Feeling Different; An interview with Chet Vincent of The Big Bend

The Big Bend is led by Chet Vincent, whohas been kicking around Pittsburgh playing in bands since he was a teenager. A regular fixture of the city’s quietly thriving music scene, he’s established a reputation as one of the city’s most dedicated figures. Celebrate is The Big Bend’s fourth release, and has the hallmarks of a career milestone, calling to mind early-‘70s Neil Young in its songwriting, with sonic elements straight out of Abbey Road-era Beatles, and vocals reminiscent of The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle.
The album shows the band’s dynamic range; rowdier tunes to lilting crooning reminiscent of The Weakerthans’ John K. Samson on the softer songs. He’s always been a storyteller, weaving characters and situations into songs, but here he takes on social issues, both obliquely and directly.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Vincent to discuss the album and this is what he told us about his inspiration, Pittsburgh and his loftiest goals.
Was there a moment when you realized your affinity for songwriting was something you should pursue as a public performer?
There was no single moment when I realized I wanted to be a songwriter or performer — songwriting has always been the aspect of music that interested me the most. So I started writing songs pretty much the moment I started playing music, and I think looking for opportunities to collaborate with other people to improve and perform those songs is a natural process.
Where do you find your primary inspiration as a singer-songwrighter?
It’s still kind of a mystery to me, the things that will inspire a song. Pretty much anything can end up being a song, I think it’s just the way I tend to process life’s events. I find I’ll be thinking about a particular topic a lot, or I’ll get a phrase or riff stuck in my head. Then one day while playing guitar it becomes a song. It’s a fairly unpredictable process which can be frustrating — but when it does happen it’s a pretty awesome feeling.
Do you believe it was risky to record and engineer the record yourself?  Was the label supportive of this decision?
I didn’t feel it was a risky choice at all. This is our second album we’ve recorded ourselves, so we already knew it was something we could pull off. In many ways recording ourselves was a less risky approach because it saved us tons of money that would have been otherwise spent on a studio, and allowed us total creative control over our project. I am lucky to be in a band that has members with recording experience (and recording gear) to allow for us to approach albums this way. Our label, Misra Records, is very supportive and allows us to approach our project however we want, which is really awesome.

Do you feel a bit unsung as you are heading into a support cycle for your fourth record or are you exactly where you should be?
I don’t feel particularly unsung. Of course it would be nice to be more famous and all, but it seems like there are lots of excellent/deserving bands in every city making really great music these days. I’m pleased that we are in a position to be able to make the music we want, and have an audience that will listen to our projects. Of course we will keep trying to get our music out to as many people as possible!
How does the record differ from your previous efforts?
Our last record was more of a moody, dark rocker. I wanted this one to have a different vibe to it, to be kind of a counterpoint to the last one. Since this is our second self recorded project, we decided to take some more production risks than we did on the last one. I like every project to have a different feel to it.
Do you feel like Pittsburgh has a community that nurtures the kind of art you make?
I find Pittsburgh to be a very supportive city for music! There is so much here for musicians to take advantage of — lots of venues to play, a number of well-attended and welcoming open mics to try out songs and meet people, and radio stations that support local artists. You can pretty much be into any kind of music here and find a crowd that will dig it.
What has Misra done to nurture you as an artist?
We came to Misra via Wild Kindess Records, which was a regional label owned by Misra’s new general manager Jeff Betten. Wild Kindness was the first label we ever signed to, and Jeff has been exceptionally supportive of our music. He has nurtured our band by helping us figure out all the behind the scenes stuff that’s important to getting your music into the world.
What does the band have planned in terms of a touring cycle for the record?
We are currently planning some touring for the fall and winter. We will be doing some trips with the bands, and I will be doing some solo/acoustic touring as well! We will be announcing tour dates soon!
What are your loftiest goals as an artist?
To continue to make even better albums! Although it’s not really an “artistic” goal, I would love to play on one of the late night shows someday.
(Purchase the LP here: http://www.misrarecords.com/products/chet-vincent-the-big-bend-celebrate.)