Directed by James Berry & Matthew Heymann
Starring Ashley Robicheaux and Children Having Children
Available on the upcoming EP ALIBI.
Pre-order ALIBI here for an instant download & an invite to a private listening party with the band.
We got to the museum just a few minutes after the doors opened. Passed through a few galleries with no real destination, just one in a handful of scattered days she and I spent together wandering the wings before heading into our dead-end jobs.
Our strategy was to start at the top and work our way down. The sixth floor exhibit drew some shrugs, smirks, and raised eyebrows. Not much else. I suggested we head towards the surefire masterpieces of the fifth floor. A few paces from the top of the escalator, Elena’s face tensed and her legs locked up. Her eyes fixed on a woman riding down and she quickly backed away to turn towards me.
“I know her. I knew her.”
“Friends with my ex. She pretended not to see me. I don’t want to talk to her.”
At that point I didn’t know about the divorce, though I’d heard her speak of the ex. Marriage still felt remote as my twenties drew to a close, in spite of the calendar’s insistence. I assumed she was speaking of an ex-boyfriend, and maybe she would have never corrected my assumption if I hadn’t learned through the payroll paperwork a few weeks later that Sullivan was no longer her last name. Once the filing finally went through. She’d led a whole life and started over. She was still starting over.
Elena looked over the railing and watched the ghost woman from her past take a right off the escalator into the gallery where we were originally headed. She asked if it would be okay to steer clear, so we rode down an extra two flights just to be sure. The escalator spit us out in front of a screening room, beckoning us with the protection and discretion of its shadows.
The film had already started. We took our seats and as our eyes adjusted to the dark, we peered up at a sequence of clocks and watches compiled from other movies. A handful of the scenes were familiar. In some shots time was the centerpiece, and in others just an incidental occurrence in the corner of the screen
After I felt we’d done our due diligence in this particular darkened theater, I looked over at Elena to ask if she was ready to move on. Her eyes were fixed on the screen. The sight of her profile in half-silhouette struck me with an unexpected swelling in my chest. As if possessed, I moved to put my arm around her and grew dizzy with the urge to kiss her. Seeing my friend through a new and unfamiliar lens.
Without noticing any of this, as if in psychic response, she turned away and leaned over to grab the chapstick from her bag. The spell was broken. I dismissed the moment as a testimony to the power of the cinema and shook it off. Or maybe I just needed a coffee to dispel my melodramatic morning tendencies.
Turning back to the screen, I allowed myself to slip under the hypnosis of the clock faces and the single thread weaving through all of the fictitious lives that lay before us. All were products of their time but somehow immune to it. Were Elena and I immune? Were we products of our era? She leaned over and whispered.
“Do you know what time it is?”
I shook my head and reached for my phone to check, then hesitated, looked back at the screen, and then once more at Elena. I glanced at the clock on my phone and then pointed at the screen with my revelation. The clocks in the film were on a 24-hour cycle, rubbing the time in our faces. In the half-hour we’d been watching, neither of us had noticed. We stumbled out of the theater, laughing at our obliviousness to the filmmaker's seamless execution of this cinematic feat. There was a lot of laughter between us, even then.
The truth is always right there staring you in the goddamn face. And back in the light I remembered what I had almost forgotten in the dark. She was a little too tall, a bit awkward in her movements. She had a boyfriend. We worked together. She wasn’t my type.
We stopped into the museum cafe to sip overpriced coffees and talk about the film we misunderstood, the good paintings we’d missed, our lives at work, the hours in between. She told me about her dogs and showed me pictures. Threw in a few vaguely disparaging remarks about her boyfriend Paul. They had moved in together. I told her about a younger woman I'd met who might've meant something to me but ultimately didn't. The pauses in our conversation felt slightly longer than usual, and I wondered if the occasional silences revealed a lack of depth in our friendship. Or maybe that was just the inevitable limit of all platonic friendships between men and women. But it didn’t really bother me, and it didn’t seem to bother her. We could tell there was always more to be said.
The rain started just before we left, and we stayed close together under the one umbrella. Our arms were intertwined to make things easier and I let it go as the innocent gesture that it was and wasn't. She didn’t release me until we were in the station. The train arrived right away and we took it uptown.
