Sam Champion Goes on Tour for Slow Rewind
Leave your thoughts of the permanently tan WABC-TV weatherman behind. The four guys who make up the buzz worthy indie rock sound of Sam Champion are trekking across the country via van in promotion of their new album, "Slow Rewind."
When the band Sam Champion started, they benefited from instant name recognition in New York. But the buzz had nothing to do with their music. The quartet of indie rockers named their group after the permanently tan weatherman on WABC-TV.
The name, they explained, was the result of an inside joke in the band van.
The four guys who make up the band know little about meteorology, but they’re learning a lot about touring as they travel across country promoting their first album, “Slow Rewind,” released in September.
While other recent college grads are setting up first apartments, getting desk jobs or begging their parents for money, these alums have decided to take their talents to the road. Sam Champion is signed to indie record label, Razor and Tie, which is backing their tour. The vocalist and guitarist, Noah Chernin, 23, a 2004 graduate of New York University is putting his music business degree from the Gallatin School to good use and is far from the dorm life of Washington Square where he met bassist Jack Dolgen, 23, and guitarist, Sean Sullivan, 23. His friend of six years, drummer Ryan Thornton, joined the party just last year.
Now the rockers are heading out on their third tour and are hitting the West Coast for the first time. “This time we’re going out and doing our own thing,” Chernin says.
“We are a little more open musically,” he explains. “We don’t have to just play the songs on the record. We can play different things to different vibes during this tour.”
Sam Champion’s sound is classic American rock with a modern twist that’s swampy, grungy, sporadic and lush. The band mates look like roughed-up prep boys, with wild, untamed hair and youthful faces.
Dave Pfeffer, manager of A&R for Razor and Tie, thinks Sam Champion has what it takes to beat the odds and make it. “Things are coming together well at this point for Sam Champion. The right people are into the record, and they’re still very much on track.”
Out of hundreds of demos Razor and Tie receives, few stand the chance of making it to the final cut. Unsolicited demos are discarded, and for represented artists, there are only a very select few shows the label will even see. A&R claims that for every 10 bands they see, only one of them will get signed, if that.
With their guitars, amps, speakers, and a months worth of clothes, the band mates pull out of Manhattan one fall afternoon toward their first stop, Richmond, Va. Other tour locations include Chapel Hill, N.C.; Austin, Texas; Atlanta; Jackson, Miss.; Los Angeles; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Minneapolis; Chicago; and there’s more to come. During their tour, the band crashes at friends’ houses or stays at hotels. “Right now, I’m in a basement in Fort Collins, Colorado,” said Chernin in a phone interview, “and I have no idea whose house it is.”
Chernin is the man behind the music, sharing his university experience through Sam Champion’s debut album. “My songwriting didn’t gain momentum until a college class called, American Road Trip,” he said from the back of the van, when asked about the title tracks of “Slow Rewind.” “The class talked about road trip novels like Mark Twain and [Bob] Dylan lyrics. We had this open-ended project, and I chose to write a song.” That song led to others, with many being written in his dorm room or in the university studio.
Their album was recorded at Dumbo Studios in New York City by Dan Myers and produced by Brian Rosenworcel of Guster, whom Chernin has known since he was a teenager. “Brian was the guy that gave me the confidence to go out and do it,” Chernin said. “He was definitely the driving force.”
The recent review of Sam Champion by the music publication, Relix, praises the band. “If Slow Rewind is any indication, the prediction for Sam Champion is a very bright future,” Relix said. Spin magazine while calling the album’s tracks “too slip shod for their own good,” says kudos to the “band’s affable slacker disposition and (the album) emotes sadness, confusion and craving all at once.”
In the song, “Slow Rewind,” Chernin melodically fizzles out on the notes, “But I am aggressively lazy / We like it slow, and so it goes,” along to the vibrating pulses of the guitar. The constant themes of drinking, heart break, financial struggles and urban life are evident throughout “Slow Rewind.”
When Chernin sings, “And I’m too broke to go get drunk,” it sounds like a true anthem to college days, when students are forced to scrounge for a few singles and change. Every note Chernin blares out seems to be desperately close to the edge, but his bright tone rounds it out. When asked about his influences it becomes clear. “I think the record that really broke it for me was David Berman,” he said.
Chernin also looks to Neil Young, Lou Reed and Jeff Tweedy for inspiration. “These guys create the melodies and sing in their own voices,” Chernin said. “They’re not perfect singers. They are just really direct.” Sam Champion, he says, wants to step out from the “very constant, very boring” New York indie rock scene.
“There are so many bands, and they are not necessarily stylized or give a good show. We like to keep it special and interesting, so we don’t play as much in venues like Pianos or Rocco’s [two music venues]. And when we do, we like to give it a nice show, smile and let people know we appreciate them being there.”