate. He moved away for work, then Jackie-boy and Calvin joined shortly after and that’s been the line-up ever since. 

You’ve just released your debut EP ​Lucky Lucky. ​Who and what inspired these songs?

Ben: The songs all just came from life experiences. Every story is first hand. Most of of our songs are about love, sex, drugs and depression and all the highs and lows that come with. Songs about life I guess. 

Bipolar Express and Feelin are similar stories I think. Both come from a low place but with a similar dog-fight attitude. Not giving up and pulling through the shit, put bluntly. These two songs in particular are the general direction we’ve pulled towards since the EP was recorded. 

Scene Before The Crime was written on an acoustic guitar one fine summer Sunday morning after / during a heavy night. It had always been just an acoustic track but after a bit of fuckery on recording day, we ended up with this version that’s on the record. It’s very different for us but it works and it’s catchy as fuck and full of hooks so we let it slide. It’s about the morning after the night before. Drugs, booze, cigs, headaches. It’s all there. 

I Can Pretend is an out and about love song but it’s got a bit of an extra special place due to when it was first written. I lost a friend a few years ago and this song came from the jam session we had on the night of his funeral. It’s not about him but it’s most definitely dedicated to him. So yeah this one’s to you ‘Selly’. This song got played by BBC over there [in the UK] a few weeks ago as well. We’re very proud of that little accomplishment. 

High Up In Your Room is a song about a thousand nights, I guess, but about one night in particular. I lived in Ibiza for a couple of years and whether you live there or just passing through it’s ALL about the party. It’s an insane place to live and it’s too easy to slip into it’s lifestyle. I took it a little too far this one night and it’s about that, but I got a song out of it. Was a long time ago but got a good song out of it so yeah…. moving on….. oh, and watch out for the ‘subtle’ nod to Nirvana. 

And that’s that. 

What was the writing / recording process like?

Jack: Was all fairly quick, easy and very fun. When you love the job and you’re good at it, it makes a world of difference.

Ben: The writing process has always been quite free and easy. Still is today. Someone will come up with a few chords or a bit of a vocal melody, or both, then everyone else will do their thing and before you know it you’ve got another song.

We loved the recording too – we worked with an awesome producer who’s a good mate now. He’s cool and he’s nuts as well so it was all really comfortable and funny. I don’t really remember much about recording but I remember we were there for about a week and that we laughed A LOT. I think we did some music too. 

What’s your favourite track off the EP?

Jack: Feelin

Tom: Definitely Feelin – although it’s a bit more slow paced it just always gives me goosebumps when we play it. It’s such an emotional song. 

Ben: Yeah absolutely. Feelin. All four of us love playing it live. It’s got a proper heavy dirty groove. It got up to number 5 on a download chart over here [in Australia] too, so it’s good that a few folks have got into it as well. Not a bad song at all.

I see you’re based in Gold Coast, Australia. What’s the music scene like out there?

Tom: The live music scene out here isn’t as big as it is in Brisbane or other cities but it’s definitely been improving. We are starting to gig again and we have our first Gold Coast gig very soon, so hopefully there are many more! 

Ben: There’s a cool new venue just opened up here too actually – it’s really pulling its weight and doing its bit to get the scene pumping. So many bands have played there already. There’s a real buzz about the place. We’re playing there in March. 

 If you could tour with any band in the world, who would it be?

Tom: Oh damn that’s a hard one. I’ve personally recently been really into Highly Suspect and can imagine how intense and high energy their gigs would be, and that’s something I know we’d be a great part of. 

Jack: I’d tour with AC/DC – they’re my favourite band and I’ve listened to them the longest.

Ben: I’d tour with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club just so I got to see them live every night. They’re the business. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Ben: … Great question. The answer is really relevant to the EP actually.  ‘Make the most of what you’ve got’ is pretty much the message of the record. The older I get, the more I’ve realised how many layers there are to that saying. All things good and bad are to be made the most of. Sometimes you’ve gotta dig deep, but that attitude will serve you well I think. 

Tom: That’s future Tom’s problem – ‘I gave myself this advice’

Ben: Haha, Tom! That’s the way mate deal with it later, not worried today are we? 

Jack: Get up and off your ass and try.

What’s coming up for Chavez Cartel this year?

Tom: A lot! We’re planning on recording a new EP and to be more out there and gig as much as we can. This year holds a lot for all of us.

Ben: Yeah, we’re looking at releasing more stuff in May. We’re really excited about the next batch. Plenty of gigs coming up too. 

Jack: A new album and hopefully tour along the coastline.  

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