@

Before Cars on BainbridgeWe all know Dave Grohl’s story. Drummed for Nirvana. Played on Nevermind. After Kurt Cobain died, he switched to guitar and started Foo Fighters, then proceeded to win Grammys and sell millions of records.

But what of Nirvana’s previous percussionist, Chad Channing? The one who left the band before it became huge, the one who toiled in obscure clubs; who cut a swath through Europe; who helped bring Seattle music to the world; who played on Nirvana’s debut album, Bleach. What of him?

[Above photo: Before Cars, 2013. From left: Chad Channing, Andy Miller, Paul Burback, Justine Jeanotte.]

Like Grohl, Channing plays guitar and writes music. He never became a rock star, but his work is far more diverse, evolved, and deeper than whatever constitutes grunge. His current band, Before Cars, showcases Channing’s musical depth and breadth. The band will release its second record, How We Run, on Tuesday.

Before Cars came into being in 2005, when Channing had accumulated an album’s worth of tunes dating back to his Nirvana days. He had been in a number of bands, contributing a song here and there to each, before finding himself in his old friend Jack Endino’s studio in the late ’90s. (Endino recorded Bleach in 1988.) “There [were] a couple songs [for one] band that he wrote,” Endino recalls, “…and I remember thinking, ‘Well, these are the best songs on the record,’ the ones that he wrote. And I was telling him… ‘Maybe you should make your own record, instead of having to constantly talk other people into doing your songs.’”

“So [Jack] was always like, ‘Man, when are you going to do your own thing sometime? I’d like to hear that,’” Channing remembers. “So, that sort of planted the seed.”

At the time, Channing had been playing in Paundy, a musical collective that includes current Before Cars members Paul Burback, Justine Jeanotte, and Andy Miller. Paundy, at times featuring up to seven members, helped hone Channing’s musical chops. Channing would play various instruments in the band, including guitar, bass, and keyboards. The other members were similarly accomplished, with Jeanotte offering her services as a classically trained violinist.  “[Paundy is] like a circus of musical flavor,” says producer Chris Hanzsek, who mastered both Before Cars records. “[They put] together songs that have a little bit of humor to them—and have a little bit of rock aggressiveness—but the overriding thing…seems to be just the inventiveness of it all, kinda like a Mothers of Invention, or Frank Zappa-esque kind of a thing. You just know like there’s too much talent. With Paundy, they trade instruments faster than you can say, ‘next song, please.’”

That musical experimentation and desire to switch instruments carried over to Before Cars. Incorporating Burback, Jeanotte, and Miller into his new band, Channing presented them with a dozen songs he had written over the years, including “That’s My Guess,” an aggressive rocker written while he was in Nirvana. The songs made it onto Walk Back, recorded by Endino and released in 2009. The record overall has kind of a ’90s edge to it, nirvana_wien 4with distorted guitars contrasting with pretty melodies. The addition of Channing’s high, soft, and melodic voice provides the album with a Neil Young kind of dynamic. Indications of the band’s future direction, however, become apparent on “Old Chair,” arguably the record’s standout track. Acoustic-oriented, offering hints of Jeanotte’s violin, “Old Chair” has an almost Eastern European, gypsy-like feel. Whatever Before Cars were to evolve into, they would not live off the fumes of grunge for long.

[Nirvana, 1989. From left: Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, Chad Channing.]

Walk Back, although a fine record, did little to differentiate this band. In essence, that album allowed Channing to shed himself of his older songs. Going forward, Before Cars would act more like a band, while continuing to reflect Channing’s vision.

Chad Channing is hard to pin down in terms of influences. With most musicians, you can pretty much nail down where they came from, add whatever twists they’ve discovered along the way, and thus discover the origin of their artistic voice. Not so with Channing. His listening tastes have always run the gamut, from speed metal to punk rock to hip hop to ’70s singer-songwriters. “When [Chad and I would] have house parties,” recalls Miller, “we’d put on Hüsker Dü, then put on a Neil Young record…or something really mellow—put on Mozart [then] Crosby Stills & Nash followed by the Beastie Boys.”

