The Latin title of The Chordaes’ 2017 EP In Itinere, translating to “during the journey,” encapsulated the musical and emotional searching at the heart of the project. While still exploring that sweet spot where alternative indie and soulful mellow rock merge, the NYC band goes deeper on their latest collection, reflecting on their lives as young millennials trying to find their way in today’s America. Driven by the insightful songwriting of front man Leo Sawikin, their upcoming follow-up EP, What We Breathe In (due early 2019), tackles this creeping sense of powerlessness–both in the world and in personal relationships.
On the new EP’s title track, The Chordaes–whose lineup includes founding member/drummer Ethan Glenn, guitarist Kevin Foley–lead with a true generational anthem, a declaration of our common humanity in a time when our leaders sow fear and hatred. Helping to create the song’s driving sound is mixer Kevin Killen, whose countless credits include U2’s indelible “Pride (In the Name of Love).”
The collection’s infectious, soaring lead single, “Venus,” currently out and mixed by Mark Needham (The Killers, The Revivalists), is about longing for someone who is out of reach but who holds power over one’s heart. Leo says, “The idea of the song is that like two neighboring planets, we are locked in place by forces greater than we are. It’s about being in limbo with someone, being powerless to move closer to or further from them.”
In the soul-inflected “Got to Get Out,” reminiscent of a song by Carole King, one of Leo’s idols, the narrator dreams of escaping a dystopian world. The perspective is reversed on “This Is How It Ends,” told from the point of view of a co-conspirator whose crimes have finally caught up with him. The theme of disillusionment hits bottom on “All My Life,” with bitter lyrics ironically set against an upbeat arrangement, featuring a bright horn section.
The ultra catchy “Tuesday Afternoon” taps into the British Invasion vibe of The Kinks or The Zombies; its tempo changes and carnival feel reflect the conflicted mind of the narrator, who asks for “some time alone” to sort things out–or maybe to channel his confusion into writing more songs. “Miles Across the Sea,” the EP closer, centered around Leo’s 12-string guitar and piercing vocal, is a flat out heartbreaker that explores the perennial question: “Why can’t we master our emotions and simply move on?”
The Chordaes’ launch was the culmination of years of musical camaraderie between Leo and Ethan, which began in seventh grade at the Churchill School in Manhattan. As the band continues to grow their fan base with regular live performances at NYC spots like Rockwood Music Hall and Mercury Lounge, praise for their music has rolled in. Substream wrote of In Itinere that it was “packed with some of the best low key, guilty pleasure pop-rock jams of the year.” All Things Go Music caught the essence of The Chordaes in their review: “Burning slowly like the first stages of a fire…the New York outfit blends the raw, candid lyricism of early alternative rock with the expertise of classic Americana and doesn’t spill a drop.”
Led by producer Marc Swersky (Joe Cocker, Roger Daltrey), the new EP’s Wrecking Crew-inspired recording process, with most instruments captured live and with minimal overdubs, has produced a timeless sound. This is music that wears its heart on its sleeve—an urgent, moving contribution to what is a growing alt subgenre: grand-scale, post-ironic, melodic pop that draws without snobbery on every era of pop and rock history, to emerge as something all its own.