No matter what anyone tells you, being a musician of any level requires a fair amount of work. I’m not talking about the writing process, the rehearsing, or the increasing frustration of negotiating an intersection among four or five people’s schedules over a group text. I’m talking about carting gear. All the shit that makes live music happen on a stage gets moved around a lot, taken from one place, put in a car, unloaded into another place, moved onto a stage, moved to a post-stage area, returned to the car, and then taken out of the car once more and delivered to its original resting place. It’s more than enough hassle to move amps and drums and guitars all those times for a single gig, but on Sunday, the members of Chillamundo moved their gear around for 13 shows.
That was the plan anyway. Frontman Denver Williams suffered heat stroke in the middle of the quartet’s 10th performance of the day.
“I made it through that show, though I almost passed out while playing,” Williams said. “Everything got far away and [I] started shivering. It was gnarly.”
The show, at Green Audio Studios in East Fort Worth, was indoors but lacked air-conditioning, and Chillamundo had been playing since 9 a.m. in a variety of settings, ranging from its first gig at Mudsmith Coffee to the so-called Love Tunnel, a spot under the bridge crossing a canal in the Stockyards. I’d caught a midday set, played at Flavor Country Manor, otherwise known as the Benbrook home of country singer Vincent Neil Emerson. And, actually, seeing as Williams accompanied Emerson on electric guitar for a few songs prior to the Chillamundo set, he really played 11 times that day. Following the Green Audio show, the band drove to the remaining stops on their itinerary — the Boiled Owl Tavern, the Chat Room Pub, and the The Grotto, though they didn’t end up playing.
“It was kinda like wrecking your NASCAR or bobsled or whatever and walking through the finish line,” Williams said.
Williams said they got the idea to play a bunch of times in a single day about a year ago, after a friend of his discussed challenging the frame of how a band is supposed to play music. Three weeks ahead of the date, Williams, along with bassist Charles Marchbanks, guitarist Neal McAlister, and drummer Nick Tittle, mapped out their one-day tour and scored a yes from every venue they asked, traveling all over town with their friends in a small caravan of cars.
Promotionally speaking, the marathon was a precursor to the band’s album release at MASS on Friday, September 15, but booking 13 shows in a single day was sort of a reaction to the fact that Chillamundo doesn’t actually play that often, seeing as how it the band formed more or less for the purpose of recording a studio project built on song ideas that Williams and Banks had left over when their previous band, Chingalotus, dissolved.
“Charles [Marchbanks] knew the material already,” Williams said. “And I had been jamming with Neal, and we had recorded hours of experimental noise, so we started out like, ‘Let’s find a drummer and make a record.’ ”
Recorded at Cloudland Recording Studio with Peter Wierenga and mastered by Jordan Richardson at Electric Barryland, Radio Is On will be released on Dreamy Life Records.
Williams said he’s not interested in having one particular sound.
“We’re not looking for any kind of thread,” he said. “If something’s funny, if we get an idea and we all laugh, it sticks.”
Despite Williams’ ideas of writing music that doesn’t necessarily go together, the record isn’t so scattershot that it sounds like a compilation of seven different bands, though its arrangements do make it one of the most interesting local listens you’ll hear all year. Radio Is On is full of quirky time signatures and off-kilter jokes — both lyrically and musically. It almost sounds like a forgotten gem from the heyday of “college rock.” In music critic’s shorthand, you could say it’s as if Ween made a Pavement album.
Besides the Chillamundo regulars, the recording features additional Fort Worth talent: Chuck Brown (Telegraph Canyon), Luke McGlathery, Alex Rhea (Alex & Maria), Caleb Stanislaw (The Hendersons), and L.A.-based Dylan Ewen. What’s especially cool about all those contributions is that while they give the songs additional color, they also make the album an important document of the Fort Worth music scene circa 2017.
As for schlepping their amps all over town again, Williams said they’re all for it.
“We’re going to do it again next year but in cooler weather,” he said.