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April 26, 2012
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Meet Superchief

By Chad Taylor

Superchief band members plan a 2012 summer tour, promoting their live music on weekend runs.

I’m standing at a table in the Royal Mile, listening to the members of Superchief wax poetic about Wal-Mart.

“You could go to L.A., Rodeo Boulevard, put up a Wal-Mart, and you’d suddenly have people in wife beaters and mullets walking around,” said vocalist Haldor von Hammer. (Spoiler alert: It’s not his real name.) “But the Wal-Mart outside of Austin, Texas, was beautiful. It was like the Jerry Springer show just threw up all over the place.”

Superchief — consisting of von Hammer, rhythm guitarist Jason Monroe, drummer Ryan Marcum, bassist James Segovia and lead guitarist Ricc Terranova — were exploring the wonders of innermost Texas, thanks to their play-date with the South by Southwest music festival.

“The drive down to Austin was fucking amazing,” Monroe said. “Horribly amazing. I can’t even describe it. Like a mix of shit and greatness. We left on Thursday, drove all night, finished the drive on Friday, got up to play Friday night, got up to play Saturday, left Saturday, drove all night… it was literally 80 minutes of stage time between 30 hours of driving, in four days. But, it was South by Southwest, man. What are you gonna do?”

What, indeed. Superchief lives to play in front of a crowd, and they’ve been very, very good at it. Generally regarded as one of the city’s best live acts, Superchief has been written up glowingly in Metal Hammer Magazine, played sold-out shows with the likes of touring acts including Red Fang and been selected to play the previously mentioned SXSW. In short, the band’s chops are unquestionable.

“We practice and practice and practice to play live,” von Hammer said. “And without the live shows, there goes a large part of my motivation. Rubbing my sweaty body all over somebody, that’s what it’s all about.”

Formed four years ago after Monroe and Terranova’s previous band, The Howling Suns, disbanded, Superchief is a staple of the local music scene and regularly plays out of state as well, as funds and time allow.

“We’ve all got full-time jobs,” Monroe said. “So we don’t get to (tour) as much as we’d like, but we’ll do weekend runs, where we do two or three shows like that. We did (a tour) last spring; we’re going to be doing one this summer.”

Talk with the band’s members for any length of time, and the things that become apparent are their love for their material and the depth of their convictions. This is a band with some serious opinions on the state of music in Des Moines, and they’re not afraid to let you know about it.

“(Battle of the Bands contests are) a cash cow (for the bars),” Marcum said, regarding why the band won’t play another one. “If Jane’s Addiction came in here and pulled three people, they’d lose out to some local band who had 200 drinking buddies out on the night to make the bar a bunch of money.”

“Existentially, I don’t have a problem with a battle of the bands,” adds Terranova, “(but) to me, I feel like if a bar can pay a band $1,000 a night after a battle of the bands, they can afford to pay more than $50 (on normal nights).”

So while you won’t see Superchief battling for drink-ticket votes anytime soon, you will see them around town. Or at least, they really feel that you should.

“If you haven’t seen us live, you really owe it to yourself to experience the reckless ineptitude of us on stage,” Monroe said. “It’s not about the CD; it’s all the live show.”

“But,” von Hammer adds, “our CD is good.” CV

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