Cool Chair’s “HorrorShow” Is a Bloody Jubilant Joyride (Early EP Stream + Interview)
A pop-punk, death metal, post-hardcore, and prog-metal ode to B-horror movies, borne of a cross-country motorcycle trip—it’s not often I see something that scratches so many of my itches in such a succinct and appealing way, but Cool Chair’s HorrorShow does, and more importantly, it lives up to its premise in a big way.
The work of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jordan Stoffel, Cool Chair began as a creation of pure necessity. Stoffel needed music to practice with while enrolled in recording school, and rather than record and mix other work, he naturally decided to write his own instead.
The songs that would eventually become the HorrorShow EP would lie dormant until, while criss-crossing the western half of the United States astride a Royal Enfield Himalayan, Stoffel decided it was only right to give his beloved creations a proper release. Rerecording and producing the songs with the experience he’d gained while running his own studio, and with the aid of drummer Preston Schenkel, Stoffel at last brought the songs to life—”the underlying theme for me is about finishing what you started solely because it’s something you love,” he says.
The resulting EP is a celebration of B-horror that hits on an insight these movies grasp, but that often can be found missing or cast aside in their A-tier cousins: horror is fun. It’s fun to get jump-scared, even and especially when it’s telegraphed minutes in advance. It’s fun to watch characters get soaked multiple times over in way more blood than a single body should rightly contain, all while screaming their useless heads off. It’s fun to watch human bodies distorted in previously unimaginable ways, torn apart into countless pieces, or reduced to gibbering puddles of gelatinous, bloody slop.
Cool Chair’s HorrorShow revels in these joys. Share in Stoffel’s love for the genre here with our exclusive premiere, and keep scrolling to slip behind the project with an interview.
I can place "BrainDead" with Dead Alive, and "Naturan Demanto" is clearly inspired by the universal classic Evil Dead— but I’m stumped on the other tracks. Can you take me through the movies that inspired the songs? What drew you to these five specifically—what significance do they hold for you?
When I was younger, I was extremely into B-horror movies; the more ridiculous, the better. “LunkHead” is based off of the segment in Creepshow with Stephen King entitled The Lonesome Death of Jordy Veryll. "Bad Taste" is loosely based on Peter Jackson’s movie of the same name. It has more to do with the aliens’ scheme of using human meat for their fast-food chain’s new burger recipe than the actual plot of the movie. It is hilarious, though, I definitely recommend it if you haven’t seen it before.
As for "Grizzly End," that was actually an idea I had while on a solo cross-country motorcycle trip. I was camping in the Cascades, and there were reports of lots of bears in the area around that time. I was considering cooking up some vegan hotdogs, but of course that is a sure way to draw bears. Hence the line, "all he wanted—to eat some hotdogs, and for it he paid with his life."
Given how replete B-grade horror is with excellence, how did you settle on this crop of movies for this project? What about them specifically keeps them rooted in your mind?
These ones were my favorites when I was growing up. As a teenager, I watched them fairly regularly all year ‘round, and they just stuck with me. The gore and special effects were so over the top that I found them to be hilarious. Particularly in Creepshow, I just loved the lighting, the cheesy acting, the goofy one-liners, the music, all of it.
The genre-blending across these tracks is seamless—major-key pop-punk surging into fat chugs and death growls or straightforward rock guitar solos. In this context, did the songwriting for this project come more or less naturally, or was it much more of a conscious decision-making process?
Thank you for saying that. I would say that it was natural for sure. I didn’t really have any plans for the songs other than having something fun and badass to record, so I laid the basic parts out and then at times thought, "This part would be sick with some chugs or tremolo picking to change the feel a bit."
I just took it one step at a time, adding different layers here and there, and it evolved into what it is now on its own.
I find it fascinating that this project evolved from simply needing something with which to practice your recording and mixing techniques, to something that exists now on its own merits. Do you think your songwriting approach would have been the same, or at all similar, had the project had more conventional origins?
I think that it would have been the same. I’ve found that that’s kind of my approach to songwriting—I can have an idea in my head and try to conform the song to exactly that idea, but it can end up sounding artificial or forced. If I just take the song one step at a time, it gives me a chance to step back and look at the big picture as far as what I think the song needs.
I’d also love to learn about how you went about arranging the song—you’ve got strings, synths, a real accordion, but all of it feels very much appropriate. How did all the layers convalesce in your mind?
I wrote the songs completely on guitar, and then everything else came as an afterthought or added layer. Synths I added as a tool to make certain parts feel wider or fuller or add impact—plus of course, you can’t have songs about cheesy horror movies that don’t feature synths, can you? I also played cello for a short while, so it was really fun to add some simple lines in with that as well.
With the accordion, I just happened to acquire one while I was working on "Grizzly End," so I was really excited to learn to play it and record it into a song. I slapped it in there and was really stoked about what it added to the song, so I kept it. It’s goofy and fun, but also gives it a bit of an "organic" edge which I thought went great with the theme of the song.
How does one simply happen to acquire and then become proficient with an accordion?
I really wanted some interesting sounds to play with, so I bought an old vintage one online. I would hardly say I’m proficient either, my audio editing prowess is definitely to thank there haha.
Metal is so often linked with horror, stereotypically so — but your cheerful melodies are such an effective complement for how tongue-in-cheek and in on their own jokes so many classic B-horror movies are. Lines like "...to feast on Darrel’s tender flesh," would just blend into the sea if delivered by a run-of-the-mill death metal band, but here, especially with his attackers portrayed as "uninvited guests," the contrast has such potency.
Why do you think metal and horror are such frequent friends, and what is HorrorShow bringing to the ongoing horror conversation?
I think metal and horror mesh so well together because they have the same way of introducing death into everyday life through mediums we find enjoyable, like music or film. They both do a great job of giving us a peek at extreme concepts and situations that humans generally find difficult to comprehend, and allow us to view them from a comfortable distance.
HorrorShow is a reminder that, yes, death exists and is absolutely inevitable for every living being on Earth. But, since it is such a terrifying and incomprehensible event, it is absolutely senseless to do anything but laugh at it, try your best to avoid it (for as long as possible), and live your best life like our poor friend Darrel did.
You’ve mentioned how you’d had these songs sitting idle for years before making the decision to finish the EP while on a cross-country motorcycle trip. What led you to undertake such a trip, and where did you go—and most importantly, what were you riding?
I’ve always been into motorcycles and traveling. Thanks to COVID, I was transitioning out of a 9-to-5 day job into freelance mixing and mastering music full-time. Just after moving back to Indiana from Nashville, I took my bike and camping gear to check out the spectacular wilderness our beautiful country has to offer.
Starting in Indiana, I rode around Lake Michigan and then out to Seattle, down the west coast into southern Utah, and then back through Nashville before returning to Indiana two months later. My bike of choice was a 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan.
I love the way the Himalayan applies so many of the traditional Enfield visual cues to a contemporary adventure frame. There’s a guy in my neighborhood with a classic Enfield, and I’m flooded with envy every time I see him ripping by...but in terms of this trip inspiring you to complete HorrorShow—do you have any plans to continue with Cool Chair, or do you see this as a one-off project that you needed to finish and get out into the world?
Enfield knows how to make some class looking bikes, for sure. But yeah, Cool Chair is here to stay. I think the sound will evolve a bit for sure, probably in a heavier direction. I’m currently traveling in Europe scheming about what the next release will be like, and I’m filled with inspiration. I’m very excited to start on some new material and see where it goes.