A promotional image of the band Chat Pile. They are pictured from far away, under a billboard sign that is chipped and aged.
Chat Pile [Bayley Hanes]

WOUB Culture talks with Oklahoma City-based noise rockers Chat Pile

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PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WOUB) – Oklahoma City-based noise rock band Chat Pile has been rising quickly since the release of their full-length debut, God’s Country, last year.

The band’s aggressive, abrasive sound pairs unsettlingly with their socially conscious lyrics – which aren’t afraid to shift their gaze to the stark reality of real life horrors.

WOUB’s Nicholas Kobe had the privilege to chat (pun intended) with band members Raygun Bush, Luther Manhole, and Stin before their performance Saturday at Underground Arts, in Philadelphia, PA.

Read a transcript of the conversation, edited for clarity and length, below. The conversation contains language which may be offensive to some readers. 

A promotional picture for the band Chat Pile. All four members of the group are pictured in a grainy image.
Chat Pile. [Photo by Bayley Hanes]
Nicholas Kobe: All right. So the first question I have for you guys is if you had to sum it up in one sentence, elevator pitch style, what would you say is Chat Pile?

Luther: We’ve said before that we’re kind of like “plains nightmare music.” It’s very kind of regional to where we’re from. It has this weird plains kind of sprawl to it. That is longer than a sentence, though. 

Stin: I was about to call you out on that. I’d say that we are a catchy noise rock band from Oklahoma city.

Raygun: I’d be like, “we’re kind of like Pantera meets the Dead Kennedys.”

Luther: If I just don’t know how much they know about music, I just feel like it’s like loud rock music.

Stin: If I’m talking to a coworker, I’m just like “it’s kind of like metal.”

Nicholas Kobe: Fair enough So, I want to talk about your guys’ beginnings as a band. What inspired you guys to decide to come together to form this band and start making this type of music? 

Stin: So we’re all a little bit older and had a bunch of responsibilities that kind of kept us away from thinking that we’d ever be full time musicians.I know at least with me and Luther Manhole, we’re both kind of metal heads and wanted to at least continue making music together and sort of indulge our heavy music love. Also everyone in the band is friends as well. So we just kind of found an excuse to hang out together and make heavy noisy music with no expectations. It’s just kind of turned into what it’s turned into.

Luther: Yeah. We were just like doing bad movie nights and like a board game night and that just turned into us being like, “you know, it had been a few years since I had played music” and it just seemed like a fun thing to do. I did not really anticipate, four years later, that it would be like my life, in a good way.

Nicholas Kobe: So you guys were just kind of a group of just guys hanging out, doing your own thing and just gradually this developed out of a mutual friendship? 

Stin: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, all of us made music most of our lives and sometimes even together in various forms over the years, but this was sort of a friend’s first excuse to hang out and have something to do. Chat Pile just kind of happened to come out of it. 

Raygun: We have been wanting to make music. That’s sort of reminiscent of Big Black and Shellac, R*peman, all the Albini stuff. We’ve been wanting to do that for a while so this is sort of an excuse to do that, make American Nightmare music, or whatever we used to call it back then. 

Nicholas Kobe: What was the moment that you knew, “Oh, this is going to be like my life now” When did you figure that out And how did that feel? 

Luther: It’s more recent than you think. Just this year, we were still working day jobs. You never really know with this type of music. We didn’t like pick weird noise rock stuff to like, try and have that be our job, you just never really know what the audience is going to be for something like that.So it’s really just been until we’ve had some success on the road lately and seeing what maybe could be possible recently has made it kind of sink in a little more.

Stin: If you read interviews from when our album first came out, like all of it is us just saying like, “yeah, we’re never going to tour. We’re never going to go to Europe. We have day jobs and we’re never going to do this full time.” Then here we are.

Nicholas Kobe: Speaking of which, now that you guys are going to Europe and that you are doing pretty big tours, pretty long tours, do you have any sort of anticipation or anxiety? What’s something you’re excited for or nervous for as you’re leading up to this big tour? 

Luther: I think our live show is really good. It’s been feeling really good lately to play and we’ve had a lot of really good audience response. I used to get a lot of anxiety about playing just in other bands, especially when I was younger, but as we played more and more and just had more fun. I have poor sleep even at home so I’m more just like, “oh man, I’m not gonna, sleep for shit for the next three weeks”. But other than that, I’m just really excited to just go play music in all these cities and we’re gonna go play in a cave with 100 Gecs. It’s pretty awesome. 

Stin: I think being gone for three weeks from my home and wife is giving me anxiety, but also as the person who kind of wrangles a lot of the logistics there’s just like a million things that can go wrong. So I definitely lose sleep over that until we’re actually in the van on our way to a show.

Nicholas Kobe: So what’s one thing that surprised you ever since you guys have blown up and had this big surge in your popularity? 

Luther: Being able to actually see people in other countries being into us, it’s just crazy to me that people thousands of miles away care at all about the music we make. 

Raygun: We always have that moment. I feel like we’re overseas and we’re eating somewhere or we’re having a coffee. It’s like, “can you believe that we’re in Denmark right now because of our band.”  

Luther: It’s not lost on us at all that we are getting some cool experiences doing all this stuff. It’s not like we’re swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck, but I’m getting to go to some places I’ve never been able to go to. Just because of playing music. So yeah, we are always just kind of like,” damn, we’re at Big Ben right now. What the hell.” 

Stin: We’ve spent our whole lives playing to crowds of nobody. Now we’re in front of hundreds of people who scream along to the lyrics of the songs and get hyped and are genuinely excited to see you. It’s kind of like Luther was saying, it’s not lost on us, man. We do not take it for granted. Every single time it feels like a dream. The weirdest thing for me is being in the city where we’re about to play and going to a record store or something and like some kid knows who I am, it’s weird. 

Luther: I’m excited to get on the road and see more people and play shows and have a good time and not get any sleep and eat. I want to go to a Cookout. That’s a fast food place I’m looking forward to going to in Tennessee.

Nicholas Kobe: Yeah,I’m here doing school stuff in Ohio, but I’m from North Carolina. Cookout is a cultural staple. Cookout gets exponentially better every hour it is past 10 p.m.  

Luther: Okay. That’s good to know. 

Raygun: I’m definitely going to have some White Castle over there too.

Luther:  I mean, it’s kind of in line with our band, but I just love regional stuff. Just like going somewhere to see the weird regionalism, it doesn’t have to be fast food, but anything like that, that’s all very appealing to I’d say all of us in the band.So this type of conversation is important to us talking about regional gas stations

Stin: The guys can attest. I like trying so hard to put my foot down. But down about eating well on tour, I’m definitely going to eat some East coast barbecue. Don’t get me wrong.

Luther: Yeah. We’re trying to not just go to diners every morning and take care of ourselves a little bit. 

Nicholas Kobe: Speaking of regionalism. You guys are a very regional band with what you write your music about and even your name. Why do you think that people outside of your region found appeal in what you guys were talking about?

Stin: I think we live in very tense anxious times and the music we make is very cathartic and about the sort of wild and scary times that we live in. If you’re paying attention to what’s going on at all you need some type of outlet or to, you know, relieve the daily pressures that we face or the doom that feels impending right now. 

Luther: I talked to people when we were in the UK just because I did feel like it’s so regional and just like going to the UK, I was like, “well, I guess people here can also relate to being unhappy about where they live”.

Luther: I think that is kind of a thing that a lot of people can relate to. It’s conflicting emotions. I love Oklahoma and I love living here, but it’s also just a nightmare place a lot of the time. I think people can relate to that sometimes. They don’t have to be from this part of the country to kind of just feel that.

Stin: I think too, this is just my pet theory, so there may be no weight to this whatsoever, but I feel like in the world of heavy music, things have gotten predictable or like there’s a lot of pretension behind it. I think that we approach the type of music that we make with a very loose and unpretentious approach. We don’t use a click track, we don’t have a set list, anything can kind of happen. I think that’s either confusing to people in a good way, or there’s a human quality that seems to be connecting with audiences. May not be true at all, it’s a concept.

Luther: We like interacting with fans and we like having the show be really loose. We do kind of have a spot in spontaneous nature to us, like how we perform. I just hope that that comes across as novel maybe or just people are into it and it doesn’t just look like we’re meandering on stage trying to figure out what we’re doing.

Nicholas Kobe: Yeah definitely. So your guys’ first album God’s Country came out last year, now that you have more time between you and that record how are you feeling about it now?

Luther: I’m really proud of it. I really like the record. I have a lot of fun playing the songs live. Like I said, the live stuff is so important to us, it remains fun. Even when we’re at practice, there’s certain songs we play and I’m like, “man that’s just a good song.” So I feel like that’s a good sign. I think we did a good job. We do play it a little differently sometimes live.I think it was really a lot of work and pretty rewarding

[00:17:27] Stin: It’s cool to see that it seems to still have momentum. Every day people are still discovering it and it feels kind of surreal. It is something that we just made by ourselves with no expectations whatsoever. The fact that it’s still connecting with people is very meaningful. 

[00:17:54] Luther: We just recorded it all ourselves and just did it at the home studio. We actually finished it nearly a year before it was released, so it’s kind of like two years out for us. It was about 11 months because that was during the vinyl production delays that were kind of plaguing every band. I really liked the album and we’re working on new stuff too, that I really like. So I’m just happy to be in a position where we can spend more time on writing.

[00:19:02] Nicholas Kobe: So also about God’s country. What was your thought process behind the cover art? 

[00:19:23] Stin: So kind of like we’ve talked before, we really like to incorporate sort of regional, specifically Oklahoma City imagery and topics into the music that we’re making.So that photo is actually of the Oklahoma County Jail, which is notoriously one of the worst jails in the entire nation. Dozens of people literally die there every single year. We thought it was very symbolic of the overall message that we were trying to get across in the album. It also happens to be hideous. 

