Music is serious business. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean the music itself has to be serious.
Chrome Rhino, a local four-piece, write songs like “I Love You But I Know You’re a Robot” and “Zombie Vision.” They like to wear outlandish clothing on stage — sometimes even costumes. (It remains to be seen what they’ll wear on Saturday, August 14, during their show at The Rebel Lounge.)
“The subject matter invites a bit of escapism,” says guitarist James Taylor. They encourage listeners “to be a little bit silly, go along with these ideas they wouldn’t normally go along with, and just enjoy the ride.”
The band calls their music “shiny and dangerous,” and cites Electric Light Orchestra and Queen as influences.
“It’s pop sensibility with a slick sheen” — melodic, but with a rock heaviness, says bassist Travis Prillaman.
“I Love You But I Know You’re a Robot” serves some ’80s beep-boops and a pop hook; “Swamp Daddy,” about the Creature from the Black Lagoon, has more of a blues sound. “Soma Holiday” has got touches of acid rock.
The beginnings of the band go back to Virginia; Taylor, who had just moved from England, met bassist Travis Prillaman in high school. The friends moved out to Arizona after graduation to go to recording school, where they met keyboardist Jared Michael. (All three of them handle vocals.) In 2019, they started Chrome Rhino.
“Travis approached me and said ‘Hey, I’ve got a whole bunch of songs that I’ve been writing, and we want to get a group together to basically add some keys and add some drums and really get some solid recording,” Michael says. “We started playing some of the songs and it became clear that it was going to be a lot more than that. We almost immediately started writing songs together.”
Michael, Prillaman, Taylor, and their former drummer recorded the band’s album, I Think They’re After Me, and played a handful of shows before the pandemic hit. By the time the album was released in March 2021, they also had a new drummer, Jay Ryan.
The songwriting process is collaborative, Taylor says. “It’s certainly my perception that we’ve all brought something to the table, and it really is quite an equal meld of different styles and different elements. If everyone feels like they have a stake in the song, they’ll bring their best ideas to the table, and it kind of incentivizes that. You’re encouraged to bring whatever you feel is necessary to the song as well.”
Now that concerts are back, Chrome Rhino can get down to doing what they love best.
“We love, love, love, playing live. So just being able to play shows again is the most cathartic, amazing experience ever,” Prillaman says.
Taylor says, “Everyone is really in the mood to go out. Everyone wants that escapism. The energy level seems very heightened going out to the shows now, I think.”
Besides putting on a good show, the band aims to make every concert one-of-a-kind.
“We’ve also kind of made a point as we go along to bring something new every show,” Michael says. “At just about every show we’ve done, and the plan is for every show in the future, we’re going to bring at least one new cover that we haven’t played live before, and add little twists and turns that are unique to that show. That’s not something I’ve been able to do with a group before, and it’s really cool to be with a group of musicians that can pull it off and want to pull it off. We want everyone to have a whole bunch of FOMO when they miss one of our shows.”
So while they haven’t said what special touches they’re bringing to the show at The Rebel Lounge, it probably isn’t something to be missed.
“We don’t like people to know where it’s going to go,” says Taylor. “Will it be glamorous and bright and colorful or will we go dark and crushing? We want people to walk into every show not knowing where we’re going to go with it, and put people in a separate world where they’re not thinking about anything else.”
Chrome Rhino. In support of Wyves, Harper and The Moths, and Celebration Guns. Doors 7 p.m., show 8 p.m. Saturday, August 14. The Rebel Lounge, 2303 East Indian School Road. Tickets are $13 plus fees. Visit the Rebel Lounge website.