Newcastle metal band CHOP debuted their first single ‘Freedom’ in the Triple J Unearthed High comp. The band members shared their achievements with Phoebe Metcalfe.
Leo Fleming and Toby Stuart had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they left their indie rock band to follow their hardcore metal dreams. The HSPA students joined their bass and drum forces last year and formed CHOP.
Since their formation, CHOP has grossly exceeded any expectation Fleming and Stuart had. After winning their school’s HSPA Bandwidth competition in 2019 the boys were inspired to give the 2020 Triple J Unearthed High competition a crack by submitting their political anthem debut single ‘Freedom’.
‘Freedom’ hit #2 in the Triple J metal charts two weeks ago, and since then has held a position in the top ten; an incredible feat for an Unearthed High band.
I spoke to the guys on Zoom the day before the finalist list was released, which they unfortunately didn’t make. However, they’re hopeful for the rest of their music careers, their new music and for possibly finding themselves at UON in the coming years.
So Leo and Toby of CHOP, how’re you going?
L: Good, good thanks.
T: Yeah, good.
You guys are only just now one year old, right?
That’s awesome! You guys have achieved so much in, like, the last year. So, um, you’ve gotten over a thousand followers on your Instagram, um, you’re playing sold out gigs during COVID – which is just insane. You won HSPA’s Bandwidth comp last year, um, you got a shoutout from Hockey Dad as one of their favourite high school bands. You hit #2 on the metal charts on Triple J last week and you hit #55 on the overall charts last week, as well. Like, congratulations, first off!
T: Thank you!
It’s-it’s just been insane; your traction, your-, like, the velocity that you guys have gotten from go to woah. Was this what you were expecting?
L: God, no! God, no [laughs]…
T: Nah [laughs]…
L: One thing Toby brings up, more often than not, is how our biggest, like, aspiration-, like what we were aiming for was just to play a gig at a local venue, called The Dungeon. And, we thought that was to be our, like, the height of our career. And it was, like, getting that gig-, that first gig was fucking crazy, like, amazing. And then to hear our stuff played on Triple J, releasing music, it was just, like, completely unreal. Like, nothing we ever expected to happen. Yeah, so, to come from our biggest goal being to just get one gig at The Dungeon to being played on Triple J is mind blowing.
T: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. Like, we-, yeah, we never expect heaps and it-, it’s all come as quite a surprise. But, it’s been good, we enjoy the love.
Yeah, that’s awesome. When you guys formed last year did you have your mind set on, um, Triple J Unearthed High for 2020?
T: I don’t think-, no.
L: We had a mind set on absolutely nothing…
L: We were singing songs about friends from school…we had no plan with where we wanted to go with us two, ‘cause we we came from a, uh, um, four piece-, just like a surfy indie kinda rock thing and we just jumped out of that and started jamming [with] us two and it was-, yeah, we just clicked…
Yeah, so there’s a totally different vibe going from indie to your metal stuff.
Is that something that you guys had touched on in your indie band before?
T: No, I think-, I’ve-, I sort of broke Leo into all of that heavier stuff. We sort of went ‘Aw, we don’t wanna play this stuff any more.’
T: We did our own thing, we still enjoy all that but, I think, we just enjoy this more. It’s more of a challenge. And it’s-, we’re better at it than indie rock.
Yeah, well Toby I have to say too, you introduce Leo to the metal stuff but you’ve also introduced it to me because, like, in high school-, I’m 23 years old, right? I’m showing my age now, but, you know like some of the friends in my group were listening to Disturbed and Slipknot and all those guys. And I hated it, I couldn’t do the screaming or anything like that. But, I heard you guys on the 13th of August as I was driving home from work, in the middle of the day, and they announced after the song that it was a local band for Unearthed High. This was the day after you guys were played on the Unearthed Radio, which was was only three weeks after you first released your song ‘Freedom’. So, like, you guys have turned me as well which is awesome [laughs].
T: I’m glad to hear!
L: Yeah, that’s awesome to hear! Yeah, Toby me on a long-haul into the depths of hardcore scenes and everything, so. He’s to blame for my taste in music.
You guys have not done it half-arsed, either. You’ve gone, like, all or nothing. You’ve got-, both of you wear masks on stage when you perform. You’ve got such a strong image, such a strong political stance, like, overall cohesiveness, such a strong message. You guys are so young, are you still finding your identity?
T: I think we’ve always had our identity, but it’s-, it’s-, it’s more of a thing of we’re not pushing anything on anyone. Like, we’re not saying you have to believe this. Our message has always been ‘stay true to yourself, do what you believe is right’ and that’s been it from the start, and people have gravitated towards that. Yeah, and here we are.
