Hello Chris, can you introduce yourself to our Culture Eaters’ peeps?
Hi yeah sure, my name’s Chris Reardon. I’m a solo artist, singer-songwriter, producer, musician from the UK. I was born in Coventry (UK) then lived in Hong Kong until my early teens when I moved to Reading (UK). I started making music from an early age and really fell in love with rock music and particularly more alternative stuff; anything from Pink Floyd to AFI. I think picking the guitar up at eleven and my Dad introducing me to Led Zeppelin had a lot to do with it, because once I hit my first chord on the guitar I was obsessed with music haha! And still am!
When did you start making music?
I kind of started making music as soon as I started learning the guitar. Messing around with stuff I was playing, so like around age 11. I was always interested in the relationships between the notes, chords, arrangements, what the other instruments were doing; why this worked with that, what if I did this…that kind of thing. I was gripped with these questions straight away. I would learn a song then immediately try and do my own thing. I would spend hours and hours and hours in my room glued to my guitar just mesmerized. I don’t think my siblings saw me for years apart from when I went to the fridge haha!
You have just dropped an excellent new single “Elephant in the Room,” how is it different from your previous release “Drifting”?
Thank you very much! I’d say thematically they’re in a similar ballpark in comparison to what’s to come. I wanted to put out two back-to-back “rockers” together. Elephant in the Room has a bit more energy but they both show the blend of the elements well, the alternative/rock with the electronic elements. I’m super excited for more music to come out, there’s a great variety and a lot of surprises!
Tell us more about how your projects came to be and your personal story behind them.
Sure, well I feel like this is the music I’ve been working towards my whole life. With each project, band, whatever you want to call it, you learn along the way and figure out your own footing as you get there.
In my early teens I was in punk, hardcore and emo bands and was always writing and arranging the music and was the guitar player. I remember when I had just turned 13 and had started a new school and there were a few bands, all older than me and my friends, and there was this one guy, Theo, absolute killer guitar player and was known as the best guitarist in the school, he was in the top year and was playing real shows, was in a touring band, he had his own Marshall stack, played a Gibson SG…this was just the coolest guy. Me and my mates would see him around school and point him out, “Bro that’s him, that’s Theo! He’s the guy” Haha! I remember bumping into him and his band at this communal rehearsal space we shared, a place called The Shack, and he invited us to come hang out whilst they rehearsed. They played their brand new song and he was just shredding the guitar, completely blowing our minds, the band was so tight and the song was absolutely killer! He gave us a CD for free and it was like we had just met Bowie or something haha! That was hugely inspirational for all of us. The idea that we could actually go and record our own music and go out and play shows. That moment was huge and I remember deciding at that point that I was going to be the best guitarist in school and wanted to make music and play shows. I was already obsessed with listening to music but that moment gave me direction and drive. I think for all my friends that afternoon was special and we were all inspired.
And that’s what we did, we went out and started playing gigs in the local scene. At first recording just on our laptops using the crappy built-in microphones to proper recording studios and trying to learn as much as possible along the way. I was immediately taken by how the recording engineers were setting stuff up. What kind of techniques were being used, why these microphones were used or put in this place, how to get different sounds etc. I remember the recording engineer saying to me, “Okay great, once we comp that, we’ll double track it and maybe use a different pedal.” I was like “Woah, do what now? Why?”. I was just fascinated by every part of making music. Why you did this or that, and the more you learnt, the more questions you’d have and I would just want to learn more all the time (and still do!).
School became a bit of a blur. Music, guitars, being in a band became number one but interestingly none of us ever dreamt of it ever going anywhere, or doing this as a “career”, it was just something we all loved and nothing was bigger than that. By the time we all went to university, we all went our separate ways but I was always going to start something new.
There was a guy I went to school with who started at the same university a year before me and I remember he just got back from seeing this busker called Ed Sheeran live and called me, “Mate do you mind playing guitar and I’ll sing, we can do a video and put it on Youtube”. Then we did a couple more, and what started off as just two guys doing a couple covers suddenly turned into us playing on the same bill as Rizzle Kicks, Maverick Sabre, Lewis Watson, Chase & Status, Charlie Simpson, Bastille and many more. It’s hilarious looking back because it was all a complete accident. It all happened so quickly we didn’t even have a name for the first bunch of shows. We went from strength to strength and started touring and gained a bit of a following. I was writing the songs and also singing for the first time. We recorded an EP and got featured on BBC Introducing and even managed to wheedle ourselves on BBC Radio 1. It was exciting and it was the first time it became clear that this was the thing I wanted to pursue and it could actually happen.
