Chon’s Play-Doh rock

Their music never goes the same way twice

The members of CHON can’t wait to move out of their mom’s house.
  • The members of CHON can’t wait to move out of their mom’s house.

Chon specialize in guitars that swirl and sway, spidering up and down scales over odd chord changes — an outgrowth of prog often called to as “math rock.” As Chon honcho Mario Camarena confesses, growing up and learning to play just outside San Diego, made for an outsider’s perspective on music.

“Oceanside definitely has its own vibe,” explains the guitarist. “It’s a little too far from actual San Diego to feel like the same place. I think it’s even more laid back here and moves at a slower pace than the city. Not gonna lie, there’s not much to do here but it’s still kind of a cool spot, because we’re right in the middle of so many cool places in SoCal. So it’s pretty easy to travel anywhere nearby to do something. Also, for some reason Oceanside has so many amazing hole in the wall food spots. The best Thai food I’ve ever had is here.”

The band, releasing their self-titled album on June 7, took inspiration from their relative isolation. Camarena admits, straight up, that boy bands and teen idols had their parts to play: “NSYNC made me want to start a band when I was like 5. I was a megafan. That band and Michael Jackson were huge musical influences on me as a kid.”

“When I was a little older I found a really crazy multi-genre band called Estradasphere on MySpace, and they changed my life. They have lots of insane rhythmic ideas and lots of humor in their music and shred super hard. We all learned a lot from that band, and I’d say they’re a big part of why Chon exists.”

The guitarist met also-guitarist Erick Hansel in childhood; the two spent hours writing and performing duets. Deciding to play live, they auditioned “every drummer we could find” and approving of none. They decided to teach Camarena’s younger brother Nathan, to play drums. Nathan got good enough in six months, and to keep it mostly in the family, they threw in an older Camarena, Esiah, to play bass.

The band’s music never goes the same way twice, and Chon, says their co-founder, likes that just fine. “We write pretty much every way possible. It’s kind of like playing with Play-Doh as a kid. You never thought about how to play with it, you just do.”

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