[00:20:06] Luther: It’s right near where we all live, it’s like down the street, because it’s in the middle of the city. So it looms large. Being in the city you drive around, you just see it all the time.

[00:20:24] Luther: And it’s just this tower of the worst place on earth. I think the picture Stin took turned out really well. I think it’s pretty striking. Even if you don’t really know what it is specifically, I think it just has a very striking visual style to it.

Stin: Most people seem to latch onto the substation and understandably, because if you’re not from here, you wouldn’t know what that building is, but the building is actually meant to be kind of the more of the centerpiece  of that photo. 

Luther: Yeah. Of course there’s the trash and a porta potty in front of it as well.

Luther: You know the album’s called God’s Country. I think you have a name like that, the image, did a pretty good job of evoking what we were kind of going for overall. 

Nicholas Kobe: Yeah, this, I’m looking at the LP right now as you guys are talking about this.I didn’t realize it was a prison, but the way it kind of just looms over this kind of just tangled wires and such. It’s definitely very striking. 

Luther: Yeah, that picture probably taken from a dispensary parking lot. 

Stin: No, it’s the abandoned bail bond place.

Luther: Yeah, that’s boarded up. 

Raygun: 24 hour bail bonds places like all around the jail, as you can imagine. 

Nicholas Kobe: So, another question is I noticed that you guys use pseudonyms in the band. What’s the reason behind that and how did you pick yours? 

Raygun: It’s just fun to do punk names. Just did it for the hell of it. Why is Declan McManus “Elvis Costello”? For fun, you know?

Luther: Yeah, that’s true. I’d never done that in a band before mine’s just from a long launch potion castle call, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, but he’s a guy that does like kind of abstract prank calls, like kind of surreal stuff. Luther Manhole was just a name from that. When I picked it, I did not expect anyone to ever listen to the band so I probably would have just come up with my own if I knew anyone would have ever cared. But now, I’m in too deep and I am Luther Manhole Now 

Stin: Raygun was really the one making the push for the punk names because he had already picked out. Mine’s just a shortening of my real name. 

Luther: Yeah, we’re kind of the same with Captain Ron. But yeah, it was just a fun thing to do. Why not?

Stin: It had the added benefit of while I was still working a desk job of people not being able to Google who I was. 

Luther:. That it would have been bad if people called my work saying like “send my body to Arby’s” or something. I was always afraid that was going to happen. But hey, it didn’t. 

Nicholas Kobe: Fair enough. So you guys are touring with Nerver. You guys did the split EP with them this year and you’ve collaborated with them in the past. What’s kind of your guys’ relationship with that band and how’d y’all meet each other? 

Stin: So super early on in the band we played this little DIY warehouse show here in Oklahoma city. They happened to be the touring band that was also playing that show and we just hit it off immediately. They’re very like minded, fun, Midwestern, kind of guys  playing noise rock. So it’s just literally just a matter of we played a show together, hung out, and had a great time and we’ve been good friends ever since.

Luther: It was kind of a no-brainer when doing this thing that we would take them along with us, just because I love seeing them play. They’re a really good live band and I just like hanging out with those dudes. 

Nicholas Kobe: Nice. Alright. What do you think is the future for Chat Pile, what’s your guys’ goals with this band, and where would you like to see it go in the future?

Stin: I would like to never have to go back to a real job again, so that’s step number one.. We are a take it as it comes kind of band, we definitely want to put out a second album and have the album be good. We’re already working on that. I think stylistically, we’re trying to go back to a little bit more simple, kind of like the first EP, shorter songs that are a little harder and to the point but you know, we’ll see, we’re only a third of the way through.

As far as like big goals and stuff, I think we’re just trying to take it day by day and just kind of make the best music we can. 

Luther: I just want to see what being a full time touring musician is and if that’s a sustainable way to live. I’m not ever really worried about the creative side. I really just like writing and I think we have a good time writing. So that’s always fun. Most of my goals were stuff like go on tours and playing overseas and that stuff. This is really just going to be what we’re doing now. I would just like to,do it as best as we can and see how long we can do this because it’s a lot better than any other thing I’ve done for money.

Raygun: Hanging out with your best friends playing goddamn the UK, of course it’s better than working at the mall or whatever. I mean, my goal mainly is just. For the next album to be good – that’s all I really want. I want the vibes to stay good and strong. I think we’re all still having fun. So I just want to keep having fun. Keep doing something we’re proud of because we’re not proud of the music, there’s no fucking point to this. We’re not doing this for money, although I would like to get paid. I’m enjoying getting paid. 

Luther: I’m always so extremely self critical and I’m always the one being like “we can do this another time” but that’s all just because I always just want to be proud of the thing we put out and I’m proud of everything we have put out so far, so I think that will continue.