The project of Sydney-based musician and poet Mike Stephens, The Chamberlains fuse loud
and abrasive rock tones with darkly comic lyricism exploring the absurd and grotesque corners of modern society. Born in Sydney, Australia on December 7, 1995, Mike Stephens grew up a younger brother in a musical household, taking piano, guitar and clarinet lessons throughout his early childhood. Socially reclusive during his early teens, he found himself inspired by the music and lyrical content of artists such as Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Nick Cave. After dropping out of high school, he studied music at Sydney TAFE during his late teens, playing and writing songs with the intention of establishing his own band. He dropped out during his second year to pursue work and university, but continued to write and record demos in his spare time. Graduating from The University of Sydney in 2020, with Australia in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephens decided to return to his previously shelved musical project. Initially unsuccessful in finding other musicians to collaborate with, he decided to undertake the task of writing, recording and releasing a record himself, officially establishing The Chamberlains as a solo project. Spring 2020 saw the release of two singles, with the following Winter finally seeing the long-awaited release of debut album Kingdom of the Swine (2021). Recorded, mixed and produced by Ben Worsey at Everland Studios in Sydney with musicians Fabien Bethuizeau and Ralph Marshall, the album is a brash and daring mix of garage and post-punk inspired rock and sardonic lyricism exploring themes of youth, isolation, gentrification, hearsay and masculinity.
The Chamberlains open their latest track 'Last Night in Norwich with an instant drum beat for less than a bar before we hear the remining instruments join into the mix along with the lead vocals. This track provides a steady drum rhythm with the intricate weaving of guitar riffs to break the track down between vocals. This song is a nocturne-inspired indie/alternative rock single comprised of shivering guitars, heaving synth strings and macabre lyrics inspired by one of the most twisted chapters in American history and the 20th century. The mix of the track is really well managed - we're not overpowered by drums or heavy guitar or even by the vocals. The instruments fit in together along with the vocals to provide a laid back and consistent feel when listening to the song. This is a great approach as it captured my attention and kept it throughout. I really got to hear what the lyrics were about. Great work! A chilled out indie-rock arrangement that will give you all of the necessary indie rock instruments without overpowering a chilled out mood. Click the link below to hear it for yourselves and if you want to know more, scroll down to catch my interview with the artist!
What would be your ultimate achievement for your latest single ‘LAST NIGHT IN NORWICH'? Is there a particular vision that you had when putting the song together?
Like most of my songs, Last Night in Norwich was originally a few lines of verse. I wrote it in the very early hours the morning in a Blue Mountains motel room, fittingly enough. I later tried pairing it with this roughly 30-second demo I’d recorded into Logic Pro, and found they combined to create the mood I had in mind - doleful, melancholy… but also strangely sentimental.
Who was involved in the project alongside you?
I’m currently working solo on this project, so my circle is quite small. I’ll usually work alone to write a song and record a rough demo, then take it to Ben Worsey, producer and engineer at Everland Studios here in Sydney. From there we’ll arrange to start the recording process and bring in some brilliant local session musicians who are able to offer their guidance and input.
When did you first realise that you had the potential to be an artist? Is there a memory that has stuck in your mind as the turning point for you?
I’ve always had a strange and somewhat contrarian relationship with the idea of being a musician, and at times I don’t really know how well I fit that artistic mould. My inspirations as a teenager were Cohen, Waits and Cave, all of whom are somewhat unconventional as musicians in their own ways. But the uniqueness of their work along with their artistic evolutions is what inspired me to start writing songs back then, and still inspires me now.
How would you define your sound?
My songwriting process usually starts with lyrics. When I have a particular narrative or theme in mind, I then start musically developing a particular mood or atmosphere and gradually build upward from there. In terms of guitars, I don’t
do too much that is technically complex. Rather, I try and create riffs which are sharp, simple and distinctive, which I think in turn leads to songs which are distinguished and compelling.
This might be a tricky one but Studio vs Live - Which do you prefer and why?
Unfortunately, there haven’t been many opportunities to play live since I started this project back in 2020. The live shows I had planned to promote my album last year were all canned after the thing had the misfortune to release the day before our state’s longest ever lockdown was announced. Most of my time has been spent in the studio, which I always enjoy. That said, I’m looking forward to playing live again, and hopefully I’ll be able to announce upcoming shows soon.
If you had the opportunity to work with one of your favorite musical artists, who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
With Sydney emerging out of lockdown now, there are so many brilliant local artists stepping back onto the scene. I’ve met a few I’d very much like to work with, and hopefully we’ll be able to collaborate in the future… speaking of which though, if I were given carte blanche to bend time and space, I’d love to sit down with young Leonard Cohen, ideally in 1960s Greenwich Village.
What are your future plans? What can we look forward to for the rest of 2022?
I’m working on several creative projects at the moment, all in various stages of development. These include two more singles I’m aiming to have released by the end of the year (if all goes well), plus a larger effort which will hopefully come together a bit further down the line.
Where can we find the track? Links to socials and distribution handles.
You can find The Chamberlains’ latest single on nearly all major streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music and SoundCloud. You can find links to these, plus social media, by checking out www.toranarecords.com. The website’s also being expanded to include other work, so be sure to check back periodically.