Musician, long time supporter of Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, and son of the legendary Lester Chambers, Dylan Chambers is a busy performer, working with two bands, The Midnight Transit and his second act which he shares with his father, The New Chambers Brothers. While the world screeched to a halt, Dylan took to the studio to write and record “Stand Up And Fight” - an anthem for all Americans in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the massive uprising movement for equality. We at Sweet Relief, had the opportunity to digitally “sit down” with Dylan and chat about his inspiration, process, tour stories, and future plans for his change evoking musical career.
Read his Q & A below.
SR: Stand Up and Fight” is beautifully akin to many of your predecessors musical contributions for freedom, racial equality and peace. What musicians have inspired your musical sound the greatest?
DC: For this song I was really inspired by the old school soul singers like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield. I drew from Stevie Wonder’s song “Living For The City” with the spoken word interaction at the end as well as the political rock energy of Rage Against the Machine.
SR: At what age did you start playing with your dad? Are there any fun stories about being on the road with “pops” you can share with us?
DC: I started singing with Lester when I was about three and by four I joined him on stage at Lincoln Center in New York. That was a memorable moment for me; When the lights came up mid song and I saw the audience cheering, that was the moment I knew I wanted to sing the rest of my life. A couple fun stories: I got to play the Fillmore in San Francisco a few years ago for the Rex Foundation. We played “Time” and received a standing ovation. That was my first performance at the Fillmore and what a first time!! In 2019 we played Lock’n Music Festival and the rain was pretty intense the first day, actually canceling most of the acts. The rain cleared up the next day, we had sunshine for our performance and as we finished the rain came back and we all ran back to the bus. It was like the skies parted for us to perform!
SR: We understand that you are using your music as an educational tool to bring awareness to the many struggles currently going on in our country. Where would you like to see the legacy of “Stand Up And Fight” reside in 50 years?
DC: I put so much creative time and emotional energy into this project. Sleepless nights and absorbing the trauma of what I was creating. I just hope it inspires change. American history is taught and seen behind ‘rose colored glasses of a white lens’ and the true history has to be sought. I mean there are numerous moments in Black American history that I am still learning to this day. Who was taught about the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 where hundreds of Black Americans were slaughtered, businesses burned, looted and land stolen? I could continue with countless other real life horror stories from the past continued to the present. With everything now being so instant, hopefully this video can spark conversation. It is inspiring at parts, heavy and hard to watch in others. It is an emotional rollercoaster and the reality of Black people in America. In the future when people forget about John Lewis and the Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 or George Floyd being murdered by the police in 2020, this video will be there.
SR: “Stand Up and Fight” perfectly captured the injured soul of our nation, but also beautifully represented the strength we all have with unity. The comparisons to Amanda Gorman’s inaugural speech message are incredible. Would you ever do a collaboration with her poetry and your music?
DC: I would absolutely love to collaborate and create something powerful with Amanda Gorman! She is an inspiration for women, for Black people and for America. We need a more Amanda’s in this world!
SR: You mentioned channeling your anger, hurt and frustrations into this tune. What would you say was the biggest motivating factor when conceptualizing the video?
DC: Every young Black person in America has their moment where they can’t go back. Where they can no longer sit silently and watch the atrocities happen to us on a daily basis. Some young people, unfortunately, and by no fault of their own, direct that anger and energy towards destructive and non-constructive ways that perpetua t e the stereotype of the ‘angry Black.’ For some Black people this realization moment is very early in life and for some it happens much later. I have always been aware from a young age and to some degree radicalized as I have experienced some crazy racist moments in my personal American history. My realization moment, my final moment was George Floyd. Not his death, as sad and real as it is to say because cops kill us every day in horrendous ways, his death wasn’t the moment. It was the momentum that followed afterwards. Seeing the mass demonstrations and actually seeing white people break out of their bubble and care for the moment. That gave me the feeling that I could speak my truth and not have to constantly explain… why.
SR: Your musical style lends itself to the origination of rock, psychedelic sounds with jazz influences. Given you’d lived through the 60’s and 70s - do you think your musical style would have been different or similar to what it is now?
DC: I think my music would be more soul/psychedelic. The magic created in those eras can’t be duplicated. I touch on those feels now, but I don’t have any 10 minute songs that go through a long psychedelic journey. I mean, I imagine I might in the future, but right now we are writing for the time. Once our music and Midnight Transit’s sound is established and known we certainly will grow, create and take some new freedoms.
SR: What is your most prized piece of equipment/ instrument?
DC: My voice! Definitely my voice, I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t sing.
SR: Pre-Pandemic, what would you say your favorite moment on-stage was?
DC: Hmm, so many wonderful moments to choose from. Perhaps I will choose from some more recent moments. I’d say singing at the 2019 Summer Solstice in San Francisco. I sang lead on a few numbers in front of a sea of people. Or our show in 2019 at The Chapel. I sang the encore, packed house, singing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”!! Both epic moments!
SR: When can we expect to hear the latest record you’ve recorded with Midnight Transit? Anything fun planned for Moonalice when we are able to enjoy live music safely again?
DC: “Stand Up And Fight” is available on our website TheMidnightTransit.com as well as every streaming and download platform for music. The video is available on our website, our Facebook page and YouTube channel. Full Moonalice is already booking shows for this year so hopefully if everything continues in a positive path we will be playing live again! Can’t wait as it’s been over a year since Full Moonalice or Midnight Transit has performed for an audience.
SR: What was the last song you listened to on Spotify?
DC: Haha, well “Stand Up And Fight” of course! I’ve really been into Curtis Mayfield, The Roots Album. I can listen to that on repeat. Also, his song “Move On Up” is my emotional jam. Happy, sad, upset, excited I go to that song and it really gives me peace. The song taps into my Blackness and gives me energy. 2020 has been really trying and emotionally taxing, I’m sure for everyone, but for Black people with all that has happened. There has been a new awakening and there is no going back to brunch for me or anyone in my universe. I won’t have it. Another album would be Sam Cooke “Live at Harlem Square” and the emotion and soul that explodes from that album with his voice and stage presence. I can travel back in time to the front row of the show when I listen to that album!
SR: What part of your father’s career would you have wanted to be a part of (that is if you were born already) ?
DC: I used to trip out thinking about this all the time, but instead of being born in a different era, I think I’d rather be able to experience his career height as the person I am now. Haha, if I was born in the 60’s I’d still be a youngster and wouldn’t appreciate what I was experiencing.
SR: Lester is a man dear to our hearts here at Sweet Relief, what would you convey to artists looking for support based on your family’s personal experience?
DC: Sweet Relief has helped Lester in countless ways and continues to help us not only survive, but thrive! Sweet Relief really cares which is rare in the music industry. I love seeing the reach of Sweet Relief now. There so many amazing, events, other organizations and incredibly talented artists helping to spread the word and I thank everyone of em!!
SR: Is there anything you’d like to mention or share with our #SweetSupporters that you have coming up?
DC: My band Midnight Transit has been working for a few years now on a full-length album. We would have released it last year but… Covid happened and well, 2020 was quite a year. So, the time frame for the album is TBA but we will continue to release singles from the album prior to the full release. Our first album is entitled “Born To Rock And Roll”. High energy rock’n’roll with a few protest songs, some songs about having a good time and couple love songs! How can you go wrong? Can ya dig it!
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