Scene+Heard: Chin goes for ‘Broke’ with new band
BY SABRINA VELAZQUEZ / Special to the Star-Advertiser
As someone who has attempted to be a lead guitarist for a few bands, I can say that being a supporting musician is sometimes more difficult than being the lead. Not only do you have to learn a number of new songs, but you also have to establish a connection to the music as well as the band. You become part of a family, culture, and experience. You make it your own.
With Navid Najafi
» Where: Station Bar & Lounge, 1726 Kapiolani Blvd.
Guitarist Neal Chin has the gift of being a musical chameleon. His ability to connect with different style of music has made him a staple in the local indie scene for years. He adds his unique music styling — a combination of rock, blues and jazz — to a number of acts. He’s “paid his dues,” as the term goes.
Now he has added a new occupation to his resume: singer. Chin continues to pave his own musical path, having formed the band Broke Aesthetic this year with friends Max Benoit and Mike Nakamoto.
I spoke with Chin about starting out on the ukulele, finding out about Jimi Hendrix, playing music with Erika Elona Band and singing with Broke Aesthetic.
SV: I first saw you perform as the lead guitarist for local rock band Sex Puppet. It was amazing. You were completely shredding on the guitar! You’ve had a long history playing music. Where did it first start?
NC: I actually started out playing the ukulele and after a couple of years picked up the guitar. It was really when I first heard Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” that I really fell in love with the sound of the guitar. I told myself that that was how I wanted my guitar to sound and decided to look at the people who influenced Stevie which led to me musicians such as Muddy Waters, BB King, Albert King, Robert Johnson, and of course (Jimi) Hendrix.
It was really Hendrix’s furious style and unique nature as an artist and a musician that really drove me to expand listening to more and more music. The type of “worlds” Hendrix could create with sound made me want to listen to everything, to use musical influence to construct my own worlds. Kind of Blue, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Ok Computer, Uprising and Abbey Road became the soundtrack of my late teens that really led me to where I am today.
Lately what has really been driving me has been straight from the Great American Songbook, such stylings from Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Joe Pass and Jim Hall.
SV: As a guitarist you are completely adaptable in any situation, from rock, to blues, to jazz. Is there any style you particularly enjoy playing more?
NC: I love the blues. As a guitarist my roots are in blues music. Something about the soul and energy of the blues draws me to want to replicate a song like BB King’s, “Live at the Regal.” That strength and ferocity of the blues is kept in check by my love for jazz. The clean intellect and beauty of jazz helps me find a balance with the raw blues that I love so much.
I like taking these influences and mixing them with other genres of music with other musicians. Finding just the right blend and harmony with other people musically is what I really thrive on. There really is no other feeling like it.strong>SV:
SV:You left Sex Puppet to pursue other musical endeavors and have since taken on a regular role as lead guitarist for singer/songwriter Erika Elona and just started a jam band with former Kings of Spade bass player Max Benoit and drummer Mike Nakamoto, called Broke Aesthetic. Both acts are very different which is a true testament to your talent. How did both gigs come to be?
NC: I had the pleasure of being invited to a couple of performances with the Erika Elona Band and after a few sessions we really started jiving. A few gigs turned to many and many turned into a permanent spot as the guitarist. All the people in the band have been fun collaborating with and I really love Erika’s songs. We’ve really found a groove together and I can’t wait for the next gig.
I had been jamming with Max since high school and we’ve always had good chemistry as musicians. Mike really kicked all of our music into high gear and we just knew from the first jam session with all three of us that we had to do something with this. All of our styles are different but we meet on all the essential levels.
Our willingness to explore and take a song any way it needs to go really has been an eye opening experience for myself.
SV: You’ve added vocalist to your musical repertoire, sharing lead vocals with Benoit in Broke Aesthetic? What’s it like to step-up to the mic now? And I have to ask, why the name?
NC: Yes it is true that Max and I do most of the vocals for Broke Aesthetic. It really has a new experience to be on vocals but one that I have always wanted to explore. I have always had to just focus on my guitar playing but holding down the vocals along side of everything has been one of the best musical workouts. It has given to a chance to explore ideas lyrically as well which has been great as well.
As for the name to be honest it started off as a bunch of dick jokes in search of the name. Then after a practice after tossing around more ideas and jokes the name Broke Aesthetic came out and it a certain ring to it we all just really liked. Its just two words we think sound good next to each other (and it’s not a joke).
SV: Broke Aesthetic has a big gig coming-up at an opening act for the Republik Music festival. What’s it like as a new band just starting out and getting a big show?
NC: It’s really exciting and a great opportunity for us. Everything with Broke Aesthetic seems to be snow balling so fast that we are taking each opportunity and running with it.
The Republik Music festival will the be the one of the largest shows I have ever done so I am admittedly nervous but full of excitement to show all the people their what Broke Aesthetic sounds like.
SV: In a way it’s seems like a fresh start for you musically. What’s the rest of the year look like for you?
NC: More and more music. Soon I will be going into the studio to record Erika’s first full-length album and soon I hope to get to record an EP with Broke Aesthetic. More gigs and more opportunities to make sound. I couldn’t ask for anything else.
Sabrina Velazquez is a 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated singer/songwriter and self-proclaimed “music nerd” who was born and raised in Honolulu. Now based in Portland, Oregon, Velazquez posts every Monday on The Pulse.