Stormy Chromer’s embrace adventure in composition, creativity and life

. September 10, 2019.
Photo credit: Evan Grieg
Photo credit: Evan Grieg

A Stormy Chromer song spans the spectrum; it sounds like a pure adventure. But fate would have it that this Ypsilanti quartet caught a bit of calamity when they were out in the Midwest for their most recent tour. Before these rock-fusionists perform at the Blind Pig on October 5, you should really hear the story about how they rose up from a troubling low point: and that low point found them nestled wearily into an Applebee’s booth with one-dollar Mai Tai’s, facing the certainty of a vanquished van.

“The Applebee’s shared a parking lot with the Firestone where we’d had our van towed to,” said drummer Amin Lanseur. “Our initial feelings can only be described as: total defeat.” This happened just east of Des Moines, IA. “Those 24 hours had been an absolute example of Murphy’s Law: …from the van breaking down, to realizing the fluid leak was much worse than before, to finding out most hotels were booked solid, to eventually getting the news that the transmission was cracked and to fix it would be triple what we paid for the van itself. So, we had kicked around the idea of crowdfunding in the past for other things and never felt quite comfortable doing it. But I talked to my brother and he convinced me that if there was ever a time to call upon our fans and family for help that time was now.”

With support via GoFundMe, the band was able to attain a new/reliable vehicle and get back to Michigan where they could regroup. “We hit our goal in about 5 hours and had surpassed it substantially by 8 hours,” said Lanseur. “It was an incredible feeling. We knew in that moment that people believe in us. People don’t raise that sort of money for a lost cause, people come together like that when they feel like it can make a difference.

Stormy Chromer is, along with Lanseur, Ryan King on bass, and dual lead guitarists Brendan Collins and Spencer Hanson; they’ve been performing locally, touring out of state, appearing at festivals, and putting out high-energy live recordings for five years now. They specialize in a progressive rock that embraces improvisation and strikes a graceful balance between groove and gusto, between the smooth and the surging; their tempos can be a low-key funk, to slick space-rock, to ebullient and effects-splashed cosmic curio. Their knack for real-time composition lends toward arrangements that feel like boundless exhilaration.

“We think of composition and improvisation as essentially the same thing,” said Lanseur. “The difference is the speed at which it is occurring. For improv, it happens in an instant, in a moment. In composition it has no time limit, it can take as long as you want and be reworked to perfection. To me what this does is changes how the art is functioning. It’s not something that you can revisit, so it’s fleeting, but the feelings and memories can stay with you and inspire you for a long time. It’s totally okay for people to prefer their music as a solid rather than a fluid, but I think if people that aren’t into improvised music tried approaching it with that in mind, they may find a newfound appreciation for being a part of that conversation.”

Stormy Chromer’s first full-length studio album, A Tale of Two Mouths, was released in the late summer of 2016, fusing ambient Americana with a bit of indie-funk and vibe-heavy rock. Unlike most bands, Stormy Chromer is keen to collect live recordings of their shows, so if you visit their Bandcamp, you’ll find the recording of their entire release party for Tale/Mouths alongside the studio album. We asked this improvisational band, which thrives on fluid or amorphous arrangements, to define their source of inspiration.

“Inspiration can and does come from anywhere and everywhere,” assured Lanseur. “One of the best things about being in a band is that we all have our own experiences and individual perspectives and it makes for a wonderful amalgamation of ideas. I think that being able to take a human experience, like a van breaking down, or hiking a mountain, literally anything, and expressing that experience through art is what we are all practicing and working towards being able to do better and better.”

When you hear the ways in which Stormy Chromer songs can shift gears, ascending like a slingshot into a glide through a crescendoing windstorm, or dipping low to skim across calmer tides, it seems as though the instrumentalists are almost reading each other’s minds for the precise cues of when and what to do with each note, each dynamic transition, and each return to a closing chorus after an extensive bridge.

Lanseur said “…it comes down to trust. Trusting your bandmates to support each other, trusting in their ideas as you hear them, even if it’s not what you would have done, trusting in the crowd to give you the space you need to follow the music to where it really wants to go. To me the moments that feel like telepathy always happen when we let our walls down and trust each other enough to stop listening to our own egos, follow the music, and support it completely. I’ll also add that when it comes to improvising within a composition, there is a balancing act between getting lost in the music of the moment, while not forgetting that you do have a concrete, composed destination. It can be hard to do both at the same time.”

Joining Stormy Chromer at the Blind Pig on October 5 is Traverse City-based six piece Biomassive and Denver-based improv-rockers RADO. Suffice it to say, given their shared appreciation for adventurous compositions, the evening’s lineup will expand beyond the conventional ideas of a rock concert. You’re likely to hear a song or two from Stormy Chromer’s latest release, the nearly 20-minute long Solid Sessions EP, which was recorded at Solid Sound in Ann Arbor.

Lanseur looked back, again, to that moment in the Applebees, and pondered the source of the band’s strongest motivations. “We Stormy Chromer guys are simple beasts,” he said. “We love music. We love playing it, we love listening to it, and I think there is a motivation in there for all of us because we know there is more to understand. We want to connect with the core of what makes music so powerful to us and want to be a conduit to give that out to others as we have received it so many times in the past. As far as what makes this band so special to me it is the unwavering dedication that exists from all of the guys. I have felt nothing but complete dedication from every single one of us for 5 and a half years now.”

And Lanseur looked back, also, to the surge of support through the crowdfunding that got them back home this summer. “…what we really gained that day, and what we really needed was proof that we aren’t alone, that our friends and family trust us to take the help they gave us and make something out of it. Which is exactly what we are going to do.”

8:30pm | Saturday, Oct 5 | $10
The Blind Pig. 208 S 1st St., Ann Arbor
734-996-8555 | blindpigmusic.com

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