To those who only know Joey Chicago as the bass player in Egypt Central, one of the hardest-hitting bands to emerge on the rock scene in recent years, take note: he's as animated offstage as when he's laying down the low-end in the band's explosive live show.
Egypt Central's muscular riffs, massive melodies—and healthy mix of bravado and brains—have made the band's latest release, White Rabbit, a must-hear. The album has already spawned the title-cut radio hit, the crowd favorite "Kick Ass," and the just-released single "Enemy Inside."
But as we found out when we talked with Joey, there's already enough music-biz drama in EC's past to script a stellar "Behind The Music." Here are the finer points from the man himself. Joey, step up to the mic.
Point #1: Egypt Central may rock hard, but they used to jam.
"Back in the day when Blake [Allison, drums] and I were 18 we played with jam bands, and our friend Scott [Bartlett, Saving Abel guitarist] was in another jam band. And now we've both ended up in such a different genre. Blake used to play with Andrew [VanWyngarden] from MGMT back in the day. He's a cool dude. Those are super-creative guys."
Point #2: The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench...
"The best example I can give of what the music business is really like is the first conversation we had with our former label head. He said, 'I love the band and the underground following, but can you change your band name?' [Laughs] You can spend your life complaining or conquer and get your own power."
Point #3: ...where good men die like dogs.
"When the band formed in 2002, we were so innocent in what we thought the music business, radio and touring were. We just had the innocence stripped away over the years. It's a sad thing, but the other side is that we've been through everything a band can go through. We're a strong group with tough skin. I wouldn't take [any of it] away. We wanted to be strong and willing to face adversity and we did, so it's not fake at all. We've faced tragedies in the band and in our families, but we don't have a sob story or excuse."
Point #4: Absence makes the fans grow fonder.
"We were worried about the gap between the first record and White Rabbit, but people are swarming to it. We have a youthful audience—we're hitting kids right at the age when we were just getting into music. You can definitely tell when we do the all-ages shows. The fact that we didn't blow up on the first record is cool to me. It's fun discovering the older stuff, and it's good for them to see that we toughed it out, that we came through an indie scene."
Point #5: When in doubt, head for the hills.
"[After we switched labels] we spent two months in a cabin in Arkansas, in the middle of nowhere, and drank whisky and wrote music. We separated from the world. All of the sudden things had nothing to do with business, so it was a really great experience. When we came back [to Memphis] some of us worked at bars just to have money. Right now we're in a lot better position because we manage and have a voice in everything we do. We're very specific about what we want. No one else has the vision or appreciation for the fans [that we do]. Our success is fueled by that."
Point #6: Be the change you want to see.
"We set out to have our music on the radio so we can make a difference in this genre. To sing about strippers and stuff just really seems to be an abuse of the responsibility [we have] to the fans. We want to be the voice of what these kids care about. Like, I love Rise Against because they sing about things that are important. I think that stuff should come back to rock & roll."