“Onism is the awareness of how little of the world you will ever see because you can only inhabit one body at a time,” Eline Chavez explains, before adding: “And the E Is the first initial of my name. Ha.”
“Okay, so some background,” she tells me, almost relieved that someone has asked. “Onism E started out as just me playing and writing everything, and though it may sound cool, it’s not when you are a vibe musician. I feed off of, and am often in awe of, my fellow musicians. That being said, I put this band together to play some shows in Austin, Texas in March of 2020. Anytime I get to play in Austin I am excited; especially during SXSW week.” SXSW, for those who may not be aware, is an annual week of festivals and conferences held in Austin.
“Well,” Eline adds sadly, “as you know, Covid hit and the rest is history as they say. Instead of playing shows, I pulled down most of the music I had online and the fellas and I got to work on this new album. Not exactly what I had planned… But I think we did okay.”
Recorded in her home studio in New York County and finished in San Antonio, the album she is so rightly proud of, in a quiet and disarming way, is the aptly entitled Survivors, released a few weeks ago and containing 7 songs that are each intriguing in their storytelling and pleading, and full to brimming with heavily pounded pulsating beats, rhythm-based and foot-stompingly fed. A contender already for the best album of the year, especially by a debut artist, Eline’s voice and vocal performance is the emotional glue that binds and holds all of the elements together: beginning with an impassioned plea-filled, Stay, the album’s crashing opener.
Can you please introduce yourself and the other members of your band?
“I am the singer, songwriter, guitarist and vocalist for the band. Chris ‘CeeRod’ – Chris Rodriguez – on bass, ‘Lefty’ – Chris Vargas – is on guitars and Raj is on drums.
“I’ve known CeeRod for years so when I needed a bass player for some shows in Texas, he was my first call. Lefty came on board when I randomly asked a group of friends if anyone knew of a guitar player. A friend popped up and said he did. Ha. I got lucky because he was free and hadn’t been playing but wanted to.
“Finally, Raj came on board when another drummer flaked on us for the shows… We were all making calls, kinda freaking out a little when they didn’t return messages. CeeRod came through, as he typically does, when he phoned a friend and Raj came on board,” adding the heart that beats throughout each track.
How does the name help describe you and the band?
“It speaks to my wanderlust and why I have moved around a good bit. I know I’ll never see all of the world and it’s people but I’m going to try!
“It speaks to the fact that no matter where you are, being a human being is always the same. We all have stories. We all have heartbreak and joy.”
Eline, born in California but very much raised in Texas, cites Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Nicks as among her influences, strong, groundbreaking female rockers whose DNA courses through each of her tracks, resonating from somewhere deep within a beseeching and powerful voice as she takes their collective energy to a whole new level throughout Survivors.
“For me, most women in music,” she adds, quickly adding Phoebe Bridgers to her list of inspiration. “Songwriters and creatives like Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Ben Harper, Ben Howard…”
CeeRod quickly responded with his own list, that includes “Roger Arenas, Beer and CD Exchange.”
“I don’t know what to make of that,” Chavez adds with a nervous laugh. “Lefty gave me some letters,” she continues. “Followed by Pearl Jam and Tool, whilst Raj said The Beatles and The Cult. He followed that with, ‘I’m not old.’ Not sure what that nonsense is about,” and again she laughed.
So, given their broad range of differing influences, how would they describe themselves musically?
“Rock-n-roll with soul… Or, as the bio typically says, ‘NYC indie rock with a hint of Texas soul’.”
Has that, “Texas soul”, affected the music she’s produced?
“We are the home of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr. It’s a wonderful blend of rock and soul and grit. I definitely took a lot from living and playing in Austin.”
How did the seven songs come about?
“Survivors, Reach, Be Strong and On The Edge are about the struggle I’ve seen friends face,” Eline explains softly, carefully and deliberately going through each song. “Some of the stories are just heartbreaking. It’s my reminder to them that no matter how bad it gets, they are not alone. It’s my way of telling them that someone cares.
“Stay and Let You Go, are songs about relationships that ended. Stay is that moment of ‘ugh!’, right after and Let You Go is the closure that comes when you realise you just weren’t a good fit.
“My America is about everything ‘we’ lived through in 2020. It’s what came out when one photo in particular popped up on my phone in some news feed. And which are my favourites? Oh man… I flip flop,” she readily admits, “but Reach is always up there for me, and it’s my favourite right now.”
Who writes the songs? Is there a partnership?
“I write them but the guys give that creative input that brings them all to life.
“The album covers the last three years for me; relationships, whether romantic or friendships. I write about life and the human experience, for lack of a better term. It’s safe to say that a lot has happened, especially last year.” So, how has she coped?
“I’m a bit of a recluse anyway so it allowed me to focus on music in a different way. It gave me the gift of time, which is really a unique gift nowadays.”
My America,with it’s War on Drugs-like sound and its observations and bittersweet questions pondered wearily: how has Eline’s America changed during the pandemic and the last years with Donald Trump as president?
“The easy answer is to say, it brought out a lot of ugly where we live, but I try to see the positive in the madness…
“We had to hold each other up in a way that required strength and compassion. I tried to focus on the good and the kindness of strangers. I try to focus on the work that is being done to make sure that no one is left behind. I hope we come out stronger because of all this but it’s been hard.”
What are you all looking forward to most when normality eventually, finally, returns?
“As a musician, playing live. As a person, hanging out with my parents without worrying that one of us is sick and doesn’t know it.”
Are there any plans to tour? Over here in Great Britain?
“We are crossing our fingers that we’ll get some shows going towards the end of the year, and we’d love to tour Great Britain so time will tell. But yes, we hope so!”
So, studio or live?
“Live. Always live.”
And Eline leaves us with another lasting laugh.
Survivors was released on 19th February.