Three years since the release of their last album, Jeunes, CHCKL Music has emerged to the scene once more with their third album, NOW / NEVER. On the surface, it looks as if they’ve fully deviated from the mellow acoustics of the past into head-bobbing, electronic-infused beats, but they caught us off guard with a meditative track at the end that exudes sensitivity and an intimate glimpse of a relationship with God. Intrigued by this unconventional arrangement, CHCKL COLLECTIVE sat down with some of the team members to dive deeper into this album.
It was during this year’s youth conference Euphoria 2016, that the team was spurred to materialise the vision of a new album that they have had for years. Adrian Cheong, the worship director, commissioned Tan Ju En, one of the songwriters for this album, to get the ball rolling, and the other pieces soon fell into place.
The name of this album was derived from Euphoria’s theme: NOW / NEVER. It carries a heavy sense of urgency and boldness — enough to challenge people to do something radically different now. Perhaps that was the driving factor that led the team to create the fresh, daring sounds in the album, blending in electronic rhythms that they’ve never dabbled with before. The result was a symphony of songs that they would coin as the identity of CHCKL’s music.
Having already worked with each other as a worship team helped them build rapport and understanding during the recording period. That being said, there were still times when creative tension arose. But as Kysern aptly puts it, “If everyone had the same ideas, we wouldn’t need each other.”
Collaboration played a major role in ironing out difficulties like the dreaded writer’s block. Daniel shares his experience in writing the song Moments that whenever he hit a rut while composing, Marcus Law, his housemate, would jump in with fresh ideas and help rearrange the lyrics, even at ungodly hours.
For most, it was a trying season as they juggled working on the album with their full-time jobs or studies, on top of commitments to cell groups, ministry, and family. To set aside hours almost every day to practice, record and produce the album was faith-stretching. Though difficult, the team had a unified desire to fulfill the purpose of Euphoria and that pushed them through each session.
Being attuned to God and each other taught them to work as one body in Christ. While the song Moving to the Son may have been penned by Daniel, it was Angelica who carried the message and lyrical impact through her vocals. In addition to her own reflection on the lyrics, her fellowship with Daniel helped uncover his heart and sentiment behind the song.
Ultimately, they were pursuing something more than just a worship album. Crafted with a purpose, as Angelica words it, “We want it to inspire others to dare to be different and to be bold.” And we couldn’t put it better than Ju En himself, “ I want to inspire youths to take ownership of their lives. Now / Never is an anthem to declare that we rather not move at all than to move forward without Him.”
FUN FACT:Known to many as the sound engineer of this album, we bet you didn’t know that Johnston can sing very well in falsetto.
Throughout our conversation with the team, there was one name which the team never failed to mention. If you thought the song Grace Like An Ocean and Now / Never sounded great, it would be a discredit on our part to not highlight the contribution by collaborating artist, rapper and producer, Shelhiel whose signature tunes and electronic beats punctuated throughout the backtracks. Constantly on the go, travelling within and out of the country to perform his music and produce tracks for various artists, it did not stop him from giving his best in making the album. Nobody in the team could imagine how the album would sound like without his musical direction and those addictive hooks that he has masterfully crafted. (We can attest to that!)
FUN FACT:The rap verse in Grace Like An Ocean was written by Andrew Teo, whose story you can find out here!
You would be interested and excited (as we are!) to know that an album will be released as an annual affair from this year onwards. To keep the sound from becoming stale, the team is in talks of planning creative sabbatical retreats. “When you gather people in a creative environment, they will definitely work better by bouncing ideas off each other,” as Daniel shares. Extricating themselves from the distractions of daily life to reconnect with God, these retreats will serve as platforms to brainstorm and create a dynamic synergy of creativity. This has got us anticipating fresh compositions and collaborative explorations for the next album!
To date, NOW / NEVER is the most experimental album CHCKL Music has ever released, and it’s destined to be a benchmark for future creative initiatives. How can it not, when you have music like this — intimate and bold, confronting the stigma of electronic music yet paying homage to it with good structure, and more importantly, leading us into encounters with God. The successive album, as challenging as it will be, will have this one to thank, for laying the grounds to curate more unique sounds and to make more audacious creative decisions.