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THE COMMUNITY CHEST Shaking things up

The Community Chest are set to unveil their new single Handshake with a launch show at The 21st Amendment on Saturday, May 1 with special guests Didion’s Bible. After originally forming in 2010 as a solo endeavour by Turnstyle frontman Adem K, the group have carved out their own brand of synth-driven indie rock in the years since, captured on 2019 EP Concrete and last year’s popular single In My Dreams. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with Adem K to find out how the track organically grew as an expression of the group’s shared imagination and DIY ethos.

It’s great to hear new music from The Community Chest, what has the band been up to for the past year?

We’ve been steadily recording new material since just before the pandemic last year. We spent a short time apart which is when I started working on Handshake. We played a few shows but I felt like we were always under-rehearsed and just getting by so since the beginning of the year we have been playing together more as a band instead of four or five of us sitting around a computer screen and a wall of synthesizers. It’s been good actually and we feel like we are getting to where we should be as a live band. And besides we are fortunate enough to have a lot venues and live gigs in Perth so why not get out there?

Musically speaking, how was this new track Handshake different from songs that The Community Chest has recorded before? 

Firstly, there’s not a lot of vocals and lyrics, which is not unusual for me but the song is mainly instrumental. It’s just grooving on a repetitive riff. The idea is to see how much we can squeeze out of it, keeping the best hooks. We have done this a few times before, but not often. My son actually wrote the vocal melody while noodling over the top of the initial rhythm tracking. Some of his keyboards are audible toward the end of the song. The guitars are quite sparse and the song is propelled by the rhythm section. You can actually dance to it. One day I’m going to have a really good dance to it. In private of course, and I won’t be sharing it on social media because I’m not really into dancing in front of my phone.

And how did you go about capturing it on record? And did it turn out differently than you expected?

I started recording the song during the first lockdown last year. So it started with a drum machine and three synth basses and I left it like that for ages then added the bass guitar. There’s no sequencer on this. It’s all done by hand. All the synths are played by hand which is a kind of Kraftwerk Autobahn thing to do. It is repetitive but ever so slightly wonky which I love, as I’m not big on sequenced perfection.

Originally there were no guitars and I didn’t want any guitars on there but Laurie convinced me otherwise when he played me some new-wave riffs one night after rehearsal. So eventually everyone added some parts to the song and it was essentially written while it was being recorded.

I am not a singer/songwriter really because very few of my songs are written in that way. I don’t have a great vision for them or anything but I knew this one was strong in its rhythm and vocal melody. So I wasn’t sure what to expect as I let it live without too much interference but it certainly is one of my favourite things we’ve ever done. Andy from Stereolab did the post-production on this in London and we loved his warm, analogue approach.

What is the song conveying lyrically and is that linked to how it was constructed as a song?

The lyrics were certainly governed by the vocal melody. There’s a melancholy there and I knew it couldn’t be about an idea or something solely inanimate. Originally the song was designed to be played by two people at the end of each keyboard, playing with one hand each while the others are shaking hands. That’s where the title came from.

Then I thought of the alternative meaning for Handshake which is the communication method of early computers, pre-internet. I then used this metaphor to describe a fondness or nostalgia for certain feelings that disappear as you get older. Writing a song like this is the closest thing to getting that back, albeit temporarily. The only influence the song’s construction had was that it only allowed for a certain number of vocal lines and I used repetition in those as a kind of mantra while also echoing the repetition in the song.

Other than new single, what else can we look forward to at the show coming up at 21st Amendment? How might the show be different since the last time you played live?

Well Handshake is the second single from a series of four that will be coming out this year so we will obviously be playing Handshake and our last single In My Dreams. We have curated a set list of songs from our catalogue that we personally like and also ones that we feel come across successfully in a live show. A big difference to our last few shows is that we are rehearsed up which doesn’t necessarily mean perfection, just a bit more confidence in our swagger.

We will be joined by Didion’s Bible who are one of our local favourite bands at the moment so between the two of us it should be a fun, unpretentious atmosphere. Also available at the show will be a custom beer brewed especially for us called Hazy Handshake IPA by Freestyle Brewing. However we do urge our audience to drink responsibly! May I also add that the venue is an absolute gem and refreshingly separated from the city’s current regime of booking agents, venues and associated complications.

What’s next for the band for the rest of the year and beyond? Any new music or live shows on the way to look forward to?

We have two more singles to release this year, again with their own unique merch and then we’ll look at doing an album. Our next single has already been mixed in LA by Jason Lytle of Grandaddy and the last one is in pieces so we’ll get to that eventually! We also have a few shows booked until September so yeah we are really happy to be playing together, releasing new music and giving them the best possible chance to be heard.

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