Offering a funky, stripped-down fusion of indie pop, funk, garage punk, and lo-fi experimentalism, Chain & the Gang are a vehicle for the thoughts and talents of Ian Svenonius -- musician, author, actor, Internet talk show host, and frontman with the groups Nation of Ulysses, the Make-Up, Scene Creamers, and Weird War.
Like many of Svenonius' earlier projects, Chain & the Gang are a band with an overriding philosophy; as Svenonius sees it, freedom and liberty have been used by the lazy and corrupt to pollute the environment, promote greed, pit class against class, fill our cities with ugly buildings, and stuff our faces with greasy fast food, so the time has come for us to embrace a new sort of bondage and seek out convicts, hobos, and other outlaws as spiritual brethren. Svenonius has filled his new band with a handful of noted indie rock musicians, including Fred Thomas of Saturday Looks Good to Me, Brian Weber of Dub Narcotic Sound System, Brett Lyman of Bad Thoughts, and Sarah Pedal of Seahorse Liberation Army.
Chain & the Gang made their recorded debut with the album Down with Liberty...Up with Chains!, released by K Records in April 2009. To support the album's release, Chain & the Gang set out on a North American tour with the Hive Dwellers, a new band featuring K Records founder and Beat Happening/Halo Benders/Dub Narcotic Sound System leader Calvin Johnson; as it happens, the Hive Dwellers feature the same backing musicians as Chain & the Gang, with Johnson replacing Svenonius as lead vocalist. After splitting time between his many other endeavors, including hosting Vice's Soft Focus, Svenonius returned to the ranks of Chain & the Gang to release Music's Not for Everyone in 2011. Chain & the Gang switched gears with 2012's In Cool Blood, not only recording in mono for the first time but also shifting the lyrical focus more toward youthful mischief than the band's philosophical-leaning past.
For the group's fourth album, 2014's Minimum Rock 'n' Roll, Svenonius unveiled a new edition of the group, with Brett Lyman returning on guitar alongside new members Chris Sutton on bass, Fiona Campbell on drums, and Katie Alice Greer on vocals. Svenonius wasn't done making changes with the group; in 2017, Chain & the Gang had yet another new lineup, with Svenonius joined by guitarist Francy Z. Graham, bassist Anna Nasty, and drummer and keyboard player Mark Cisneros. This edition made its recorded debut on the 2017 album Best of Crime Rock, which featured re-recordings of some of the group's best-known songs alongside three new tunes. It was also Chain & the Gang's first album for In the Red Records after a long relationship with K Records. Svenonius wasn't done shaking things up with Chain & the Gang just yet for 2017; in September of that year, the group dropped another new album, Experimental Music. Cut live in the studio, the album featured another new C&TG lineup, with Svenonius accompanied by Fred Thomas, Danny Kroha, Shelley Salant, Ben Collins, and Amber Fellows. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi