Chelsea Horror: ‘Untitled EP’

In Music Stories, Program Notes, Retro Grade by Nick Huinkerleave a COMMENT

Chelsea Horror
Untitled EP (recorded 2004; previously unreleased)

There are few more memorable debuts in recent Knoxville rock than Chelsea Horror’s set as the Stooges at Pilot Light’s 2003 Halloween masquerade, which ended with frontman Henry Gibson wearing nothing but syrup, peanut butter, and glitter. When the band took to the same stage a month later to debut their own material, though, the sound was notably different: a gothy, glammy hard rock verging on darkened new wave. Among other things, Chelsea Horror introduced Knoxville to Gibson and Brandon Biondo, but it wasn’t built to last. After less than a year together, the band splintered—most directly into Cold Hands, Gibson’s project with Chelsea Horror guitarist Zach Land—before they had a chance to release their untitled EP, available here for the first time in more than a decade.



VOCALIST/GUITARIST HENRY GIBSON: I was just coming out of playing in emo bands and was looking to play music more in line with my taste at the time. So the songs were kind of leftovers from ideas I had in the last band I was in, but trying to eventually make them more dance punk with an electronic tinge to it.

BASSIST COURTNEY BRYANT: Musically we all came from different places. But when the four of us got together, we had a little bit of an ’80s sound. It was really different than what other bands in Knoxville were doing at the time. Plus, after the infamous Halloween show, we had a great buzz around the band. It was a really fun time to be a part of the Knoxville music scene.

GUITARIST ZACH LAND: We were together a few months before I started talking to Brandon and invited him to come play with us. He fit in immediately. He just has a knack for melody that added another layer of nuance to what we already had going on.

GIBSON: We recorded our EP with Robert Koons in early 2004. I think we tracked the drums in Old City Java and the rest at his house. I mostly remember hating doing vocals. I wasn’t and still am not the best at singing in the studio. I tend to psych myself out too much.

BRYANT: It was my first time recording. I was really happy with the finished product, although when I listen to it now the recording itself doesn’t sound the best. I still think the songs are great though.

PRODUCER ROBERT KOONS: Listening to these songs again with a fresh perspective, they’re much better than I remembered. I always recalled that band as a sort of underdeveloped, proto-Cold Hands. Really, the main difference I hear between the bands is the dramatically different rhythm sections. Having a metal drummer definitely gave Chelsea Horror a distinctive sound.

DRUMMER MAT HARMON: I just tried to make it as dancey and party as I could with these little hints of chaos brooding underneath, like a frenzy could have broken out at anytime. It was a lot of fun and very challenging.

BRYANT: We also recorded a song called “Sirens” with Arrison Kirby for the El Deth compilation Sunspheric Sounds. That was personally my favorite song we wrote.

GIBSON: I listen to some of those songs every two or three years and cringe a bit, but overall it was the best we could do at the time, and it’s a nice walk down memory lane. I really wish I could’ve taken “Sirens” on to the next band I had played in. That was the last song we wrote, and seemed like the direction of the band fully realized.

BRYANT: The Chelsea Horror EP was never released, which is a shame. I still have people ask me for a copy of it.

LAND: I actually havent listened to it in years and I can’t remember how it sounds.

HARMON: I think I have a copy around somewhere. I had so many people try to steal my copy of it. It was a great effort that should have gotten more attention than it did.

LAND: We were poised to play a party one time in West Knoxville and we were playing kind of later in the evening. I think we had all of our equipment loaded in and were tuning and kinda getting levels when we realized we couldn’t find Henry. We looked around and finally went outside and found him shortly after he had kind of roughed up this kid who was getting cozy with his then-girlfriend. He was a bit wild eyed and seriously pissed. We never played the show. Things devolved quickly and we just packed up and left.

GIBSON: It was a scandalous time for me then and I’m saving it for the tell-all memoir.

LAND: We played our last show at the Pilot Light, what I thought was a good set. After that last song ended, Brandon smashed his guitar to bits on stage and said he quit. I was never really sure why he quit, I think he just wasn’t in to it anymore. He could have saved himself a few hundred bucks and just quit, but hey, that’s rock ’n’ roll.

HARMON: Brandon told me he was gonna smash his guitar because he didn’t like it anymore. I didn’t believe him, but he did. I had only seen smashing guitars on footage of bands I grew up loving, I was so jazzed that he broke that guitar that night.

Henry Gibson works at McKay’s and is preparing a new round of solo material. Zach Land is a video editor at Jupiter Entertainment. Courtney Bryant works at Disc Exchange and plays in Wampus Cat. Mat Harmon plays in Amour and the Overlook. Brandon Biondo currently plays in the New Romantics and declined to explain what it was he disliked so much about that guitar.

Nick Huinker is fortunate to have spent the past 15 years living and covering Knoxville’s near-constant DIY music renaissance. Once a year he does his best to return the cultural favor as producer of the Knoxville Horror Film Fest; most of the rest of the time he’s of limited use.

Share this Post