Charismatic Washington, D.C. native and Chain & The Gang frontman Ian Svenonius has spent almost three decades provoking thought with his creativity on and off the stage. He has led The Make Up and Nation Of Ulysses, written manifestos such as ‘The Psychic Soviet’ and hosted a YouTube chat show filmed at the Guggenheim.
His writing has often focused upon the homogeneity of the modern music industry; a factory-production line that sterilises, removing the essence of what makes music great.
He explains how Chain & The Gang, comprising of Anna Nasty, Francy Graham and Fiona Campbell, aim to redress this state of affairs. “I am not interested in originality, but what we do want is some charm, some spark and personality, you know? It’s like people, you don’t want them to be original, you want them to be incandescent and interesting. They don’t need to have three eyes.
“When you hear [our] music, you’ll be like wow, this is so predictable, I can guess what’s coming next and that’s almost the thing with it; it’s anti-expression, anti-innovation because the capitalist dictum is to constantly innovate and to be special but Chain & The Gang, we’re not special; we’re chain linked to each other on the side of the road doing labour for no compensation.
“A chain gang is still making beauty even in a hopeless situation. They’re not interested in making the new Radiohead album, but with a distinct lack of material support they are making something better than the new Radiohead album.”
Chain & The Gang modify a technique that has been utilised by chain gangs, gospel choirs, Ray Charles and Outcast: call and response. “Chain & The Gang has always been and is meant to be a call and response band; it’s all about the lead vocal and the response vocal.
"It’s a dynamic combo and we play something called minimum rock and roll or crime rock. It’s an entirely new genre; it’s not new in the sense of being aesthetically new, it’s new in the sense of being ideologically new.”
As a leader of socio-political bands and a deep philosophical thinker, Svenonius has sophisticated and nuanced views on the rise of Donald Trump. “Our music is a little beyond party politics; it’s kinda applicable in any era because it is more philosophical and more ideological in a way that, you know, it’s not just infantile anti-Trump tantrums. We see the big picture.
“What you have to remember is this is a power struggle on one level on immigrant’s rights and worker’s rights, all this real stuff, but on the other level there is a power struggle between power elites who have a completely different agenda; if the CIA and the Bush family also hate Trump, you don’t want to fall into their camp.
“It is nice that people feel that they should be outraged and active and confront the situation at hand. They just need to get the message together so that they are not the tools of some grotesque agenda.”
Chain & The Gang ShowsFri 10 Mar - John Curtin Hotel (Melbourne)
Sat 11 Mar - The Tote (Melbourne)
Sun 12 Mar - Golden Plains (Victoria)
Tue 14 Mar - The Foundry (Brisbane)
Wed 15 Mar - Newtown Social Club (Sydney)