Signing Story: The Popes Of Chillitown

Date Signed: April 12, 2023

Label: Criminal Records

Band Members: Matthew Conner, vocals, acoustic guitar; Arvin Bancil, bass; Jack Ashley, drums, vocals, keys, percussion, programming; Thiago Trosso, saxophone, vocals; Leuan Williams, trombone, vocals; Mike Coppa, electric guitar

Type of Music: ska/punk/dub/hip-hop/drum n bass

Legal: Bray & Krais

Publicity: [email protected]; Jordan, Full Stride PR

Web: popesofchillitown.com

A&R: The Kut (aka Princess Maha), Criminal Records

Yes, that name is ludicrous. If you’re anything like us, you initially misread it as the Popes of Chilltown. But no, it’s Chillitown―a reference to a Chief Wiggum line from an episode of The Simpsons where Homer enters a chili cook-off.

It’s all good fun, and that sense of silliness is in line with the English band’s manic sound. Ska-punk slams head-on into dub and drum n bass to create something eminently danceable and just damned fun.

“The band started when me and a group of my mates at university in Nottingham were playing guitar instead of going to lectures, as you do,” confesses frontman Matt Conner. “We all started playing loads of reggae, reggae turned into ska-punk, which turned into punk, and over the years turned into drum n bass/metal.”

Drummer, keys-man, programmer Jack Ashley said that their wildly eclectic sound stems from their wildly eclectic individual influences. 

“Ska-punk has ended up being the kind of central point that everyone agreed on,” Ashley says. “It’s ended up being a melting pot of what everyone likes, and that energy comes through.” 

After a few years of DIY effort, the logical next step was a deal and Criminal Records was the right home for these Popes. “I’ve known Maha [aka Princess Maha, A&R] for years,” Ashley says. “We actually originally got in touch because we were looking for somewhere to rehearse in London and she had a studio that was available. Since then, I’ve done various engineering work for her, as well. We’ve just kept in touch over the years, and we’ve always been DIY for the most part, doing as much as we can on our own. It was getting to a point where it was nice to have someone, who’s just really good at what they do, show an interest and come onboard. Help us get to the next level. It was a natural thing.”

The band’s first release for Criminal Records is the “Crashmat” single. Lyrically, “‘Crashmat' is about a descent into madness and how you’re supposed to be able to save yourself from that,” Conner explains. “But really, it’s like the blind leading the blind, especially when you don’t have a good system to help you with the big problems that you keep getting into. It’s about surviving when you’re making things worse for yourself every day. Realizing that it’s only you that can help you get out of the situation.”  – Brett Callwood