The Chordaes, who have recently released their debut album, are on a mission: to bring back great, melodic rock, playing what they call Post-power pop – a style that draws on classic rock and power pop, refracted through a contemporary sensibility. 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.”
Leo’s NYC-born bandmates are Ethan Glenn (Drums) and Max Ventura (Keyboards). Leo and Ethan have been playing in bands together since meeting as ninth grade troublemakers in their music elective class. They formed the current incarnation in 2014 during Leo’s summer break from Bard College, where he was studying music and science (he once created a website on mammalian evolution). Ethan, a surfer and sometime runway model, also has by consensus the band’s best hair.
Max, Ethan’s childhood friend from the same Upper West Side block, caught an early Chordaes show, loved what he heard and soon joined on keys and backing vocals. Max is a multi-instrumentalist who also plays sax and guitar. With Max’s background in jazz and classical and Leo and Ethan’s indiepop/alt rock sensibility, the band draws on a broad musical vocabulary that comes together in a sound Philly Mixtape has dubbed “vibey and chill.”
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 turned 21. Leo continued to write songs, finding, despite his youth, his main inspiration in such great melodically-driven idols as Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney.