Interview | George Chase of The Sublets

It feels like we’ve been running on a treadmill forever,” summarizes George Chase, frontman for Cleveland, Ohio-based band, The Sublets. Like every other band on the planet, The Sublets lacked the opportunity to perform in front of a live audience for longer than anyone anticipated dating back to March 2020.

Formed in 2017, the group was ready to arise and conquer. COVID had other plans. The entertainment industry was among the first to close and last to reopen. Concerts were postponed, then postponed some more, pushed back a year, then even longer! Chase and company didn’t have a live audience to play for.

Fast forward to 2022: The Sublets made a triumphant return to the stage in February with back-to-back gigs at CODA and Mahall’s. The band has been busy with live shows and will play the Mercury Music Lounge in Lakewood this coming Saturday, May 14 alongside CleveRock favorites, Darling Waste.

“We’ve been ready. Man, I’m so excited to get back out and play shows and try to take this thing as far as we can take it,” Chase said during a recent phone interview prior to the band’s first live shows in what seemed like an eternity. “We’re always going to have goals and hopes and dreams. But man, at the end of the day, we want to get out and play some music that’s good to us and I believe is going to resonate with people. I’m so excited. I’m ready to play shows. I’m ready to get back out and finally get this stuff out there.

For the uninitiated, George was asked to talk about The Sublets sound:

“A lot of times, people ask me: ‘What do you do?’

I tell them I’m a musician.

They ask what kind of music I play.

I say, ‘I play good music,’‘” Chase said emphatically.

“It’s punk, but it’s pop with an edge. It’s rock-and-roll. Some of the songs sound like The Eagles. Some of the songs sound like Green Day. Some sound a little more rock than others,” he continued. “People who love the glory days of the Vans Warped Tour are going to love us. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but people who love catchy pop-punk music are the kind of people that will really enjoy what we’re doing.”

Sounds like The Sublets have found a great niche for a fanbase! This writer, speaking as someone whose Christmas Day was Vans Warped Tour from 1997 – 2003, misses those ‘glory days’ Chase speaks of. If The Sublets can bring a semblance of that sound back, they shouldn’t have any trouble building a loyal following quickly.

The trio, whose members also include Daniel Lee on bass and Stephen Nicholson on drums, started out as a typical pop-punk/power-pop act, which Chase worried was sounding, “too polished; too pretty.”

“I pray that if we put out a couple of albums, and those don’t go well, I hope we aren’t trying to chase stats or the next big thing,” he says. “We want to stay true to what we are doing and evolve. I think we need to be true to ourselves. The last few years have been spent experimenting and worrying if we make it sound too pretty. Is that true to us? If we make it sound too punk rock, is that something that people are going to listen to, and empathize with, and relate to?”

Chase says the band is now able to channel the raw energy it had been desperately seeking and can’t talk enough about how excited he and his bandmates are to be back on a stage.

We’ve been basically sitting in a vacuum for two years thinking that we sound good, but until you get out there, you never know how the audience is going to respond to things. You can come up with the greatest ideas, but until they are put into practice they are hypothetical. I’m nervous, but it’s more of that happy, excited type of anxious than scared,” he describes. “I still get the butterflies every show. It doesn’t matter if it’s for five people or 500 people. I want to give the best performance I can give in that position. I’m incredibly excited. I’m grateful that we are hopefully on the other side of this pandemic and that we are still able to do what we love and we’re going to do everything we can to get ourselves ready and prepared and throw our hands up because we’ve done all the prep; we’ve done everything we can do. We’ll do our part and that’s all we can do.”

“The Fallout”

The Sublets’ first single, “The Fallout” was released prior to their first shows post-shutdown. {See video below}

“It’s been recorded for like three years. I can go back and look at our master and got done mastering; it was over two years ago. The video itself has been shot and finished for well over a year and a half,” Chase said. “We’d literally been holding on to this for two years. It’s been kind of crazy to look at where we’re at and when I say, ‘we’re running on a treadmill,’ we’ve been waiting.”

