Chameleon Circuit review and interview

Interview Anthony Harvison 17 Jun 2009 - 06:38
Chameleon Circuit

What happens when Doctor Who fans start an aspiring indie band? And take Who adventures as the basis for their songs? Meet Time Lord Rock...

What do you get when you combine a love of the UK's most popular sci-fi show with an aspiring new indie band?

The answer is 'Trock', short for Time Lord Rock, the invention of Chameleon Circuit, a group which eschews traditional pop themes to write about one subject alone: Doctor Who.

Since the band's formation in August last year, Chameleon Circuit have quickly been getting a name for themselves among nu-Who's younger fan base as the purveyors of insanely catchy songs concerning the Doctor's greatest adventures, companions and most dangerous adversaries.

"I was inspired by wizard rock, a community that sings about Harry Potter,"explains band frontman Alex Day. "I wanted to create something similar and motivate people to celebrate Doctor Who in a fun, new way.

"I found three of my friends who are big fans of the show, great songwriters and all-round wonderful people to start the band with me: Liam Dryden, Chris Beattie and Charlie McDonnell. We all wrote songs for the album, each of us wrote two or three tracks, and we do everything for the tracks we wrote. Liam, for example, is a drummer, but on his song Count The Shadows (about the dark season four two-parter Silence In The Library/Forest Of The Dead) he's the main vocalist and he composed the song himself, whereas I sing lead and play guitar on An Awful Lot Of Running (focussing on the experiences of a companion) and Chris sings and plays all the instruments for Gallifreyan History 101."

An Awful Lot Of Running, a heavy rock number arranged around the Doctor Who theme tune, is like the new series' first episode, Rose, in the sense that it introducers the listener to the unique universe through which the TARDIS travels from the point of view of a new companion.

That sense of discovery is shared by Alex, who only learned about his favourite show with its 2005 prime time rebirth. Maybe that's why the lyrics he writes are so fresh and, pleasingly, uncynical, with no mention of wobbly sets or dire special effects to be heard.

"I got into the show with the revival," admits Alex, "which instantly makes me feel like I'm not a true believer because I'm neglecting the old series. But the revival was marketed to people my age so it's okay. I tried watching classic Who but the format feels so odd compared to what I'm used to and the budget was so bad ... I think it's an acquired taste.

"But I'm sure that in 40 years my kids will hate episodes like Blink and I'll be talking about how it was amazing in its day! I've been reading the Target novelisations though; they're great, so I can still appreciate the old stories."

The band released their eponymously-titled debut album in June, and in doing so, lifted the collective guilt fans share over Doctor In Distress, the embarrasingly naff high-energy song recorded back in the '80s by Who Cares? to protest at the series' temporary suspension. Finally, there's music around celebrating all that's great about Doctor Who without at the same time detracting from it.

Discussing the themes for the 10-track LP, Alex continues: "We didn't really focus on specific things like the Daleks and the Cybermen. Instead, we chose things like specific episodes for Blink, Count The Shadows and Journey's End, the battle between the Doctor and Davros for Exterminate, Regenerate, and what it's like to be the TARDIS with Type 40.

"I'd like to write a Cyberman song in the future and I also had an idea to write a tour-guide type song about the many different planets in the Whoniverse," he adds.

Chameleon Circuit's deliberate concentration on modern Who has certainly won it a lot of attention from fans too young to remember the original incarnation, with over 120,000 hits on MySpace and 100,000 on YouTube to date.

But elder statesmen of the Who community shouldn't feel left out, says Alex:

"We focus mainly on the new series but Chris is our classic Who fan and he wrote the two classic-themed songs: Gallifreyan History 101 and K9's Lament. The latter is about how K9 wishes he could chase sticks and chew on bones like a real dog but he can't because he's bound to obey his master. It's surprisingly poignant for a song about a tin dog."

The album, which mixes charged guitar-based songs with more chilled arrangements, is proving to be a real hit, helping fans bridge the frustratingly long gap until the next special, Waters Of Mars, is screened this winter.

"We've sold well over a thousand copies in our first two weeks of release, which is insane for a new band selling online, so we're really proud of it," boasts Alex. "We've been talking about playing shows and lots of people want us to, but we'll have to get rehearsing first. I feel like most conferences are attended by older fans who appreciate the old show primarily, and I want to encourage younger people who might not otherwise attend Who events to start coming for their favourite Trock bands."

And with the departure of Russell T. Davies and the imminent arrival of the Steven Moffat era, does Alex and Chameleon Circuit hope for some kind of official recognition?

"I'd settle for seeing the new companion in a café and having one of our songs playing in the background," he says with a grin.

4 starsChameleon Circuit is out now on DFTBA Records. Visit DFTBA or the group's MySpace page.

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