Breakin' the Chains
by Victoria Wasylak
Photo Courtesy of The Chain Gang of 1974's Facebook Page
Kamtin Mohager isn’t one to have a stiff upper lip. The solo artist behind The Chain Gang of 1974 has a musical history fraught with other pop greats (see: 3OH!3 and The Naked and Famous), and the influences have worn off. With his newest track, “I Still Wonder,” emotions bubble over with an aesthetic that could leave The 1975 shaking in their boots.
“I can't ever stray away from the emotional side of music. Even if I tried,” Mohager said.
As Mohager hits the road with The Naked and Famous, he chatted with the Buzz about his musical past and dropped some hints about what to expect from his musical project in 2017.
Did your time with 3OH!3 influence you musically at all?
Touring with 3OH!3 were some of the best times of my life. I learned a lot from them when it came down to how the industry works, and touring on a more professional level. When I started Chain Gang Of 1974 back in late 2006, the sound was much more Punk influenced. It was heavier on the electronic side, with pounding distorted bass guitar. So they were definitely a sonic influence for back in those days. Sean and Nat were one of the first believers of the project, and I have always been so grateful for that. Chain Gang has since evolved into a more "New Romantic" alternative band, but touring together in those early years really made a lot of sense.
How did you end up touring with The Naked and Famous? Do you get to interact with them very much?
The Naked and Famous took us out on tour back in 2012. I was touring behind my Wayward Fire album, while they were supporting Passive Me, Aggressive You. It was such an amazing time, and we all got along very well. Since that tour, all members of TNAF have moved to Los Angeles. So we all spend a lot of time together. Since Thom Powers produced the new Chain Gang album, things just made sense to hit the road together. I'm definitely looking forward to spending the next four weeks with some good friends.
How did you decide on the visuals for the "I Still Wonder" video?
I have always been so drawn to the late-’80s/early-’90s British aesthetic. Bands like The Cure and the Stone Roses always seemed to have things so cohesive. Everything I usually do with Chain Gang is so dark and moody. I wanted to go against peoples expectations this time and present a brighter, dare I say poppier, look to how I would be presenting this collection of songs. With that being said, I can't ever stray away from the emotional side of music. Even if I tried. Flowers represent emotion, from sadness to happiness. It was the perfect balance. Once the initial "floral" concept for the new album was put in place, the next step was to start building the assets. My management knew of a talented photographer named Emma Trim, who focuses a lot on food photography. I knew that she'd be able to capture beautiful detail of the flowers we chose to shoot. Once we agreed on all the single covers/flowers, I knew we had to bring some of these images to life via video visuals. Charles Brand, the very talented artist and singer of Miniature Tigers, ended up doing all the animations for the lyric video. As an artist, there's nothing better than being able to collaborate with your friends.
What was it like having The New Division remix your song?
The New Division have been a favorite of mine for a while now. I believe we played a show with them 4 or 5 years ago, and briefly spoke. Since then, I have followed John's work and have fallen more in love with what he's doing. He was the first person I thought of to remix the song when the idea was brought up. I sent him a text asking if he'd be interested, and a week later we have the perfect remix delivered. I felt honored that we wanted to put his own spin on the track.
What can you tell us about your new upcoming music? Do you have a release date for any new tunes yet?
I have always believed in progression. I think that's maybe why this band is almost 10 years old and still capable of delivering music that's relevant. But since my last album Daydream Forever was so dark and experimental, I knew that a drastic change had to take place. I was listening to a lot of Peter Gabriel during the writing process of this album. With Peter's album So, he managed to make such a clean pop album, but still held so much feeling and emotion. My goal was to do my best to recreate that in my own way. I took vocal lessons, learned new sounds, and listened to a lot of new music. Thom Powers taught me to not be afraid of pop, and I thank him for that. The best way to describe the album is that it's still a Chain Gang Of 1974 record, but presented in the cleanest and most polished way possible. Daydream Forever was so raw, that this felt like the most logical next step. Without giving too much away, the album will be out early 2017.
What is ~your aesthetic~?
My aesthetic is ever-changing. I'm always so influenced by music and films from the ’80s and ’90s, and there were so many sub-genres during those times. This chapter of the Chain Gang is much brighter. Though the songs are still emotional, I'm very happy. I want that happiness to be represented through my visuals. I want this band to be as romantic as possible.
You can get tickets to see The Chain Gang of 1974 at Royale on November 10 here.