The Chapman Family: The End Of A Cult?

Despite thesmelves stating ‘The Chapman Family is not a cult’, Neil Wood argues they were exactly that.

From floppy-fringed guitar slingers to brooding noise merchants, The Chapman Family have grown, twisted and turned and defied the odds over their duration. Now, calling time on their existence as a band this week, it’s worth looking back at their finest moments, recalling what it is that made them so damn exciting.

Stockton’s Kingsley Chapman and co. first appeared on the radars of local music fans in the North East of England, all guns blazing, way back in 2006 with a song called ‘She Didn’t Know’. It was fast, it was fresh. Although the same song later appeared on their debut LP – 2011’s ‘Burn Your Town’ – The Chapman Family are a band that should be remembered for their ferocious live show. Often barely held together, often dangerous and always insanely loud; a Chapman Family gig was a rush of blood. You were left with days worth of ringing ears, but you were left wanting more. Check out this super-early live footage of the band below (complete with first bassist Lucy), with ‘She Didn’t Know’ kicking in around the 4 minute mark, as a prime example:

Emblazoned with their “The Chapman Family Is Not A Cult” motto-of-sorts, the band quickly grew into a vicious beast. New lineups and relentless touring followed – bringing with it their first single (2007’s ‘You Are Not Me’). But as The Chapman Family gathered steam, they began to build a core fan-base. The people who liked this band seriously liked this band. I recall their homecoming North East gig, and perhaps my fondest Chapman Family memory, at Newcastle’s Head of Steam in 2008 – it was packed, sweaty; thrilling. If you could take your eyes off Kingsley throwing himself around the stage for a minute then you might see Pop offering a sinister stare into the crowd or scraping a beer crate across his bass to create a devil-summoning, messy noise. Or perhaps you would pick out Phil going nuts on the drums in a blur of limbs and hair. One thing’s for sure: You were certain to see an intensely entranced crowd watching, singing back, loving every second of it. It was quite possible that you’d find the odd terrified face too mind, wondering how the hell they’d ended up here. But that was the beauty of The Chapman Family; they weren’t for everyone, but for those that they appealed to, they were vital.

Two singles followed in 2009 and ’10 with the million-miles-an-hour ‘Kids and Virgins’, preceding yet more touring and the eventual release of their debut album in March of 2011. ‘Burn Your Town’ came out via PIAS and was a “completely honest” collection of dark and angry songs. With ‘Burn Your Town’, The Chapman Family were stoking the fire that Savages recently lit their torch from – and all with an underground following of fans that gave them the status of, erm, a cult.

After the album came out there came more lineup changes – as long serving members Phil and Paul left the band whilst Kevin, Scott and Owen joined. In a rejig which saw Kingsley take to the keyboards and Pop to an extra dirty, feedback drenched guitar, the band released a string of typically frantic music in ‘Cruel Britannia’, ‘No More Tears’, ‘Adult’ and ‘This One’s For Love’. But as their chain of constant evolution and relentless hard work comes to an end there’s no doubt that many will miss The Chapman Family. Whether it be through their forceful shows, their angst-ridden songwriting or even Kingsley’s fantastically tongue-in-cheek tweets, we’re left with the realisation that The Chapman Family were in fact a cult – and you’d have been a fool not to join it.