UC Berkeley Grad Chris Chu Fronts Buzzworthy Band

Photo: MORNING FOG. UC Berkeley alumnus Chris Chu (top left) sings for the morning benders, an indie band on the rise.
MORNING FOG. UC Berkeley alumnus Chris Chu (top left) sings for the morning benders, an indie band on the rise.

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Chris Chu, lead singer and guitarist of Berkeley quartet the morning benders, had no intention of becoming a music major. Nor did he have any plans to graduate from UC Berkeley a semester early to spend more time with his critically acclaimed band, recently signed to +1 Records. Since the release of two DIY-style EPs and the announcement of an upcoming debut album Talking Through Tin Cans, the morning benders (who prefer to keep their band name lowercased) have been riding a burgeoning wave of indie-rock stardom.

"I came to Berkeley not knowing what I was going to study and I kind of took a bunch of stuff," Chu explains over coffee at a cafe on Shattuck Avenue. "I took a music class second semester, really liked it, and I was writing more music and stuff. It just seemed like the right thing to do."

Chu, who graduated from UC Berkeley in 2007, started playing guitar his senior year of high school and only developed a passion for writing music after coming to campus. After deciding that he wanted to start playing music in a group, he experimented with different musicians before finding the right combination. With Chu, Joe Ferrell (guitar, keyboard), Julian Harmon (drums), and DP (bass), the morning benders have created a candy-sweet sound with a hipster edge. Their two EPs, Loose Change (2006) and Boarded Doors (2007), are brimming with heartfelt lyrics and harmonies indicative of the Beach Boys and the most exuberant of indie bands.

"I started writing music and I wanted to put a band together, so I sort of grabbed the nearest three people that I knew," Chu says. "It was pretty arbitrary, I happened to know someone who played drums."

He pauses to glance out the window as a slight drizzle begins to sprinkle the sidewalk, then continues: "So I was with those guys for a little while and I just started to become more serious, and it became evident that we weren't going to be able to keep going at the level I wanted to. At that point I had met a lot more people. Now I'm with these guys and it's a more final thing." Together, the four musicians have created a completely delectable sound in a relatively short amount of time. Pairing the clean guitar harmonies of 1960s beach rock with earnest lyricism, the morning benders have attracted the attention of music bloggers and seasoned critics alike. Most notably, the Los Angeles Times named them one of their "Buzz Bands" earlier this year.

With the amount of effort and time the band members have invested into creating tracks, producing albums and playing shows up and down the California coast, one begins to wonder where they get all their energy.

"I think we're all tired a lot of the time, but it's easy to get excited before you play a show, at this point anyway," Chu says. "You just kind of get that burst of energy that gets you through. And I kind of like feeling tired; at the end of the day just feeling like you've been doing a lot of stuff and staying active, you know? It's a good feeling."

Do the boys plan to slow down in the new year? Not even close, Chu says.

"We just want to play as much as we can," he says. "We're trying to do a full U.S. tour, hopefully."

Check out the morning benders this Thursday during San Francisco's Noise Pop Festival at The Independent. For more information, check out



Catch the morning benders' Noise Pop show with Zoe at [email protected]

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