A.V. Club Milwaukee – The Championship Feature

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The Championship soars back to life with new lineup, new focus

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Sometimes it takes a break from something you love to put things in perspective. For Joe Crockett, a two-year break from The Championship—the band he lived and breathed for five years—certainly did just that. With the group’s new album, High Feather, set to be released Oct. 16, Crockett confidently returns with a new lineup, fully rejuvenated and refreshed. “With this new album and lineup there’s a new sense of maturity and focus,” says Crockett. “And I think it’s trying to obtain bigger things than what we have.”

For the new lineup, Crockett enlisted his brother John on bass, Travis Doar on drums, and Quinn Scharber on lead guitar. Although they’ve only been together since last year, the new lineup’s strong bond and focus have the band soaring on high spirits. “It’s a perfect balance of friendship and musicianship and maturity,” says Crockett. “They have their own lives and stuff going on, so the time they do put into this band, a lot of work gets done. There isn’t really any tension or anything like that.”

While Crockett’s commanding voice is still at the forefront, everyone in the band plays a big part in its sound. “We all have a purpose in this band, and in my opinion, we do it really well,” says Crockett. “No one has an opinion except for myself. And if there’s an obvious thing I’m doing wrong, suggestions come in and it just works out. There’s no ego. It’s very simple.”

Initially, there were thoughts about changing the band’s name to High Feather, but Crockett and the group decided to stick with The Championship. “They’re my songs, and I still want to play them with the band. I created all these other records (2005’s Dance Casador! and 2008’s Midnight Golden, among others) under this moniker, and I don’t know if I’m completely ready to call it quits on that.”

High Feather, which was recorded and produced by Crockett, offers a compelling and concise eight songs that don’t feel out of place in The Championship’s catalog. Still, Crockett says these new songs are more abstract. “Lyrically, it’s definitely a relationship record—the trials and tribulations of dedicating your time and life to somebody else, and doing the same to you. The lyrics are abstract and up to interpretation. Each song will take me back to a particular moment in my life. It’s like the smell of food.”

My Heart Goes Out To You (Official Music Video) from The Championship on Vimeo.

While some of High Feather’s songs are brand-new, album closer “A Ghost In The House” has been around since the original incarnation of The Championship. With the addition of guest Nick Sanborn on organ, “A Ghost In The House” found new life. “No song is lost forever—they just need more work before we throw them out to the public,” says Crockett. “I feel being more careful with how we do that is important in the long run.”

The Championship has always been a band with plenty of influences, and each of the group’s albums has taken on its own identity. Crockett writes music like he listens to it. “I really like mix tapes where it’s not just one band but a soundtrack of different bands,” he says. “You’re influenced by a band, but you only write one song. And in the end, you have ten influences in one record. You need to hang out with new and different people and see what their perspectives are.”

With High Feather, the lack of pressure helped the band focus on working together on making the best album they could. Crockett and the band continue to work towards bettering the group, and make sure things are being done right. “There’s no feeling of ‘We have to do this,’—it’s ‘We want to do this,’” says Crockett. “We took our time and made sure it was the absolute best we could. So if you don’t have that expectation, you’ll be surprised at all the cool stuff you can do.”