The Chalkdowns: a band in progress

Brooke J. Freundschuh, Managing Editor

To kick off the spring semester, The University of North Alabama’s University Program Council (UPC) put on several events, including the Frost Fest Music Festival. One of the headlining acts for Frost Fest was a name that many on campus are not yet familiar with: The Chalkdowns.

The Chalkdowns are a new indie rock group that was formed right here on UNA’s campus. The project was started by John Brake and Ethan Chandler, who met through Room 25, a stage band they were a part of at Florence High School. The lineup for the festival consisted of Patrick Crummie, a friend of Chandler’s, and Trey Nichols, a well known vocalist in and Shoals who is known for his acoustic shows, playing alongside his father, Gary Nichols, and leading the popular local band, Yes Trespassing. Nichols was also a part of Room 25.

Keyboardist John Brake is a freshman at UNA majoring in Entertainment Industry Business. His interest in music was sparked at age 3 when he watched his dad play hymns on piano. Brake took up piano himself and tried to teach himself on piano with Youtube videos until he met one of his biggest inspirations and mentor, Harvey Thompson Jr., who taught Brake piano lessons. Today, Brake has the day Thompson passed away written on his ukulele. Along with piano and ukulele, Brake plays guitar and violin.

Brake’s co-founder, Ethan Chandler, is not currently attending UNA, but has lived in Florence since he was in the 7th grade. Around this time he became interested in music and started playing drums. As well as drums, Chandler is trying to learn bass guitar and improve his
vocal skills.

“I’ve always had a deep emotional feel for music, and when I moved to Florence I got to explore my musical abilities that got me to where I am today,” Chandler said.

Bassist Patrick Crummie is a senior at UNA majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies/ Digital Media. Like Brake, Crummie first got into music by watching his dad lead worship music as a child. He describes his dad as “being able to play anything.” Crummie started learning music on his own in middle school, and he now plays bass, drums, keyboard, electric and acoustic guitar, sings vocals and dabbles in playing the mandolin. His influences stem from ionic bassists such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and Queens of the Stone Age’s Michael Shuman.

Frost fest was their first major gig playing together as a group, in fact, it was formed to play this event. They crafted a set list about a month prior that was filled with covers meant to engage the audience. However, it is their goal to start making original music as soon as possible.

According to Crummie, they are not writing any originals at the moment. His goals for the band in 2022 are “to gain some more definitive members, try to get some gigs and have a good time.” A few of their original members have moved, and some friends, like Nichols, are just filling in.

As for gaining members, Brake shared a similar sentiment, while highlighting the positives of their current situation.

“Playing with just one guitarist is both a restriction and a crutch. As a band, we love painting ourselves into corners, because it ignites those creative gears in our heads as both a “how do we put together quality work?” and a “how do we work around the corner we’ve painted ourselves into?” because it puts us in a position to make music no one has thought to listen to,” he said.

The band has other goals, such as gaining funding to make their music and play shows, but overall, music and a desire to play shows is at the center.

“We want to show the world that quality music can be created without a stereotype or standard rule of thumb. We want to break into the industry with music.