Three tracks in, Dylan Chenfeld is carving out space as a master of nostalgic, romantic, and fun indie-pop
Some bands just seem to have it all together. From the first second of music they release to the accomplished videos, it all just works. Rebounder – aka New York native Dylan Chenfeld – is one such artist. His debut single ‘Japanese Posters’ arrived just over a year ago: an infectious piece of pristine indie-pop, it sounds familiar enough, but boasts a fresh twist only Dylan could add.
It took over a decade for Dylan to get to this point. As he explains now, he first began writing his own songs at 11 but was 22 “when I got the confidence to show them to somebody else”. But his growing up around music was key to get the ball rolling, and he now cites lessons learned playing in bands in his hometown.
“Don’t spend a year writing a song”, he says, detailing his key commandments. Also, “playing a million shows in a week” and doing things for the sake of it is not helpful in the longterm. There’s also the trickier matter of not trying to imitate your favourite bands, a tempting route for any emerging musician.
“I think when you’re young, even if you’re not intentionally doing it, you’re like, ‘I’m listening to this so I’m gonna make something sounds like this,’” Dylan notes. “Now, I think there’s never been a bigger disparity between what I’m listening to and what I’m making. I’m listening to all Harry Nilsson or [LA-via-Florida DIY pop star] Yeek, but it’s coming out as something else.”
What he’s making, then, is fast sounding like a dangerously exciting revival of what made New York City’s mid-00’s indie scene so vital – but with a modern edge. Take ‘Japanese Posters’, which revolves around a deep bass groove and ear-worm guitar line that lands somewhere between Grizzly Bear and The Strokes. Second single ‘Swim Zone’, meanwhile, is a glistening piece of misty eyed synth-pop that’s as intricate as any TV On The Radio deep cut, with the euphoria of LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’. Ever wondered what would be the soundtrack to the teen movie about your youth? It’s probably going to be Rebounder.
New song ‘Meet Me At The Bar’ – perhaps a nod to that oral history of NYC’s indie scene, author Lizzy Goodman’s stellar tome Meet Me In The Bathroom – carries a similar emotional weight. It’s underpinned by layers of angelic vocals, which rub shoulders with Dylan’s lamenting lines, “looking for your face in others / I’ve been doing double takes for months.
The song’s video features Dylan continuously walking while images of New York, Lou Reed, and A$AP Rocky, and clips of The Great Gatsby, Mad Men, and Breakfast At Tiffany’s roll past behind him. The lyrics flash up on every chorus, turning the hit into half-karaoke cut, half-walk through the inside of its creator’s head.
So far, he’s only played a handful of shows as Rebounder, mostly in New York’s more intimate venues like Baby’s All Right and Rough Trade. Last October, however, he and his live band – which features a revolving cast of mostly old school friends plus the permanent fixture of his younger brother Noah – got a last-minute call to support The Neighbourhood in Toronto and Brooklyn. “It was just amazing,” Dylan says of the Canadian show. “Everyone was singing along to the choruses on the second go round. It had everything you want from a great show, without any of the insecurities because I didn’t know a single fucking person there.”
The next night in New York, at the 1,800-cap Brooklyn Steel, the story was much the same: a crowd of fresh converts lapping up every second of the charismatic musician’s short-but-sweet set, immediately latching on to the words of songs they’d never heard before. It felt like an early turning point in the band’s story, he says “It was special for the people who’ve been following it,” Dylan agrees. “But my voice was blown out cos I went too hard in Toronto – and everyone I knew I was [at the New York show].” He pauses to laugh, adding: “It was like a terrible birthday party.”
Having had a taste of larger stages, he’s set his eyes on becoming a regular fixture in those big venues. It might not be the cool thing to express that ambition, but he’s doing it anyway. “I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen 32 times, so whenever the big stages come around I’m always like, ‘Let’s do some Bruce shit,’” he says. “If you’ve seen someone 32 times in concert, it’s gonna rub off on you. Similarly, I’ve seen Bring Me The Horizon 10 times. If you put those two together – and please don’t – it’s gonna be like Bring Me The Horizon meets Bruce Springsteen on a gigantic stage.”
Jokes aside, things are about to get serious for Rebounder. After spending most of last year “creating”, Dylan is ready to hit the road hard and share the music he’s been working on. He’s planning to release a new song every six weeks until his first album, ‘Rebounder One’, is out, while he’s already “kind of finishing up” its follow-up right now.
“I just wanna make shit that sounds new that won’t sound dated next year and is stuff that excites me,” he says of his goals right now. He’s not the only one who’s dead excited about it.