Formed in 2005, the Chi Club (pronounced "chee") got their start playing on the beach, at a house party, a farmers' market, or a bar. Singer/rhythm guitarist Roland Gabriel cites among the band's influences the Rolling Stones, Widespread Panic, Tom Petty, Beck, and the Mother Hips. Songs such as their reggae-influenced "No Bad Day" and "Pacific Breezes" have cemented the band's Southern California style. If the Laurel Canyon scene in L.A. had played out 30 years later in Ocean Beach, the Chi Club would be the house band.
“Five or six years after we started, O.B. was kind of experiencing this era with all kinds of parties,” says bassist Rain Samuelson. “It’s not like that anymore at all. You used to be able to hear all these bands practicing and playing parties around O.B., but it’s been a lot more tamed down lately. But, at those times, we played some parties where we would look out into the crowd and it would seem like heads as far as you could see...that was a magical time in O.B.”
Most of the lyrics are written by Gabriel and Samuelson, but the musical development of the songs is a collective process. Gabriel describes it as "No song is complete until all members have seasoned the song with their own flavor."
And there have been a lot of members, with several different drummers and guitarists, horn players, a harmonica players, and an occasional extra percussionist traveling in and out of the fold. What does the band's name imply? "It came from a slang term we made for a person who can't handle it," Gabriel explains. "Someone who passes, or 'chi's out,' on doing anything."
With the release of their first full-length CD Welcome to the Club in October 2007, Gabriel felt that the band was finally settling into somewhat of a stable lineup. "We now feel like we have a core or a family-team sort of feeling," he said at the time, "which is real comforting, knowing we can now go the distance."
He was wrong. The band split when Gabriel moved to Hawaii in 2013, though they occasionally regrouped for reunion performances, including two San Diego dates in November 2017, at Winstons and Rosie O’Grady’s.