We chat with Chet Faker
An invitation to the illustrious South by South-West Festival in Texas, an upcoming UK tour, two songs going #1 on the music blog google Hype Machine, 20,000 hits on Soundcloud in two days, Rob Thomas naming a track as his ‘song of the day’ on twitter, and now his inclusion on the lineups for VIVID Live and Splendour In The Grass…Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! It’s no wonder Chet Faker is trying his darndest to keep a lid on all of the hype, because when Matchbox 20 say you’re hot, watch out…
Things you should know if you’re just tuning in. Chet Faker is Nicholas James Murphy, a 23 year old Melburnian who owns a vintage Wurlitzer and Rhodes Keyboard and doesn’t mind showing them off. He has been making music for close to a year under the pseudonym that references the legendary Chet Baker, paying homage both in his sexier-than-Ryan-Gosling vocal style and the imperfections left in his recordings.
Since the world discovered this bearded, middle-distance running producer, music critics have been falling over each other to try and define his style: ‘bedroom produced, jazz infused, down-beat electro’, ‘night time, laid back, post-dubstep’, (insert another over-elaborate, niche, hipster cliché).
I think my work colleague put it best when he casually mentioned, “it’s just great music to have sex to.” Chet is not exactly worried about the labels, “I still feel like I am grappling with what to call it so I’m not surprised others are, but I am happy no one has been able to agree to a genre, it keeps it all a bit intangible.”
It all began with Nick innocuously posting a cover of Blackstreet’s 90’s cheese-ball hip-hop classic, ‘No Diggity’ on Soundcloud. Not since it was Friday, Friday, Gotta Get Down on Friday did news travel so quickly, triple j picked it up, every blog in the universe re-posted it and all of a sudden you had a boy who still DJ’d every Tuesday night at a local bar in Melbourne sitting above Kanye West on Hype Machine’s Most Popular list. In his own words, “it was all a bit ridiculous.”
But to prove it was no fluke, Chet Faker has recently topped the list again, this time with ‘I’m Into You’ a sexually charged ode to the woman on the pillow next to his. The first single, like the entire Thinking In Textures EP, is sexual, but it’s not sexy, Rihanna is sexy, Chet Faker is sensual, like Marvin Gaye sensual. Reflecting on the internet’s continued love-affair with him, Chet proudly admits, “It was very satisfying when ‘I’m Into You’ topped Hype Machine. Up until then I had felt a bit over-shadowed by ‘No Diggity’, which I’m sure is normal for any artist who is initially famed for a cover. So to have an original song of mine match it was very validating; in my mind it legitimised some of the hype.”
Thankfully the seven track EP more than justifies the overwhelming noise surrounding Chet Faker’s meteoric rise. It is as good as any debut an Australian artist has produced this century and is in as much debt to his mother’s soul records as it is to his father’s love of Ministry Of Sound Chill-Out Sessions compilations. Comparisons to the likes of Caribou, The Weeknd and Zero 7 were inevitable as the use of warm synths and layered vocals make Chet’s songs sound like he’s crushed up some valium and sprinkled it on his morning toast for the last couple of months. But behind the production is his voice, a voice that is hard to under-rate.
His choir training taught him to use his range with caution and it is as strong in its restraint as it is in the moments when he lets it soar like it does in ‘Solo Sunrise.’ “If you sing like a Disney character all of the time, people stop listening to the songs and only the voice, so I’ve tried to give my voice an understated subtly.” This dichotomy of song verse sound is something that has been consciously raised by Chet Faker and something that he reiterates when discussing his forthcoming debut album.
“It’s all about limitations; limitations let you refine your sound so that you find the song and not just a bunch of pretty noises. The music I am writing at the moment is so left-of-centre that I am having to reign myself back in so I don’t scare people off. My album has larger, heavier hitting beats, almost hip-hop beats and I am sampling more. It’s definitely a lot darker than the EP; it’s full of minor keys and chestier, fuller vocals. But I think whatever way my debut goes there will be some people who are inevitably disappointed. If you change too much you alienate the fans you have and if you don’t change enough you are hated for not developing.”
Having supported the local tour leg of Toro Y Moi and Washed Out earlier this year and conquering Texas where he was billed by several publications as ‘one to watch’, Chet Faker has arrived home to launch Thinking In Textures with three sold out nights at The Toff In Town in Melbourne as part of his first East coast tour. When most artists would upgrade the venue and fill their pockets, Chet made the conscious decision to keep the intimacy of The Toff and just add more dates. “We talked about moving but I didn’t want to be that guy that blows up on the internet and immediately plays big shows. I like the Toff, I go to The Toff and I still feel like I am cutting my teeth in the scene so it made sense to keep the shows there.”
It is hard to imagine Chet Faker pulling a Lana Del Rey on us but he is well aware at how fickle hype can be and how easily blog love can turn into hipster hate. With Thinking In Textures receiving universally positive reviews, Chet reflects on the nature of hype and the curse of being cool, “The hype, both positive and negative is transitory. It’s been good to me so far but I am wary of it getting out of control, which is why I am just trying to ignore it and focus on what I am working on because at the end of the day I’m hoping the music will outlast the hype.”