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The Chordaes - Touch The Ground

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The Chordaes

The Chordaes, who released their debut album in 2016, are on a mission: to bring back great, melodic rock, refracted through a contemporary lens. The band’s songwriter, lead vocalist and guitarist, Leo Sawikin, crafts complex harmonies, inventive chord and tempo changes, and heartfelt lyrics. According to Elmore Magazine, The Chordaes offer “A diverse array of sounds and ideas, inspired by the freewheeling experimentation of Radiohead and late period Beatles while retaining a strictly pop essence.”

Along with Leo, The Chordaes’ lineup includes Ethan Glenn (Drums) and Nick Haberstroh (Bass), with frequent collaborator Max Ventura filling in on keyboards. Leo and Ethan have been playing in bands together since meeting as ninth grade troublemakers in their NYC music elective class. They formed the current incarnation in 2014 during Leo’s summer break from Bard College. Nick, who hails from the Jersey Shore, joined in 2016.

The first tracks from the band’s debut album Touch the Ground were recorded in August 2014 on the Jersey Shore, under the production of veteran Marc Swersky (Joe Cocker, Roger Daltrey). Ethan recalls the initial visit to Shorefire Studios, filled with analog gear such as the famed Helios console, as “stepping into a time capsule.” The first song they cut, the album’s title track, also expressed its main theme: the confusing transition from youth to maturity. Diffuser.fm, premiering the song in 2015, quoted Leo: “My whole childhood I felt unsettled, I was always waiting on something . . . . I thought adulthood would bring contentedness for some weird reason, maybe because I thought I would be free. ‘Touch the Ground’ is about realizing that freedom is as exhausting as it is liberating.”

When the track Touch the Ground was finished, everyone involved knew they had created “something special and significant,” in Ethan’s words. It was original music, with substance. Leo, believing that he had to pursue what they’d tapped into, left college, making what he says was one of the hardest decisions of his life. The rest of the album was recorded over the next year, a time of personal change for the group, when Leo and Ethan each turned 21. Leo continued to write songs, finding, despite his youth, his main inspiration in such great melodically-driven idols as Brian Wilson and Todd Rundgren.

As early tracks emerged from the Shorefire sessions and were released, they received strong college radio airplay as well as premieres on Earmilk, Pancakes and Whiskey, BlackBook, and more. Deli Magazine, naming the band number one NY-based emerging alt rock band of 2015, cited “Elegant melodies, measured arrangements … this is a group of young and talented musicians with noteworthy songwriting chops and a vocalist who can touch hearts in ways reminiscent of unforgotten NYC hero Jeff Buckley.”

The album Touch the Ground was released in May 2016. The first official single, Get the Feeling, is an irresistibly catchy tune to which one reviewer at Popdust said he was “unabashedly addicted.” The song went into rotation at numerous AAA, non-comm, and college radio stations, and the video enjoyed  a several-weeks run on MTV’s Fresh Faces. Get the Feeling is a staple of the band’s live show, which includes frequent stops at the famed Bitter End and Rockwood Music Hall, and has also been performed at a Sofar Sounds secret show, a Relix Magazine in-office session, and Indaba Music, among other places.

The second single from the album, Baby Goodnight, premiered on Popdust, who called it a “pounding stunner.”  The song conjures up early solo Paul McCartney, but with ethereal harmonies and a slide guitar bridge that might have come from a ’60s-era pop hit. Leo wrote the hypnotic Losing Control on his vintage 12-string acoustic Takamine. The song introduces the album’s second theme, one that is “never new, and never gets old”: the pain of unrequited love.

The side two opener (The Chordaes think in terms of vinyl), Falling Up, has classic rock DNA. It accelerates to a finish powered by layered electric guitars and a Hammond organ, followed by a long and meticulous outro. The tempo slows with Cry Another Day, which builds over a beautiful string arrangement by Dave (Viva La Vida) Eggar to a climax featuring Leo’s passionate vocal. The song has become a stunning highlight of the live show. She concludes the album on an optimistic note, as the band looks to the future, to new experiences and new loves ahead.

To draw without snobbery on fifty years of the greatest rock and pop—on everything from Abba to Zeppelin—to reimagine it, and to bring that sound to a mass audience: this is The Chordaes’ dream. And the band believes it will happen, because, in their words, “People are hungry for real music again.”

Leo Sawikin

The Chordaes

Ethan Glenn

chordaes

Photos: Shervin Lainez

Nick Haberstroh

The Chordaes

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Touch the Ground Get the Feeling Baby Goodnight Cry Another Day She