D And Chi Are Ready For Their Next Chapter
Indie-pop duo, D and Chi, have made a solid name for themselves in the Dallas music scene. Coming off a recent single release for their song “Supernova”, and an upcoming show sharing the stage with John Mayer’s guitarist David Ryan Harris, the momentum is building into something far greater than the cosmos.
From humble beginnings playing on street corners in the Bishop Arts District to signing a Single Global Publishing deal with Sony, the group is ready for their next phase in the storybook that is their band. I sat down with D and Chi to discuss how they got to where they are today and the people who influenced their sound.
Chima - Vocals, Darren – Vocals/Guitar, Courtland - Keys, Mason – Drums/percussions
How did D and Chi formulate and become a group?
Chima: We started out in the Bishop Arts District, in the Oak Cliff area. It’s a very artsy scene. We started out there just playing for money back in 2013. We got a lot of our first followers there from the raw nature of what we were doing out on the streets and it escalated from there.
Darren: We brought our old dusty Ibanez guitar and put the case out there for people to drop money in. That was terrifying because we had never done that before. A friend of ours was like, “Hey you should go down to Bishop Arts and play music.” But people would walk by or pretend to be on their phone and started to share it.
Chima: Yeah sometimes you would even have people come by and they would start crying cause the music touched them. It was really cool and honestly a foreshadowing to the shows we have now. Fast forward a year and that’s when Mason came in.
Darren: Everything happened very spontaneous. We had a drummer, but he was very unreliable and we were getting ready for a big show, which was the end of our Coffee Shop Tour. We had a practice and he didn’t show up so we had to let him go. I got Mason’s number from a friend was like, “Hey man, this is Darren from D and Chi, I heard you play drums…you wanna play drums for our show?” Mason asked when was practice and I was like, “Uhhh the show, so your practice will be soundcheck.”
Mason: For me it was crazy cause I was just recently going to the same church everyone else went to. I get a call from D and I didn’t know too much about the band, but they said they had a show coming up and asked if I wanted to play drums. I agree and ask when’s rehearsal because I’m thinking this is pretty far out, but then they tell me it’s tomorrow and rehearsal is sound check. They didn’t send me songs beforehand so I got there and we went over every song and probably spent like 5 minutes of each song. Thankfully everything went well and after the show D and Chi approached me and said we have a rehearsal on Monday and if our drummer doesn’t show, we’re looking at you to be our drummer. So I’m excited because I hadn’t been in the Dallas music scene at all, but I had been around for a bit.
Chima: Pretty much every member of the band came together like that, but also in a unique way. We’re all believers so I definitely feel that God played a part in that.
Would you say that worship style music is a major influence since you all seem to have a background playing in churches?
Darren: Yeah you could say that. You have Courtland growing up in Gospel, Chima and I growing up in Assemblies of God, which is more contemporary, or like Christian Rock.
Chima: It’s cool cause we have that worship influence but every one of us pulls from our own genre of music as well. Courtland is very much like a Neo-Soul type of artist. Mark was a part of heavy metal bands before he played with us. I’m very hip-hop and R&B.
Darren: Yeah and I like rock and country music. It’s a musical smoothie and it tastes so good.
In terms of writing a song, do you have a standard process or does someone have an idea and brings it to the table?
Darren: We haven’t really dabbled in the process of everyone bringing something and we try to assemble it. Usually I’ll bring something to Chima and be like, “Hey I just wrote this, check it out.” Then I’ll bring it to the rest of the guys. We’ll sing it and then begin to tear it down and build it back up with everyone’s influence in it. Chima and I don’t usually write together. We may have on only one or two songs.
Chima: D and I are the songwriters. Maybe I’ll write the song myself or D will write the song, but we want to try a more collaborative effort on material in the future. We’re looking to come out with a new album within the next year or so. So we want to try this collaborative writing process for that.
Mason: I think on the band side, a lot of it is sitting back and allowing D and Chima to work. For as much as we trust them with the writing, they trust us with the ranging. Courtland being our music director, we add some and take away some. We’ll sometimes get into it about the way a song should go whether if it sounds corny or if it sounds too much like worship or hip-hop. It’s all worked out for us because we all trust each other’s creativity.
Your single “Supernova” just recently dropped. How did that song come together?
Darren: I actually wrote it about 4 years ago now. It’s just a song we used to play on the street. We didn’t have anything more than like 10 songs when we first started, but now it’s probably more 30 or 40. I wrote it and thought it would be a good upbeat song we could play on the street. One thing we’ve noticed on the street is when the harmonies come into the song, people’s ears aren’t used to that so they stop and listen. I was honestly just waiting on my laundry to be done when I wrote it. (Laughs) It’s about this guy discovering this new love that he has for this girl and he doesn’t really know how to say it, so he describes it and uses metaphors.
Is “Supernova” the first single from a potential upcoming release, like a full length?
Chima: We’re still in the very first stages; we have a concept, which I won’t be sharing. We also have the beginning of a track list, which I also won’t be sharing. (Laughs) But for now “Supernova” isn’t really something for the album, but more like the next phase of D and Chi. Like Season 2 Episode 1.
Darren: Anytime we release something, it has to be without a doubt better than what we’ve done previously. If you look at our release record, we haven’t released anything in over a year. We wanted a song that people could hear and know where we are as a band. The people don’t have to be at our show to know what’s going on, the single can tell you.
Mason: I think D and Chi is coming into a more mature sound with this next phase. A little over the I’m So High School Phase and more into the I’m In Love phase. That’s how I would describe it.
You all come from very diverse musical backgrounds, if you were to name a single influence, who would it be?
Courtland: Ryan Leslie, he’s my favorite producer. I’m more of a producer than a keyboard player because I love to arrange music. Arlington Jones as well, he would be my favorite piano player because he blends Jazz and Hip-hop together.
Chima: Usher and Frank Ocean. Growing up I wanted to be Usher, dance moves and all.
Darren: I would have to say Jon Foreman from Switchfoot and John Rzeznik from The Goo Goo Dolls.
Mason: As far as drumming goes, I would have to go with Calvin Rogers. He plays lots of Gospel so if you’ve ever listened to Gospel; chances are you’ve heard him. Right now a huge influence on me is Kevin Garrett because whatever he does, you’re going to feel it.
What do you want people to take away from D and Chi when they listen to your music?
Darren: We all understand that the world runs on these three and a half minute fixes. People will hold onto a song for three and a half minutes and then it slips through their hands and they’re ready for the next thing. For us, we want to write songs that lyrically have substance and can relate to what people are going through. We want our songs to be something people can find hope in.
Chima: We want to bring hope and we want to bring light so our music is uplifting and inspirational. Even when we touch on dark topics, it’s with the hope that it’ll bring light.