No Skips: A leisurely stroll through the entirety of Chat Pile’s God’s Country
In our series No Skips, we sit down with an artist or band and go track-by-track through their latest release. For some of us, the banter in a concert where a song gets explained is our favorite thing in the world, and we’d just like to keep living in that. Every song has a story, and these are those stories in the order you’ll encounter them on the record.
Four days into Chat Pile’s latest tour, we called vocalist Raygun Busch on Friday afternoon to talk about their 2022 LP, God’s Country, what movies and music he’s into, how that reflects the band’s music, and much more.
The Pitch: You guys just started your tour on Tuesday?
Raygun Busch: We left on Monday, but yeah, the first show was on Tuesday. We go through the end of September, have all of October off, and then we go back out onto the West coast and work our way back to the Midwest in November. We played in a cave with 100 Gecs yesterday. It was terrific.
How much does Oklahoma City play a role in your music? I lived there during the release of Remove Your Skin Please, but was not aware of you guys until last year.
I like to think it informs what kind of person I am if I lived there. I really try to keep it beyond our city, more regional, lower Southern plains. We definitely have some songs set in Dallas, of course. “Davis” is set in Kansas City, actually. I like to talk about this area of the country in general.
What do you listen to? Do the four of you guys share the same palette or do you differentiate?
My taste is pretty different from most of the guys in the band. We agree on a couple of bands – Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Rage Against the Machine. But that’s pretty much where it ends for all four of us and where we agree on what’s good and what’s bad.
This is so hard, it’s not like I don’t listen to music. You know what I’m listening to right now? I’m super into Kacey Musgraves.
Specifically Golden Hour, I think that album is so, so good. I really like the one right before it, too, Pageant Material. The first album is a little corny for me. There’s something about Golden Hour where she’s really ironed out everything that I had issues with in the previous records. It’s so simple and beautiful. I had never heard it, because it’s not really my thing to listen to that kind of music, but I was shown it a few months ago and I’m super into it right now.
It doesn’t really depend on genre for you? It’s kind of just what you get into during a specific time?
I really like pop music a lot. And I also really like electronic and ambient music, stuff like that. I’m really into texture when it comes to music, in general. I’m very drawn lyrically, or in a mood kind of way, to melancholy. Most of the things I like have a tinge of that in there, even if they aren’t outwardly the most depressing thing ever.
You don’t really listen to stuff in the noise rock genre that Chat Pile associates with?
As a younger man, maybe I did. But not really these days. I’m not really drawn to extremely aggressive stuff. I still listen to Public Image Limited. Being in this band has opened my mind to a lot of heavier bands I never would have heard. I’ve seen some really cool bands that I never really checked out before several times now. Deafheaven is a band I hadn’t listened to before, but now I’ve seen them twice and I love them.
In an interview I saw, you said that “Slaughterhouse” is loosely inspired by the Sausages sketch from The Kids in the Hall. Can you elaborate on this?
That song isn’t really about a specific thing. There was a crime that happened in our city that is sort of an inspiration for it. And also that sketch. To be completely honest with you, I didn’t know what to do with that song. I was writing lyrics for the deal and I wanted for our record to have the most quintessential Chat Pile track ever. So I was really trying to make the most ‘Chat Pile’ Chat Pile song with that one.
We started with [the lyric] “hammers and grease”, and that just sounded badass. That is the only reason why I picked that. A lot of Black Francis’ lyrics from the Pixies he just did because it sounded cool, and then he would change it later. But then he would say “Nah, it sounds good, this is how the song is”. I think he took the inspiration from Marc Bolan in T. Rex, so I am getting it third-hand. But that is just kind of what I was going with for that song.
“If we could fly away” is your Thom Yorke moment? Was this a joke in an interview or do you guys feel like Radiohead influences a bit of everything?
I was not comparing the lyrics, so much as the way I kind of sing that part. When it happened, I was just kind of like “Hey, this is my Radiohead moment here”. If I have one moment where I am kind of singing and doing a thing over the guitar, and the guitars are different in that moment – that is all I meant by that. I don’t mean that I can sing like him or I was trying to sound like him. I am extremely influenced by the way he writes lyrics. They are a really important band to me.
