Chisel plays on the University of Notre Dame campus, April 1991. From left, are Ted Leo, John Dugan and Chris Infante.
|Origin||University of Notre Dame Indiana|
|Genres||Pop punk, indie rock, mod revival|
|Associated acts||Ted Leo and the Pharmacists|
|Website||Official myspace website|
|Past members||Ted Leo|
Chisel began in 1990 on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, when classmates Ted Leo (guitar/vocals), Chris Infante (bass), and John Dugan (drums) began practicing in the basement of a campus dormitory. Leo had played punk shows with bands such as Animal Crackers in New York's all-ages scene and Dugan had drummed with the Washington, D.C. area punk act Indian Summer from the age of fifteen. The band quickly went from playing a covers set (Wire, Misfits, Buzzcocks, Mission of Burma) to playing original songs written by Leo. Chisel began to perform at various college venues in the Midwest and Northeast, visiting clubs such as D.C. Space in Washington and ABC No Rio in New York City.
In 1991, the band released its first single, "Swamp Fox/Spike" b/w "Listen", on Assembly Records, and followed it up with appearances on compilations released by college radio stations WVFI in Notre Dame, Indiana and WPRB in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1992, Infante graduated from college and was replaced on bass by Chris Norborg, who also provided the backing vocal harmonies that soon became integral to Chisel's sound. It was during this period that the band began to change its style from traditional emo-influenced pop punk that was inspired by contemporaries in Washington, D.C., to more of a mod-influenced band in the vein of the Small Faces and The Jam. In 1994, the band members relocated to Washington where Dugan had been interning with Amnesty International.
8 A.M. All Day
In 1995, Chisel issued its first full-length CD release with New Jersey's Gern Blandsten label, Nothing New, which included a number of new songs recorded with Guy Picciotto of Fugazi in his home studio as well as recordings done the previous year in Chicago with Tortoise soundman Casey Rice. It was followed in 1996 by 8 a.m. All Day, an album of all-new material recorded in the basement studio of Velocity Girl guitarist Archie Moore and produced by the band itself. By this time, Chisel was touring as a support act for bands like Fugazi, Velocity Girl, Blonde Redhead and Tuscadero. Following the release of 8 a.m. All Day, the band gained a growing following in the rock clubs of New York, Chicago and Boston and was being courted by dozens of record labels.
Set You Free
For its next album, the band enlisted Nicolas Vernhes and his Rare Book Room studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to record brand new material. The band first recorded a single, "It's Alright, You're Okay", in the studio and few months later booked Vernhes for 10 days. Within those ten days, the band tracked and mixed 16 songs. This new set of material found the band incorporating various Britpop influences, horns, Hammond organ, and thicker sonics into its sound. But the band also pared some pieces back to an almost minimalist rock aesthetic in order to push Leo's increasingly dark, personal lyrics to the fore. At the other end of the spectrum, Norborg contributed lead vocals to his own compositions "Oh Dear Friends" and "Morley Timmons". Leo also soloed on guitar more often on the album.
The band released its second and final LP/CD, Set You Free, in mid-1997, and set off on a well-attended tour with Boston band Karate. Chisel played its last show on May 16, 1997 in Knoxville, TN at the end of its tour. Plans to tour the West Coast and Europe were scrapped.
A compilation of Chisel rarities has been in the works for some time, but has no release date.
EPs and albums
- Nothing New (April 1995; Gern Blandsten)
- 8 a.m. All Day (January 1996; Gern Blandsten)
- Set You Free (April 1997; Gern Blandsten)
- "Swamp Fox/Spike" b/w "Listen" (September 1991; Assembly Records. Limited 7" release)
- "Spectacles" split with Brian, Colin & Vince (August 1993; Sudden Shame Records)
- "Sunburn" b/w "Little Gidding" "3 O'Clock High" (August 1994; Gern Blandsten)
- "O.T.S." b/w "If You Believe in Christmas Trees" (December 1995; Darla Records)
- "It's Alright. You're O.K." b/w "Guns of Meridan Hill" (February 1997; Gern Blandsten)
- "Swamp Fox/Spike" on The Jericho Sessions (April 1991; WVFI Radio)
- "Dream Bar" on Incubus 1993 (April 1993)
- "Nothing New" on Dog So Large I Cannot See Past It (1997; WPRB Radio)
- "Out for Kicks" on Squirrel (September 1995; Level Records)
- "Six Different Ways" on Give Me the Cure (September 1995; Radiopaque)
- "Chiefs" on Storm of the Century (February 1997; Sudden Shame Records)
- "Guns of Meridian Hill" on Fort Reno Benefit Compilation (September 1997; Resin Records)
- "The O.T.S." on Darla 100 (2002; Darla Records)
- "Spectacles" on Songs for Cassavetes (2000)
- Colin Larkin The Encyclopedia of Popular Music: Kollington - Morphine 2006 - Page 178 "Relocating to Washington, DC, at the dawn of the 90s, Leo turned up in the mod rock outfit Chisel. This underrated band issued 1996's 8 A.M. All Day and the following year's Set You Free before splitting up."