Arts & Culture

Chaunter Writes An Ode to Baltimore DIY

The local dream-pop duo talks their new star-studded album.

It’s not every day that a brand-new band so quickly captures the sound of its home city, but in the case of Chaunter, you could say these songs have been nearly a decade in the making.

Founded by Station North stalwarts Brooks Kossover, on vocals and flute, and Jenghis Pettit, on guitar, the duo’s debut record, Dream Dynamics, is a celebration of the DIY scene in a Baltimore, and its idiosyncratic spirit is fleshed out by guest appearances from a league of local musical legends. Think electronic artist Dan Deacon, Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring, Lower Dens’ Jana Hunter, guitar-pop group Super City, and rapper 83 Cutlass, to name a few.

Swirling in synth and smoldering with live-wire guitar, the songs harken back to the days when Rolling Stone named Baltimore’s music scene the very best in the country, but the bandmates follow the sound of their own woodwind into a sort of deep, dark, mythical dream world.

Before their release show at the Metro Gallery on March 29, we talked with the duo about friendship, freakwave, and finding inspiration in Baltimore.

How did Chaunter come to be?

Brooks Kossover: Jenghis and I have been friends for a long time, but we really bonded over music. We hit it off over this shared love of prog-rock and you almost never meet anyone, especially our age, who is into, like, Jethro Tull. I specifically remember seeing him in a Rush t-shirt and being like who is this kid? From there, he introduced me to visual kei, this Japanese form of rock from the 1990s that really influenced Chaunter. The music is very thematic and dramatic and not just one particular sound. When you see us live, you know what I mean. We wrote this album and rehearsed it for half a year before ever playing a show.

Anyone from outside of Baltimore might wonder how this brand-new band got all these legendary local musicians on their debut record. But as regulars in the local arts scene, they just so happen to be your friends. How did the album come to be?

BK: It kind of all started with my paintings. In making these large portraits, I met all of these different artists and musicians and ended up collaborating, and even living, with some of them. Putting out music together just felt like the natural next step. . . . I wanted this first album to be a testament to the Baltimore arts scene. We wanted to come out strong like this is who we are, these are our friends, this is Baltimore music, and make as big of an impact as possible. Our first album is a concept album in a weird way. I wanted it to be like waking up in a dream, and in the end, you fall back into reality.

Jenghis Pettit: No matter what the genre is, a lot of the different sounds out that come out of Baltimore have this dreamlike quality to them.

BK: Moving forward, our music will be much more band-driven—Jenghis and me—and later in the year, we’ll be putting out an EP that will have a finer scope that truly defines us. We just want to put out cool songs and hopefully put Baltimore and freakwave on the map.

Ah, freakwave—the new Baltimore genre. Also used by local quintet Super City.

JP: It’s his favorite word. [Laughs.]

BK: Hey, I’ve only said it once this whole interview! [Laughs.] It’s a very performative, melody-driven form of music. Just one of those things you need to see live to really feel the energy of it. I just love the idea of another genre being born out of Baltimore. I know I’m not from here, but I’ve lived here for about eight years now, and it’s changed me so much.

Jenghis, you grew up in West Baltimore. How did you got involved in the DIY music scene?

JP: My freshman year of high school, one of my friends gave me a guitar. I taught myself how to play by sitting and playing along with the radio. I went straight into metal and prog rock. Later on, I was living at Bell Foundry with Qué [Pequeño] and we started the band Melanin Free, which took on a life of its own. Melanin Free is a form of activism for me. After 2015, the Uprising was something I felt I needed to bring into my music. Even in certain places with Chaunter, it comes out in certain ways and I’m not going to try to hide it. It feels good to be able to show my Baltimore and put my two cents in. For me, this first album revolves around old memories from when I first started doing the whole art thing.

Are there any songs that are particularly meaningful to you?

BK: For me, it’s “The Copycat.” Jenghis lives there now, I lived there for a long time, we started [the art gallery] Terrault there. All the time spent in that building, what that building has meant to the city, the music that’s come out of it. I wanted this song, and the first album, to be an ode. I wanted them to be reminiscent of all those different sounds and people and memories and experiences coming together into one place.

JP: It has a lot of backstory. Frank, the superintendent of The Copycat, who is my landlord right now, is featured on the intro as well. It’s just a really good song.

In celebrating the past, where do you find inspiration in this city today?

JP: A few years back, there was a lot of hype, and then it kind of disappeared. But everyone just decided to focus on making good work, and through that, we’re starting to get real, genuine recognition that I think is a lot more sustainable. Looking at friends like Butch [Dawson], Joy [Postell], and Al [Rogers Jr.] putting out these insane projects—it’s just like, alright, I have to really go hard to try to keep up with them. I think if we can all stay together and continue to collaborate, we can make something for ourselves here that can’t disappear.