Chrono Man: The Making of a Space Opera
May 1, 2013: The time was 11 p.m. the first night I saw Chrono Man. Aimed for St. Charles, it blasted through the night in search of a cozy little domicile called the Milk Shed. Situated a stone's throw from Lindenwood University, the Milk Shed is the home of Eric Peters.
At 22, Peters is still the kid who operates with constant pressure on the accelerator. Everything he says is propelled at you with the inviting force of a hilarious headline. It is Peters who calls on April 22, rabid, with a feverish excitement for something he dubs "secret."
The response seems obvious: "When is the first practice?"
Parked outside the Milk Shed, I thought about what Peters' definition of a rock opera could be. I had mine: the Who's Tommy, Pink Floyd's The Wall. What had Brumley schemed up? His background is jazz, and Volcanoes avoids music theory. I walked up to the front porch and heard muscular rock & roll as it battled upward from the basement. Letting myself in, I was intercepted by the sound of a synthesizer in Van Halen mode. In the key of "Jump" it swept across the living room floor like a snake on desert sand.
As I turned to close the door, the face I saw was the portrait of Eduardo Estevez. His skin was the texture of stucco, and its orange color was brushed with brown. The painting had been doctored. A mustache was penned to his upper lip. It looked suspiciously French. There was a messy boy's bedroom to the right, and a messy boy's bedroom to the left. The kitchen light that illuminated the stairs to the basement burned a white-yellow. One-step, two-step, many steps. The cheerful faces of Educated Guess' Charlie Brumley, Jon Ryan and Peters of Volcanoes screamed "Hello" and pulled in for hugs.
Later, Chris Phillips of Bear Hive would arrive, Brumley's lyrics in tow. Phillips, a man with a soap bubble's innocence and effervescence, added new-wave dramatics. He channeled David Bowie's enigmatic coo and added a chilled-out, detached lilt to his vocals. Still, his voice was large. Soon, tracks like "Imposter" evolved from a self-aware cry for war to into an anthem for spotting nefarious aspects in one's life.
"I'd met Chris on a handful of occasions. He's such a good dude and has been a wonderful addition to Chrono Man," states Brumley. "Originally, Eric was going to both sing and play drums but elected to focus on one or the other. He suggested Chris for the part of Chrono Man. It's been a perfect fit." Bespectacled and mature, Brumley's wit and knack for managing the manic energy of Peters and company became a pleasure to watch. Adorned every practice in a cut-off shirt that boasted a pod of orcas across the chest, the genius behind Chrono Man was an endearing figure in the chaotic and fun practice times. It makes sense why he appreciated Phillips joining the cast. "He's not only talented vocally, but brings so much enthusiasm and energy to the room, never afraid to offer a few kind words of encouragement. That goes a long way."
The Milk Shed was the second home, and first practice space of Chrono Man. Its first home was within the walls of Charlie Brumley's mind. "The impetus for Chrono Man began with An Under Cover Weekend Six when I was invited to play with Volcanoes as the Killers," Brumley says. "Volcanoes has such an intense sound. I'd heard something in their performance that I hadn't heard from Volcanoes before, and as both a challenge to myself and an exercise in our friendship, decided to write a project in the vein of 'Volcanoes as the Killers.'"
"It's much more dense, layered and coherent. All of the songs have a chord structure, which is lacking from basically everything Volcanoes has ever done," explains Ryan. "It lets us be the rhythm section rather than the main focus, but at the same time there are parts of it that are really bass and drum driven and similar to Volcanoes music." Peters welcomed the idea of being Brumley's bandmate. Brumley's compositions allowed Peters to flex other percussive muscles. "Most people consider me a straightforward power drummer, but I have a big background in jazz and almost every other style of drumming. It is a chance to showcase my versatility as a drummer."