Elena stood next to me while Beth cut my hair, relaying our confusion in the theater and then another vignette about her ex-husband’s elderly aunt and uncle. The uncle yelling through the apartment that it was time to go, the aunt replying, “What is time!” This unintentional declaration of existential crisis had become a catch phrase in Elena’s world, and now in my world. In the beginnings of our world.
Much later that night, long after we’d gone our separate ways, she wrote to me that I looked sexy with my new haircut. She followed up quickly with an apology for being inappropriate before I could respond. I thought the haircut made me look mean and Beth confirmed my suspicion, but I took Elena’s compliment and told her not to worry about it.
It would take me too long to figure out that I was the one who should be worried.
Sweating through those summer blues. What else is news. Threats of nuclear war, melting glaciers, and the silencing of dissent from all sides. Here comes the ice cream truck.
Glad I've got my old faithful friends Nine Inch Nails and Lana del Rey to talk me through it with their new records. Good stuff if you haven't heard. Trent Reznor & Co. kicked my teeth in last week at their surprise Webster Hall show, reminding me once again just how high the bar has been set. Of the wide gulf between good and great.
With our first string of tri-state Children Having Children shows behind us, we've got a few weeks to write some new songs, dust off some old ones we haven't tried live before (any requests?), and stretch our muscles in a few fresh directions.
Our friend Rowan graciously invited Heymann and I to join her in an acoustic capacity at Precious Metal for the last show in her summer residency. We played some strippered-down CHC songs, along with a few covers by The Smashing Pumpkins, The Fire Theft, and Soundgarden (usually restricted to the privacy of our own homes when the power goes out). Thanks for coming out to see us in the daylight. More of our softer side coming soon, although probably sans daylight.
I'm also knocking out the last bit of mixing on our new record. I'm slower than Dr. Dre but it's oh so close I can taste it and I'll be cranking up the Pro Tools as soon as I finish reaching out to you internet trolls. You'll be hearing/seeing plenty more about that record soon -- titles, artwork, and why it's a great excuse for us to have a big party and make your acquaintance again in person.
'Til then, we hope you'll be on a beach somewhere daydreaming of true love and the rock & roll apocalypse.
Three-quarters of our ferocious foursome call Brooklyn home. What a thrill it was to take the stage earlier this month and turn up for the home-borough crowd at The Well. We had a blast, and we hope you did too. Thanks for being there and extra thanks for being beautiful.
But what about our fourth member, you say? That tall & handsome fellow in the back who treks in from a faraway land to play with us? Well, he's from New Jersey and we're going to say hello and give cheek kisses to his home-state crowd on June 25 at Championship Bar in Trenton (state capital!) for a very special show benefiting the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank. We'd obviously love to see you at the show, especially if you also call Jersey home. But even if you can't make it, we would feel good if you could learn a bit more about Mercer Street Friends by visiting their website and seeing if there's anything you can do to get involved.
And a quick State of the CHC Union while we've got ya -- our first music video is currently in pre-production and we're very excited to turn this fever dream into a reality. Our bassist Matt Heymann will be both behind and in front of the camera, with the extremely talented and energetic James Rosser stepping up as capital-D Director. Before you see that little piece of cinema magic, though, we'll have a single shooting your way ahead of the next record to keep your ears occupied and your eyes curious. All this plus a very venomous show announcement coming any day now...
Lots of love,
I distinctly recall walking in the door of my childhood home at ten years old and saying to my mother, "I've just had a musical revelation."
I had heard "Black Hole Sun" on the radio for the first time.
It pushed and pulled my young mind in so many directions at once, sweet and sour and rich and balanced and full of joy and rage and submission to a world whose complexities were only beginning to truly reveal themselves in ways that I could understand. The song's effect was physical, making my stomach float and swirl like a young crush. It made the hairs stand up on my arm like someone rubbing up beside me unexpectedly. And what it did to my ears -- who can say. The bizarre chord changes, the perfect unaffected arc of the melody, and the sheer dynamic bombast of the drums, bass, and guitars. My head exploded. Then I saw the music video and the deed was done.
