Singer-songwriter Chase Waller was born in Savannah, Georgia but made the trip northwest to Chattanooga, Tennessee after he graduated from college. He subsequently got a job teaching high school English and History at a private boarding school, but music still seemed to direct his steps to a certain degree. His alias of El Rocko was created in college as a way for him to channel his rhythmic urges into an expansive and complicated musical perspective. Drawing inspiration from bands like Built to Spill, Radiohead and Duster, his work was laced with ragged guitar lines and dreamy soundscapes, the result of building spaces where influence and experience could meet and ricochet off one another in unpredictable ways.
He continued to perform as El Rocko once he had settled into Chattanooga, finding time to perform at school festivals and various local venues while developing connections and finding friends within the Scenic City’s independent music scene. Recently signed to Yellow Racket Records, he is looking to release his debut full-length record later this year. Blending the alt-rock tendencies of some of his heroes within a more theatrically-minded ‘80s pop-rock environment, he’s found the perfect balance between synth-washed melodies and a more muscular indie rock aesthetic.
On his debut single, “Half the Day,” Waller molds elements of dream pop, acoustic pop and ‘80s synth-rock into a unique and mesmerizing whir of miles-long melodies and catchy sounds that are definitely going to get stuck in your head for days. The song details the decline and dissolution of a relationship, one where this process of dismantlement occurs over a matter of hours. His lilting delivery subtly masks the ache and sorrow welling up from within the music, allowing us to become enamored with these sounds before revealing the pain fueling their reality.
“I was thinking about all the relationships I have been in that seemed to end abruptly,” Waller explains. “Even if it had been building up under the surface for months, I often felt like it took less than a day for everything to fall apart.”
The track itself possesses that same undercurrent of volatility, a kind of capricious rhythmic counterpart to the desperation found in its lyrics. For all its gauzy surroundings, the song presents a specific collection of influences, which highlights Waller’s fierce allegiance to blurred genres. From its somewhat rough-hewn guitar riffs to its acoustic strums and plinking synths, “Half the Day” is both homage and radical adaptation — and a mesmerizing start for El Rocko and the inexplicably catchy pop-rock impulses which seem to pour from his heart and brain and body.