Cub Country 

Second Stage: Jeremy Chatelain enters a new phase with Cub Country’s Smile.

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“I get these wild ideas like, ‘I’m going to go on tour!’ And I can’t go on tour—I own a house and I have a kid. I can barely play on weekends,” Jeremy Chatelain says with a grin. The Utah native doesn’t much miss life on the road, though if circumstance allowed he wouldn’t mind taking his family out for a few solo gigs. Chatelain spent the better part of his career playing in metal and hardcore bands, tasting success early on in local groups whose popularity motivated him to pursue music full-time.

“I remember back in ‘88, my first 7-inch came out,” he says. “We got like 10 of them in the mail and I was freaking out, thinking, ‘This means I’m legit.’“ In Brooklyn, Chatelain went for broke and realized the often-elusive goal of playing in several notable bands including so-called “emo supergroup” Jets to Brazil with whom he enjoyed major-label success. After several years, the dream began to fizzle. “It’s sort of like a love affair—in the beginning you’re doing this thing and you totally have a crush on it. When you get paid, it’s like icing on the cake. Then you get used to getting paid and it’s not so shiny anymore—you get into the daily grind of it,” he says. “I have to strip it back to where I’m playing for the sheer enjoyment.”

Chatelain went back to basics with Cub Country, a roots-rock project that started in New York and wound its way to Salt Lake City, where he continues to record with a diverse, rotating cast of musicians. Past lineups featured members of Helmet and Lunachicks, bands whose sounds are a far cry from that of Cub Country.

For Chatelain, though, the “leap” to country from hardcore/metal wasn’t all that strange. When he first changed his tune, most folks couldn’t quite wrap their heads around it. “That was before Wilco was huge,” he says, adding that he doesn’t consider himself a brilliant innovator for catching onto a now-prevalent trend. “Country and punk are songwriting in its most basic form. Like Johnny Cash said, ‘It’s three chords and the truth.’”

When Chatelain began writing country songs, he followed traditional tropes of heartbreak and drinking. With Cub Country’s latest album Stretch That Skull Cover and Smile (Future Farmer), he says the band moved in a more rocking direction than the one set on Stay Poor Stay Happy (2004).

The first track off the album reflects a period when Chatelain couldn’t get enough of the Clash. Stuck on the staccato intro to “London Calling,” he grabbed his guitar and struck out a series of abrupt, jagged notes to propel the rhythm of “On Yer Own.”

“I know so many guys who have done the same thing,” he says of his subtle tribute to the punk legends.

Chatelain finished tracking Smile three years ago but got hung up by an independent music industry in limbo.

“There are too many bands,” he says. “And you can put out your own record the same afternoon you record it. There are kids who sell 10,000 copies of something online and never even play a show.”

But Chatelain, whose label experience runs from DIY releases to signing with Jade Tree Records, still values the perks of teaming with professionals. “They’ve got a little bit more money than I do to sink into this stuff. They have more connections than I do,” he says. “They can deal with the headache of distribution and I can’t do that right now.”

Chatelain’s position at Spy Hop Productions, however, has inspired him to possibly release Cub Country’s next EP on his own. Through Spy Hop Records, he’s learned more about the ins-and-outs of the business than he ever gleaned from his former professional life.

Still, he doesn’t plan to take the DIY thing too far.

“There’s something romantic about going out on tour,” he says. “But the last few times I tried to do it I was just stressed out. It was weird to come to that realization—that I might be too old to be sleeping on people’s couches and feeling like, ‘Who cares about tomorrow?’ because I actually do care.

w/ Bronco, The Devil Whale
The Urban Lounge
210 S. 500 East
Tuesday, July 7
10 p.m.

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