If ever you need an example of hard work coming to fruition, feel free to use Chron Goblin’s example. The band has already clinched some serious life achievements and their trajectory grows ever steeper. Last year’s Life for the Living quickly made it to a number of prestigious Best of 2013 lists, both locally and abroad. The connections they made while playing at the U.K.’s DesertFest are opening doors for them all around the world and Chron Goblin’s hometown fanbase gets bigger every day. So, to celebrate half a decade of tasty licks and tattered vocal cords, the Chrons are playing a show at The Gateway with Black Mastiff and We Hunt Buffalo. That’s not happening until the 22nd of February, though, so Josh Sandulak (vocals), Devin “Darty” Purdy (guitars), Richard Hepp (bass) and Brett Whittingham (drums) still have plenty of time to reflect on where they’ve been and where they’re going.
Chron Goblin formed rather naturally. The members had been partying together for a while in a University of Calgary residence and a mutual love of heavy music eventually brought Sandulak and Purdy to Whittingham’s basement in early 2009. The trio convinced Hepp to play bass for the band during preparations to record their self-titled EP and the lineup stuck. The band’s busy live schedule over the following years helped to cement their local reputation and, in 2011, they finally met with Casey Lewis at Echo Base to record One Million from the Top. The album garnered extensive praise and gave them something tangible to offer when they were networking with other bands and promoters, a task that all four members take seriously.
A bulky slice of Chron Goblin’s widespread appeal has come about as a direct consequence of their incessant quest to meet cool people and keep in touch. They won their coveted slot at DesertFest 2013 partly because of their perseverance and enthusiasm – they had a full-length record and a new music video that put them miles ahead of many of the applicants – but they were the first Canadian band to play at DesertFest and they would not likely have been considered had they not attended the festival in 2012 and gotten their name out to the organizers. Thankfully, their labour paid off and they earned a prominent fan base overseas; according to Whittingham, their fans in the U.K. haven’t forgotten about Chron Goblin and many fans across the pond are eager to show their support.
Chron Goblin didn’t waste any time after getting home. Within weeks, they were back in the studio laying down tracks for their popular sophomore full-length, Life for the Living. That record has propelled them into the upper echelons of Calgary music, earning praise from many of our local critics and playtime from many of our best DJs. Once again, they chose to work with Lewis at Echo Base and found that his expertise combined nicely with their newfound confidence. According to Sandulak, “It’s really neat that Casey recorded our first effort and got to see who we were as a band. Now, he’s got a better idea of our sound and was able to reflect on what he did with us.” Life for the Living feels more polished than their earlier work, but they didn’t lose their experimental spirit. The band incorporated everything they had learned from their live shows and previous studio sessions, experiences that Hepp feels to have directly influenced the album’s diversity and intensity. “The songs were a bit more concise. We didn’t really set out to write a heavy record […] but Casey looked at us at one point and said, ‘You know that you’ve made a heavy metal record, right?’”
Because the band has remained independent despite their success, most of Living’s promotional work fell squarely on the shoulders of Purdy, who worked around the clock to make sure that people had a chance to hear the new record. And despite the massive amount of work involved, the four members still feel fortunate to be where they are today: when asked about it, he humbly muses, “I think a lot of that legwork that we did in the fall has come back fortuitously for us.”
In addition to its local popularity, Life for the Living was honoured on Orange Goblin’s “Best Records of 2013” list and was applauded by many of the other bands that played at DesertFest. According to Whittingham, “We’re happy just getting the respect of our peers. Anything else is icing on the cake. But then we get this recognition and start to realize how much work there is left to do.”
Since DesertFest, Purdy has started to view their success as something of an addiction. “It just continues to motivate us. Like, every little win we get, we just say, ‘What’s next? What’s the next rung on the ladder?’” The band hasn’t let any of their hard work go to waste and have set their goals for 2014 even higher than before. Their first objective, unsurprisingly, is to play DesertFest again. But now that their name is out on the festival circuit, doors are opening around the world. The band is in the early stages of planning a West Coast tour and has received preliminary acceptance for a prestigious festival in Portland, Oregon (but are at this time contractually forbidden to disclose any more information). Purdy finds the process of making these global connections rather humorous, revealing how “this is coming about because of a girl from Portland that we met at DesertFest, who originally heard of us because a guy from Calgary posted something on Instagram.”
The band also hopes to record with indie rock stalwart Lorrie Matheson, a chance granted to them by your friends at CJSW. Ever vigilant not to miss an opportunity, Hepp summarizes the band’s mantra thusly: “When one door opens way over there, you just have to pursue it to make it happen.”
Chron Goblin’s first five years were filled with enjoyable toil and some crazy highs, but don’t tune out just yet. The world hasn’t even caught a glimpse of how high these guys can get.
Chron Goblin is ringing in their fifth year on February 22, playing with Black Mastiff and We Hunt Buffalo at The Gateway.
By John Julius
Photos: Josh Sandulak (top), Trevor Hatter (middle)