One of the best-known names of the European alternative scene, French outfit Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! are making their comeback this week with an album showcasing everything they are as a band. Its name? Gone Are The Good Days. More personal, innovative, and ambitious than ever, this record is undoubtedly their best and most polished. We have sat down to chat with Bert, Paul, and Bastien to talk about the album that makes them proud.
Your fourth album, Gone Are The Good Days, comes out on July 30th. Three new songs have already been released. How did you work on this record? I believe the previous one dates back six years. Was it something that you had planned for a long time?
Bert: Life happened between the last album and this one. I’d say that, according to plan, this album should have come out much earlier. If we had stuck to our original plan, it should have almost been released in 2017. What happened is, we started writing this album in 2017, but we had set the bar too high. We weren’t satisfied with our demos. We thought: “Yeah, no, it’s not there. The vibe isn’t there.”
For the first time, we decided to take the time to do things well. It also came from breaking free from our tour/recording/tour/recording routine. I’ll admit that I was starting to feel some sort of underlying fatigue. It was grueling, actually. In the meantime, we started growing our music production business. Then, we got to 2020, we were supposed to play Slam Dunk Festival, and our idea was to get the ball rolling again and release two singles. COVID happened, and Slam Dunk got cancelled. Our two singles turned into an EP and, because COVID stuck around, the EP turned into a full-length album. And here we are, in 2021, with a brand new record. I believe this record was meant to happen anyway. We’ll say COVID made things a little easier. The cool part is that we really managed to take the time to make the best possible songs, and we’re really proud of what we’ve done. We’ve done everything by ourselves, it has been recorded in our own studio. It’s really cool to get back on our feet like that.
On this new record, it sounds like you’ve had a great time trying out new things. For example, Marigold is your first ever love song. How far did you push the experimentation?
Bert: It’s true. We really enjoyed trying different things on pretty much every song. I really wanted to switch things up compared to our previous records. They really had potential, but they could have been optimised if we’d spent more time on them. On this new record, we really wanted to enhance every song and say: “Okay, how do we elevate this thing even more?” I think it’s what most identifies this album and makes it so particular. We took the time to take care of every single detail, even on a more technical level. I’m not going to get into details because no one cares, but we racked our brains a lot over the technical stuff. We already are in a genre that is so particular, trying to mix things that are all so different from each other. The fact that everything worked so well, whether it was during writing, recording, or mixing, is brilliant. Personally, it’s the record I’m most proud of.
Did you control everything, then?
Bert: Okay, I’ll admit, I asked for a little help on the lyrics, but more than 90% of the work is homemade. The look of the album too, the videos, the designs, the artwork…We really had control over everything, even if we received help. We really managed to be in charge of everything.
Was it always the case?
Bert: Not really. We used to let our label make more decisions for us, and sometimes we regret it. We often said that we should have done more things by ourselves, or we should have thought about certain things earlier, but we have often been pressed by deadlines in the past. We didn’t have any of that on this one. Nobody expected anything from us, whether we were coming back soon with an album or not. There was no pressure or expectations. Everybody let us do our thing the way we wanted to. As soon as we said that we wanted to do it, and we were capable of doing it by ourselves, of putting the most of ourselves in this project, we were told: “Go for it. There’s your budget. Now work it out.” So, it allowed us to get more involved and create something that looks a lot more like us. There’s more Chunk! in this, the way we want it to be.
Bastien: It’s a whole package. There’s an artwork, a sound… I think everything meshes well together.
Bert: I think that’s where COVID got into play the most. We thought about the album as a whole from the beginning, which is super interesting from an artistic standpoint. I almost already had a tracklist in mind. I was thinking that we needed to have a track with this vibe, another one with a different vibe, one that connected with another song on the record… For the first time, it was not a collection of songs but something that had been thought of as a whole, global thing from the start. I think you can hear it when you listen to it. It’s a super cohesive record.
