by Mel House
Cub Country is Jeremy Chatelain. You might recognize Jer from his stints as the frontman for Handsome, or the bass player from Jets To Brazil. Cub Country finds Jeremy exploring his rootsy singer-songwriter tendencies, and those explorations culminate in brilliant songs about love (both the lost and found variety), life on the road, New Jersey, New York, and yes, even Utah. If you are a fan of Son Volt (or Farrar's solo stuff, for that matter), The Mountain Goats, The Weakerthans, or other like-minded bands, and you haven't picked up Cub Country's High Uinta High, or the latest album, Stay Poor, Stay Happy, you're doing yourself a huge disservice. Jeremy was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the latest Cub Country developments, the status of Jets To Brazil, and his upcoming stint as a member of the reconstitued Helmet.
SCR: You sound a lot more comfortable on this album, and the songs themselves are a lot more expansive. Is that a product of the positive reaction that High Uinta High received?
Jeremy: I think that it is a natural progression to sound more comfortable and perhaps "expansive" as you gain more experience writing songs and playing them for people. I had been a lot more focused and confident to write songs for Stay Poor, Stay Happy, when I realized that I could do it and pull off an entire record.
On both of your Cub Country albums, as well as in a live setting, you've featured a rotating roster of pretty well-known and respected indie-rockers. Do you just get parts from whoever is around, or do you actually think, "Hey, Charlie Walker would sound good here," or "Chris Daly would be great on this song"?
I've always recorded every Cub Country record with the same goal, and that was to take these songs I have written and draw from this great and talented pool of people that always seem to surround me. Sometimes I do have someone in particular in mind for a certain song, but most of the time it seems to be a exercise in switching things up, and there are lots of happy accidents along the way.
Cub Country -- http://www.cubcountry.com/
Future Farmer Recordings -- http://www.futurefarmer.com/
Jade Tree Records -- http://www.jadetree.com/
Jets To Brazil -- http://www.jadetree.com/bands/artist/jets_to_brazil
Handsome -- http://www.quicksand.net/related-projects/handsome.htm
How did you pick the other three (comparatively unknown) guys for the touring band this time around? Does that make Cub Country a band now more than a solo project?
The current band are all people who were introduced to me or recommended by friends down here in Chapel Hill. We've played together quite a bit in the last year. There are a lot of musicians down here who are great and hungry for music. I'd really love for Cub Country to become a full-fledged band, but it seems that with time and money constraints, especially as I get older, I'll probably keep doing it at about the same rate as I have been. Also, it looks like I'll probably be relocating to Seattle in the coming year, so I'm curious see what that holds for me.
What influenced your decision to put this album out on Future Farmer, as opposed to going with Jade Tree again?
Jade Tree was not interested in putting out Stay Poor, Stay Happy. Future Farmer contacted me through a guy called Kaleb (http://www.sctas.com/) and expressed interest and it blossomed from there. I really like the guys and gals at Future Farmer. It's small and personal.
At the end of Stay Poor, Stay Happy, there's a pretty humorous answering machine message that a friend of yours leaves regarding hearing your song at a trendy store. What Cub Country song were they playing at Urban Outfitters?
I really have no idea. That is an actual message that my friend Zoe left for me, and I couldn't stop laughing after I heard it, so I saved it and had to use it on the record. Maybe it seems like more of an inside joke. I still think it's hilarious. "Corporate motherfuckers cashing in on your alternative lifestyle. You're singing your heart out, what are they doing? Counting the change." It's classic. She's really funny.
Any bands that you're really like to tour with?
There are so many. We played a show once with the Jayhawks, and that was great. I'd love to play with the Mountain Goats, My Morning Jacket, Spoon, Willie Nelson...the list could go on and on and on.
I notice you thank Ashley and Pete Hines in the liner notes -- is that the same Pete Hines that drummed for Handsome? I think Handsome was one of the most underrated bands ever, by the way.
That is the same Pete Hines. He and I are married to sisters, so I guess that makes him my brother-in-law. He's a kick-ass drummer, one of the best. Thanks for the Handsome comment. That was a doomed band, but that's a whole other interview.
You're probably sick of hearing this, but what's the status of Jets To Brazil?
There's been no status for about two years. We ended the 2003 tour in Columbus, Ohio, and that was the last time we played music together. Everyone has been in deep pursuit of other things in their lives, and I think it's a really positive thing. The band life is often times not such a healthy lifestyle for friendships. I love those guys and would jump at the chance to play again, but there are no plans.
With Jets To Brazil in limbo -- or over -- is Cub Country going to become a full-time project for you now?
Cub Country has been my full-time band for the last two years. It's just a lot smaller and less hyped than most of the music that is coming out now. I'll always do Cub Country; it's been a great outlet for me and a chance to play music with a really varied group of people. I'd like to keep that spirit going.
By that same token, are you ever going to do the "indie-rock" band thing again?
I haven't the slightest idea. Cub Country is indie-rock. We're as indie as you get. As far as starting another band, who knows what the future will hold? Anything could happen. I'm actually playing bass for a re-formed Helmet this summer in Europe. I like to keep a lot of irons in the musical fire! END