America’s sweethearts

Noise rock breakout Chat Pile makes Front Range debut with Lingua Ignota at the Stanley Hotel — and shares hot takes on Colorado staples like weed, jam bands and more

Credit: Bayley Hanes

Combing through the seemingly endless constellation of articles about Oklahoma City noise rock band Chat Pile since their full-length debut God’s Country crashed into the culture last summer, you’ll notice a throughline in the use of the word “ugly.” 

It’s a fitting descriptor for the quartet’s menacing sludge-metal sound — an utterly miserable ruckus built on “riffs that sound like they’re on the verge of throwing up,” as a reporter with online tastemaker Pitchfork wrote in the outlet’s year-end feature on its 50 Best Albums of 2022.   

But there’s more to Chat Pile, named after the mountains of toxic mining waste clustered in the northeastern corner of the band’s home state, than ugliness alone. The outfit takes a groove-forward approach to its notably vicious style, propelled by huge choruses and system-blowing rhythms described by co-founding bassist Stin (who uses a stage name like the rest of his bandmates) as “the kind of music Beavis and Butt-Head would listen to.”

Courtesy: The Flenser

As a result of this infectious blend of ferocity and fun, the band has found themselves gobsmacked by widespread critical acclaim outside the traditional parameters of heavy music journalism. On top of the aforementioned Pitchfork accolade, God’s Country also wound up on year-end lists from Rolling Stone, Stereogum, Paste and elsewhere, becoming something of a meme among fervent fans on social media in the process. 

“Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest from the trees, because you hear and see all these people talking about you, but it almost seems like this phantom bubble of sorts,” says Stin, who engineered the record in the band’s Oklahoma City home studio. “Which, I know it is, but then we’ll play a show or something and tons of people will show up and it’s like, ‘Oh, this actually means something! It isn’t just people on Twitter talking about our band.’”

The online chatter has netted real-world results for Chat Pile, but it has also led to some misconceptions about the band that have been tough to untangle. The celebrated outfit’s brief but brutal discography is full of songs taking listeners into the grim inner worlds of killer cops (“Crawlspace”), fast-food cannibals (“Rainbow Meat”) and grief-sick slashers (“Pamela”), leading some listeners to lose sight of the delicate line between art and artist. 

“There are people who think we’re these misanthropic nihilists or whatever. That seems to still be a thing that pops up all the time, and I don’t know how many times we have to explain that’s not who we are,” says guitarist Luther Manhole. “But I guess if that’s what people hear in the music, and it means something to them, I’m not gonna take it away.”

Credit: Juliette Boulay

With that sort of postmodern death-of-the-author sensibility in tow, Chat Pile has quickly carved a unique space as one of the most successful alt-metal crossovers of the century. And as critical consensus continues to mount, these four 30-somethings from the Southern Plains, who started the band more or less as a hobby among friends, find themselves reeling from runaway success that shows no signs of slowing down.

“Imposter syndrome hits hard. It’s so weird for us to be honored in this way — I still don’t believe it’s real,” says singer-songwriter Raygun Busch, whose singular vocal style oscillates between the desperate ramblings of a dead-eyed derelict and the wounded howl of someone in urgent need of emergency medical attention. “Sometimes I think, ‘If people knew what a horrible singer I am …’ But people do know, and they like it.”

Front Range fans will get their first chance to experience Chat Pile on stage when the band makes their Colorado debut at the purportedly haunted Stanley Hotel for a two-night stint with headliner Lingua Ignota on Feb. 24 and Feb. 25. The sold-out weekend is the final stop on a swan-song U.S. tour for the harrowing folk-metal project of classically trained musician and artist Kristin Hayter, complete with a “séance” following the Friday evening performance and a karaoke session the next night.

“There’s something about her music and ours, and getting people together at The Stanley in the wintertime — I feel like it’s going to be very mystical,” Luther Manhole says. “There’s going to be some ghost energy flowing, powering all of us.”