As the band toured to support Walk Back, it began to realize it had an identity broader than that record, one that reflected Channing’s tastes as well Jeanotte’s presence on stage. The band began to shift to a new aesthetic…quieter, acoustic-based, almost folky. “And that kind of evolved from—we did a set at the Rendezvous in Seattle,” Burback recalls. “Before we went on tour, we scaled it down. We thought, ‘Well, it’d be fun—that’s a smaller club—to just do everything more acoustic.’ And everybody that went that night said they finally really got what we were trying to do….they could finally hear our vocals. And the violin came across….It just had more dynamics.”

That experience would lead Channing and Before Cars to create the lush and beautiful How We Run. While Channing remains the primary writer, How We Run would feature a more collaborative approach. Before Cars would use the new record to experiment with studio wizardry used on big ’70s albums. “Chad loves all these little overdubs you hear on old records in the ’70s,” says Miller. “[In] the ’70s…the art of recording was a big deal. [Similarly, we would use] the studio as an instrument, [like] doing a track of just triangle twice in the song….So this second record was our opportunity to…put [those] nuances on.”

The new record, painstakingly recorded on 37 tracks, would also feature Jeanotte’s violin on almost every song, replacing the traditional lead guitar with her softer, poignant melodies. “Justine is [Before Cars’] secret weapon,” says Endino.

“When we play live, it does seem to get a lot of attention, just that there’s violin in there,” says Jeanotte.

303392_10151833163545543_1158841865_nFrom the opening track, “Listen to Me,” How We Run evokes deep emotions. This record, both musically and lyrically, feels rich and powerful, even though it’s much quieter than the previous effort. For example, in the ukulele-based “Jerkwater,” Channing sings: “Down the street, there lives a boy. People always called him ‘Stupid Roy.’ Likes to play all by himself. Hide and seek, no one has seen him since.”

“The songs on this latest album have a very personal feel,” Hanzsek comments, “like almost as if [Channing wrote the] album and said, ‘Ok, I’m not gonna say anything untrue.’ And you literally feel like you’re being allowed to peek into someone’s honesty and forthrightness. And when you sense that that’s the case, in my way of thinking, that’s something I respect.”

How We Run continues down that path. “Trip to Mars,” with its use of keyboards and “ooooh-ahhh-ooooh” backing vocals invokes Channing’s debt to ’70s singer-songwriters. The record picks up with an almost New Wave-like feel when the electric guitar predominates in “Everything I Do.”

How We Run concludes with perhaps its strongest track, the haunting “Gas Stop.” The lyrics come from a true story whereby five year-old Channing found himself accidentally abandoned at a gas station during a family move. “I could be standing here for a long time,” Channing begins, and then intones: “We could be older, with nothing to lose. We could be younger, with nothing to do.” “Gas Stop” takes the listener through a bridge of electric guitar and violin, then raises goose bumps with a harmonic repetition of “Fly away, fly away. No excuse,” until finally resting in an acoustic space as Channing repeats the opening line, “I could be standing here for a long time.”

As the band plans for a CD release party, a tour is in the works, although no specifics have yet been nailed down. Possible destinations may include the US West Coast, Europe, and perhaps even Australia. When playing locally, though, Before Cars has some rudimentary logistical issues to deal with. Hailing from the west side of Seattle’s Puget Sound, the band must take a 30 minute ferry just to get to the city, and is then tethered to the boat crossing schedule. “We have to get done in time to catch the last boat home,” says Miller. “I’ve actually walked off stage before saying, ‘I gotta go. I gotta catch a boat. This is our last song.’”

Despite the band’s low key approach on How We Run, Before Cars’ combination of gorgeous songs, creative dynamics, and powerful musicianship demands attention. “There’s a kind of an intimacy and a delicacy to their songs,” Hanzsek observes. “They almost don’t fit in a rock club setting, to some degree. You almost want to see [Before Cars] as a concert, where everyone kind of listens and doesn’t just drink beer and make idle chatter.”

(You can order How We Run, to be released Tuesday on the band’s own Pocket Star Records label, from Beforecars.com or iTunes. Also check out the band’s Facebook page, for touring updates.)

TAGS: , , , , , , , , , ,

Stephen Tow STEPHEN TOW, a professor of history at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, specializes in American popular music and culture. He is the author of The Strangest Tribe: How a Group of Seattle Rock Bands Invented Grunge.

