Berlin-based, New-Zealand raised, Charity Children was formed by Chloë Lewer and Elliot McKee in 2011 before steadily growing and touring across Europe with their fun, eclectic and vintage-inspired music. When Lewer and McKee broke of their romantic relationship in 2016 they took a break from the band as well. Now, after five years, they’re back and better than ever. With a brand new single just released and an album on the way, we talked to them about their music, their inspirations and their comeback.
RC: Hi! Can you describe the music you make in three words?
CC: Eclectic, sometimes flamboyant.
RC: You’re back after a five-year break. How was it making music together again?
CC: Honestly, the best it’s ever been. The last couple albums were made whilst living together and in a relationship- which was part of the atmosphere of those albums- so no regrets. But it’s also a lot. This time we got to go home to separate apartments after long days in the studio. We could let go for a few hours and look forward to seeing each other the next day and continue creating. A completely different vibe, but one that allowed for a much smoother, balanced and enjoyable process.
RC: Your new single is about your break-up, what was it like creating such a personal song after being together?
CC: By the time we wrote it, a few years had passed since the break-up, so we could write with a little calm and perspective. Our favourite break-up songs are the ones that are somehow aspirational in nature. Like Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’:
“I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind,
You could have done better but I don’t mind,
You just kinda wasted my precious time,
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.”
Such strength and poise in those lyrics. Forgiveness and self-respect. How the troubles of love could be mitigated if one shared such an outlook. Of course, though, it’s hardly realistic. When you’re in the middle of the storm- the pain is often too overwhelming to let you follow that wisdom. But it still brings comfort- to get the sense that, with time, pain fades- an outlook to aspire too. So, we guess that’s what ‘We Loved’ is- an aspirational break-up song. It took us a while ourselves to get to this point- it’s not like we had that optimism straight out of the relationship- but with time we were able to celebrate what we had and not what we had lost.
RC: How do you feel your working relationship has changed after all this time? Have your styles changed a lot?
CC: There’s definitely a change in our sound. And that wasn’t necessarily intentional- simply a reflection of the different places we are in our lives, our tastes changing and in the way the album was produced. This is our first ‘studio’ album. In the past we were primarily a live band who would write songs- perform them live 100’s of times- and then go into the studio to record something that had already been almost fully developed. This time we went into the studio with just a collection of lyrics and melodies – 14 songs we knew we wanted to produce but without many preconceived notions of how they should sound. We felt far more free to experiment and develop a sound that was detached from any consideration of how it should sound live. The process felt more exhilarating because we were inventing as we went, as opposed to the pressures of trying to capture something that had already been invented.
We’re also five years older than we were the last time we made music together- we’re different people (for better or worse). In that time we’ve been heartbroken numerous times, we’ve lost loved ones, we’ve made incredible friendships, we’ve seen new places, we’re inspired by new things. Like everyone, life doesn’t stop evolving- change is inevitable – so it would be artistically dishonest to not allow your music to change with you. Whatever we settled on in this album is simply a reflection of where and who we are right now- just like the previous albums were refections of previous selves- who are almost strangers now.
RC: I absolutely love the video, it’s very nostalgic and fun. How did the idea come about?
CC: It’s one of the sweeter songs on the album, so we knew we wanted to make something on the lighter side. We knew we shouldn’t be too earnest. We wanted colour, we wanted dance and we wanted to pay homage to the ridiculous Abba videos and bad 80’s green screen videos that we had been enjoying all through lockdown. We also wanted our dog to have a starring role. This was the result.
RC: Apart from your personal story, what were some of the inspirations for the song and the video?
CC: One of the reasons we managed to salvage a great friendship from the ashes of our break-up (a little dramatic perhaps) was because we shared the responsibility of Amy, our dog- so we had to stay in each others lives. We often refer to her lovingly as a child of divorce- and when we were making the video for a song like this it felt right to include her. We had come up with the main concept of the video, and it came rather late that we would add this little prelude so that the whole music video existed as wish fulfilment in Amy’s mind. In reality, she quite enjoys having two homes.
RC: You’ve toured many European festivals; is there any venue you would love to play in and why?
CC: I’d say, for most musicians, any venue right now would suffice. I think the novelty of online concerts wore off a long time ago (not that we tried it). To be honest, just going to someone else’s concert would be enough right now.
RC: Lastly, if you could perform with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
CC: That’s so hard. Maybe Nina Simone- not so much to play with her (we wouldn’t do her or her music the discourtesy) but a chance to share a stage with her so we could be that close to actual magic. Hand us a tambourine each and we promise to stand back to let the audience enjoy who they’ve come to see.
“We Loved” is out now.