As is increasingly the case for many newly formed guitar bands, the first eighteen months of Chapel Club’s existence has been characterised by their struggle to assert themselves upon a music industry with priorities on other genres. Marred by legal difficulties, a long delay in the release of their debut album, and being tarred with an air of arrogance by early media coverage, the position of Chapel Club seems pressurised.
But upon meeting vocalist Lewis Bowman in Sheffield’s Leadmill, any preconceptions are immediately rendered insubstantial. Laughing off “some funny things I may have said when I was drunk” that led to him being portrayed as pretentious in some early interviews, Bowman is warm, interesting, and open, describing his “overwhelming desire to be honest”, be it in his lyrics or demeanour. Bowmen’s talk of various art forms, and the influence of literature upon his lyrics, has led to people “having a stick to beat us with”. Indeed, some reviews of their recently released album, have read more as a review of his own words rather than the songs themselves. Humbly defending his love of literature, Bowman describes being “aware that I’m not as good as some other people at singing, and thought it would be nice to talk about lyrics. I’ve never said I’m a poet.”
With their reference to Greek mythology and metaphorical slant, Bowman’s lyrics certainly stand out from his contemporaries. Despite this, he appears anything but arrogant when questioned about his lyrical intents. “The last time I read a book of Greek myths I was 12, and my mum had bought it for me”, he says, and refers to their attempt to “explain natural phenomena”. Indeed, upon listening to the band’s debut album, Palace, their sound sits comfortably in a tradition of grandiose reminiscent of Echo and the Bunnymen, and more recently continued by bands such as Editors and Glasvegas. Bowman’s baritone sits comfortably at the head of the swirling wall of sound conjured up by guitarists Michael Hibbert and Alex Parry, creating an intricate sonic sweep suiting the frontman’s ambitious lyrics, as best typified in the swelling “All the Eastern Girls”.
Their influences, however, seem far removed from these immediate comparisons. “The funny thing is, most of the bands we get compared to, we’re just not in to”, says Bowman. He refers to New Order and the Bad Seeds as who the band initially bonded over, and his personal love of jazz singers. Having never been in a band before, and admitting he “didn’t think the band was going to go anywhere”, the frontman describes Chapel Club’s first album as the product of “five people in a very democratic band” with different musical interests. At the head of a group of talented musicians who, “if they’re not in a band, they’re looking to be in a band”, Bowman describes the compromises that were inevitable in creating the final product.
“It’s an every day human thing of trusting each others’ judgement, when you’ve got work the next day and it’s 11.30”, admits the frontman. “Where they think of songs in a technical way, I think of how it all fits together”, says Bowman. Asking about the intended progression of the band’s sound, Bowman refers to moving forward to “a tunnel vision, towards one more common sound, or style”, and their increased confidence to close doors.
Although Bowman reveals not being a fan of live music in comparison to the studio experience, Bowman’s position as a frontman that evening is impressive. “We’re not here to replace the church, despite the name…but I’d hope people would leave feeling like they’ve been struck by something” says Bowman. After tonight, Chapel Club will be preaching to the converted before long.