Q&A with The Selmanaires’ Tommy Chung


By Julia Reidy


With two full-length records and a handful of 7-inch singles under their collective belts,The Selmanaires just keep on churning out great Atlanta music. In the wake of the release of their second LP last year, the foursome is undergoing a bit of a re-thinking before heading into more shows (the first of which is this Saturday, January 31 at The EARL with The Features and Carnivore – get your tickets here) and new releases for the coming year. We snagged bassist Tommy Chung at work to talk about the band’s new direction, their side projects and what exactly “celestial primitive” means.

AMG: You guys released your album The Air Salesmen last year. What are you guys up to now? Are you writing anything new?


Chung: Yes, we are. We did the new Rob’s House 7-inch ["Princess Illusionist Frankenstein”/“Beneath The Brights"] a few months ago – that’s out already. We’ve been working on writing a lot of new stuff. We took a little time off because we were all a little bit burnt out, which I think is normal. We’ve been concentrating more on writing than playing shows, but we’re about to start playing shows every month again.


AMG: I know a lot of you have side projects. Does it ever interfere with Selmanaires work?


Chung: Yes and no. All of us actually have side projects. Jason and Herb [Harris] have a new one together called Dean and Leon, which are their middle names. And of course they also both have their solo stuff, but recently they’ve been doing more together. I think they performed as The Harris Twins for the Stereolab show. It’s really cool, kind of exotic, mostly instrumental stuff. Mathis [Hunter] is in Noot d’ Noot. He’s been really busy with them, so we actually haven’t seen him very much lately, but he’s still playing with us. I play on the side with Adron whenever she’s in town, but she lives in New York, so I’m probably the least busy with side projects.

AMG: So that leads me to what direction you guys are going in now with The Selmanaires.


Chung: We’re going in a slightly different direction now. We still have some songs that are kind of dancy, but it’s really funny, all of us have been listening to a lot of Cambodian and Thai and Brazilian psychedelic music, mostly from the ‘60s and ‘70s. We’re not listening to as much rock these days, so a lot of our newer stuff is very Southeast Asian-influenced. We’ve actually come with this new tag for our new sound, and we call it “celestial primitive.” It has this sort of drone-y, celestial sound. Some of it’s not as upbeat, it’s a little more psychedelic.


AMG: Will you be debuting your new material live as it gets written?


Chung: We were thinking of saving it up, but I think we’re all too antsy. So our next show is actually a week from today with The Features, and we’ll probably debut two of the new songs. We have a show booked at that new club 529 in March [tickets here], and I think that’s probably going to be the debut of a lot of our new stuff. We’ll probably have mostly a new stet by then. We’re also playing Valentine’s Day with Judi Chicago at the Star Bar. We’re all excited about the new direction. I hope it doesn’t turn people off, the people that like our old stuff who like to dance and get crazy. The slower psychedelic stuff is not really as conducive to that.


AMG: They’ll probably hang with you.


Chung: I hope so! [laughs] 


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