Chalet's Joey Kantor: This music is my refuge
Joey Kantor has an intense way about him. He speaks with his hands a lot, and when he's thinking about a question, his eyes lose focus. Responses tumble out of him unchecked -- you wouldn't expect less from a guy who can't seem to turn his brain off.
Good thing, because Kantor's debut solo record, Tucson, under his new moniker Chalet, is the sort of intelligent pop that we need more of. Kantor has been playing music around the Twin Cities for years as the keyboardist for Rogue Valley and elsewhere, though this is the first time he's ever released anything that he's written himself. According to Kantor, the time was just right for this one.
"This record finally feels like me," emphasizes Kantor, a sentiment that he repeats often. "This is an album about getting back in touch with what matters most to me." As Kantor explains his timeline leading up to Tucson, he talks about the record as though it's an ode to a past life.
"I lived in Spain for a year with a girl I had been dating for like four years. And I came home, and then I lived here for a year, and then I went to London. So the years leading up to this were just these like total paradigm shifts, and realizing that there were these chunks of time that were totally untouchable in the sense that they're not going to be my life forever," explains Kantor. "It's a breakup record in a lot of ways. It's a breakup record with my past more than with any one person. A breakup record with the me then, but in a weird, backwards kind of way, that's what allowed me to move on. This catharsis. It's grappling with that dynamic."
Tuscon's ten tracks come across like answers to questions that Kantor has long been trying to figure out, and in some ways, they fit the puzzle perfectly. It's vibey, lo-fi bedroom pop that sounds like it exists outside of time and space, suspended just for the listener to step into. "When will you see me?/ When will you stop?" asks Kantor on the album's stunning title track, a stance he continues to explore throughout the album.
"A lot of it is just starting to ask questions of myself," says Kantor, leaning across the table of an Uptown coffee shop. "The fact that it's sort of this space where, lyrically and musically and emotively, I'm allowed to be in the here and now. This material kind of tells a story of me moving on. Sort of like a satisfied sense of giving credence to these things without indulging them too much.... This music is my refuge, and my going home."
As for Kantor's moniker, the singer-songwriter explains it as a word that summons a sense of balance.
"I saw the word Chalet one day and I was like, 'Oh, that looks cool. It sounds cool. It means something. It's this space up in the woods where you go to be sort of protected but also isolated in the woods.' That makes sense to me, for what this music is to me."
But Tucson feels far from isolated -- it feels inclusive. It's a shadowy, warm record that feels like a place we've all been before, and having that feeling is peaceful. In this way, Tucson achieves something real and beautiful.
"There's this great Ira Glass quote -- you know which one I'm talking about? The one where he's talking about how you struggle trying to create work that feels like you but it isn't until it finally is. I didn't see this quote until after this record, and then I was like, 'Whoa, this is exactly what happened,'" admits Kantor, facing his palms skyward. "This record kind of encapsulates an increased sense of balance in my music and in my life. It's finally arriving. It's what matters to me in terms of how I live my life. It's an equilibrium."
The Chalet CD Release show takes place tonight at Live Letters. The show will also feature remixes of the record by Grant Cutler, a live reading by Alexander Helmke, and a photo exhibit by Brian Kantor. 7 p.m. $10. All ages. Ticket info here.