MIDDLEBURY — As children, three members of the band Chamberlin enjoyed playing on Middlebury’s gazebo during the town’s annual Festival on-the-Green, often entirely unaware of the music being played. This year, they came back to play again — this time on the stage.
Middlebury Union High School graduates Mark Daly ’04, Eric Maier ’04 and Ethan West ’05 performed at Festival on-the-Green on Monday night with their band Chamberlin, a homecoming show that Maier, the band’s keyboardist, said was a special experience.
“When you’re younger and you’re running around, watching people play up there, you definitely aren’t expecting to come back and play there yourself,” he said. “It was really cool.”
Daly said for him, the event was nostalgic.
“I’ve had the image of the (blue) banner and the text engraved in my memory since I was a kid, seeing the Festival live or on TV,” Daly said. “Actually being up there was really special.”
Chamberlin started taking shape in the winter months of 2010, when Daly (lead vocals and rhythm guitar) and West (lead guitar) — members of different bands in high school — decided to start a band after playing acoustically together as the “Goshen Ramblers.” Maier, who played with Daly in high school as part of the band Pale Moon, was a natural addition. By June of 2010 the group was complete, adding UVM graduates Chuck Whistler on bass and Jamie Heintz on drums.
Middlebury’s yearly celebration of music is far from the biggest venue the Vermont natives have played. In January 2011, Chamberlin embarked on a 30-day, 20-show tour across the country with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (GPN) — another rising Vermont band — whose guitarist, Scott Tournet, had produced the band’s debut album Bitter Blood for the San Diego-based recording label Roll Call Records.
Maier said the band was thrilled to get an opportunity to tour with such experienced and talented rockers as GPN.
“We kinda knew them a little bit already through Scott Tournet,” said Maier, “but we really built on that (on tour). They were so nice to us … they took us under their wing, showed up the ropes and all that.”
The tour started in Cincinnati, before heading north to Vancouver, Canada and then down the west coast of California. They then headed back to the Midwest and ended their tour in Kansas City. Along the way, they got the chance to play in some legendary venues, including The Fillmore in San Francisco.
“We all kinda felt a definite … magic there,” said Maier. “You walked in the door and you can feel it. It’s hard to describe.”
Nevertheless, the band was excited to return home to their roots — despite doing much of their writing and rehearsing in a cabin in Goshen, Chamberlin’s relationship with Tournet and GPN has led to them performing fewer shows in Vermont than in many cities across the Midwest and west coast.
“It was great to play for people like Gene Childers and Anne Severy,” said Maier, speaking of his, West and Daly’s middle school and high school band teachers (Childers and Severy, respectively). “(They) educated us and were really influential in pushing us along.”
West agreed that the sheer number of people they knew in the crowd made it a special performance.
“We always love playing for our friends and families, and at the Festival on-the-Green we got to play for so many people we know,” said West.
Still, the chance to play in numerous different venues was invaluable for the band’s growth. Asked how they have grown as a band and as musicians, Maier cited the tour with GPN as a major influence.
“GPN bring a true performance every night,” said Maier. “The music is the focus, but they are also great entertainers in every aspect of the word.”
Daly agreed that Chamberlin has learned much from GPN’s example.
“Seeing how hard they work and how much energy they put into performing every night (showed us the importance) of giving it your all every night, no matter the circumstance.”
For West, perhaps the most valuable lesson was how to interact with fans.
“Every fan matters,” he said, “and it’s worth staying late to meet people who like our music.”
The past year and a half has seen the band evolve both personally and musically.
“We have changed, I think, in how we do it,” said Maier. “We’ve matured a little as musicians. So that we go into it with a little bit more of an idea of what we want to do, and a little more planning.”
Chamberlin has yet to get back into the studio to record a follow up to their 9-song debut, but they are constantly working on new material. They played one new song, “Is It Me?,” in Middlebury on Monday. The song has Maier splitting time between keyboard and a snare drum, where he and Heintz play a call-and-response type rhythm throughout the song. For Maier, the challenge of the song makes it his favorite to perform.
“I get to do a lot of different stuff,” said Maier. “Once I figured out how to keep all those (parts) straight, (it became) probably the most fun for me to do just because there are all these different parts throughout the song.”
Although Chamberlin is currently in Colorado playing two more shows with GPN — they embarked on the 36 hour drive the same night as their Festival on-the-Green performance, after staying for a bit to chat with the crowd — they will be back in Vermont later this summer, playing at the Grand Point North music festival on the Burlington Waterfront on August 13 and 14. Other artists at the festival include GPN, Augustana, Anais Mitchell & the Hadestown Orchestra, Rubblebucket, and the Wood Brothers.
In late August and early September, Chamberlin will be on tour with the band Carbon Leaf, revisiting some of the same venues that they hit with GPN this past winter.
Though they haven’t picked a date yet, they are planning to return to Vermont in September for a show at Higher Ground in South Burlington, where they have performed once before.
It is unclear what the future holds for Chamberlin, but the band is excited to continue their growth and evolution in both the short and long term.
Said Daly, “I’m excited to ... continue to grow our repertoire and gel as a band, (and) to potentially have the opportunity to play with other bands we like and are influenced by.”
Maier is excited to return to the studio, which he says is in the band’s near future.
“I’m looking forward to going through the process of recording another album,” he said, “it’s fun and a little crazy.”
West is simply enjoying the ride and the music, and hopes that it keeps happening for them in the coming year and beyond.
This time next year, he said “I hope we’re still meeting new people and sharing our music.”
Reporter Ian Trombulak is at [email protected]