In Chicago especially, the name Chin Up Chin Up is inextricably linked to tragedy: CUCU bassist Chris Saathoff was struck and killed by a drunk hit-and-run driver on his way home from a show in February of 2004. The driver got seven years in prison, and CUCU got painful memories and a tragedy that will always shadow them—to a certain degree. Time, new bassist Jesse Woghin, and the release of a new album—This Harness Can’t Ride Anything, released by Suicide Squeeze—have slowly put distance between that cold winter night and the rest of the band. Harness is one of the year’s most anticipated local releases, and its noodly art-pop shows CUCU’s continued evolution into one of the city’s best indie bands. Before the group left for tour, singer-guitarist Jeremy Bolen spoke to The A.V. Club about the new album, rushing, and moving on.
The A.V. Club: You’ve mentioned that you really tried to simplify things on this album.
Jeremy Bolen: We’d always tried to incorporate a lot of different parts into one song, whereas I think with this record we made a conscious effort to second guess ourselves a little bit and make some songs that are based around one part that goes throughout the whole song. On some of the songs, I think we were successful, but I don’t think we really accomplished what we were trying to do in that sense.
AVC: Your first album, We Should Have Never Lived Like We Were Skyscrapers, was hastily recorded and finalized after Chris’ death. Do you think it suffered because of that?
JB: I don’t know. It’s hard to say, because I feel like there’s no other way it would have ended up. Obviously, if things would have gone differently, we probably would have spent a lot more time writing it, I guess. At the same time, we were almost halfway done writing it when Chris died. In this record, too, we did things in a hasty way. We spent a lot of time writing, but we had a deadline so we could get it out this fall. We always set deadlines for ourselves, and it ends up being really stressful. [Laughs.]
AVC: Wasn’t Skyscrapers mixed one day, then mastered and mailed out the next?
JB: Yeah, true. This one, I think we had two days until we mastered. [Laughs.]
AVC: You reissued the first EP last year. Does anything on it make you cringe now or doubt its necessity?
JB: I didn’t think it was all that necessary to reissue it, but it was out of print. We had to do something with it; there was some demand for it. There’s a few songs on there—we don’t really play anything except for “Collide The Tide” from that record anymore—there’s stuff I like. It’s interesting to listen to because it’s the first thing we did as a band. It’s nostalgic in a certain way.
AVC: Do you feel like enough time has passed since Chris died that it’s not the first thing people talk about when CUCU comes up?
JB: A little bit. It’s starting to happen now, where people are talking about the band first. It still comes up, though, and I think it’s something that will probably always come up, which is fine. In a way, it’s great because it keeps his memory alive. We get a lot of press about that, so it feels like this weird publicity thing when it’s not. I think some people think we only get any press because of that happening, when I don’t think that’s true.
AVC: Is it frustrating being constantly reminded of a tragedy?
JB: Not anymore. It’s something we all talked about and like talking about because it helps you get over things. I don’t think it ever really got to the point where I’ve been annoyed talking about it. It’s something I enjoy talking about because he was a great person and a good friend, so it’s good talking about his life.