Chemical Ex doesn’t even have a full-length album out, yet the audience at their latest Bunkhouse show is, according to one bartender, “the biggest [the venue] has ever seen.” Chemical Ex’s members hail from California, Colorado, Illinois and England, yet they’ve cited making Vegas’ arts scene a “big-ass orgy” as one of their priorities. From which planet has this group descended?
“We’re kind of different,” admits lead singer Maryam Haddad.
Different indeed. The band, which sounds like a mix of Sneaker Pimps’ trip-hop and Coldplay’s anthemic reflection, formed back in 2002, when Haddad was a student at Las Vegas Academy studying violin and writing a 500-copy-per-month music ’zine called Scene and Heard. Wills Blackmore, the group’s drummer, was a British studio musician who had retreated to Vegas after a supposed feud with Tricky—a rumor the band will neither confirm nor deny. Between playing strings on The Killers’ Sam’s Town, Haddad worked at the now-defunct Sam Ash Music Store with keyboardist Andy Vieluf.
Vieluf, along with current bass player Skokie G (“I hate my [real] name,” he groans), was a member of The Kunts, the backup band for Vegas’ female shock-rockers Deadly Seven. And just like that—well, give or take a few personnel changes—Chemical Ex’s current four-person lineup was born. “Everything is accidental,” notes Vieluf.
The Bunkhouse concert is an odd mix of innocence and swagger. On one hand, the 22-year-old Haddad appears the picture of calm confidence onstage, gliding from electronic, piano-heavy originals like “Lady Luck” and “Letdown” to rockin’ covers of The Smiths and The Cranberries. On the other, she and her bandmates are all youth and earnestness; they ask audience members to raise their hands if they recognize a particular song, and they encourage wallflowers to dance.
In fact, one gets the feeling that beneath its recently formed Sin City bravado—a mix of tattoos, piercings and dyed-black hair—Chemical Ex is actually the type of band that would invite its parents to every show.
The next step for this emerging group, however, is to record a full-length album, which it has already begun doing with producer Lez Warner, former drummer for The Cult and owner of US-UK Studios in Vegas. “We’re talking January [for a potential release date],” Haddad says. Chemical Ex’s ultimate goals, she continues, are to create a “viable lifestyle” out of playing songs and to bring its music to a wider audience.
“We definitely want to make a living off playing in the band,” she states. “We’re really positive-thinking and supportive of other types of music, [and] we do really want to be the best at what we do.” Or, as the mysteriously named Skokie G attests, “The future will be awesome!”