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In order to make sure you don’t miss out on Brian Chillemi he goes by his last name, written out in all capital letters: CHILLEMI. His music is soft, sweet, and simple—many people tend to let those kinds of lovely melodies slip through the cracks. It’s really quite a tragedy.
Chillemi is able to stroke the heartstrings ever so comfortingly, without having to whack the ground with his guitar or jump around a stage like many bands do. He simply pulls up a chair, strums his guitar ever so lightly, sings sweet nothings into the microphone, and you can’t help but swoon.
“As soon as something goes one way, I want to go the other,” Chillemi tells BTRtoday about his previous projects compared to his current work. “I was like, ‘alright, I’m going to write nice pretty songs now, by myself.’”
We not only got to chat with the brilliant NYC-based artist/ musician, but we also got to share his brand spanking new EP “I Went To Town” before it’s official August 9th cassette tape release through Time Castle Recordings for our Discovery Corner podcast!
Chillemi explains that about half of the songs chosen for this EP were written years ago. His previous band Organs and current music project Junk Boys tend to be faster paced and feature hard-hitting guitar riffs. If you listen to Junk Boys, which he still fronts, and are planning on releasing new music soon, they have a completely different vibe than Chillemi’s current solo work.
Junk Boys would be categorized more in the punk rock genre, where the “I Went To Town” EP by CHILLEMI is very much folk with a splash of rock. He expresses the best of both worlds through his music. He called it “I Went to Town” to express that he worked hard on this project, that he went to town on these songs.
Chillemi tells BTR that he wouldn’t be happy if he had one without the other when it comes to playing music. The versatile artist explains that he very much enjoys playing the heavy rock and roll stuff that leans towards the punk side with Junk Boys, but that he also needs to express his lighter side and that’s where his solo project comes into play.
“The whole band thing is a lot more work, but there’s a special thing that happens,” he expresses. “I feel like I need both to be happy—if I were doing one for too long, I’d want to do the other.”
So his solo project is the songs and melodies that didn’t fit with Junk Boys or Organs, along with some new stuff. He conveys to BTRtoday that this EP feels more like a springboard of developing his personal creativity.
Born and raised in Sleepy Hollow, NY, Chillemi actually didn’t pick up an instrument until his college years in the city. On his 20th birthday he bought himself his first guitar and started playing and singing in various bands. He has now been playing for around 14 years and has added other instruments to his list of talents, including piano, harmonica, and an attempt at banjo.
When you listen to his music it quickly become clear that there’s a strong love for vintage aesthetics. This is also visible in his visual art projects. Chillemi attended a liberal arts college and studied film. His movies tend to period pieces, set in the ‘60s/‘70s, and are stories about life.
“I’ve always just been more attracted to these simpler things, more straight forward, more stripped down,” Chillemi says about his old school take on his music. “I’m living in the now everyday, so it’s nice to go somewhere else.”
The video recently released on Alt Citizen for his track “Debbie” mirrors this vibe he puts out with his own videos, even though he did not direct it himself. Shot entirely through a 1970s tube camera, it’s the tale of a blind transgender women living in the ‘60s.
Chillemi came across the story of Debbie while working at a bookstore. He read the book “Playing in the FM Band” by the radio personality Steve Post. The station that the author worked in was one of the forerunners in radio to start playing past midnight. One of the shows on this radio station featured the story of Debbie. When Chillemi read her story, it just clicked. He explains that he gets lots of inspiration from hearing other people’s stories.
“It’s usually from a phrase or something that sticks in my head,” he says.
The video for “Debbie” features a dreamy atmosphere with him strumming away on acoustic and singing sentimentally while staring into the distance. Surprisingly, his live shows tend to be similar. He explains that he intentionally tries to take a step back when performing—calm things down and create a tranquil atmosphere.
“I consciously am like, ‘ok I’m going to sit down, I’m really going to try and slow this down and be calm—try not to really rush anything,’” Chillemi says about his live sets. “Sometimes I play with a bass player and drummer, even though there’s no bass player or drummer on the EP.”
He admits that his favorite song to play live is “Brass Bed,” the opening track in the upcoming EP. “I really like the way that one came out,” he explains. The song is heaping with emotions with a heavy old-school blues feel going on, accompanied by vibrant vocals and scattered harmonica. Live, the song is sure to be an emotional rollercoaster for everyone in the audience.
So make sure to get your cassette of “I Went to Town” on August 9th off of Time Castle Records, and follow CHILLEMI on Instagram to see what he’s up to next! Check him out live August 9th at Idio Gallery for his EP release party.