It was a cool thing, we had two singers but after a while it had lost its steam. I had started discovering artists like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Tom Waits and other artists like Gregory Alan Isakov, Laura Marling, Bon Iver and Alexi Murdoch; and this was the direction I wanted to explore; storytelling and songs stripped back to their barest form and fell out of love with the pop/indie thing. After a few months of trying to make it work I left and moved to London to pursue a music career as a solo artist.
It’s quite daunting starting again but also very freeing; I was in my early to mid twenties, had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, living on couches and crashing with friends but it was awesome. Quickly songs were flowing. I reached out to a few people and started working with producer/songwriter/mixing engineer Dave Oliphant and recorded a bunch of songs in his tiny loft recording studio in Brixton. This was a great time. It was great to be out on my own making music and proving to myself that I could do it. I started releasing the songs independently and playing gigs everywhere I could. I remember that in that first summer I moved to London I played a gig or open mic every night for over two months and just tried to get out there as much as possible. Surprisingly I quickly started gaining some attention from BBC Introducing and BBC 6 Music, got some good press and then record labels and the like.
This was a very strange time. It’s funny looking back now how impressionable I was. I’d have a meeting with an A&R guy and he would say such and such, “I love this, you’re gunna be huge. You’re not just going to have a record deal, you’re gunna have a huge career. Write another six of these!” Then I’d go away and try and re-write that song, over and over, and over, and over, and over again. Losing all heart and soul in the music and just trying to get signed and tick a bunch of boxes for A&R guys. This whole escapade, as well as getting offered various terrible deals, all went obviously nowhere haha! And I’m glad it didn’t! I knew that I hadn’t found my sound or direction yet and I needed time. I also needed time to learn more of the business side, so I set up my own label, Strange Comfort Records and started putting out my own music, booking my own shows, organising music videos, doing merch etc. and was also writing a lot of music.
I wrote and recorded an album and made sure I sat in on every mixing session. Trying to soak up everything. That album never came out, and never will haha! It’s not the best but a few singles I’m massively proud of and did quite well. After a while I started gravitating back towards rock and made a natural progression through folk and singer/songwriter into blues, then back into rock.
I wrote and recorded another album (again another album that will not see the light of day haha!) and it was around this time, around autumn 2018, that I went on tour in Europe and met my manager. Everything started coming together around this time. I had just built my own home studio and I was getting pretty good at recording and producing my own music. After that tour in late 2018 I started working on new music and experimenting with synths and electronic elements. After a several months, it was like something clicked and the whole sound and vision came together. The songs were just flying out!
And here we are! I can’t say much more than that at this stage, haha! But the visual aspect of the project is very important to me, the artwork, the vibe/aesthetic, whatever you want to call it, and is very much inspired from my love of surrealism. Particularly artists like Man Ray and Dora Maar. I want to give a massive shout out to Janine Kuehn who photographed a lot of the visuals for the project, she’s amazing, such an incredible artist and photographer!
Your sound has a really unique vibe – thoughtful, mysterious, yet energizing. Where does it come from? What does your creative process look like?
In terms of the creative process, it’s hard to explain making music or songwriting because I feel the songs kind of write themselves when it happens in a weird way. Once I start working on music, the whole thing seems to envelop and unfold. You’re flooded with images, ideas, melodies, sounds with some control but you’re so sucked in it’s not something that can be explained easily. It all happens at an almost sub-conscious yet completely conscious and intellectual level, because there is an element of working out the puzzle, particularly the aspect of composition and production. This is why I make all the music on my own and also mix and master all my work, it all happens simultaneously and I’m kind of just crazy losing my mind grabbing instruments wildly in some weird trance. Where the lyrics come from are very much inspired by what’s going on in my life, books I’m reading, movies I’m watching, what’s happening in the world, everything. But again, this is very much on a subconscious level because I never set out to write a song about this or that, it kind of just happens, the song sucks you in as soon as it starts to unfold. It’s a very strange thing.
What are some of your favorite musicians? How do they influence your sound?
Quite hard to choose exactly but some of my favourites are Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Gregory Alan Isakov, Thrice, Bon Iver, Gold Panda, Bob Dylan, The Cure and The Stone Roses. In terms of influence I think they all seep in, their influence to where my ear gravitates, voicings, feel, vibe, production, arrangements etc. as well your own natural inclinations. I think fundamentally though, the influence has been the drive to create something new, pushing boundaries and making something distinct. Malleable and impossible to describe, but to know it when you hear it, a signature or something…if any of that makes sense haha!
What’s next for Chris Reardon?
Loads more music to come. I’ve got a special surprise track coming out this week and also a new single coming out in a few weeks after that. I would love to play these songs live so hopefully start touring towards the end of the year fingers crossed! Let’s hope some genius discovers the vaccine for coronavirus for all of us soon!