Glamorous yet bedraggled, Bristol band The Master Chaynjis could have just stepped out from the set of a trashy B-movie. Dressed like the cast of a 50s noir thriller, the femme fatale of the piece is in a puffball swing dress while our sharp suited anti-heroes sport a pallor that suggests one too many sleepless nights.
The band’s unhealthy complexion is however deceptive. As they begin to play, a transformation takes place. The band are gripped by a fever, delivering one of the most striking and unsettling performances you might hope to witness. Friction abounds onstage propelling the foreboding swing and swagger of the double bass, guitar and violin into uncharted territory. The music veers from gypsy swing to 50s doo-wop, taking in the brashness of punk and the sombre reflection of folk along the way.
The eclectic style is a result of a strikingly diverse set of musical backgrounds. Sarah Garraway, classically trained and playing the violin from the tender age of six, taking on everything from gypsy swing to experimental string music. Ben Winter, who cut his teeth playing underground funk and hiphop, provides not only the throbbing bass lines but also the driving rhythm of the Master Chaynjis. Centre stage is Sam Halmarack who began playing in folk and experimental bands in Leeds, Mexico City and Madrid. Being self-taught allows him to disregard musical convention and bring vitality to the increasingly tired role of singer/songwriter. His misspent youth largely involved staying up watching B-movies with themes such as alien abductions, races round hairpin bends and forbidden love. These now provide the stories found in the songs of the Master Chaynjis.
In the short space of a year that the band have been together, The Master Chaynjis have developed a loyal following. Having gigged extensively in the South West and beyond, highlights of 2006 included playing Bush Hall, the Green Man, Arumdo and The Brighton Fringe Festival. A January show at The Thekla Social supporting The Hours was an early indicator that 2007 is set to be a huge year for The Master Chaynjis. They have appeared in local and national media, including BBC Radio Bristol, internet TV show the Monday Breakdown and were one of four bands featured in Venue Magazine’s round-up of the most exciting acts of 2006. Their much-vaunted EP, released through Bristol based Gravitas Recordings in February 2007, is set to make unlikely and inimitable stars of the three.