Why “Why”? Why is this a social issue you decided to lean into? And where did some of the specific lyrical moments come from?
I am just kind of seeing, in my city and other cities, shit is just falling apart in real-time basically. The nature of greed is very negatively displayed before us everyday. We have all these big buildings and churches, and more and more people living under the overpass, and more clearly mentally disturbed people just pushed out, walking around the streets. What are we doing? We did not have a lottery for a long time, but now we have one. There is all this promise about where all of that money is going to go. Why are we not helping these people?
So I just wanted to talk about that and wanted to make it as simple as I could, and if people have an issue with it, so be it. You only expose yourself by what you say. I said what I believe. What do you believe? I do not want anybody to live in misery. There is no reason for anybody to live in misery, especially in America. In the world, period.
Most of your tracks are cryptic. Was the idea to go to the complete opposite side of the spectrum for this one?
Yes, absolutely. I was aiming to be blunt on this one.
Slasher movies are an influence on the record, such as in “Pamela.” Were you trying to incorporate a film loosely to show their universal themes? If people haven’t seen the Friday films, they would make no connection here.
With that song, I was not trying to be cryptic. Outside of calling it “Pamela: The Friday the 13th Song”. I do not care if people do not understand what it is and they take some other meaning from it. It is just a story that has been in my head for a long time. What I did with that song is, I took the plot line from the book Beloved by Toni Morrison, and intermingled the two together to kind of make this Friday the 13th fan fiction type song. Ever since I was a little kid, Friday the 13th has just always struck a big chord for me, for whatever reason. The reason why everything is happening in that first movie is like a Greek tragedy or something. It always felt like it had a lot more weight, at least when I was a kid. Now that I am older, it still affects me. I love Betsy Palmer’s (who plays Pamela Voorhees) performance in that movie, and it is one of my all-time favorite movies.
It’s more groovy than other tracks on the record, but erupts with the “resurrect my son” part, which is sort of reminiscent of the “haunt me” part in “Tropical Beaches.” Placing it third was to slow things down a bit before “Wicked Puppet”?
I do not know why we sequenced it number three on the album. We deliberated on it for a long time and it just felt right to be track three on the record. We all like that song a lot and it is good to play live because it is kind of like a chill moment, for some of us at least.
I watched a live set on YouTube where you guys referenced a movie filmed in the town you were playing in between each song. Are movies a big interest and influence for the band?
Everybody in the band loves movies. I definitely do the most. Luther Manhole, Cap’n Ron, and Stin, too; we have all seen a lot of movies and can talk about movies ad nauseam. We just discovered it was fun to find film locations in towns we go to and check them out. The best for me was Salt Lake City. Halloween IV through VI were filmed there, and it is all within a mile radius. It’s beautiful. Silent Night, Deadly Night was filmed around the area, too. It’s kind of fun.
What is your obsession with In a Glass Cage? I hear you mention it quite often.
Have you seen it? [laughs]
I have not.
Agustí Villaronga is the director I believe, he recently passed away. He made another terrific movie called Moon Child. All of his films have been put out by Cult Epics, which is a cool boutique label. I think you can find In a Glass Cage on Shudder or something. It is a rough, crazy movie that is very transgressive and deals with issues that other movies will not deal with. Have you seen Mysterious Skin?
I have heard of it, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt?
Yeah. It is a terrific movie. Both movies are about the effects of sexual abuse on adults – people that have been abused as children and what happens when they grow up.
Are you bringing it up at shows because you just want people to see it?
Yeah, and I am also kind of like “Stop talking to me about McDonald’s.” We are talking about “Grimace [Smoking Weed]” now, [laughs] but we can go back to “Pamela.”
Do you keep up with movies being released today or are you more of a historian?
I keep up with new stuff. I go to the movies all the time. Have you seen Bottoms?