43 Responses to “Nirvana’s Chad Channing Drives Before Cars”

  1. Marie says:

    Before Cars are brilliant and completely underrated. Their last album is one of the most played records I got. Chad’s a great songwriter and he’s got a beautiful voice. He’s so much more than Nirvana’s ex drummer, which a lot of people don’t seem to be aware of – and that’s a real shame. Countless other great bands he’s played in over the years (my personal favourites the Fire Ants and The Methodists) and now Before Cars. I’m well chuffed this article focuses on that and gives credit where credit is due :) Great read!

  2. Toni says:

    I’ve just recently discovered Before Cars through a friend of mine. I look forward to listening to their new music and hope that they make it out east in the near future (Philly please!). This is a wonderfully written profile/perspective on the band!! Fantastic!

  3. Norine says:

    Wonderful article! We will be linking to this particularly great content
    on our site. Keep up the good writing.

  4. Great post. I was checking continuouusly this blog and I’m
    impressed! Very usefuul info specially the last part :
    ) I care for such information much. I was seeking this particular info for a long time.
    Thank you and good luck.

  5. I’m gone to tell my little brother, that he should also visit this weblog on regular basis to obtain updated from most recent news.

    • Hi there! I know this is somewhat off-topic but I
      needed to ask. Does running a well-established website like yours
      take a lot of work? I’m brand new to writing a blog but I do write in my
      diary on a daily basis. I’d like to start a blog so I
      can share my experience and thoughts online. Please
      let me know if you have any suggestions or tips for brand new aspiring blog owners.
      Appreciate it!

    • If you desire to get a great deal from this article then you have to apply these strategies to your won web site.

  6. Gavin found something interesting: intimacy is established when two people messaging on the site drop their formal language after quite some time.

    Again, you do not want your first date knowing exactly where you live or work.
    These individuals also drift away from family and friends and
    start experiencing drastic mood swings.

  7. publicize says:

    It’s nearly impossible to find educated people in this particular subject, however, you sound like you
    know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  8. Hi there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that
    it is really informative. I am going to watch out for brussels.
    I’ll be grateful if you continue this in future. A lot of people will be benefited
    from your writing. Cheers!

  9. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article.

    I will be sure to bookmark it and return to
    read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post.
    I’ll certainly return.

  10. s password, then try to sign in to your Windows system
    and reset the forgotten windows password. For a free option, Celtx is a favorite of penniless
    screenwriters and film students. As the name implies this is where you put things you need to
    discuss with someone else.

  11. Wow, incredible blog format! How long have you ever been running a blog for?
    you made running a blog glance easy. The overall glance of
    your web site is great, let alone the content material!

  12. Useful info. Fortunate me I discovered your website unintentionally,
    and I’m stunned why this accident did not came about in advance!
    I bookmarked it.

  13. Mellisa says:

    Hi mates, how is everything, and what you wish for to say regarding this piece of writing, in my view
    its really remarkable designed for me.

  14. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
    I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already
    ;) Cheers!

  15. Rogelio says:

    After looking at a few of the articles on your website, I honestly like
    your technique of writing a blog. I bookmarked it to my
    bookmark site list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my web site as well and
    tell me your opinion.

  16. Kelly says:

    whoah this weblog is magnificent i really like reading your articles.

    Stay up the good work! You already know, many people are hunting round for this information, you
    can aid them greatly.

  17. Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that
    it’s truly informative. I’m going to watch out for brussels.

    I will appreciate if you continue this in future.
    Many people will be benefited from your writing.
    Cheers!

  18. This piece of writing is truly a fastidious one it assists new net people, who are wishing in favor of blogging.

  19. The adventures that are put out for it are first rate.
    There are more of these large gnorcs that have to be killed with a flame, but are
    shielded, you have to wait until they turn and then flame them.
    Peeace Keepers Home World: Enemies here look like a smaller version of
    the gnorcs in Artisans, but are yellow and dressed for battle.

  20. I was very happy to uncover this page. I want to to thank you for ones time due to this fantastic read!!
    I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it and i also have you saved as
    a favorite to check out new stuff on your blog.

  21. Article writing is also a excitement, if you be familiar with afterward
    you can write or else it is complicated to write.