BONUS: Chat Pile does Colorado

With the Southern Plains sludge-metal quartet making its Centennial State debut this weekend, Boulder Weekly asked the band to share their thoughts on a few common local fixtures — from hiking to healing crystals, and points in between. 

Phish performs at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park outside Denver on Sept. 2, 2022. (Credit: Adam Perry)


Luther Manhole: Finally, Ron’s time to shine!

Cap’n Ron [drums]: So, for the most part, jam music is pretty terrible. But I do enjoy Phish quite a bit, and I have seen them many times in Colorado.

Boulder Weekly: How many times have you seen Phish?

Cap’n Ron: About 45. Something like that. 

Boulder Weekly: Holy shit.

Raygun Busch: But hey, now I’m gonna step up and tell everyone: I’m also a big Phish fan. I’ve only seen them twice, and I saw Trey Anastasio Band once when I was high on ecstasy. So I love Phish, too. I have bootlegs and stuff. I don’t want Ron to get put on blast. I want to stand with him right now as a Phish fan. 

Luther Manhole: I can’t fully stand there hand-in-hand with you guys, because I’m not really into Phish. But Ray, I know you’ll go to bat with me in holding our swords for Dave [Matthews]. Before These Crowded Streets — I love that record. 

Raygun Busch: I’m into Dave too, man. Those first five albums, and then select tracks later on. Dave’s great. 

. . . .

Crocs, Inc. headquarters are located at 13601 Via Varra in Broomfield.


Raygun Busch: Hate ’em. Get ’em out of here. 

Luther Manhole: I’m wearing Crocs right now. 

Cap’n Ron: Lems Shoes is also a Boulder company. That’s my preferred footwear. 

Raygun Busch: How about barefoot, like Christ walked. How about that? 

Boulder Weekly: That’s also a popular choice out here. 

Raygun Busch: I mean, you’re experiencing life more [barefoot]. Wearing shoes, you’re depriving yourself of a whole sensory experience of feeling the earth under your feet. 

Stin: Ray’s not just talking the talk. There have been multiple times where he’s been like, “Did I leave my shoes at your house?”

Raygun Busch: I’ve shown up to work delivering pizza with no shoes a few times, putting bags on my feet and stuff. I get hygiene, but I’ve also gotta live my life. 

Cap’n Ron: Like Phish says: “Whatever you do, take care of your shoes.” 

. . . .

With more than 2,300 medical cannabis dispensaries, Oklahoma has more weed shops than any state in the U.S.


Luther Manhole: There are more dispensaries in Oklahoma than Colorado, by a lot. I’m sorry to say, but we’re a way bigger weed state. I think we have more than California and Colorado combined. It’s ridiculous here. Every vape shop turned into a dispensary overnight. There are about eight within a mile of where I am now. 

Stin: I bought a quarter for $18 last night. 

Raygun Busch: What’s insane is that we lived in a fascist police state like five years ago when it comes to drugs. It’s pretty clear that money rules the day. Nothing means anything. There’s no noble truth to anything a policeman does. It’s whatever the law is. Like, “I just beat some guy to death a few years ago over a sack of weed. But…”

Stin: I’m the least-stoned member of Chat Pile, for what it’s worth. The rest of you guys are like tenfold what I’m capable of. 

Boulder Weekly: Who smokes the most weed? 

Stin: It’s between Ron or Ray. It might be a pretty close competition. 

Cap’n Ron: 24/7 for me, basically. 

Luther Manhole: We’re all going through life in different ways. 

Raygun Busch: We are. Whatever — it’s good. 

. . . .

A selection of apophyllites from Crystal Dragon in Boulder (3330 Arapahoe Ave.) described by a store representative on social media as “great for astral travel and to enhance and stimulate one’s intuitive vision.” (Photo courtesy Crystal Dragon/Facebook)


Luther Manhole: I mean, live your life, you know? It’s like astrology and stuff. If people are having fun, they’re having fun. Whatever. Just don’t be weird to me.

