Can you see the stars where you are? We can’t see ’em in New York. Let me tell you this is a damn good rock band at the height of their Byzantine powers. Jack Dolgen’s bass rumbles and bounces like it should. Sean Bones’ guitar can’t miss a note, except, of course when that note is supposed to be missed. And you can hear those pounding drums. And on top of it all, Noah Chernin’s plainspeaking about the old tropes that never get old: relationships, mortality, the human spirit, and hard work.
And good old hard work is how Sam Champion has got where they are. It’s not an easy game in New York. Rents are pricey and bands are a buck a minute and pizza ovens tend to catch on fire. (More on that later.)
Stereogum : “an absolute force of nature” Gorillavsbear : “these guys are the truth and i hear they are better live”
Aziz Ansari (Human Giant): “Its already becoming really cool to hate this album.”
Rolling Stone : “one of the most buzzworthy releases of 2007”
Gothamist : “Sam Champion is New York’s musical anachronism. While most rock bands either bow down to Max’s Kansas City circa 1975 or the UK in the post-punk wave of the early ’80s, the band is all too happy to take its cues from the ’90s”
Spin.com : “While his guitar style is firmly rooted in garage rock, Chernin’s sharp lyrics separate Sam Champion from the rest of the Lower East Side pack.
Be here now, captain. What you got in your hands, there, Jack, is a copy of the new Sam Champion album, “Heavenly Bender.” Stick it in your stereo and take a listen. Press play.
(If, for the love of the God, you’re using a computer, I hope you have some sweet speakers.)
How’s that chorus? Sounds pretty damn good, doesn’t it? Are you keeping it like a secret?
Sam Champion, or the Champ, as we like to call em, hustled onto tours with the Hold Steady, Cold War Kids, Rogue Wave, Apollo Sunshine, the Slip, and Two Gallants. They’ve gone to England and returned victorious and not a little Victorian and praised by the Guardian. They’ve killed it at Bonnaroo 2007. The music blogs caught on, premiered the new stuff: VBS.TV http://VBS.TV , Brooklyn Vegan, Gorilla vs. Bear, Stereogum.
It’s a nice list of accomplishments, surely, for sure, to be sure. But this record that you’re hearing “Heavenly Bender” has been four years in the making. During this godblessed time the Champ went from wearing their influencesâ€” Tom Petty, Booker T & The MG’s, and Crazy Horse â€”on their sleeves to amalgamating all those old good songs into something great and new. While you listen to the tunes, rewind and sing along, take a read:
A SHORT HISTORY OF SAM CHAMPION
The middle of winter, two thousand and four. It’s Thursday, and freezing cold. The smoking ban’s just taken effect and there’s a cluster of people huddled like vampires outside the old Luna Lounge on Ludlow Street. Go inside, drink a pint of Stella, check out the scene, say hello. The bill tonight: These Bones and Sam Champion. Drink another pint. Take off the coat. Crowd into the small room in the back and exchange pleasantries with an old friend. The crowd knows the songs. They’re a three-piece: Noah Chernin on guitar, Jack Dolgen on bass, Ryan Thornton behind the kit. After, These Bones kill it, Sean Sullivan mangling his SG. More pop than rock, more shine than grit. Have a couple more beers and go home satisfied.
Fall, two thousand and five. In the interim, These Bones dissolved. Sean’s joined Sam Champion. Stroke of genius. Their record “Slow Rewind” comes out on Razor and Tie. Sam Champ sells out the Mercury Lounge at record release show. They kill it. Hang
with Noah in the basement and talk about the future. It’s cold down there.
Spring into summer, two thousand and six. The old Luna Lounge is a memory: knocked down to make way for luxury condos. Sam Champ moves into the Saltmines in DUMBO. Hunker down to write some tunes. Bums outside standing in front of Bridge Fresh Deli. Mexican place across the street has good burritos. Sean meshes to the extreme. Jack’s hair gets long. Noah grows a beard. Ryan rolls like Ryan. They keep on writing. Time passes. Play some shows. Open for the Hold Steady and rule the Bowery Ballroom. The new tunes take shape, growing and changing like time.
Fall, two thousand and six. They head upstate and move into a barn. Everything slows down. It’s cold at night. Out of the city, the air is fresher. So is the mind. Record most of an album. Keep going down in Hoboken. Finish off the vocals in Jack’s apartment. You’re so direct.
Summer, two thousand and seven. The record’s done. Called it “Heavenly Bender.” Noah and Ryan’s apartment burns down in a pizza fire. More shows. Better than ever before. An old machine polished with precision into something different and effective: rediscovering the vintage. The tunes attack and the band pounds. They head to Bonnaroo. Tennessee heat. Sam Champion kills it.
The middle of winter, two thousand and eight. Look in the mirror, we’ve gotten not old but older. Sam Champion has been to England. Expensive beer but the crowds are into it. The record’s finally ready to be pushed out to the public. North Street Records to the rescue. Headlining the Bowery. Sold Out. A heavenly bender into “Heavenly Bender.”