  22. The high-flying arcade classic looks great on i -Phone. Shaggy plays the gutsy shereiff Sugar Wolf,
    fated to go up against the crazed gambbling tycoon Big Baby Chips (Violent J) and his
    murderous crew, including Dusty Stank (Jamie Madrox) and Hack Benjamin (Jump Steady).
    Today we’ve got a very dangerous deck, one that I believe
    will emerge in the top tier of this next format with the January 2014 Ban List dismantling so many of the current top decks.

  23. Joleen says:

    Article writing is also a excitement, if you know then you
    can write or else it is complicated to write.

  24. Today, I went to the beach front with my kids.
    I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said
    “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never
    wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off
    topic but I had to tell someone!

  25. With so many other localities attempting to lure
    game companies away, it was a fitting end to the event.

    Be sure to pay attention to a game’s evaluation when purchasing a present.
    According to Director Mark Andrews, gender was not a factor in creating Merida.

  26. Easy Messy Bun method 1: hold your hair is no doubt that
    short hair styles tricks, beauty stands for overall appearance.
    And, when it comes directly down your back, adding
    softness to longer hair styles at the sides. Hair stylists
    are constantly providing many discount deals on hair tips will help you for the generally
    public in general and, believe it to be styled using hands.

  27. Good way of telling, and pleasant post to take data concerning my presentation subject, which i am going to present in school.

  28. Hello! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which
    blog platform are you using for this site?
    I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform.
    I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a
    good platform.

  29. Hi there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and
    found that it’s really informative. I’m going to watch out for brussels.
    I’ll appreciate if you continue this in future.

    Many people will be benefited from your writing.
    Cheers!

  30. Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely feel this web site needs a great deal more attention.
    I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the information!

  31. Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed!
    Very useful information specifically the last part :
    ) I care for such info much. I was looking for this particular information for a long time.
    Thank you and best of luck.

  32. Luciana says:

    Wow, incredible weblog format! How lengthy have you been blogging for?

    you made blogging look easy. The total glance of your web site
    is excellent, as neatly as the content material!

  33. I read this paragraph fully on the topic of the difference of newest and preceding technologies, it’s remarkable article.

  34. I have read so many content regarding the blogger lovers
    but this paragraph is truly a good piece of writing, keep it
    up.

  35. I think everything posted made a ton of sense. However, think on this, suppose you typed
    a catchier title? I ain’t suggesting your information isn’t good.,
    but suppose you added something that makes people desire more?
    I mean Stephen Tow | Nirvana’s Chad Channing Drives Before Cars | The Nervous Breakdown is a little boring.

    You might look at Yahoo’s home page and watch how they create
    post titles to get people to click. You might try adding a video
    or a picture or two to grab readers interested about everything’ve written. In my opinion, it
    might make your website a little bit more interesting.

  36. Yes! Finally someone writes about collectible firearms.

  37. Thanks foor the good writeup. It actually used to be a enjoyment
    account it. Glance complex to more introduced agreeable from you!
    However, how can we keep in touch?

  38. Excellent beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend
    your web site, how can i subscribe for a blog site?
    The account helped me a acceptable deal. I had been tiny bit acquainted
    of this your broadcast offered bright clear idea

  39. webpage says:

    Spot on with this write-up, I seriously believe this websie needs a lot
    more attention. I’ll probably be returning to see more, thans for the info!

  40. voyance says:

    L’distinct engin lequel j’utilise est ceci Pendule après celui-là me donne continûment de très bons résultats au
    contraire les énigme plus pointues alors c’est rare aiguille dont pas du tout
    trompe jamais. Pas du tout lui demandez marche de vous-même décrire à dont ressemblera l’être aimé pullman même s’celui-ci est souple de toi-même donner des indices, celui toi faudra
    beaucoup de instant près arriver à bizarre résultat que ces cartes et mes allocation pourraient toi
    éclairer plus rapidement. Contre personnalité un Examen de Voyance, de Tarots ou bien d’Astrologie c’est
    rare échange. Rare moment privilégié où toi-même pouvez me établir toutes ces demande lequel toi-même souhaitez dans totaux ces possession, excepté la santé.
    Nous-même suis là d’autre part répondre à vos revendication alors vous aider à produire cela ou bien les bons collection. Nousserons
    heureux de vous recevoir

Leave a Reply