Interview with Charles Rogers guitarist/vocalist Jack Cawthon | By Yong Los
The cultivation of a band’s sound is a never-ending quest. Any band can simply imitate what is currently popular, but it’s the bands who work to create their own unique voice who make lasting impressions on people. Since their beginning in 2014, Michigan three-piece Charles Rogers have stuck to developing their sound despite the trends of the local scene.
Charles Rogers combine chunky, in-your-face rhythms with chaotic feedback and modulation to create their own brand of post-hardcore. The band have received comparisons to classic punk bands like Fugazi and the Pixies, as well as more contemporary acts like Self Defense Family. Lyrically, vocalist and guitarist Jack Cawthon uses Charles Rogers as an outlet to make sense of his emotions. “I get upset about something or I get mad at myself, and then, I try to decipher my feelings through my lyrics,” Cawthon says. “There’s anger in [the lyrics], but it’s not meant to be that way. They’re meant to be me trying to understand them.” Cawthon’s writing attempts to find the middle ground between being visual and poetic and being straightforward. These moments of vivid imagery contrasted with the sting of the more blunt lines creates an experience that leaves a bittersweet taste on the tongue.
Earlier this summer, Charles Rogers visited Cold War Studios in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to work with Mustard Plug’s Rick Johnson. The band have worked with Johnson on all of their releases so far, providing Johnson with strong insight on how Charles Rogers operate. “I would feel weird working with anyone else,” Cawthon says. “At this point, Rick knows when I’m not putting my all into it, and he knows what sounds good for the band.” Charles Rogers recently released the songs recorded at Cold War Studios in the form of a split with Brooklyn, N.Y., duo, Stutter. The split is available now via Main Lake Records and features two songs from each band.
Charles Rogers’ half of the split features the tracks “Sun Posture” and “The Friction Disappears,” both of which showcase the band’s growth since their previous EPs. These two new songs show Cawthon learning to accept things rather than allowing frustration to take control. “They’re about being okay with the questions that don’t have answers,” Cawthon explains. The band continue to experiment more with jangling clean tones while still making sure to weave in the noisy elements that have become signature to their sound.
In the two years that Charles Rogers have been together, they have worked tirelessly to build their sound. Much of their growth has come from the friendships they have made within their local music scene. After moving to the opposite side of Michigan for school, Cawthon found himself immersed in a “truer” DIY scene, one that was connected beyond the music. “I would go to house shows, and everyone would just hang out afterwards,” Cawthon says. “There was less of a separation between bands and fans.” The band found themselves immersed in a community of individuals that placed a focus on staying true to the art rather than gaining popularity. It was here that the band formed friendships with like-minded individuals who are just as concerned with creating unique art as they are.
Being in this kind of environment taught Charles Rogers to be comfortable with the music they were writing and develop their sound. Regardless of what is considered “popular” or “unpopular,” Charles Rogers remain diligent in keeping their music about expression. They have found themselves in a scene where there is little pressure to be anything, giving them room to let their creativity carry them to new heights. “Everyone is on the same level,” Cawthon explains. “We’re all working towards the same thing.”
The Charles Rogers / Stutter split is available now via Mainlake Records!