"I'm really interested in exploring what the Vancouver sound is," Sean Oh tells me. We have met at a coffee shop in Gastown to discuss the Vancouver collective Chapel Sound, behind which Sean is a driving force. Since its creation in September 2012, the collective's main creative project has been the Chapel Sound Broadcast, which streams live from their website every Wednesday. True to Sean's vision of exploring the style native to Vancouver, the webcast showcases a rotating selection of predominantly local artists in a Boiler Room style video setup.
Filmed from his living room, the show has the relaxed, intimate vibe of an electronic jam session. Sean describes it as "a house party with cameras and lava lamps. People are just chilling on the couch, drinking beer, and listening to the music. We care about interesting sounds, not necessarily sellable, popular sounds, but more experimental sound, textures, and palettes."
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"The internet is creating a space that can connect people," Sean goes on, as we surf through the collective's SoundCloud stream on his laptop. "The webcast is so different from the audio format, its much closer to a live show. You can see the face of the DJ or performer; you can feel the vibe. I think Vancouver has a lot of potential as a music scene, with the culture and location. I've been meeting all these people out here that I call bedroom DJ producers. Most of them are very talented and have the desire to play out, to put their name out there and see what happens. The problem is that a lot of the time there isn't the right venue to do that. So what we've been trying to do is create that space electronically."
The webcast is meant to be a space for creative experimentation. "I always tell people to play what they love, to play just for themselves. That's our method," Sean says. He speaks quickly and quietly, thoughtfulness behind each word. "That's where all the interesting stuff comes out. We want to hear people's secret archives, their personal stuff."
Chapel Sound is always growing. Aside from Oh himself, who DJs as Fuck the Silence, it includes members Ekali, Kline, and Eli Muro. The name originates from the house they were living in at the time—the Chapel. The concept then came to mind when one of their crewmembers, Falcons, moved to LA. "He did a Boiler Room set. We were all watching it, and that's when the idea came into my head that 'actually, I could do this too,'" Oh says. He describes the show's first iteration as a "live painting performance. I built this weird structure for people to paint on. Kline played, and there were video projections by Nancy Lee in my living room."
Since then, Chapel has attracted numerous other artists working in what Sean calls "that spacey West coast bass style." The crew now counts Vancouver label Jellyfish Recordings and the "underage and mega talented" Mountainous Collective among its members.
From March to July of this year, Chapel Sound had a regular public night as well. Sub Shop, at the newly reopened Fox Cabaret, where it played host to guests including Michael Red and Vincent Parker. One unique feature of the night was a collaborative workshop called Beat Critique. The activity had musicians bring in their music, listen to it as a group, and then share feedback and constructive criticism. With Sub Shop now defunct, Sean Oh wants to continue the workshop series as part of the webcasts.
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On sporadic hiatus over the summer, the shows will be back in an updated, biweekly format this September. As a trained architect who's worked in Korea and New York, music is by no means the only art form that Sean is interested in. His next goal is to integrate artists working in other disciplines into the crew. "It should be more open, about communication," he tells me. "More of a 360 experience."
And what, exactly, would that sound be? "Well, I mentioned rain," he answers. "Long rainy winters. Mountains and islands… the descendants of the hippies. Bass and electronic. There's no name for the genre yet. It's trying to define itself."
Genevieve Michaels is a writer, gallery worker, and lounging enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter.