Progressive rock, the complex, jazzy instrumental music that flourished with King Crimson and Return to Forever didn’t weather as well as other genres from the ’70s and ’80s. “I think those bands got hit with the ‘dinosaur rock’ label harder than other bands,” says Ken Costa, owner of Spin Records in Carlsbad. “When I think of prog rock, I think of the bass player getting stuck in the pod in Spinal Tap.”
Erick Hansel, one of the two lead guitarists of Oceanside-based CHON, admits a lot of his hometown fans have barely heard of them.
“People haven’t heard of us everywhere,” says Hansel, who, at 25, is the oldest of the band.
Off of Chon's new release, Grow
But their breezy, bouncy, rhythmic instrumental vibe has landed them a two-week European tour in August followed by their fourth U.S. tour with the Dear Hunter from Providence in September.
On Friday, CHON will headline the Irenic celebrating the local release of their first full-length album, Grow. Their last show was in January for about 100 people at the now-closed Porter’s Pub.
So, how does CHON keep rising on the rock-and-roll food chain?
“It’s all about touring,” says Hansel. “Touring gets the word out. When you play a show at a certain city, maybe 50 people will see you. Then they will talk to their friends, so next time when you come back there will be more people.”
It helps to have friends. Thomas Erak, frontman for one of the few established contemporary prog-rock bands Fall of Troy, sat in with CHON at their show at South by Southwest last March.
“We were playing at this restaurant and after just four songs the fire marshals shut down the show because there were too many people. But Thomas asked us to go to Europe to play with them. It’s the tenth anniversary of their Doppelgänger album, which was pretty important.”
CHON’s manager Andrew Jarrin admits that the band’s happy, hook-free music will probably not get much radio airplay, but he says TV and movie soundtracks are possible. “I would say that 75 percent of the soundtracks for documentaries are done by [Texas band] Explosions in the Sky.”
- Friday, July 17, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
3090 Polk Avenue,
CHON is an anti-rock-star band. There is no visible ego or partying. Hansel cites Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara as one of his guiding lights, and a popular line of CHON merch are illustrated books that show the musical tablature for the guitar parts written by Hansel and the other lead guitarist, Mario Camarena. Drummer Nathan Camarena and bassist Drew Pelisek round out the band.
What does a CHON fan say in appreciation?
“They say our music helps them study,” says Hansel.
I note that some have also said CHON tunes “are good to make babies with.”
“As long as it’s natural and happy.”