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Trying their (lady) luck

Six years on, Chemical Ex coalesces, preps debut album

Image
Musical chemists (from left) Skokie G, Vieluf, Haddad and Blackmore.
Photo: Jacob Kepler
Jeremy Adams

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.

The Cooler: Chemical Ex

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.

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Band Guide
Chemical Ex
Beyond the Weekly
Chemical Ex MySpace

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.

Chemical Ex cover The Smiths

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!”

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