Back in the New York Groove: A Conversation with Jason Chasko of Suffrajett

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By Jason Thompson

Not too long ago, New York group Suffrajett released their self-titled debut album. Band members Jason Chasko (ex-Liz Phair guitarist) and vocalist Simi deliver a straightforward set of rock and roll throughout the album’s set of songs. Recently, PopMatters spoke to Jason Chasko and discussed how life has been treating the duo since their disc dropped.

PopMatters: How have things been going so far with the album and touring? Have the crowds been favorably receptive to the sound and music?

Jason Chasko: The album is being received well. Haven’t really heard anything that bad about it so it’s all good. As far as touring the record we haven’t really been hitting the road as we would like to. We play Manhattan and Philadelphia, etc., and when we play the record live the response has always been positive, which is great because there are a lot of jaded New Yorkers out there!

PM: Could you clear things up a bit for us regarding the actual personnel on the album? Some reviews have cited as many as four people in the band, with a minimum of two. I figured it was just the two of you, save for the one track.

JC: On the recording it’s just me and Simi. I play all the instruments except for the violin on the first track, which Simi plays. She obviously sings all the songs. We do have a permanent bass player now—his name is Kevin Roberts and he played bass on the song “Gone”. We have a touring drummer as well. But we are definitely looking for a permanent drummer to be a part of the family.

PM: Do you think there’s a stigma anymore from being a “New York City rock band”? Seriously, so much has come out of there lately with the over-hype that I don’t personally see too many bands from the boom lasting very long at all. What do you think it takes to survive such hype, and do you think you have it?

JC: I don’t know if that stigma still exists. I could be wrong. I know a lot of A&R reps keep their ears to the concrete here. As far as bands from New York and standing the test of time that’s another whole ball of wax! There will always be bands that get attention because of being in the right spot at the right time and those bands that get signed in the “aftermath” don’t always write and record “timeless” or original music and they don’t really have a chance of having any longevity whatsoever. I think our band has that timeless quality. You can take any track on our record and produce it and put it out ten years from now and I think it would hold up.

PM: Another thing I wanted to ask regarding the album is why exactly did you use so much distortion on the vocals? It was my one and only criticism of the disc in general. I thought Simi sang all the tunes well, but the distortion just took a bit away from it, causing all the tunes to wash together. It’s like a couple years ago when everyone who had a dance tune was using that damn warbly vocoder effect that Cher made famous in “Believe”. I noticed a few other groups were doing the distorto thing as well lately.

JC: The distortion on the vocals comes from using a guitar amp. We hated how the vocals sounded going direct into our recorder so we put them through an amp. It wasn’t because “everybody else is doing it.”

PM: Where do you think rock music is headed in general lately? Do you think anyone even cares anymore? Music is cranked out at such high volumes of plasticity these days that it seems like more than ever if you don’t have some kind of flashy gimmick, no one wants to hear you.

JC: I think rock music is going to revert back to the ‘80s sound. Not necessarily playing “keytars” or anything but to have the same pop sensibilites that were so prominent in the ‘80s. Imagine ‘80s synth but with no keyboards, just guitars and a live drummer. I do think people care where music is headed. I know I do! A gimmick definitely helps you to get attention but at the end of the day you gotta have a decent song to sell. I don’t listen to the radio so I don’t really know what kind of shit is being shoved down the consumer’s throat.

PM: How did you guys get together and form this group? What was the impetus behind getting together and deciding to make an album? Do you ever feel that perhaps you’re shouting into a void and no one’s listening, or has it been smooth sailing from the get go?

JC: I met Simi a couple years ago through a mutual friend. I started playing in the band she had at the time and it started to get stale with the two guys that were in the band at the time so I said we should kick them out and do a record together. I could see she had a lot of talent and I thought we could write some good stuff if we could just get rid of the “other two”. We don’t get too concerned if someone doesn’t want to hear from us. In the words of Iggy, “If you like my music, great, and if you don’t, fuck you!” That’s how we feel as well so fuggit. As far as smooth sailing? Nothing in this business is easy. Ultimately nobody gives a shit until someone tells them it’s cool to like this or that. I swear so many people out there need to be spoon fed their art or entertainment, and that’s the saddest.

PM: Do you care if people rip your songs and share them online? Do you think that there’s anything anyone can truly do about that situation who is against it? Some labels have sent out copy protected discs, but obviously it’s just a matter of time before that protection gets cracked.

JC: We don’t care really. I mean we would like to see the numbers in Soundscan, but whatever. As long as people are listening to the tunes, I don’t think there’s much anyone can do about it. People like Lars Ulrich and the like are so monetarily driven they have lost sight of what it’s all about.

PM: What song means the most to you on your album? Did you have any that you weren’t 100% sure on, but tossed on the disc nevertheless?

JC: I would have to say “Sticks”. We were not sure about a couple like “Crybaby” and “D.L.S.” I think they are good songs but they didn’t really fit in a cohesive manner. We try to write the best we can and if we like it we’ll put it out.

PM: Do you think lyric writing is a lost art? I know when I hear an album now that has really astute sort of lyrics, I’m surprised. To me, the words are just as important as the music.

JC: I definitely think it’s a lost art. Generally speaking the majority of people out there could give two shits what the lyrics are saying. When i say “the majority” I mean the kids that watch TRL and such.

PM: Where do you see Suffrajett in five years? Will the whole idea have been dissolved, or do you hope to still be recording under this name?

JC: I see our band putting out some great records in the future. We are very optimistic about the future in general. We will write together as long as we can write good stuff and have fun doing it. We don’t care about the name thing. It’s an identity.

PM: Do you have anything you’d care to say to the fans or readers out there who may not have had a chance to hear your work yet?

JC: I would like to tell people out there they should take a chance on new music! You don’t have to be a clone. The record we did is worth taking a chance on. We are very proud of it and we think if you give it a shot, you too will dig it! I think it rocks, and when we play it live it will rip your fucking face off!

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/suffrajett-040114/