It’s true that this record feels more like you. Even just looking at the name of the band, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!, it’s a reference to the Goonies, and finally, you have music videos packed with pop culture references.
Paul: I’m going to be a little blunt, but we’ve been a little disillusioned by our old music videos, in the way that we didn’t really have much control over them. Our label took care of them. We were told, “you’re shooting this day, you’ve got this producer…” We would try to bring our ideas, but at the end of the day, the label had more control. We were kinda put in this “kids” box when at some point, it’s good to change things up, evolve, and do something that feels more like us. So we’ve never really been satisfied on that level. We finally had all the cards in hand to work with the people we wanted to work with, eto direct, and to put our ideas on the table. It’s our last album with Fearless Records, and we wanted to be able to be proud of it, we wanted it all to be perfect.
If you had to pick your favourite song on the album, it would be…
Paul and Bastien: Complete You.
Bert: Same, Complete You. It’s the “weirdest” one. Once all the elements are put together, the track turns out to be a surprising and fantastic combination.
You have toured the US a lot and played big-name festivals in the scene, such as Warped Tour, and even after all these years, it’s still impressive for a French band.
Bert: Yeah, we did it three times in the US, England too, and then Mexico didn’t happen in the end.
How do you explain your success in the US? Surely you can notice a difference with the French audience, which is traditionally not into that kind of music…
Bert: From the start, we were developed in the United States. Our label had better build us a reputation in the United States before they built anything in Europe, and France came last. We toured there a lot at the start, I wouldn’t even be able to count how many shows we played. And when you think about Warped Tour, it’s not just one show, but more than sixty dates over one summer. Our development in Europe and the rest of the world remains something quite recent. Our first French tour only happened in 2016, after our third record had come out. And I’ll have to admit the audiences are completely different…
Paul: Then again, rock music is a part of the American culture. Over there, they have lots of rock music, country, and rap, and even R’n’B.
Bastien: The last shows we played in France were sick, though.
Paul: Yeah, they were sick. But in the United States, it’s true that you didn’t see it, but the first tours we did, it caught on immediately (editor’s note: Bastien joined the band in 2015). We didn’t have to work as hard to get the crowd’s attention. From the first tour, it caught on, and we thought, “Shit, it’s crazy! We’re going to the other side of the world. We’re nobodies, and we get there, it’s our first “real” tour organised by a touring agent, and seeing all these people there for us », it was sick. The French tour was still crazy, but we were already well known. I don’t think things would have been the same if we’d done that same tour when we started out. I believe it comes down to cultural differences. France is not a country for rock music. Especially when you think about how we mix different genres into our music, and at the time, no other French band had really developed anything like it. French people took their time getting into bands like A Day To Remember or Four Year Strong, they didn’t explode from the start, so I don’t know if the crowd was ready for it, after all. But now we’ve made a name for ourselves, the atmosphere is pretty similar everywhere…
It’s true that the rock scene in France is not that big, and crowds are smaller and harder to get on board, but I’m sure you have people you’re used to seeing. French fans are usually quite faithful, and you always see the same faces everywhere…There’s something of a community here.
Bert: And that’s what’s beautiful, really. We see it in our musical production work. When we start chatting with the bands, we notice that everyone knows each other. It’s a tiny little world, and it’s quite funny. It’s some sort of irreducible, permanent core. It’s not really the kind of people who turn up and, out of nowhere, change their lifestyles and start listening to completely different music. Even if they listen to more things, I think that the people who grew up during those years, with those influences, they’re here for life.
Talking about all of this reminds us that we really miss shows and live music. So, let’s talk about Slam Dunk, in England. You’re on the line-up, but we still have no update about travel restrictions in the United Kingdom. So, are you still playing or not?
Paul: We don’t even know if it’s going to happen or not. We’re waiting. Even about the visas…It’s the first time French bands are going to come over and play since Brexit. There’s been Download, but since there were only British bands on the line-up, the problem didn’t present itself. We have no information on any of it so, let’s wait and see…
English translation: Charlyne Dhenin