Not yet, I have kind of been off with new movies over the last 12 months.
You should go see it, it is probably one of the funniest movies to go to theaters in the last 10-plus years. It would be good if you went and saw it and it made some money in theaters so they made more good movies, you know. You and your raiders. [laughs]
Will do. Is “Wicked Puppet Dance” difficult to play live? I notice you play it less than other tracks on the record.
It is honestly kind of hard to play. It is the fastest song we have and it is hard to hit those moments. I guess you are telling me we play it the least, but we played it the other night. So it is not like we do not play it.
Can you speak on the soundscape of “Anywhere” and the choice to put it smack-dab in the middle of the album? Whenever I tell people about you guys, I recommend this one first. It has a sort of grunginess that reminds me of Nirvana a bit.
I will take that as a compliment. Because it has that long tale at the end, we wanted it to end side one. That was pretty much decided from the beginning. It could only go one of two places – the end of the record or the end of side one. We had the other crazy one, so we chose the end of side one for this song. The Nirvana comparison I feel. I always kind of feel like that is our REM-ish song. It has moments that kind of jangle. It has got a lot of other stuff going on. I am sure everybody in the band would have their own opinion on what that song sounds like. But I think it has one of the most alt-chorus moments. That’s fair to say.
Was there a shift in focus for the LP? I feel like things are a lot less crazy here and things are a little more political.
I was not trying to be less crazy on the album. “Rainbow Meat” is about guns, too. That is cryptic, for sure. I don’t know, is the narrator of “Slaughterhouse” less crazy than the narrator of “Dallas Beltway”? You tell me. Maybe I am shredding my voice a little less on the record than I am on those EPs. Maybe that is why it seems less insane.
“Tropical Beaches, Inc.” has always been my favorite song on the LP. I know the track is about Don Lapre, but the issue at-hand feels like it can be applied to just about anything that derives a false sense of happiness. Do you like having your songs fully explained on the Internet? “It’s just me / at the gym”, is that about Lapre too?
Yeah, you should read his Wikipedia article. I am cool with having our intentions out there. It is not mine anymore. I saw [Lapre] on TV a bunch when I was a kid. I do not know about you, but growing up was a lot of being alone in front of the TV for me. That guy was just a guy that I remembered [laughs] from being little and watching TV, being a teacher. And then you look up what happened to that guy and the story is a horrible tragedy. And he was also kind of a piece of shit, he was ripping people off. It just seemed like the perfect story about the death of the American dream to tell on our album. Everything is regional on the record except for two things: “Pamela” and that song. But they are both watched on television, so I feel like they are both still regional.
I really like some of the guitar entrances here, especially the one towards the end, after the “haunt me” section. What were some influences musically on this one?
I, as you know, do not play guitar on the record, but I think we kind of view it as our surfy, punkier song compared to anything else. To me it sounds like Dead Kennedys or something like that. Again, I am not the one that wrote that part, though. We wanted to have a variety on the record. I do not know if we all like Dead Kennedys, but we might actually. That is kind of how I view it, at least.
What is “line up the animals” in “The Mask” a reference to?
Nothing. They line up cows, send them to the shoot. That is all it is.
Was that always going to be the line for the part?
Yeah. There was a real crime stockade massacre that happened at Sirloin Stockade in Oklahoma City in the 1970s. One of our best friends, James Cooper, who is a city councilperson, wrote a book that he is working on getting published right now, that is sort of a metafiction In Cold Blood style retelling of those crimes. So I just kind of wanted to pay tribute to him and do another layer of rewriting over it. Doing a version of his version, I guess. That is why we did that song like that.
Is the title a play off your song “Mask” on Remove Your Skin Please? Both songs are much different from each other.
More to come, my friend.
You’re going to keep doing that?
Hell yeah. We like to have a little fun around here, you know? That’s just a little joke.
Explain the idea of including “I Don’t Care if I Burn” on the record, and the placement here at the end. Is it supposed to prepare the listener for the cataclysmic “Grimace_Smoking_Weed.Jpeg”? I understand it was a demo from your side project.