Meet George!

George Chase

While more typical acts that introduced kids to their music loves included Ace of Base, Boyz II Men, All-4-One, ( or maybe Collective Soul and Gin Blossoms for those trying to be like their cool, older siblings), Chase was busy falling in love with the timeless music of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

“I first started playing some music when I was in fifth grade. I went and saw ‘Phantom of the Opera’; fell in love with it, and told myself that I wanted to learn how to play that music. We had an old organ when I grew up in my living room. I would sit at that organ and play songs from the musical,” Chase recalls. “‘Phantom of the Opera’ really spoke to me. So, I’m playing that and my parents had a guy come over and teach me that music and other songs. He showed me classical pieces like Beethoven and Mozart and I’m loving playing all this classical music, but I could kind of feel like,’ this is cool, but there is more that I want to do.’ I just wasn’t sure what it was.”

While nobody ever grows out of the fantastic Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, like most pre-teens from his awkward middle school days, a 1994 album titled ‘Dookie’ became part of the soundtrack to Chase’s ever-important formative years.

“That was the first time that I heard something that I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s it! That’s what I was missing!” It was the first time that I had heard Green Day. I heard ‘Basket Case’ and it just changed my life,” he said. “Of all the pop stuff that I love, it had distorted guitars. It’s melodic, but it’s punk. It blew my mind.

When I started listening to Green Day and worked backward, I started hearing Bad Religion, Dead Kennedys, Misfits, Metallica, and other heavier bands in the mid-90s, but they still weren’t on mainstream radio. It really started to help to shape what I heard and how I heard it,” Chase continued. “From there, I started hearing other bands through high school like MxPx. Offspring; Blink-182. It’s so funny because people talk about Blink-182 and, to me, ‘Dude Ranch’ was just a phenomenal album. I loved ‘Dude Ranch.’ The first song I wrote was when I was 16-years-old.

His love of this somewhat diverse array of music inspired Chase to start penning tunes of his own. He still remembers writing his first song.

“It was the day I got my license. I had plans to go out with this one girl and she ended up doing something with somebody else and I was heartbroken. I wrote this ska song that was very, very much in the vein of Reel Big Fish. I just wrote a lot of songs between 16 and 18-year-old. Some were better than others, but to this day, I still play some of them. I edited them or tweaked them a bit over time, but for the most part, they are the same song that they were. Same melody. Same hooks.”

Do you believe in Magic?

Outside of music, the multi-talented Chase is an accomplished magician! He learned the art of the trade when he moved out west as a teenager in an effort to try and make friends and influence people. Some of his classmates laughed at him, but even laughed with him or were in awe of his skills. And, while Chase ultimately opted for the music profession, he did spend some time as a professional magic maker.

“I was a juggler and magician at Six Flags / Geauga Lake. I was on the Sea World side. I was at the Mardi Gras New Orleans Nights,” he recalled. “I did that for a couple of summers and man, it was awesome. It was such a great experience. I learned so much.”

{Side note: As a former Sea World / Six Flags summer employee, if you missed out on Chase and his comrades performing magic just outside of Dolphin Cove, you missed out on some serious fun! This writer, who spoke to Chase for the first time during this interview, had the pleasure of watching him perform nightly on the way to and from the employee break lounge. Ahh…memories}

As for Chase and his future goals of making music with The Sublets?

“My art is in trying to give people vacation from an otherwise bad day. If you’re going through a difficult time, I want them to hear some of our songs and smile and be happy. I want to leave the world a better and happier place than when I came into it,” he concludes. “To me, that is my art. I’m not interested in playing music that nobody is going to hear. I’m also not interested in chasing the next trend. I still want to be authentic to what my inspirations are; what my musical heroes played. I still want to push through that but I want to do it in a way where people are going to enjoy it and hear it.

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