By: Andrew Boyd
NL natives ChessClub have just released their sophomore LP “These Flowers Are For You”. In true ChessClub fashion, the beats are saturated with chill vibes perfectly paired with introspective lyrics which take listeners on an honest journey of self-discovery.
ChessClub’s self-titled album, released in 2014, was very well received, and most would agree, separated the group from the rest of the local hip hop community. Their 2018 record “These Flowers Are For You” is a clear statement that the band has begun their climb to the top of the mountain that is Canadian hip hop. Rock Eden contributor Andrew Boyd recently spoke with ChessClub’s James Piercey about their newest release and what the group has planned going forward.
Rock Eden: ChessClub got its start here in Newfoundland but the group has since packed up and moved to Toronto. What influenced the decision to move?
James Piercey: There is more access to resources here, more people in Toronto who are doing similar things, more like-minded artists, and just a bigger community for us to take advantage of. It’s easier to tour from here, you don’t have to leave an island to get from one place to another.
RE: How has your experience been so far integrating into the Toronto Hip Hop scene?
JP: Matt’s been here for almost 10 years, I’ve been here for 7 on and off so I think we are pretty well integrated by now, we all love it here, we love it home as well so it’s just a trade-off basically.
RE: Obviously there’s a lot more competition there, has that been a hurdle? Or, has it just made you guys work harder?
JP: I think it’s made us work harder. Ideally, we wouldn’t see other artists as competition, even though, of course, they are. But, we would prefer to look at it as potential collaborators, or even just fellow collaborators you know? The more the merrier in our opinion.
RE: Tell us a bit about URBNET Records.
JP: They’ve been around for quite some time… they are a small sort of boutique label based here [Toronto]. They are focused on Canadian rap music, well I guess general rap music but, initially Canadian rap. They represent some pretty cool acts like Moka Only, Myka Nine of Freestyle Fellowship, who’s kind of like an OG Los Angeles rapper, someone I listened to as a kid. It’s been a really great experience, they really do it out of the love of it. And, it’s been great to have somebody help organize this ‘cause we’re all very disorganized.
RE: Did they come on before you guys finished this new album?
JP: We had the album basically finished, and we sent it to them. We’ve polished it up since then but yeah the album was essentially done, we were just looking for a means to promote it.
RE: There seems to be a bit more activity coming from St. John’s hip hop community lately. What are your thoughts on the scene here now compared to when ChessClub were just starting here?
JP: It’s definitely developed a lot. I think there are several good rappers based out of St. John’s right now. In terms of my thoughts on the scene… sometimes there’s gonna to be a bit of in-fighting and bullshit but that’s probably the case with any scene. I think it’s great to see the genre grow. Make sure you shout out the Van Buren Boys. That’s my favourite group out of the city.
RE: The new album seems to be loaded with personal experience and self-revelation. A lot of emotion comes through on these tracks. How has the process of creating this album affected your growth as individuals as well as artists?
JP: It’s been an outlet for us to express our feelings and emotions, which is obviously a big part of our music. We would probably all be locked up in psych wards if we didn’t have some sort of platform, so it’s been good for us as individuals just to have something to channel all of our shit into you know? The process of making music and growing as people, for us, you can’t really separate them, it’s just something that we do as people and artists, and as artists for people, you know what I mean?
RE: I read this statement in your press release “ChessClub probes questions about the tension of post-material modern life and the relationship between growth and decay.” Can you tell me what that statement means to you guys?
JP: [Haha] Okay, so the post-material condition is a place wherein survival is already taken care of, people don’t really need to worry about how they are going to eat or whatever, so, we make up problems in the absence of real problems. That’s something we’re referring to in the press release because the majority of the album is kind of about our interpersonal problems, and obviously a lot of difficulties with women, dating, and romantic love… these are kind of like the epitome of the post-material problems you know? Tensions we wouldn’t have to worry about if not for the fact that we have nothing else to worry about.
RE: You’ve got an album release show coming up at the Burdock March 15, any plans with the new album after that? Are you guys planning to tour?
JP: Yeah for sure. I think the first thing we are going to focus on is getting another music video together, and we absolutely want to tour the album, we are just feeling it out for the right opportunity.
RE: Can we expect you back on the island anytime soon?
JP: I couldn’t tell you when but we’ll all be back on the island someday 100%, never a question.