Yeah, I do my own records under Randy Rulz. That was just a song from my album playtime that got cut because it just did not fit. It was too angry and dark. It actually had a bluesy guitar part to it, and it just did not fit on the record. So then I made a kind of ambient noise version of it and when we were talking about doing God’s Country, Stin was asking me if I had anything. We were just asking everybody, what do we have? And I was like “Hey, I have this.” On the Tenkiller soundtrack that we did, we actually did some straight-up noise tracks and it is kind of a carryover from that. I like that kind of stuff. It was fun to have a little flavor of that on the record. It is kind of a weird outlier. Not everybody likes it, but some people love it, you know?
Were all four of you guys advocating to include it? Was there a discussion?
Yeah. I think it was pretty much one-to-two takes, it was pretty easy to get done.
Would you describe your side project as lo-fi?
Yeah, I guess. I do a lot of my recording with phones and tape recorders. I am not opposed to doing it hi-fi, plugging it straight into a deal. I have a little interface, I could just plug it in and do it on GarageBand. I like all kinds of stuff, but going back to textures in music, I like imperfections and stuff like that. They add something to it. I like stuff that is recorded in kind of an avant-garde style.
Do you hate it when people label you into a subgenre, like noise rock or sludge metal?
I don’t hate it at all. People are going to come up with new genres until the Earth explodes. There are like six-to-seven things you can do, and then you just do them differently, with different instruments and different volumes, different tones. But everything is the same. I don’t mind. I think it is fun, somebody called us “death grunge” and that was a lot of fun.
Alright, “Grimace_Smoking_Weed.Jpeg”. It’s a defining achievement for the band, walk me through it. The back half is a challenging listen. How do you want the track to make people feel?
I don’t know. It is, in my opinion, very challenging. But in a good way, I hope. In a still listenable way. If you think it is funny or depressing or whatever – if you are reacting to the music, that is all I can ask for.
Is some of the grimace stuff an attempt at some dark comedy to pull off a more surreal vibe? “I had a question, but not anymore / I try not to at least”?
I feel like in moments of extreme trauma and mania, there is some laughter. And taking a step back and looking at it, it can be absurd and funny, even if it is painful or horrible. The reason why that song exists is because I came up with that title as a joke. We have a master list of titles that we came up with for our first EP that we have used on a lot of stuff. A lot of titles have come from that one list. But that was on there and we all thought it was funny, but unusable for obvious reasons. And I was like “I need to find a way to use this” and also make it our darkest, most serious song somehow. That is kind of what my goal was for that.
How did you guys come up with the back half?
They just presented me with a lot of the slow, unpredictable cadence of the doom, or whatever you would call that segment. There is a demo version and you can find that on YouTube. It came out as a flexi disc. I think I had a little bit of it. It is so long that I just improvised. And then I transcribed what I had done on the demo, and then I did it again, but on the album version it is way longer. It is two takes we did stitched together. I think that is all I wanted to do, I cannot believe I even did two. At the end, when I just start screaming, my thought was “I am just going to start screaming until the fucking song ends”. Truly. That is some real behind the scenes agony.
Do you enjoy playing this one live? I’m assuming you cut it short.
We will never play that back half of that song, unless we do a legacy thing where we play the whole album. The beginning part of the song is three-and-a-half minutes, and then we always segue into either “Face” or “Mask”. Maybe we did some other song, too. But when we play “Grimace”, that is how we end it. We just go into a different song.
That’s all I have, I’m excited for the show!
Lawrence is kind of a magical little town. I went on a little vacation with my ex one weekend. We had such a freaking good time. Whoa, we almost got killed by a sleeping semi who was reading a book. What was I talking about? We just had a fun time. There was a cool movie theater there, cool record store, great book store. It was fun, I like Lawrence a lot. I love a good college town. There is just something that puts me at ease in a college town. I am looking forward to that show, it will be fun.
Chat Pile plays the Bottleneck on Saturday, September 30, with Nerver and Nightosphere. Details on that show here.