By ERICA MCQUEEN
This year’s Festival One at Mystery Creek was packed with outstanding talent, just like every year. We caught up with a selection of the performers, starting with Emily Rice and Charles Looker, who now play as the duo Chem.
So Emily, you’ve played at Festival One every year. Why do you keep coming back?
E: I love it. It’s my favourite thing, favourite festival to be playing at. The whole vibe of the place, I just love it.
This year you’re playing as a duo, Chem. Can you tell me a bit about that project?
E: Chem is made up of Charles. And I’m Emily. So Charles, and Em. Chem. We are married and we write music together.
What’s been happening since we chatted at the festival last year? You’ve got married!
E: Last time we talked about how I just came back from Berlin. And then a few months later, this guy proposed to me. Then a few months later, we got married and now here we are again.
So Charles, you are a high school teacher. What part do you think music plays in young people’s lives these days?
C: Expression of the true self, [that] sort of thing. My hope is that it’s used to motivate kids and that’s the atmosphere I set in the class too. What might be labelled as misbehaviour, I just put it down as, “That’s just how they express themselves and, perhaps, I need to find a way to cater to that.” So, it develops on their strengths and who they really are. That’s what I hope to do with music as well, which I do. I am me in my class, I’m not a teacher. I am just me and I sing and I make silly noises and the kids love it.
As Chem, what other artists would you say influence your sound the most?
C: I don’t know. Emily has a background in jazz, I grew up mainly with blues, reggae and country. But then as we got older and studied music, we got introduced to all these new artists like Lianne La Havas and Emily King. A lot of neo-soul artists. And I like my funk. I suppose it’s a just massive combination of all of those influences.
E: Yeah, I don’t even know if we could pinpoint specific artists.
How would you describe your sound?
E: Our sound is… it’s a bit groovy at times. A bit chill. It’s got a bit of R&B somewhere in it and it’s got a bit of folk every now and then.
C: I remember someone trying to write a biography about us and I’m sure I remember the line, “attempting to write the heartbeat of a situation through the rhythms, through the tunes.” So whatever situation we’re trying to portray in our songs, the hope is that everything contributes or caters to that understanding or perception. That’s open for challenging obviously; it’s art.
What does 2017 look like for Chem?
E: Well, we have an EP on the horizon. We’ve been writing together since I was living in Europe. Skype sessions. We’re going to be recording our EP with Vivek at Black Orange Studios. He’s the man.
C: We’ve got a Euro trip that we’re planning to play during as well.
E: Yup, heading off to Europe again in October, just for a month.
C: Which is also anniversary time. And birthday time. It’s gonna be fun!
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