Photo courtesy of Jabari Flemings

Chastity’s Brandon Williams talks touring, the suburbs and inequality

By Troy Hasselman, November 5 2019 —

Chastity — the Whitby, Ontario-based, emo-indebted noise band — is hard at work. Little over a year after the release of their debut album Death Lust, the band has already released a follow-up in Home Made Satan — the second album of a planned trilogy. The group has toured relentlessly, opening for Indie rock notables such as PUP, Protomartyr, Fucked Up, Alexisonfire and, most recently DIIV, who they joined for a North American tour. The band is not taking any time off from the road however and are currently undertaking a Canadian tour that will bring them through Calgary.

While Western Canada — especially during this time of year — has a reputation as a difficult place to tour, Chastity frontman Brandon Williams is excited for the upcoming shows. Preferring the cold of Canada to the scorching heat of driving through the American Southwest in the summertime and seeing shades of his home town of Whitby in some of the smaller prairie cities.

“It’s different for sure than Europe or the Northeastern US. But going from Phoenix to Austin, which we’ve done in July and it was 46 degrees celcius out and a 15-hour drive,” Williams says. “I prefer going through the mountains to the heat and I think it’s going to be kind of comfortable. Canada just feels comfier because it’s where we’re from and it’s kind of nice visiting these places. I get a good feeling from the middle of Canada like Winnipeg and Saskatoon. It reminds me of where I grew up, in a smaller place. Getting out to B.C, I’ve got family and friends there. Ontario bands say that going across Canada is the tour that breaks up bands because it’s a massive country. We’re committed to doing this and building this in Canada and reaching the kids these songs were written for.”

Williams’ hometown of Whitby has had an incalculable impact on Chastity’s music. Their music is inspired by the homogeneity of suburban towns and the lack of spaces for kids interested in creative pursuits as opposed to sports. 

“I think there’s some isolationism in Whitby and these smaller towns that have shaken a different perspective out of me and I think a part of that is frustration. There’s a homogenous, hockey player, monoculture. Whitby has 10 hockey areas and zero all-ages venues,” Williams says. “It’s challenged me to really make my connections personally, socially and culturally, not in my local community but on the internet. I think it’s forcing me to read and learn about these places outside of my hometown. There’s also the influence of Toronto being a train ride away and going there. Whitby is also where Protest the Hero and K-OS are from. I owe some credit to a teacher named Mrs. Rogers who taught all of us in drama class and showed us some values in performance and expression and vulnerability.”

There’s a wide breadth of influences on Chastity’s work, including Swedish punks Refused, who Williams’ saw an outsider kinship with and baroque signer-songwriter Fiona Apple, who inspired the personal nature of Williams’ lyrics.

“Refused are from Umeå in Sweden, which isn’t Stockholm or a major city. I felt like ‘Wow, they did something out of this otherwise obscure town, even further removed from American culture than Whitby and Canada just north of America and they made it happen globally from a town in Sweden.’ I think the Shape of Punk to Come inspired me to start from there,” Williams says. “I think too, the songwriting of Fiona Apple, the brutal honesty of her lyrics inspired me to put my poems to songs, which is what I hear her songs as well. They’re so poetic and sharp, I really looked up to that and wanted to start on my own music and words.”

While Williams’ lyrics are still highly personal on Home Made Satan, they are also much more explicitly political. On the album Williams takes aim at poverty, cops and Canada’s political leadership amongst others in a work that shows the intertwined nature of the personal and political. Williams says these lyrics drew inspiration from the massive inequality the band witnessed during their time touring the United States last year. 

“Oftentimes we would play in city centres and drive out of the city after the show to try and find cheaper hotels. There’s this stark difference in income equality between the city centre and the outskirts — it’s drastic. We would stop for gas and it would be trailer park towns, it’s the America you don’t see in the movies. You see these shiny cities and you drive ten or 15 minutes outside and you see racial segregation and income inequality and really brutal isolationism. It shook me and confirmed some of my suspicions about neoliberalism and the emboldening of certain oppressive groups. It motivated a sharper, political stance and it reflected in the lyrics.”

This time in the United States has also made Williams reflect on the problems that we face here in Canada and made him call into question just how progressive of a country Canada really is.

“Canada sees itself as a progressive country, which is a sort of sham. There’s so much work to do and I don’t really think it’s useful to rest yourself on the complacency of a smiling Justin Trudeau. One-in-six children are food insecure and don’t know where they’re next meal is coming from, that’s a massive number. Even if I don’t see it in my daily life in Whitby or Toronto, that doesn’t mean it’s not there or doesn’t need to be talked about. Giving that a platform is especially important right now. I want to hopefully be a small part of that work and mobilize young people to start to work towards a better future.”

Chastity will play The Rec Room on Nov. 8 with supporting act Witch Victim. Advance tickets are $12 and door tickets will cost $15. Tickets are available through the Rec Room website.


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