State To State: An Interview With Chisme

From San Antonio, TX to Seattle, WA, the bond remains strong for the duo who have spent years honing its skill allowing it to translate seamlessly through its music, which never strays far from freshly modernized Boom-Bap stylings with an earful of melody filtering into songs obviously capturing any listener’s attention. Recording and releasing material for the good part of the last decade, Chisme has exemplified the classic lineup of DJ/Producer and free-flowing Emcee. Erick “Progeny” Frias creates the thick beats filled with heavy drum patterns while Ariel “R.E.L.” Faz wraps words around each one of those concocted efforts.

R.E.L., who had been making music since the turn of the century with his project ASTEX, met Progeny back in 2010. Crossing paths at one another’s shows throughout the years led R.E.L. to purchase an MPC from him. The two quickly became friends and soon after, Progeny was handing over beats to check out. It may have taken a good 6 months before R.E.L. got back to him with just a couple of songs he had worked on but things began to roll out from that point on. R.E.L tells me, “That was the beginning of the Storytellers album (2011).” Fast forward and Chisme continues to drop material with its fifth release, Still Breathing E.P. (Acquired Taste Preferred / Fake Four / Concuss). It’s a 20-minute collection of songs the duo recorded over the course of a 3-year span, split between recording in San Antonio and Seattle. Chisme won’t be sitting on its laurels, as they plan on hitting the road in support of the release. I caught up with the duo to talk about the new release and what the future holds for Chisme. I’m never one to gossip but you may be hearing it first here.

So you guys finally dropped a new album? Was it one of those “the time is now” moments and your schedules just aligned well together? I mean, You guys are seriously separated by a good 2000 miles or so.

Progeny- Indeed we did on Jan 3rd, 2020. We released our EP, Still Breathing. The time felt right and we had a deadline to finish this EP. I mean we hadn’t put anything out in a good minute as well. Due to my move up to Seattle. R.E.L. had come up to listen to the mixes I had been doing for our EP. One final listen to make sure it’s ready for mastering. It does make it difficult for us to work on music together because all the other Chisme music we worked on, it was all done in my studio and we always worked together. 

R.E.L. – Yeah. It was a now or never type of thing. We have been in contact a lot. I travel up there quite a bit to play shows and to record and kick it. We played a sold-out milo show in Portland a year or so ago.  Anyways, Erick makes a yearly pilgrimage to see family for the holidays. He always sets up a show. This time I was like, let’s finish the album and make the show a release party. It was as simple as that. 

We already had a bunch of stuff recorded. We just need to clean it all up. So I flew out there in November to put the finishing touches on it. We like to be in the same room when we are finishing up a project. 

Both of you live in two different states now, give me a little history on when and how that happened.

R.E.L. – On one of our tours, I think with ‘Geti and Ceschi, Erick had an opportunity to move to Seattle live rent-free and just make music. I’m pretty sure that was the deal he was offered. Lol. He always loved Nirvana, so It was a no brainer. He ended up moving not long after the tour. Our DJ EZ Dave drove with him out there.

Progeny – Yes I moved up to Seattle about 2 and half years ago or maybe 3(?) I had an opportunity to do this move and it was provided by my good friend Rob Castro. I remember being on tour with Ceschi and Serengeti and we were in Denver with Sole. And I had talked to them about it and they said “You should definitely do it. What’s the worst that could happen? You don’t like it. You could always move back home if you don’t like it.” So that made me sum up my decision. Along with other things that were going through my life. I’ve always wanted to move to Seattle since I was a kid too. I grew up listening to Nirvana a lot. And all the other grunge music as well like Tad, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, etc… so here I am now.

Tad I think is still doing something, I think. Mudhoney released an album last year. It was pretty good. Any of that affects your own music?

Progeny – I don’t think Tad is doing anything anymore. I believe they called it quits in 1999. I know the lead singer does stuff under his own name, Thomas Andrew Doyle, and has a recording studio here in Seattle. Mudhoney is still active. they put out that record last year and are still touring these days. I hope to catch them in May at the Crocodile. But to answer your question, Yes. 90s grunge was a big part of my youth. And I try to incorporate that in my music.

I first met you guys back in 2018, touring with Ceschi, Factor Chandelier, and Sammus. I heard the Chisme name tossed around and the most current thing you guys had out was the 2016’s Nada Tengo (Fake Four Inc.) release. I was kind of hesitant about tossing that in the deck on my drive afterward but you guys already know I had texted Graham (Factor) and told him y’all brought that fire with you to the desert. 

R.E.L.– Yeah, after the Fake Four release, our intention was to drop another right away. But that’s when Erick moved and it took a while to figure out how to make it work for recording. We work better together and the product is always better when are in the same room. So that took some getting used to. 

During that time.  I started a project with a local producer Bryan Hamilton. I’ve worked with him since my ASTEX days. I banged out a short E.P. over the last year and released in on my own label Acquired Taste Preferred in July.  He makes really fun soulful sample-heavy boom-bap beats. A little different from what Erick does. I played a few TX shows in support of the release. It got a better response than I anticipated. The limited-edition cassette is just about sold out. I’m saving some for a proper tour. 