Stin: Aesthetically, I like that shit — I love witchy stuff. Ten years ago, the witchy aesthetic was having its heyday and all that. Bring it back. I’m cool with it. But is my psoriasis gonna go away because I rubbed a crystal on my forehead? Fuck no, dude. 

Luther Manhole: I have definitely been friends with and dated people who are crystal people, and they are some normal, fine people. I went to a thing called Spirit Fest at the Marriott where they had a whole bunch of crystals and Tarot stuff — incense and stones and all kinds of stuff. It’s not my thing, but whatever. 

. . . .

“Can I sit on the car?” U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has a laugh with billionaire CEO Elon Musk at the 2010 unveiling of a Tesla, Inc. factory in Fremont, California. (Credit: Steve Jurvetson)


Raygun Busch: Fuck Elon Musk. 

Luther Manhole: Yeah, that’s pretty much where I’m at. 

Raygun Busch: We’re way past the date where he was gonna save the world. He’s on an episode of The Simpsons, and Lisa says, “Dad, that’s Elon Musk — the world’s greatest living inventor!” He’s another celebrity. I want some scientist that I have to learn about 20 years from now. Can we just get the fucking work done? 

Luther Manhole: I mean, if we’re talking about the concept of electric vehicles, that’s intriguing to me. I would like them to just be a little cheaper so I could afford one. 

Stin: Right. But if someone’s driving a Tesla, it’s like, for any good you’re possibly doing by this, you’re still tacky. 

Raygun Busch: It’s still about status and wealth. 

Stin: Absolutely. And I barely know anything [about them], but a guy I know drives one. He showed me the interior and it has, like, a full-on iPad screen. I’m like, “Are people literally driving around with crazy visuals shooting in their face like YouTube?” Because if so, I want nothing to do with this. As you know, I document [on the band’s Twitter account] every car that drives into a building in Oklahoma City.

Luther Manhole: There’s a Tesla dealership here and you do see them all over. There’s a lot of oil and energy bros who drive them now. I’d really love to just not have a car. I wish I could do that in Oklahoma City. Hopefully one day we might get there.

Stin: Not in our lifetimes.

. . . .

Rocky Mountain National Park features more than 350 miles of hiking trails. (Credit: Billy Hathorn)


Stin: Love it. That is like my other true passion in life. 

Luther Manhole: All four of us just went hiking together two weekends ago.

Stin: Yeah, we went to the Wichita Mountains [National Wildlife Refuge] — which is basically all you can do in Oklahoma. But I go on multiple national park trips a year, and honestly the only reason I even try to work out is to keep myself in shape to hike long distances. COVID kind of fucked up my rhythm with all that, and I haven’t been going as much as I was. It’s a goal of mine to get back on the trails in a big way this year.

Luther Manhole: I’ve always been an indoor person. We all go on a cabin trip every year in January with about eight people, and normally there’s a hiking portion where the indoor people will stay home and I’ll watch movies during the day while everyone goes on hikes. But I actually went out this year, and it was great. 

Raygun Busch: I’m gonna echo Stin and say I’d like to get more hiking done. The pandemic and everything fucked it all up for me too. I’m definitely looking forward to doing more hiking. Maybe when we’re [on tour] we can find some trails. 

Stin: Estes Park and The Stanley are quite literally at the opening of Rocky Mountain National Park, but since it’s February and we have shit to do, it’s a double-whammy of not being able to do anything. We’ll at least have a little bit of time to spend there, since we are playing two shows over two nights. But we’re probably not going to do much in the way of any serious wilderness while we’re out there.

ON THE BILL: Lingua Ignota with Chat Pile — Hell Is Real. 7 p.m. Feb. 24-25, The Stanley Hotel, 333 Wonderview Ave., Estes Park. Sold out.

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