On Jan. 17th, nationally acclaimed rock band, Saving Abel, performed live at Jazzbones in Tacoma. Blue Helix, an up-and-coming rock group based out of Puyallup, opened for the show. Lead singer/songwriter Sami Chohfi gives the scoop on his latest album, Tale of Two Halves.
“It took me three years to record this album,” said Chohfi.
Chohfi, who built his own recording studio in 2005, stated that he titled the album Tale of Two Halves because half of the songs were written and recorded at two different time periods in his life. As for the songwriting process itself, Chohfi relies heavily on his acoustic guitar, even when writing his heavier material.
“I like the intimacy and vulnerability of the acoustic guitar. It helps me tap into many different avenues of my songwriting.”
But for as much creative talent as he possesses, Chohfi was also quick to credit his bandmates for their contributions to the album.
“I hired the drummer from Candlebox, Scott Mercado, to help me track six of the songs on Tale. The other five songs were tracked with my first drummer, Tapeworm, and my current drummer, Jebbadiah Schreib. The Wolf wrote and tracked all the basslines, and I had Amy Daves track all the violins on the album. We wrote the violin ideas humming them out loud and using my acoustic to find melodies.” Chohfi further expounded that he recorded each of the other instruments separately, and then layered them over one another to create harmony.
With his greatest inspirations being Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, and Radiohead, it’s no surprise that Blue Helix has a style that is reminiscent of the ‘90s grunge movement. Tale of Two Halves features eleven tracks—about half of which are softer, acoustic melodies, while the other half are more of a hard rock style. Personally, I find that the best songs on the album are “Carry Me” and “Wolves”—both of which are in the softer, acoustic realm. It’s not that I prefer soft rock (I overall lean more towards hard rock) but I find that these two songs in particular have a lyrical quality to them that is unparalleled by any of the other songs on the album.
Take, for example, “Carry Me.”
“If love was a melody / you’d be my song / to carry me along / on and on and on / I don’t have much / in this life to give / you are my reason that I have to live.” Not only is the rhythm fluid, but the words themselves are strong enough to stand on their own, making them poetic.
And then there’s “Wolves.”
“I’ve seen the devil’s eyes / as I watched my mother cry / every night, holding tight my / my sister and I.” This song, written about Chohfi’s abusive, alcoholic father is vulnerable and raw in a way that is both genuine and heartfelt.
Nevertheless, I must digress. After all, if every single song was a sentimental ballad, it would be overkill. One of my favorite things about Blue Helix is that Chohfi does an excellent job of counterbalancing softer melodies with songs that feature plenty of the hard rock thrashing that we all love. “Bullets” is by far the best hard rock song on the album, with plenty of electric guitar, heavy bass, and pounding drums to satisfy any rock-a-holic.
Then there’s “Six 8”—an interesting instrumental interlude. It’s not that the song is bad, it’s just that I was caught off guard by the absence of lyrics. It felt a little out of place only because it was midway through the album and by then I was expecting vocals. What I had come to find out was that “Six 8” was Chohfi’s first song that he completed with Blue Helix.
“I just felt that it was written as the band’s first song, completed song, as an instrumental and it just kind of stayed that way,” Chohfi explained. “I’ve had so many people say, ‘You should make “Six 8” a song with lyrics.’ But, you know, once you’re kind of married to an idea of letting a song be the way it was created, it kind of becomes that.”
Although I personally find myself in the camp of “add some lyrics” I nevertheless respect Chohfi’s decision to leave the song the way it was originally created. His unapologetic stance when it comes to his artistic autonomy is precisely what I respect in a musician. These days, too many musicians cater to the demands of the public instead of staying true to themselves and their art.