.Chemical Therapy Makes Its NorCal Debut at Music in the Park San Jose

From Charleston by way of Los Angeles, the four-piece just released a single and video titled ‘Daddy’s Girl’

This Saturday marks the return of Metro-produced Music in the Park, a longstanding summer tradition in downtown San Jose, with headliner Alex Lora’s El Tri, who will ignite the crowd as they celebrate their 55th year as one of Mexico’s most popular rock bands.

Also on the bill is a much newer band, making its first appearance in Northern California. The group, Chemical Therapy, has its first single out: “Daddy’s Girl,” a blend of rock, hip hop and pop mixed by Blind Melon’s Chris Thorn at Fireside Sound in Joshua Tree.

Though the band in this form is fairly new, its bandmates share musical roots that trace back almost a decade.

“It’s been an amazing response to our first song and music video,” says frontman Sweet Baby Nate. “It’s another palette, making a music video … another way to capture the vibe of the band and the direction and style of the music.”

Speaking with a slight drawl that gives a nod to his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, Sweet Baby Nate recalls how he started in music. Around the time he pulled his grandmother’s classical guitar out of storage (eventually learning it needed nylon strings instead of steel), he met Taco, a “phenomenal drummer” who was into psychedelic rock. It was a game-changer for Nate. In small-town South Carolina, “not a lot of my friends knew this kind of music.”

Nate recalls, “I started learning all these Led Zeppelin songs and stuff, and we’d hang out at whoever’s house and play.”

Next, enter bassist Chris Cool. That’s his real name—and his parents were also in a local band called the Cool.

Clockwise from top left: Tex, Chris Cool, Sweet Baby Nate and Taco

“Once Chris Cool came in the picture, we kinda stopped surfing band names on MySpace,” Nate says. The Cool family garage, filled with instruments and amps, became home base. “There was a certain kind of freedom in that garage to just play music, all the time, whenever.”

Taking on the name Heyrocco, Nate, Taco and Chris got their first gig: opening up for the Cool. “From there it kind of naturally progressed,” Nate says, with the band releasing a debut album, Teenage Movie Soundtrack, and touring the U.S. and Europe with acts such as Grouplove, Mutemath and the Lemonheads, Evan Dando’s ’90s alternative rock band.

But though rock was still at the heart of the band’s style, other influences were beginning to exert themselves. Especially the rap that dominated Nate’s early years, before he fell in love with Hendrix and Led Zep.

“Lil John and Lil Wayne were just on top of the charts and it was everywhere,” Nate remembers. “It was like that beautiful blend of rap and pop music. Pop-accessible rap music was all around us. If I got into the car with friends of mine from my neighborhood, it was 100 percent rap.”

During its touring days, another big change came to the lineup: Pat “Tex” Mertens. Nate says he lured the Austin-based guitarist into Heyrocco because Mertens was a big fan of the Lemonheads, and agreed to join up for the tour.

‘It was almost like
we had a crib in the house
but the baby
hadn’t been born yet.’

“Heyrocco was a trio for the longest time—it was the classic guitar, bass, drums—but I always dreamt of being the frontman and not having a heavy Gibson or Les Paul weighing me down on stage,” Nate says. “There were glimpses of Chem T in what we were doing.”

When the four musicians moved to L.A, they were still playing gigs as Heyrocco, but a new sound was beginning to emerge. “It was almost like we had a crib in the house but the baby hadn’t been born yet,” Nate explains. “It was like something’s happening here; we’re gonna just naturally do what we do and not try to force anything.”

The transition also was aided by the realities of the pandemic: “We were just able to work in the studio, five, six days a week and hammer out the ideas and allow this marriage of hip hop and rock to exist.”

He adds, “I think that’s why we’re just so passionate about this Chemical Therapy direction, because it’s like all the walls were knocked down between all of this music.”

And the name? Nate reveals that he found the phrase in William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. “I remember hearing Steely Dan was a reference to that book,” he says. “I thought, you know what, it’s already tried and true.”

Nighttime photo of the band Chemical Therapy grouped around an automobile
A cinematic moment with Chemical Therapy

Armed with a name and new songs, the next thing on the agenda was a music video for the song “Daddy’s Girl.” The video is “a collaboration between two very talented kids here in L.A., Summer Kastner and Dexter Carbone,” Nate says. “They’re both about 17 or 18. And we wanted kids to make the video, because who’s more in touch with kids than kids? And so we kinda passed things back and forth. They threw an idea out there and we’d kinda play ping pong with it.” For Nate, the video captures a style of storytelling seen in some of his favorite movies, including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

“I think we were their first music video,” he says. “That made it a more special experience. It has a cinematic element to it.”

Pressed for details on the band’s strategies for achieving success, Nate demurs. “We do have a manager,” he says, but he keeps “that kind of stuff private. I always thought that was kind of a magic to how it all works. We’re building the A Team behind closed doors.”

He will say that he’s feeling pretty good right now about the band’s achievements. “We’ve kind of been calling this year our harvest. We’ve been musical farmers for a little while. And so we’re just kind of been experimenting and farming for a long time.”

He adds, “You really can’t buy experience. We’ve spent a lot of time on stage, we’ve spent a lot of time in studios. We’ve done it all. I’ve been so high and I’ve fallen on my face in so many different ways and places. I think we’ve developed a sense of self that is truly priceless. There’s ultimately power in knowing who you are, and this band is really who we are.”

To see more Chem T, check out their video of “Daddy’s Girl”

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