Words: Miljan Milekić
For the past two decades, Chaser established themselves as one of the staples of the SoCal skate punk scene. Never really being a big mainstream success as some of the band of the era, they built their career slowly but steadily, record after record, reaching a new peak every time. And that’s where they are now. Twenty-one year in, with a new album ‘Dreamers,’ Chaser look stronger than ever. We caught up with guitarist Bill Hockmuth to talk about the new record, their fanbase, and a bit of skateboarding.
First of all, hope you’re all good and safe! So how are you dealing with this pandemic and everything around it in the past year?
Bill: Thank you, we hope the same is true for you and everyone out there. Luckily, all of us and our families have remained safe and healthy so we’re grateful for that. It’s been difficult not being able to tour, play shows, and just be with all our friends in the broader punk community. But we have released our best album to date and the response thus far has been amazing so that’s been a real positive.
Yeah, I’ve seen that reviews were pretty positive so far, but what about the fan reactions?
Bill: Fan reaction has really been positive across the board which has been pretty humbling. We all are really proud of it and felt all along it could be a special record for us. It’s been nice to see people loving it as much as we hoped they would.
Tell me more about the record. How different and crazy was it to wrap it up during the global pandemic and lockdowns all over the world?
Bill: We finished the last day of tracking right before everything shut down so we were quite fortunate on the timing. It’s a very personal record and a lot of the themes we hit on seem appropriate given what we all have been through this past year even though the whole thing was written and recorded before the pandemic became a reality. People have been sending us messages to tell us how much they’ve personally connected with some of the songs which is just awesome to hear.
‘Dreamers’ is a collaborative effort between a few labels, including Canadian Thousand Islands Records, and SBÄM Records here in Europe. How challenging was it to put it all together with all these restrictions around the globe?
Bill: It was a pretty big logistical undertaking but all the labels have been great to work with. Any problems have been quickly resolved and we’re fortunate to be part of such a great team. They all do it for the right reasons and are awesome at it, so that makes it a great experience.
I’ve always thought of your music as tailor-made for live shows, for small sweaty clubs, and sunny summer festivals. How weird is it for you, as a band that cut their teeth in vans and tour buses, to have a record out and not be able to play it in front of people and have that first-hand energy exchange?
Bill: It’s really weird and frustrating. We are just dying to get out there and play all these new songs live but it’s definitely like hurry up and wait. When it does happen, we’ll be more than ready.
Apart from California, it seems like your band has a massive fanbase in Europe and Canada. Do you have any idea of how that happened? How much does it mean to you to know you have people who like your music wherever you go?
Bill: We did a European tour with Good Riddance back in ‘06 and that kind of laid the foundation to return in ‘18 after a long hiatus. Then we went to both Europe and Canada three times each over the course of ‘18 and ‘19 playing multiple large festivals and were able to get a nice fan base going. Honestly, it’s a trip to see people on the other side of the world digging what we’re doing and being as enthusiastic as they are about the music. We’ve made some great friends along the way and really value that.
Your music is often labeled as skate punk, and you don’t try to get away from it. Do you skate and are you involved in the extreme sports scene in any other ways?
Bill: Well I’d say we’re all at least functional on a skateboard but none of us is exactly Tony Hawk or anything. (laughs) Mike is a big snowboarder, I’m an avid surfer, and Davey races speedboats so I’d say there’s definitely a connection to extreme sports.
Do you think that the popularity you have in the skate scene helped you as a band in the past? Do you feel like it helped you to maybe reach some people a bit easier than the traditional music promotion tools?
Bill: It definitely helps because the love of ’90s punk and the skate/surf/snowboard scene is what kinda got the band going. Not sure if it made it easier, but we’ve always hustled pretty hard as a band and never take anything for granted so we try to reach as many people who are open to hearing our music and message.