Gnome Chimpsky, a trio from Windsor, Ontario, released their debut EP Something to Hold Onto this January. The band draws inspiration from everything from rock and funk to reggae and blues to inform their sonic vibe on this eight-track album, which arrives after two year’s worth of single releases.
The three members of Gnome Chimpsky (Jonah Litt, Quinn Pickersgill and Derek Boissonneau), co-write their songs in a “jam-based” process, meaning that the band riffs together, starting with a chord progression or a vocal fragment melody, and then jams together until the song emerges, an exercise in which the songwriting power is not deferred to one member of the band but rather is a shared experience. Most of Something to Hold Onto was recorded in the band's DIY studio, however, the drums and mixing were done in Windsor’s Highland Studio, and the album was mastered by Beau Vallis.
Select tracks are tinted with an underlying early aughts alternative sound, such as “I’m Fine,” whose lilting verses waft over a distorted, reverberating guitar which sounds almost as if it’s being played underwater. The song switches gears at the chorus, where power-pop chords jolt the track, as the tone of the vocals change from wallowing and contemplative to a more sardonic nature with the vocalist singing, “I play these songs / So she can dance / And I can pretend I’m fine,” reclaiming an edge for the track in a vein vaguely reminiscent of emo pop. The chorus repeats “I can pretend I’m fine,” several more times before the song lapses once again into its next verse, but the repetition of the phrase begins to show the cracks in the singer’s ability to shine it on and continue the song.
The band plays around with a number of sounds, experimenting with bluesy guitar riffs in the chorus of “Slow,” which calls to mind late ‘90s Red Hot Chili Peppers, whom Gnome Chimpsky cites as an influence. A more beachy surf rock sound emerges in the upbeat “Where Did My Friends Go?” where both the instrumentation and song title explain why the band has been described as “deserted island vibes.” The first track of Something to Hold Onto, “Do As I Say,” whose chorus warns, “Do as I say / Not as I do,” has a post-grunge vibe, and subsequent lyrics, “Monkey see / Monkey do” tosses a little nod to the band’s primate-themed name.
The band, which formed in 2019, spent most weekends pre-pandemic playing live shows in local Windsor venues. It is easy to imagine the nature of those shows to be much like the mood of the album -- animated and energetic, yet lightheartedly amusing.
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