By week's end I withdrew sufficient funds from my piggy bank to purchase Superunknown on compact disc (used) from a strip mall store called Boogie-Go-Round. On the back cover it read "Produced by Michael Beinhorn and Soundgarden / Mixed by Brendan O' Brien" and though I couldn't have told you what either production or mixing meant, I did recognize Mr. O' Brien's name from one of the other five compact discs in my collection (Aerosmith's Get A Grip -- less revelatory). Though most of Superunknown was too dense for me to process before puberty, I could tell that it was built like a fortress and that in time all of it would make sense.
The frontman Chris Cornell wrote brutal lyrics, unapologetically honest and raw but without sacrificing his higher literary abilities. The way his metaphors would weave across verses fascinated me and his bizarrely visceral word choices blurred the physical and abstract in a way that made me think about art in an entirely new way. And the band sounded like a Frankenstein monster, a machine made of flesh. Hyper modern but drenched in tradition. The sound of the record itself fascinated me, and over the next decade my worship would only deepen -- this was the sonic Mona Lisa of hard rock.
In my early twenties I found myself interning and then assisting the man whose name had jumped out at me from the back of that used compact disc sleeve, and for a few years I got to study Brendan O' Brien's skills in person and connect them to the way his mixing/production had made me feel ever since that first listen to "Black Hole Sun." He taught me a lot more than how to mix, but that's for another post.
Soundgarden disbanded many years before I got to the studio. I had never seen them live. On a tour stop in Atlanta, the new Cornell/Rage supergroup called Audioslave came to our studio to cut a few songs with their old friend Brendan and for one of the very few times in my life, I was absolutely starstruck at the thought of meeting Chris Cornell.
I was still the new guy on the rather small studio totem pole and it was my job to take the band's dinner orders. As dinner time approached, thinking that they were taking a break, I wandered nervously out to the live room with my notepad and pencil in hand. They didn't see me come into the room and decided to launch into another take at mind-numbing volume while I stood frozen to my spot. I was less than ten feet away from Chris Cornell and though I couldn't hear his voice over the amps, I could feel the power emanating from his vocal cords into the mic. There were three members of Rage Against The Machine standing in the room with me as well, but I only had eyes and ears for Chris.
After swapping reels of tape and tidying up a bit from the rock tornado, the engineers and I were able to spend a little bit of time eating dinner with the band in our lounge. Chris was much taller than I realized, very friendly, polite, and soft-spoken with ponderous troubled eyes that are familiar to anyone who's ever seen a photo of him. He invited the studio crew out to the show the next night, and though so much great music had entered my lexicon since I became a Soundgarden fan, the solo rendition of "Black Hole Sun" that Chris performed to a silent arena that night will forever remain one of the best musical performances I ever witness. It stripped away the production and the bombast to reveal the core of a perfectly written song, and one that clearly still resonated for him as much as it had for me when he recorded it over a decade earlier.
Another decade has passed since that show. I got to see Soundgarden do a shockingly good show on their first reunion tour. I recorded some music of my own. I still listen to Soundgarden and muse on their brilliance constantly. Usually several times a week.
Yesterday, learning of Chris Cornell's death on my way into the city, I felt both stupidly shocked and stupid to feel shocked. I don't have any insight to offer and won't pretend to. The man's struggle was always evident and always a part of what made his music so beautiful. One of those great dilemmas that a lot of artists can't quite solve, or maybe they all solve it in different ways and this was his way.
I do know that Soundgarden remains a constant point of reference for me and for my band, with their unpredictable song structures and weird tunings and time-signatures that don't sound complex until you try to sit down and actually play one of their songs.
But more than anything it's the writing. At his peak with Soundgarden, Chris (along with Kim Thayil, Ben Shepherd, and Matt Cameron) recalibrated what it meant to play heavy music. Soundgarden showed that you didn't have to be stupid and misogynistic to be raucous and powerful. Chris proved that he could really say something important and insightful to his listeners even while his guitar amp was rattling their teeth.
If you don't know his music, you should. If you do know his music, you should get to know it better. He was a special voice in this world. I have too many favorite Chris Cornell lyrics to pick just one, but this has to be towards the top, especially today:
"Follow me into the desert as thirsty as you are."