By Less Lee Moore
Wayward Fire is the latest album from The Chain Gang of 1974, which is the brainchild of singer/songwriter/musician Kamtin Mohager. It’s an eclectic, intriguing, and downright addictive mix of influences and styles with some of the catchiest songs you’re likely to hear this year. (Read our review here.) I caught up with Kamtin when he was en route from the West to the East coast for the band’s upcoming tour dates with The Naked and Famous.
Popshifter: Have you now moved to Los Angeles permanently?
Kamtin Mohager: Yeah, I moved about 10 months ago. It’s been an amazing place for me to be in. It’s always been kind of a second home to me. I’m more of a West Coast person. I never really belonged in Denver. I moved there when I was 13, but was never really content with my surroundings. But I’ve been in LA close to a year now; it’s pretty wild.
Popshifter: You’d never want to live in New York?
Kamtin Mohager: I don’t think I could survive New York.
Kamtin Mohager: I absolutely love it there; I think there’s something very special about that city, but it would eat me alive. I was born in California and lived in Hawaii for ten years, so I need the sunshine, I need to be close to the water. That allows me to keep my sanity.
Popshifter: I read in an interview that you said, “Nostalgia is the most addicting drug.” Do you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing?
Kamtin Mohager: I think it depends. I’m still a young guy, I just turned 26, it’s not like I’m getting any younger.
Kamtin Mohager: [Nostalgia] can be a positive or a negative thing. As one continues through the years, you look back on memories to feel good about some things, especially with music. There are times when I’ll put on bands that I listened to when I was 16 years old and get that feeling of being 16 again. With love and broken relationships—or anything—you kind of look back and do your best to look at the good times and feel a sense of hope.
I think there’s something even more special about going back to a time period that you don’t really remember or you didn’t live in, and get your own sense of nostalgia. Like with the ’80s and ’90s. In the ’90s I wasn’t ready for pop culture yet so there’s something special about it. I’m a sucker for things done in the past, more so than the present.
Popshifter: It’s funny you say that about the ’80s because I was a teen in the ’80s and started watching MTV in the beginning and listening to college radio and that just exploded into liking hundreds of bands. I still listen to the same stuff I did back then. It’s interesting that you’ve captured that sound. You really got it!
Kamtin Mohager: Thanks very much, I appreciate that. Tears For Fears’ album Songs From The Big Chair—that was one of the first albums I heard growing up. When I was six and seven those songs were still played on the radio all the time. I would hear these songs that affected me, even at that age. My brother bought Songs From The Big Chair and we shared the album. I’ll never forget moments—when we lived on Hilo, the big island—of listening to the album and really appreciating those songs, and putting them on repeat, and accepting the emotion that was displayed and presented in those songs. It stuck with me.
I went through years listening to punk and the early Emo stuff—I was a little skate punk kid for a while—but the older I got, I shifted away from that and went back and really dug into the entire catalogue of those ’80s bands and then through doing that, I found out about other bands of that time and what else was out there. There’s something very special about that time, in my opinion. It’s not like I went out to try and sound like that, it’s just what I was listening to for so long that it came out in the songs I was writing.
I think my influences and my sound are constantly changing. I started this project [TCGO1074] five years ago, and since day one, it’s been a constant evolution and progression. But there was definitely something special about the craft of songwriting back in the ’80s and early ’90s that I think more people should take note of.
Popshifter: I think some of your other influences would surprise people. You’ve mentioned Fleetwood Mac which is really cool, because that’s another band I grew up with. You’ve covered The Thompson Twins’ Hold Me Now (which is a great cover by the way)—
Kamtin Mohager: Thank you very much.
Popshifter: But if you were going to cover a Fleetwood Mac song which one would it be?
Kamtin Mohager: (thinks for a moment) Maybe “Everywhere.” I love that song. It’s on Tango In The Night. That’s my favorite Fleetwood Mac record. I think that’s a very—I wouldn’t say underrated—but a very forgotten record. You know, everyone goes to Rumors as the default; I mean, it’s a fucking classic. But Tango In The Night was Lindsay Buckingham’s last record with the band. I mean, they all knew it and he knew it, so he put so much into that album, that it’s perfection in my opinion.
Popshifter: You’ve talked about your musical influences, but do you get any influences from films?
Kamtin Mohager: Oh yeah! My two favorite directors are Cameron Crowe and John Hughes. There are so many classic scenes in their movies that have so much emotion. In terms of the influence of the ’80s and ’90s, it’s more than just music. It’s fashion, and film, and culture. And a lot of that just isn’t present any more.
I don’t know how pop culture for teens was back then, but from what I’ve seen it seems so much better than the pop culture of today.
Popshifter: It wasn’t so cynical.
Kamtin Mohager: It just seems like there’s no substance in today’s pop culture. Even with music, I think everyone is trying to be the most ambient or the most obscure or the most innovative, but that’s never been something I’ve ever really cared about. I don’t care about being an innovative band; that’s not something I want to be, that’s not something I think I’ll EVER be. I’m kinda getting sidetracked there!
Back to Cameron Crowe and John Hughes: there are certain moments in those movies that just tug on the heartstrings and I’m such a sucker for all that stuff.
Popshifter: You’re going to be playing in Toronto on Thursday. Are there any Canadian bands that you like?
Kamtin Mohager: Oh yeah, The Stills—they’re not a band anymore, unfortunately—have been one of my favorite bands ever since they released Logic Will Break Your Heart. That record, to this day, still inspires me. It came out in 2003 and it still sounds so fresh, it amazes me. I also love Broken Social Scene and The Arcade Fire. There’s something special about music coming from Canada and the indie world. A lot of amazing bands have come from there.
Popshifter: I’ve read that you really like playing in Toronto. What specifically do you like about it?
Kamtin Mohager: Toronto is an amazing city. Chain Gang has never played Toronto but I’ve played there with other bands and . . . I love Canada in general. The people are really welcoming and there’s a very good energy in Toronto that clicks with me, the vibe in general. I’m excited to bring my music there for the first time to see how the crowd reaction is. There’s just something special about it. I’m a big Toronto Maple Leafs fan, too. It’s unfortunate that they can’t win anything these days. They had their heyday back n 1994, so hopefully they can go back to that one day.
The Chain Gang Of 1974 will be playing with The Naked and Famous at The Phoenix on Thursday, October 6 in Toronto, ON. You may purchase tickets through Ticketmaster.
You can download TCOG1974′s excellent single “Hold On” from their website, where you can also purchase a copy of Wayward Fire.