Chapterhouse this weekend. Recorded and broadcast live from Pontiac Michigan on September 16, 1991. Considered by many to be one of the essential figures in the Shoegaze genre, the band themselves recoiled at the label. However, they had escaped being pigeonholed as part of the British Acid Rock revival genre, but just barely as they were initially opening act for Spacemen 3. You just couldn’t win.
They comprised of Andrew Sherriff (born 16 May 1969, Wokingham, England; guitar/vocals), Stephen Patman (born 8 November 1968, Windsor, Berkshire, England; guitar/vocals), Simon Rowe (born 23 June 1969, Reading, Berkshire; guitar), Jon Curtis (bass) and Ashley Bates (born 2 November 1971, Reading; drums).
Bassist Jon Curtis left early on to study, being replaced by Russell Barrett (born 7 November 1968, Vermont, United States) who also fronted his own garage band, the Bikinis. Chapterhouse eventually signed to the newly formed Dedicated label, releasing a series of singles, including “Pearl”, which featured guest vocals by Rachel Goswell of Slowdive and reached No. 67 in the UK Singles Chart.
Their first album, Whirlpool, released in 1991, has been cited as one of the genre’s high points, but failed to capture a wider market despite reaching No. 23 in the UK Albums Chart. In the same year, Chapterhouse also appeared in their home town Reading Festival immediately following Nirvana’s performance.
Second album Blood Music, stylistically different, was released in 1993. Singles from the album, “She’s a Vision” and “We Are the Beautiful”, were relatively successful. Some copies of Blood Music included a bonus disc “retranslated” by Global Communication, called Pentamerous Metamorphosis that was withdrawn due to a sampling lawsuit, but later reissued in a slightly altered version.
The band then released no further new material other than a double album, Rownderbowt in 1996, compiling their singles, various B-sides, rarities and unreleased demos which featured Slowdive drummer Simon Scott. Sherriff went on to form Bio.com and Rowe went on to play guitar for Mojave 3. Bates formed Cuba and now plays in the British folktronica band Tunng, and Chapterhouse ceased for almost fifteen years.
The music of Chapterhouse was mostly out of print on CD until March 2006, when Cherry Red Records reissued the album Whirlpool with bonus tracks, and for the first time, lyrics.
The band played a version of “Love Forever” with Ulrich Schnauss on the Barn Stage at the 2008 edition of Truck Festival. In response to requests over the years, Chapterhouse played live at Club AC30’s Reverence show at the ICA on 26 November 2009 along with Ulrich Schnauss and Kirsty Hawkshaw. This was preceded on 23 November by a warm up show at the Luminaire in Kilburn. The band also played at The Scala in London on 18 March 2010, and undertook short tours of Japan in April 2010 and North America in May 2010. The North American tour had to be postponed due to the Icelandic ash cloud cancelling flights, stranding Patman in Japan. Chapterhouse rescheduled the North American tour for September and October 2010. No plans were made for any other shows and the band ended the brief reunion in 2010.
Since 1997, Sherriff has been working as a composer/sound designer for an Emmy Award-winning music production company Adelphoi Music. Patman and Bates joined him later in 2001.
In case you missed during one of their U.S. tours, here’s a gig from Pontiac Michigan in 1991 as a reminder.