Speaking about other projects, I was checking my email and I found a Dropbox link that I never opened. Sometimes I’ll miss emails like this one. It was an album you sent me directly, that Summer Heat last summer. I guess that’s the release you’re referring to. It definitely varies from your work with Erick. The soulfulness does have that breezy summer feel. Just an observation. 

R.E.L.– Yeah, that’s the one. Bryan is a kind of weird/peculiar guy. He is a Krishna monk who runs his own temple. He doesn’t drink or smoke; he barely has any free time. (He) doesn’t ever go to shows or anything. But he makes crazy dope beats! I’ve got a new project that I’m working on with a bunch of different producers too. It’s called 10 minutes of music. 

Progeny – I work in multiple projects with different artists. Such as Ghost Palace, hERON, Big Kids Run, Bird Diver, Soultru and helping my SATX friends out as well. I did all the beats on Apaso’s EP that just came out early this year. I finished a project with SB the Moore about a year or 2 ago but has never been released. It will this year for sure, and on (cassette) tape. Right now what I’m working on is my first solo album that will be drop later this year. I am also working and finishing up the new Ghost Palace which we have a video for already and the E.P. that will come with the vinyl as well. hERON has an album completed already and our good homie, SmokeM2D6, is taking care of the mixing and mastering for that. I signed with a record label at the beginning of this year with Soultru, it’s with The Record Machine, based out of Kansas. I will start production really soon on that. But yeah, after I get off of work I get busy on music and all these projects. It’s overwhelming but in the end, I get to practice and more knowledge in mixing and hearing what I want to hear and trying to make it my own sound. I really hope I get to make another Big Kids Run album with my good friend Barfly. That was some of the best work I’ve ever produced. And Bird Diver is just a whole different thing that will come out later this year as well with my homie Jason Holm (j.0hm) 

R.E.L., I assume your joint is going to be 10 minutes long?

R.E.L. – Yeah. It’s a 10-minute mixtape. With a 10 minute video to accompany it and a limited run for cassettes that include instrumentals. I’m going to drop an episode every 4 months. 1st episode is with the filthy fingers United producer conglomerate out of the Pacific Northwest. Followed by a Chisme screwed and chopped mix by EZ Dave. Drops on 420 lol. 

Let’s get back to the new release, Still Breathing. Was there a certain inspiration behind it? Was there a general theme? 

Progeny – The way I went on the production for this EP, I worked from a more psyche-rock, sample base and hit it with layered Boom Bap drums and drum-breaks. All these beats were made in San Antonio before I moved to Seattle also. Except for “When I Return.” All the beats I make I’m either going through something, thinking too much of a what is going on in my mind, or pondering on an idea. I call these beats “Sad Bangers.” Each beat I make always has a feeling behind it. I want the listener to take an emotional ride on something they’ve been through or going through like a nostalgic feeling or Dèjá Vu experience they’ve had and beyond. Once R.E.L. adds his lyrics it becomes a whole new track.

R.E.L. – The album itself is a piece of abstract art. Erick likes to use the term “psychedelic.” I really just wanted to make something that pushed our boundaries and limitations as a group. I wanted to make an EP that was more musical, with more songs that were more than just raps and hooks. We wanted CHISME to show some growth while we were gone. Surprisingly, our live show got better some too! We’ve been doing this for some time now and the experience is starting to show. 

Artwork: Your album covers are quite fascinating. How do you conceptualize those? Still Breathing is reminiscent of that Grateful Dead logo; that just comes to mind because I’ve always seen it and wish I could delete it from my memory. But even with Nada Tengo, the insects crawling over your name, and then even release a video of the live visualization of it, that creeped me out.

R.E.L. – Lol. We are fortunate enough to work with some great visual artists to help bring the music to life. David Jaguttis aka 319heads, out of Austin, is an amazingly talented artist who works with a bunch of indie artists all over the globe. We were introduced by Ceschi after a show in Austin. He is a Canadian, who lives in Austin, who knows Factor from way back. We always crash at his spot after shows. We give him the music ahead of time to marinate on, and he always knocks it out of the park. He did the album art for Summer Heat too. Everyone was loving the animations. We still get comments on the ants for Nada Tengo

Where do you guys go from here? Logistically I’m sure it’s tough but are you hitting the road as well?

R.E.L. – Well that’s a great question. There are a few tracks that didn’t make it onto the Still Breathing record, one with Ceschi and Barfly, one with Third Root, and some others. Those will be on the next one. In the meantime, I will be in the Pacific Northwest in April to record and play a few shows as CHISME. I’ll also be playing a few shows in New York at the end of May in support of the album too. 

Until then I am working on the 10 Minutes of Music that I’m going to drop one every 4 months like I mentioned, produced by the beat conglomerate Filthy Fingers United.