Last of the Believers: DIY champions

It’s –  “make or break’ time when an artist decides to spread the wings and fly from a band that has been synonymous with punk and hardcore for a lengthy period of time. A tidal wave of emotions would be surging through the veins to the point where an artist must question whether to leave a prolific, internationally-recognised band is the ultimate decision. For ex- Rise Against axeman Chris Chasse, the decision was innate. The chance to resurrect his axe duties by delving into the unknown and pursue his own creative avenue with a new lineup set the course for a refreshing beginning. Last of the Believers also afforded Chasse the opportunity to team up with some of punk and hardcore’s prominent players.

Last of the Believers is Chasse’s newest punk rock/hardcore endeavour, marking a crucial period in the artist’s burgeoning career. A chance discussion with Spark of Life drummer Steve Jennings about starting a new band hailed the beginning of Last of the Believers. “It [was] as simple as that,” Chasse reflects. “Steve and I have been friends for a few years now and we talk from time to time online. One day, we simply said –  “let’s start a band’. I was on a plane the next week to California from Chicago and started writing songs with Steve and Nick (guitar).”

Guitarist Nick Piscitello came into the fold from Spark of Life along with Brett Rasmussen, bassist from seminal hardcore outfit Ignite, and skinsman Phillip Lee. With credentials as thick and fast as these, Last of the Believers has emerged as a band fuelled by integrity and positive outcomes. “Steve came up with the name Last Believer, which as far as I know he got from a Good Riddance song. I wasn’t quite sold on the idea for the band name, and slightly changed it to what it is currently. Basically what it comes down to, as far as meaning, is trying to convey an overall feeling of hope. As fu—ed up as the world is today, have faith that somehow things will all work out.”

Last of the Believers has succeeded in its intentions. As proof, the band has recorded and released their debut extended player exhibiting five tracks of melodically charged anthems drenched in shout-out lyrics and old school aesthetic. It’s testament to the band’s explicit desire to create solely from a DIY perspective without overhanging pressures from record labels or a third party agenda. Last of the Believers brings home the vital message that this is how hardcore should be, as typified by the genre’s earlier beginnings. “So far, everything in this band has been completely DIY. We haven’t received help from anyone and it’s rather refreshing that way. Paying for everything ourselves – from recording to mixing to duplicating the CD itself – gives us a great feeling of accomplishment. If we succeed in this band, we’ll know that we did it on our own.”

Tracks from Paper Ships Under a Burning Bridge including –  “Dissent’ and –  “Fists Up’ are signatures for the band’s strong DIY message and a sense of comradeship which exists in the hardcore community – both locally and internationally. To exemplify this even further, Dave Peters from Throwdown assisted in the vocal department on –  “Workhorse’ and –  “You Get What You Get’. Trying to ascertain where Last of the Believers gained their inspirations is a straight-forward exercise. “As far as music, we all just have different things to bring to the table, yet we all have a very similar background. We’re just trying to play music we all love, plain and simple.”

“This release is basically an introduction to the band, almost like a demo, but we wanted to do it right, and as high quality as we could. We didn’t walk into a room and pay $100 to cut a CD. We took our time and did it correct. It’s kind of a showcase of what we are capable of, and what to look forward to in a full length, which we hope to record soon. There are no particular –  “themes’ behind the music/lyrics, other than everything is honest, and from the heart.”

Last of the Believers has developed positive music and that’s clear from the band’s MySpace page where it reads: –  “We are not trying to reinvent the wheel with what we are doing, we are just trying to stick to the values and ideals of the bands that came before us and create something honest.’ It’s a relevant and sharp statement, especially during current times when audiences are being exposed to heavy underground music in a mainstream context. Increasingly, bands are side-stepping honesty, value and individuality in exchange for fat royalty cheques and product endorsement. Chasse is quick to reflect the change in music over the years. “Music today is rather bizarre to me. There are bands that are really –  “big’ these days that I simply don’t understand how or why. The same re-hashed shit over and over again that kids simply eat up? It seems as though whatever certain magazines or websites say that’s –  “cool’ at the time, everyone jumps on board and follows. I’ve been going to shows for 15 years now and it’s just not the same. I’m not some bitter old man, but the feeling just isn’t there anymore in most bands today. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of amazing bands out there that stand for something, and are passionate about what they do, just not as many as there use to be.”

While the future of music is unpredictable, Chasse is adamant that his future is already predetermined. “It all about starting over and new beginnings,” Chasse admits. “This is all so fresh to me, that it’s surreal. Being in a band again – that I actually started – is completely different from Rise Against. I joined that band when it was already years into a career and a few records deep. I was the happiest guy on earth and was lucky enough to spend three years and record two amazing records with three of the best people around. I honestly don’t think I will ever stop writing music, or being involved in it somehow. Whether it be in a band, or working in a music studio; as far as goals, I feel that it’s impossible to ever reach every goal that one sets. There will always be things that I want to accomplish, and I will die trying. For 2007, we plan on touring on the EP. Brett has some shows with Ignite, but we plan on booking shows around that schedule. We’d like to hit the US West Coast, Canada, Europe and Australia, all before the year ends.”

It seems that Chasse also holds a soft spot for Aussie audiences. “To everyone in Australia, I just want to say a simple thank you. I’ve been to your amazing country a few times now, from Big Day Out to a headlining tour, and you are some of the best and nicest people on earth. You all appreciate and love music so much, that it inspires me to make more of it. Thank you for everything. See you all soon.”

Paper Ships Under a Burning Bridge is out now through Amphead Music or digitally through Amphead/The Orchard.