Chalk & the Beige Americans will return July 19 to Mill Hill Basement in Trenton on the Garden State Hip Hop and Makin Waves Summer Rap ‘n’ Rock Tour, which also will include them on July 12 at Asbury Park Music Foundation, July 13 at The Fire in Philadelphia and July 21 at Blackthorn in New Brunswick. PHOTO BY ANTHONY VITO COSENTINO
On the eve of the Garden State Hip Hop and Makin Waves Summer Rap ‘n’ Rock Tour, Chalk and the Beige Americans talk about hitting the road and entering the studio, while sharing their soul-hop history.
Based in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philly, the soul-hop four-piece Chalk and The Beige Americans owe much to the Trenton music scene. Saxophonist Ceilidh Madigan hails from the city, and Mill Hill Basement, Trenton Social and Art All Night all were instrumental in growing their following beyond the City of Brotherly Love.
Having participated last summer in the Makin Waves Summer Concert Series at Asbury Park Brewery with the Trenton Makes Takeover, vocalist-guitarist David Mayers Jr., bassist Dave Kasper, drummer Richard Breazzano, and Ceilidh (pronounced kale-lee) now are set for the Garden State Hip Hop and Makin Waves Summer Rap ‘n’ Rock Tour from July 12 to 22 throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Chalk & TBA’s dates on the rotating tour are July 12, Asbury Park Music Foundation; July 13, The Fire, Philly; July 19, Mill Hill Basement, and July 21, Blackthorn, New Brunswick. The tour also will feature fellow hip hop-oriented groove-rock bands Green Knuckle Material and Switch Mob, rap group The Band Called FUSE, rap collectives Black Suburbia Music Group and Chris Rockwell Collective, rappers DBM, Mista Encore, Apollo Ali, and K-Prez, and DJs Ronny Rayz and Rachel Barkley also at FM Bar, Jersey City; Sunnyvale, Brooklyn, and Happy Mondays at the Wonder Bar in Asbury.
Summer dates for Chalk & TBA also include July 18 at Century Bar and Aug. 31 at The Milkboy, both Philadelphia. Then they will head into the studio to follow their 2014 LP, “The Beige Album,” including such great new tunes as the riveting “America.” I spoke with the band about those plans, as well as their history, in the following interview.
Who is in Chalk & the Beige Americans, what do they play, and what bands were you all in before?
Chalk, vocalist and rhythm guitar, has been a solo act before. Dave Kasper of Sideshow Prophets, Trace Fury, and currently Philly Reggae Band, joined in on bass. After a few drummers, currently Rich Breazzano of Blue Hippo, Gringo Motel and several other acts solidified the group. And Ceilidh Madigan on sax; ex-The Crypt Keeper Five and currently also playing with the Downright Down of Trenton.
How did Chalk & TBA come together and when?
Chalk had been playing solo for a few years in bar gigs around Fishtown when Dave recognized the talent and approached him to form a group. They had a few drummers come and go, but Breezy (Rich Breazzano) really helped nail down a style with his diverse background. Madigan was playing a gig with The Cryptkeeper Five at Mill Hill Basement in Trenton, when Chalk and the Beige Americans were also on the bill with then lead guitarist Brad Carney, a mutual friend that knew of the band's sound and suggested Madigan sit in that night. No rehearsal or even having heard the music, he fit right in and became an insta-member that night! Brad has since moved on to fulltime fatherhood.
What are the band’s connections to Jersey?
Ceilidh grew up in Jersey, and having met at Mill Hill, we sort of became ‘complete’ there. TC Nelson of Trenton Social was the first to give us regular monthly gigs and help us build a following in the town that lead to funding our first record and playing Trenton's premier events, like Art All Night and the Levitt Amp concert series. We were recently introduced to the Asbury Park music scene by you and are looking forward to expanding there more.
How does hip hop influence the band, and what other styles and what artists have inspired you and why?
We all have a deep connection to the birth of hip hop, and it shows in Chalk's wordplay and the rhythm sections dedication to simple, catchy beats. Chalk frequently listens to Aesop Rock, and we all pay homage to a Tribe Called Quest. Chalk loves Motown, and you can hear it in his mix of word play and crooning melodies. Ceilidh comes from a classical/jazz training background but also delved deep into Springsteen-style Jersey rock ‘n' roll with the CK5 and funk and soul classics, like James Brown and The Meters, with Downright Down. We all listen to a spectrum of music, and Chalk is always delving into what’s new on the scene.
What EPs and LPs have you put out and when?
We have one LP released on Jawn Deli Records, Vinyl only!
What is the status of a follow-up single and/or record?
We are hitting the studio in August to begin recording ... everything: New songs and old, with a new approach to a live, raw feel. We don't know what will end up on the eventual output but keep your ears open!
What are your favorites of the forthcoming songs and why?
Picking a favorite song is like picking a favorite child ... and then having four parents fight over it (laugh). We have some live sets on Soundcloud.com/chalkandthebeigeamericans that feature some of our new material.
The Fourth of July coincides with this interview. In light of that, do you have anything you would like to say regarding the current direction of the nation, particularly in regard to our freedom and independence, and do you have any songs that reflect those sentiments?
We stay away from politics and social commentary, although those themes do come out of Chalk's head, since he’s always synthesizing what’s happening around him. Madigan will blab for an hour about his opinions, but who wants to hear that? Chalk speaks to the experience we all have, while the rest of the world’s direction is forming, a sentiment you can hear in our track ‘America’ to be released on the next album.
Why is networking important for bands and how has that helped yours?
Networking ... that's when, like, you plug your computer into the TV box, right?
When was the last time you toured?
We have played gigs outside of Philly, but have yet to ‘tour’ in the true sense of the word. That's, like, a lot of organizing, man.
What do you think of the Rap ‘n’ Rock Tour and why?
We are REALLY excited to expand our territory and play for new audiences, and really like that we can help introduce bands to ours. You have a vision, and we are signed on in full support! The key phrase here is SCENE SYNERGY.
You were booked to play Art All Night the last three-plus years. Did you get to play last year?
Unfortunately, we were scheduled to play Sunday, and AAN had been cancelled for obvious reasons. We've always been blessed to play great time slots and have always felt the love from Trenton. Madigan has a special love for the hard-fought music and arts scene in his city, and though it wasn't in its full glory on this return year, we know Art All Night is an idea about community and love for creativity that will see its return to being even bigger and better!
What else will Chalk & the Beige Americans and any solo or side projects be up to through 2019 into 2020?
We are super excited to be delving into our next album and will be promoting a crowd-funding effort for it on the IndieGoGo platform. Please friend us on instagram @chalkandtba and Facebook @Chalk and the Beige Americans to stay updated!
Is there anything I didn’t ask on which you would like to comment?
Scenes survive because of not only the bands bringing their energy, but amazing promoters like you. Thank you for all you do!
Bob Makin is the reporter for MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at email@example.com. And like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.