For Rachael-O-Rama #23, we bring you a band that will check all your boxes. Tempo, melody, lyrical message, talent, and so much more is yours with the OC melodic skate-punk band, Chaser, and their album, “Dreamers.”
Chaser has been around for 20 years, but you’d never know it from listening to their energy – on stage or on an album. Sometimes when a band has been around that long, they start to become weathered and change up their music to match whatever experimental sound they are trying at the time. Then, their fourth album ends up sounding completely different than their first, which can turn a lot of fans off. But not Chaser. Chaser’s sound has stayed a true, fun, melodic skate-punk sound since their first album in 2006. Writing in similar sound but making each song its own has got to be challenging, but Chaser pulls it off beautifully.
We were able to speak with Chaser bassist Jesse Stopnitzky about “Dreamers,” their upcoming show, and what the future has in store for the band.
“Dreamers” was going to be a 15-track album and released in April of 2020. But then the world shut down. The buildup and marketing for the new album had been happening prior to COVID, so the band felt it necessary to release a two-song 7” EP as a way to give back to their fans since they felt their promise for new music was overdue. The proceeds went to a charity and “Dreamers” became a 13-track album.
Chaser is a very positive band without shoving PMA (positive mental attitude) down your throat. They pride themselves on being a positive influence with their music by letting people know, “Hey, you’re not alone. It’s okay to hurt/be angry/feel lost, but it’s temporary and we’ll get through this together.” They are all very active on social media with their fans, so it’s no wonder they have such a loyal fan base.
Punk is typically angry and/or political, so we asked Stopnitzky if it was hard to continually write songs with a positive message. He told us, “It’s very difficult to stay positive. Positivity is a lifestyle choice. We make a decision that being pissed off and angry doesn’t get anything done unless you take action in the right direction. Sometimes we find that positivity can actually do more than negativity… Punk rock is always about ‘anti-establishment’ and politics. We absolutely have that thread but at the end of the day we want to make sure that our listeners always realize that there is more to life than that and we can do so through compassion, tolerance, love, and unity. Those symbols carry as much weight as anger, frustration, and hate. That’s kind of the shift that we put into our music. Listen, I’m still angry, but I’m old enough to know that being angry can only take you so far.”
“Without being too preachy, we try to inspire people to just be better.”
Chaser fans are as loyal as they come. They come from hundreds of miles around to go to their shows. They all get along with each other and enjoy the shows together, like a mini community, a “Chaser Nation.” Stopnitzky said, “Our fans know what we’re all about, they get it. We don’t need to take over the world, we want the people that get our message. That’s why the album is called, ‘Dreamers.’ We’re all in this together. This mess that we are in with COVID, we’re in it together. Our fans that understand what we’re all about, those are the people I want as friends. Those are the people I want to drink beers with. That makes our following so much more special.”
The cover of “Dreamers” bears an astronaut helmet and in its reflection, you can see another astronaut planting a flag in a new, unknown world with planets in the background. Stopnitzky explained this art is about dreaming big in an endless universe. He explained, “It’s difficult to remember there’s a big world out there, especially when you’re in lockdown, so we just want to remind everyone to keep dreaming and keep chasing.” He continued, “I’m still just a punk rock kid listening to the same punk music as everyone else but a big dream I have is to one day open for Face to Face or Bad Religion (Why has hasn’t this happened yet? Chaser’s music meshes so well with both of those bands!). That’s what ‘Dreamers’ is, a reminder to keep chasing and keep dreaming.”
Artists will have pride in each piece of art they create, but can also have extra feelings for a piece that means more to them because it touches them in a more meaningful way. When we asked Stopnitzky what his favorite track on the new album is, he replied without hesitation, “’Dreamers.’ It’s mid-tempo and just dynamic. The back-and-forth vocals between Mike and I in the chorus, we really locked in on the harmonies and melody… by the time I get to the end of that song I always think, ‘Damn, that’s a good song!’” he said and you could hear him smiling and feel just how much he enjoys that song. He continued, “The song ‘Dreamers’ was inspired by my younger brother who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and I see him in his world overcoming his challenges and continuing to chase his dreams. It was also inspired by Mike and I who have been friends for well over 20 years and we’re alongside each other and our band brothers Bill and Davey and we’re chasing our wildest dreams together.”
The last track on the album, “See You at the Show” is about all of the great legacy acts that came before Chaser, and a reminder that there are a lot of great bands out there now that Chaser want fans to invest the time in listening to. With all the access to home recordings and streaming, there is an abundance of music available to us, and Chaser wants to make sure we aren’t just stuck in our rut of listening to the same old stuff. Sure, it’s okay to have our comfort bands, but we need to branch out and give other bands a try because we WILL like some of them. What’s the harm in checking them out?
Chaser continues to bring the legendary Fat and Epitaph era punk sound we all love, even after 20 years in the music business. We can’t wait to see what happens next for them. Chaser is Mike LeDonne (vocals), Jesse Stopnitzky (bassist/vocals), Bill Hockmuth (guitarist), and Davey Guy (drums).
Chaser will be playing at The Commissary Lounge in Costa Mesa for their long-awaited “Dreamers” album release party. Opening for them will be The Line, Fourth in Line, and Strike Twelve. All of the aforementioned bands will be at the Gunwhales Brewery right next door for a meet and greet before the show. They are also set up on some festivals next year, so their show calendar is picking up steam quickly.