Chit Chat channel Michigan’s musical lineage

Nolan Krebs

At the head of a wall-to-wall, sold out crowd at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, the four members of local garage-rock outfit Chit Chat are meekly performing a last-minute level check while the house music winds down.

While the chatter of 400 twenty-somethings fills the room, Izzy Johnson, Nick Melody, Kevin McKay and Joel Parkkila are performing some sort of pre-show ritual (which I would see them re-enact at another show two days later) consisting of a locking their hands together in a polygonal shape — a scene not too dissimilar from a football huddle breaking before the first snap of the game.

As Johnson steps up to the mic and peeps an introduction, a couple rowdy audience members howl, “*&%$ yeah, Chit Chat!” and the band launches into “Attitude,” the first track off the band’s self-titled and self-released 7”.

The band’s steady but consistently satisfying style of gritty rock shows itself right off the bat: Stooges-style progressions backed up by Johnson’s half-shouted vocals and some truly wicked guitar work from Melody, who’s no slouch behind a Jazzmaster.

Johnson’s voice swells during the song’s opening and the crowd responds accordingly: rigid forearms push sweaty bodies left and right while the outer rim looks on with $2 beers in hand and heads jerking up-and-down in spectatorial approval.

As the first of four bands to play that night and undeniably the best of the three openers, Chit Chat held the crowds attention without a break.

All songs from Chit Chat’s 7” were delivered as tightly as on record, but with a boosted intensity and a solid stage presence: everyone in the room was well-aware that the band was killin’ it and having a blast doing it.

A highlight from both the live set and 7” is “Communication,” on which Johnson hands over vocals to the gruff but even-keeled shouts of Melody. The two are able to trade-off duties without a hitch; when Johnson isn’t stealing commanding the room as a frontwoman, she’s filling whatever space is left with deliberate and tight guitar lines.

“Jelly” is a two-minute instrumental track that’s colorful enough to keep it out of filler territory, dotted with chords wrung out with tremolo. “Jelly” stands as a pretty good representation of the sounds and tones cultivated by Chit Chat: nothing ground-breaking, but for a listener with any sort of penchant for the punk, neo-psych sounds of bands like Jeff The Brotherhood or Ty Segall (whom Chit Chat was opening for that night), it does the body good.

The four-song 7” ends with “Undeath,” a slower-paced rocker that rides it’s own tom-and-snare beat to a smooth finish, with surfy licks abound. “Undeath” is a good reminder that even if you can count the chords in a song on one hand, the right combination of simple textures can still render it infinitely enjoyable.

Chit Chat, i.e. a righteous rock band, reinvigorates the notion that there exists a musical lineage in the Great Lakes State outside of Seger and Kid Rock. Once upon a time, the Stooges and MC5 tore open a vibrant and incredibly influential punk scene that all started in Michigan.

Chit Chat, although young, is taking all the right cues to joining those ranks.