L: I couldn’t have said that better. It’s definitely all about just do what is best for you and don’t take away from others while doing that. Let everyone have their things, have your own things, just don’t pull down other people’s views, their cultures, religions, anything. It’s just ‘be yourself, be your own thing, just don’t make someone else be lesser or more than you are’. It’s just such a great idea to live by, and it feels really good.
Yeah definitely, and you couldn’t have said it better in your song ‘Freedom’ either. I think the line was “I’m not trying to kill your party, I’m just trying to keep you aware.”
L: Yeah, yeah.
Aw, man, that [okay hand gesture] resonates so well, especially with this year, 2020, and the Black Lives Matter movements and everything’s just-, like, it’s so relevant right now. Did you guys write the song this year amidst all of that?
T: No! That was the first song we properly wrote. That would’ve been, like, halfway through last year, we wrote that.
L: Yeah, I got a few comments and things-, heard things saying, like, uh, the movement-, the Black Live Matter movements and, like, women’s rights movements and all these other movements are becoming a trend, like, it’s a trendy thing. And it definitely is a trend, but it should be seen as such a great and powerful trend, and not something that should be steered away from because it’s popular now. Because it’s-, yeah, it’s a trend but it should continue to be a trend and you keep coming, and coming, and [there’s] more songs and movements and rights…And, yeah, our song was written last year. I was personally super pissed off with our government for a few things they did with the flag-, Aboriginal flag [sic.]…I never really understood because I’ve never been Indigenous, I’m never going to be, I’m never going to understand that but I can use my platform and my voice to push that onto others, and show them that, I’m not trying to kill anything, I’m not trying to kill your party, I’m trying to keep you aware. Like, it’s just, it’s here and it’s happening. It might not be in your little bubble or your world, but, outside of that – it’s there. All these movements and trends and stuff are great, in my opinion.
You guys played your first live gig, in a while, last night at Dashville. How was it playing to a sold-out venue amidst all of the COVID nonsense?
T: It was awesome, yeah, it was really cool. It was, yeah, [a] great community. Felt good to get on stage again, bit unfit-, bit gig unfit, but, um, no, it felt good.
Yeah well you guys are so energetic when you perform, like, I watched the-, the Bandwidth performance and…I was exhausted just watching it.
L: Yeah, we both left the gig last night with bleeding fingers and a, um, sore necks so it was alright.
So you did it right, then? [laughs]
L: Of course! Better than ever.
And how are you guys feeling about the Unearthed High winners being announced on the 7th [Sept]?
L: Aye that’s tomorrow morning, isn’t it?!? Tomorrow morning?
T: No, no! [laughs]
No, no, no. You’ve still got a week, you’re good [laughs].
T: Finalists are tomorrow.
We’re looking at the overall picture here…we wanna get you to the very end first!
L:That would be bloody crazy, just to have anything new, and, uh, I guess a little more different, I wanna say. Even though it’s not very different.
Well metal’s not very different but it very rarely wins, like, the people’s choice kind of stuff.
L: It would be absolutely crazy just to get anything. Anything! Anything at all I would be happy with. Like, it’s be bloody crazy.
T: Yeah, we don’t expect much from our music. I don’t know, we’re very-, we do this for ourselves. We have fun, and to get the reception like we have these past few weeks has been really, really cool. We just take each day and achievement as it comes, and we go from there.
You’re both in your last years of high school, is that right?
T: Yeah, well I am.
L: Yeah, I-, I, um, dropped out a few weeks ago-, two weeks ago.
A few weeks ago? Leo! [laughs]
L: Yeah, two weeks ago [laughs]
You had, like, three months left, what’re you doing? [laughs]
T: Well, no, well, I’m currently studying for-, I’m in Year 11 now, currently studying for pre-lims.
Oh awesome, okay, so not quite there yet. Okay, alright, I’ll stop acting like a mum. [laughs]
L: Yeah, I was Year 11 too, and, yeah, I didn’t think school was working for me, so…
Well hopefully this pans out then [laughs].
L: Yeah [laughs], please, it’s all I need. All I’m focussing on, so.
But, that’s really cool though, so people are going to be asking both of you what’s going to happen, what’ve you got planned, what’re you gonna do after high school? So, what are you gonna do after high school? Are we going to see either of you at UON?
T: ugh [sighs] I don’t know.
Is that way too far in advance?
L: Why not? Let’s try it out.
T: It feels way too far away, but I think of it and it’s only, what? A year away?
L: Not even.
T: A year away, bloody hell. But, no, you’ll definitely see CHOP.
‘Freedom’ the first, your debut single, and you announced on Instagram that you’ve got something in the works that’s going to be released at the end of this year, late 2020. Is it a full album or an EP album, what’s the deal and do we have a date?
T: We don’t have a date, but it’s changing, feels like every week, what’s going to be happening.
That’s life at the moment though [laughs].
T: Yeah, but we can guarantee there will be at least one new song out by the end of this year.
Feature Image: Single Artwork by Leo Fleming, no changes made.