Early CHON shows must have been bewildering to those in attendance. The three-piece emerged on the San Diego scene in 2008 playing an unheard-of mix of tech-death and jazz fusion. They had no vocalist, no bass player and ranged in age from 11 to 17.
“We knew it was sick but no one else knew even what was happening,” says Mario Camarena, one of the band’s two guitarists. “People were like, ‘what’s going on?’ ” That year, CHON recorded their first set of songs and released it as Demo 2008.
The EP quickly got the attention of listeners online due to its blazing speed and sheer technicality, and CHON soon found themselves with a growing national fanbase.
But the demo was really only a hint at what the band would become. In 2014 CHON began to tour, opening for prog-metal favorites Animals as Leaders. Increasingly inspired by fusion and jazz music, Mario and fellow guitarist Erick Hansel had by that time established a unique philosophy for their guitar playing.
“We get a lot of ideas from pianists,” says Camarena. “We think of it as like one of us is the left hand on a piano player, and the other is the right hand. It’s one guitar part, but it takes two guitars to play it.”
On their first full-length, 2015’s Grow, it’s often difficult to pick out what one guitar is doing, as both rely heavily on the other to complete musical phrases. It’s less tech-heavy than the demo, but no less technical, and creates a kind of genre-less space where melody and energy are the focal points. The follow-up, this June’s HOMEY, is likely to produce the same “what’s going on?” reaction from listeners as the band received from their earliest concert audiences.
The album is heavily influenced by electronic music, including many tracks with guest producers, MIDI synths, and glitchy drum tracks. “We just wanted to get into different realms of sound,” says Camarena. “We’re just trying to take it further.”