Shannon Sky Madden and Jess Labrador of Chasms have gone through a lot of upheaval over the past year. The electro-pop duo relocated from the fertile Bay Area music scene to Los Angeles, and according to them, their sound shifted with the move, replacing sheets of guitar and synth with a more spacious dub-inspired approach.
The painful truth is that all of that change was the result of a tragedy: the fire at the Oakland warehouse known as the Ghost Ship that took the lives of 36 people last December. Among them were Madden’s younger brother Griffin and Cash Askew, a fellow musician who appeared in the music video for “Beyond Flesh,” a song from Chasms’ 2016 debut, On the Legs of Love Purified.
Since then, Madden and Labrador have clung to each other and their art as a way to work through the grief they’re still feeling.
“After basically feeling like my whole life fell apart,” Labrador says, “the band was the only thing that kept me going. I feel like it led us to dive deeper and gave a whole new meaning to it. We lost friends who are not able to do what we’re doing. It’s our responsibility to keep going and honoring them by doing so.”
For the past year, that’s meant playing shows around LA and working on new material for an album they’ll start recording this month. But the weight of those deaths will feel particularly acute this week, with the first anniversary of the Ghost Ship fire. By happenstance, Chasms is going on a West Coast tour to celebrate the fifth anniversary of their label, Felte Records, including a show in Portland and a Bay Area date happening the day after the anniversary.
“We wouldn’t have it any other way than to be back up there [in the Bay Area] playing within 24 hours,” Madden says. “There’s some kind of ritualistic, almost sub-religious experience for me. It feels like I’m talking to them and connecting with them. I can’t think of a better way to express myself and be with them.”