When Andrea Simler DeGolier and her husband relocated to Cincinnati from Buffalo, N.Y., in 1996, she left behind the successful regional band Kama Sutra and a burgeoning scene. After several projects that didn’t quite gel, DeGolier decided in late 2007 to take one last stab at putting together a Cincinnati band.
“It took a long time to find people who wanted to play something different, a little heavier and more eclectic,” DeGolier says over beers and snacks at her Madeira home. “I put an ad in the paper. It was like, ‘C’mon, we’ve got to find people that want to do the same thing.’ ”
DeGolier’s classified ad interested drummer Steve Klosinski, and quickly the pieces fell into place. Klosinski invited guitarist Bill Menke, DeGolier brought in cellist/keyboardist/vocalist Patrice Schlick, a musician since fourth grade who had discussed forming a band with DeGolier but was simply too busy.
“I couldn’t pursue music, which is my passion, because my job was too demanding; then I got notice I was going to be let go,” says Schlick, also a model/actress currently filming a feature entitled The Black Dove. “It was perfect timing.”
Schlick in turn introduced bassist Jeff Conner to the group, and guitarist Mark Szabo offered his services soon after. Within weeks, DeGolier had assembled Chakras, the band she had envisioned for years.
“As many directions as we’re pulled in, as many reasons as we have not to focus on this, we still find the time and energy because it’s a catalyst and it’s pulling itself forward,” Conner says. “Not to hyperbolize, but in a momentous way, it’s just a solid musical statement, and once you’re a part of it, you get wrapped up. It’s like a snowball going down a hill; you don’t stop, you go along for the ride until you hit a tree.”
“I sought the band out because of its eclecticism,” Szabo says. “The band takes music in so many different directions.
Like Trice’s cello and keyboards, it flips Hard Rock on its head. That’s what got me thinking that this band is really cool. That and Andrea’s voice is just stratospheric.”
In Eastern spiritual terms, chakras are points of power within the body. Given their varied governing influences, Chakras is the perfect appellation for the sextet, all veterans of several local outfits (Hollowpoint, Gravy 8, Spiff, Kohai and Pale Beneath the Blue among them). Filtering their love of disparate but connected bands like Tool, Bad Religion, Dream Theater, Tori Amos, Corrosion of Conformity, Kings X and Queensryche through their own unique chemistry results in a sound that slams with Hard Rock’s bombast, lulls with Folk/Pop and Prog’s subtlety and shreds with Metal’s intensity. Almost since its formation, Chakras poured its collective heart and soul into the debut album Cedric, released back in June.
“In a Hard Rock milieu, we’re a broad spectrum of sounds and influences and we get a broad reception,” Conner says. “The Punk guy listens to a Bill riff and goes, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ The Prog guy listens to a cello breakdown with Mark harmonizing and goes, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ The Alice in Chains fan hears Steve and I syncing up on a back groove and goes, ‘That’s cool, and there’s an opera chick ... that’s awesome!’ ”
“Bill challenges me to play in places I’ve never played before,” Szabo says. “I think I challenge Steve to play like he’s never played. Like the song ‘999’ — it’s so heavy, Andrea’s typical melodic approach didn’t work so she tried something brutal and it coalesced.”
The band recorded over the course of two years at Ashley Shepherd’s Audio Grotto — DeGolier’s firm, Heliotrope Designs, helped appoint Shepherd’s studio — and the album was in process when Menke’s 8-year-old son Cedric collapsed at school and was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which required surgery but thankfully was benign.
“Everything was on hold initially, but it happened quickly,” Menke says. “The period where it was really scary was short. The band really rallied around me, though. It was a tough time, but everybody helped me through and that was awesome.”
Cedric’s courage and determination was so inspirational that the band named the album after him in tribute. In fact, Chakras exhibits many of the same qualities as their album’s namesake: courage in pursuing a Hard Rock/Prog/Metal direction that isn’t particularly pervasive locally and the determination to seek a fan base within and beyond Cincinnati, particularly by making fans of out-of-town bands and their audiences.
For now, Chakras will mix occasional local gigs with more frequent regional dates as they continue to support Cedric (which has been selling well and garnering great reviews), explore their myriad influences in new material and continue to pursue the odd acoustic booking (which Szabo characterizes as “a different flavor of intense”). The things that the band learned from recording Cedric are being applied to their new songs, exposing new facets of Chakras’ creativity every step of the way.
“There’s a song we call ‘The Dawson’s Creek Song,’ ” DeGolier says with a laugh. “We can get in a groove and write a Pop song, and nobody would think it was the same band.”
“Our lightest song would be a lot of bands’ most driving song, so at Chakras’ level of a full energy set, you don’t have a moment where you’re thinking, ‘This is the time to get a beer,’ ” Conner says. “We want you focused on us the entire time we’re up there.”
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