Kenny Chambers discusses the key track from his band’s Burning in Water LP.
BY TIM HINELY
Ed note: We continue our series devoted to tunes that hold special places in our hearts and in our collective experience as devotees to and lovers of timeless indie rock. To kick the series off, we asked Eric Matthews, of both solo and Cardinal fame, to talk about his classic number “Fanfare,” from his 1995 Sub Pop hit It’s Heavy in Here. Next was Bill Janovitz of Buffalo Tom pulling back the curtain on one of his early gems: “Taillights Fade,” from 1992’s Let Me Come Over, cut with fellow bandmembers Chris Colbourn (bass) and Tom Maginnis (drums). After that we dipped way back to 1970 for the proto-power pop of Crabby Appleton’s “Go Back,” penned by frontman Michael Fennelly, and then fast-forwarded to 2000 for John Conley talking about his band the California Oranges and their pop gem “John Hughes.” Then it was back to the ‘90s courtesy Allen Clapp, who talked about “Something Strange Happens.” Now we drop in to 1986 and the Boston punk scene….
As far as I know Boston’s Moving Targets, led by main songwriter Kenny Chambers, had only cut a handful of songs before recording their massive debut, Burning in Water (Taang Records, 1986). Though they’d been bouncing around in one form or another since the early ‘80s—they emerged from the ashes of a band called Smash Pattern—the only recorded output they had was a few songs on the Conflict Records compilation Bands That Could Be God. I have to say, I was completely blown away the first time I heard Burning in Water. At the time, I was moving away from hardcore and listening to more mid-tempo, melodic stuff, and this record just hit that sweet spot. The band got a lot of comparisons to Husker Du, which I do hear as an influence, but I like Burning in Water more than any Husker Du record, which is saying something as I love Husker Du.
It was tough to only pick out one song, but I decided to ask Kenny Chambers about the soaring and powerful “Faith.” Kenny was more than happy to hit me back and tell me about the origins of the song and the recording of it. The band: Chambers on guitar and vocals, Pat Leonard on bass, Pat Brady on drums.
What was the initial inspiration for the song?
“Faith” was born during my time in the band Smash Pattern (Chuck Freeman on drums) in 1984. I’m sure there was some Mission of Burma influence coupled with a case of Old Milwaukee that we consumed at every practice. When the ‘targets came together again 1985 we started playing it.
Did it take long to finish writing it?
The song took a short while to put together. I wrote it whole then added a couple more parts on the following couple of weeks.
Any idea how your long time fans feel about it (i.e.: would it be considered a “fan favorite” or anything?)
I think any fan of the band likes that tune.
Was it a staple of your live sets even years later?
The Moving Targets had “Faith” on most set lists from 1985 to 2007. I don’t think that we ever got tired of playing it.
Is there anything about the song you’d change?
I wouldn’t change anything about it. The band played it well and Lou Giordano did a fine job of recording it and coaxing a good performance out of us.
Tell me a little about the recording of it – where and when, how long did it take, any watershed moments or glaring problems, etc.?
Recording the Burning in Water album was kind of a blur. We were so excited and it went so quickly (all of the basic tracks in a day and a half) that I personally don’t remember recording most of the songs. I know it sounded great in the studio with Lou and Carl Plaster and we were happy with everything. The only problem with recording was trying to adapt to a cleaner amp sound. Lou pushed the cleaner sound and I was used to total distortion. In hindsight, Lou was right on the money. The record sounds sharp.
How do you feel about it now?
I still think it holds up today.
Early Chambers photo by David Henry / via Wikimedia
Current Chambers photo from Versus the Goat podcast page