Chuck’s Papas From The Ground Up

By Izzy Braico & Charlotte Steiger

3/4ths La Grange, 1/4th townie. This is Chuck’s Papas.

Self-proclaimed modern poet and ashamed ginger Harrison Gordon has a house with all the charm of an aging rockstar. The front door opens to reveal a living room screaming midwestern hell. It leaves us horrified by the looks of a deer’s head mounted on the wall, wearing someone’s shoes like a scarf. It stares down at us as we sink into the well-worn couch opposite of the band. All four members of Chuck’s Papas are here– as they usually are. They’re already talking over each other, laughing hysterically at an inside joke that leaves us scratching our heads. They’re telling stories, too… 

“We’ve all been hit by cars,” bassist Sophie de Sa e Silva remarks. “Has anybody here not been hit by a car?” 

“Yeah, I got my foot ran over,” drummer Marty Black replies. 

“I’ve been hit by a car, too,” Gordon chimes in. “I was biking when I was a child and then a car hit me. Then a man yelled at me for getting hit by a car.” 

In his bedroom, him and lead guitarist Ryan Tuohy piece together their band’s debut single, “Hold The Door.” 

“It’s such a melting pot song,” he tells us. “It’s kinda dreamy, but at the same time kinda harsh. Bitter but soft.”

The song, written by Tuohy, describes how he felt before he met the band. It shows his feelings of loneliness, regardless of the tons of acquaintances he had at the time. Reflecting signs of optimism in the midst of distress. It’s about him missing his friends from home, not finding people to connect with until the formation of the band in November of last year. 

“I wrote it before the band formed. I just didn’t have a ton of people I was close with at school. It’s kinda funny, I didn’t think about it like that until now. I wrote the song when I didn’t have these guys and now I do. So it’s cool.”

Harrison Gordon (left), Sophie de Sa e Silva (middle), & Ryan Tuohy (right) playing at Nightshop in Bloomington, Illinois

For a lack of better words, groovy could also be used to describe “Hold The Door.” “I’d say it’s spanky,” Gordon laughs. On the other side of the couch, de Sa e Silva throws their hands up in the air at the thought of the new track.

“One time we were all jamming and Ryan introduced the song to us. We all just fell in love. We were like, holy fuck! This is such a fun song. At least I did.”

Mastering a masterpiece isn’t the easiest job in the world. The band describes it as a whirlwind of frustration, understanding, inspiration, and patience. Recording left everyone with different thoughts on the musical process.

“Me and Harrison both recorded a lot before coming together,” Tuohy starts. “We had to talk about how we wanted to split the roles. I think it’s gone well. We each took leads on things we were better at. I’ve recorded live drums before and he hadn’t, so I took a little bit more of the lead on that. We’re using his automation system. He’s been helping me out with understanding that.”

Gordon agrees. “If Ryan’s the producer, I’ve taken up the engineering role.”

But what about the actual recording process? First there’s the drums, which the band describes as being the hardest part about recording a song. As tedious as it is, it pays off– at least according to their drummer.

“I knew it would take longer, honestly. I was just getting mad because I knew I had to do it in one take,” Black explains. “I was getting pissed at myself about it. I was playing it over and over and over and over again. I was getting so defeated. At the end of the day, we got it down. So I’m happy about it.”

Where Black knew the recording process would drag on, de Sa e Silva had different expectations. 

“I thought we’d be done with it in a week,” they’re telling us. “I didn’t know it would take so long.”

For Chuck’s Papas, their backgrounds, just like their expectations, are anything but similar. All four members had musical experience before jumping into the band. Although everyone but Gordon is from the same hometown, they all found their musical start in different places. For both him and Black, no one in their family was a musician– they found the groove on their own. 

Gordon started with the bass. Something drew him away, be it boredom or destiny. Two months later, the root of his current career began with a brand new Epiphone Les Paul Junior that he begged his parents for at the age of 12. From there, the rest is history.

Black’s trajectory looked a little different. She started out with the violin in third grade, but always knew she wanted to play the drums. After a while, she found her calling and started drumming.

Sophie de Sa e Silva (left) playing with bandmate Marty Black (right)

Around the same time for de Sa e Silva, piano lessons became the norm, influenced by the handed-down grand piano parked in their childhood home. “From there I kept going up and playing other instruments.”

“I started a band with my friends in high school. That’s all I did.” Tuohy explains, highlighting Cat & The Curiosity, the startup of his professional group experience. “I was mainly hanging out with those guys doing bluesy rock stuff.”

But there’s more to a band than just making music.

“I’ve had issues with my mental health for as long as I can remember. When I have dark days, what am I gonna do, skip practice?” Black divulges. “The worst part of being in a band is wanting to fold. Just wanting to not do it because it would be so much easier to lay in bed.”

de Sa e Silva sympathizes with Black’s struggles. “Even with that, we can come together and be like, Marty I feel this way, and Marty’s like, I feel the same fucking way, and we’re like, okay! Fist bump! High five! And it’s like, we aren’t happier but-”

“-we’re just pushing through it,” Black finishes.

Wanting to fold is one thing, but acting on it is another. Regardless of her mental health issues, Black has been able to use the band as a successful creative outlet. The struggle of balancing music and self can be a challenging obstacle, but it makes the process worth the effort. Channeling dark days into the drums, transforming her energy into something productive. “I love the band,” she mentions.

Notably, the band has a natural talent for finding the good in the bad. 

“I almost reckon it to being like roommates with somebody. You ever get obscenely frustrated with your roommates just for not cleaning a dish? Because you live with them,” Gordon recounts, describing the group’s dynamic. “Because we’re in the band, it’s not like you can just take a break. You have to figure it out.”

“There’s growing pains in every group.” Tuohy adds. “The bullshit you need to get through. It’s tough to differentiate what’s right and what’s just different people’s opinions.”

You might have never known what Chuck’s Papas was going through if they didn’t tell you. For the most part, they have only good things to say. 

“These are my besties,” de Sa e Silva says. “And I can trust them with anything, I can tell them anything, and I love them. We all love each other…and they buy me food sometimes,” they laugh, shaking their head. 

The feeling is reciprocated for Tuohy, seeing eye to eye about what makes them so close. “I’d say the same thing. It’s also like, this is what we’re all passionate about. Making music and listening to music.”

Working together in such a tight-knit environment has given the group some insight into what makes for a good band. 

“Don’t get super hung up on what you think your stuff has to be. A lot of the time when you start writing, a lot of the stuff that you make will sound super derivative and boring. But your enthusiasm and passion is infectious to an audience and to your other bandmates. As long as you’re fully in it, you’re gonna succeed in some way. Probably not monetarily, but people are gonna like what you do,” Gordon expresses. 

Tuohy agrees, nodding just enough to know he understands. “Don’t worry about skill level and don’t worry about who sounds a certain way. When I first met Harrison I was like, oh he likes punk- we won’t work together. But now I’ve worked better with songwriting with Harrison than I ever have with pretty much anybody else so far.”

“Honestly, if you think you aren’t good enough to be in a band, it’s a crock of shit. You are good enough to be in a band. I was like, I’m never gonna perform live. Look where I am now. You put one foot over the other and you’re already there,” Black admits.

All in all, Chuck’s Papas is a band that has surpassed the expectations of everyone around them. In not even six months, they’ve gained the attention of hundreds of students. Booking shows left and right, the group has successfully been able to pave their way towards becoming the leading symbol for all indie-alternative music fans across campus. 

And as a bitter ginger once said, “If you want a band, you should start one.”

Film photos shown taken by Charlotte Steiger

One reply on “Chuck’s Papas From The Ground Up”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s