ChimyTina: DIY Stars Deliver


ChimyTina’s Dan “Chimy” Chmielinski and Martina DaSilva

(Photo: @jerrellephant)

Making one’s way through the jazz landscape by trekking down the DIY path isn’t exactly a novel endeavor. Any musician or band persistently playing their local club — or recording iconic reper- toire, in this case — will tell you about the mix of work, passion and imagination that’s required when taking an independent approach. And all that swagger often hits a dead end.

But sometimes, lightning strikes. Vocalist Martina DaSilva and bassist Dan “Chimy” Chmielinski, better known as ChimyTina, witnessed it, first-hand, when performance videos they filmed and edited early in their career spread across the web with lightning speed, fast-tracking the duo’s visibility to a large and enthusiastic global audience.

“We have just really always tried to be upfront with our art and who we are as people because we see [these ideas] as one and the same,” Chmielinski said over speakerphone while he and DaSilva drove down Texas roadways in 100-plus degree weather. “And so, DIY is a great way to just further extend that authenticity and that connection to the people who really vibe with what we’re doing.

The New York-based pair have cultivated and refined these qualities since their 2019 debut, A Very ChimyTina Christmas. Still, to entrust the milestone of a debut to Christmas and winter-themed repertoire shows that they were motivated from the beginning to show work ethic, performative passion and imagination — even though neither was on a mission to make a Christmas album.

“Dan and I are always searching for sparkly things and trying to make [our ideas] as musically colorful as possible,” DaSilva explained. “With the Christmas music, that’s how we became friends. We like Christmas songs. It wasn’t calculated, and I think this is where the DIY element really plays a part in our decisions. We don’t spend very much money — we’re often working with a small budget.

“It makes it easier to produce things frequently,” she added.

On Constellations, the 12 tracks don’t leave the bandmates confined to a seasonal theme. Picking up where the self-made performance videos left off, the album shows more elegant independent video work, and embraces arrangements of classic American Songbook repertoire, even introducing two original works: “Twin Flame” and “My Universe.”

What is it about doing things yourself that makes you both prefer it to working with others?

Chmielinski: I think the reason that the DIY thing lends itself so well to [our values] is because we are always trying to be as honest as possible with our music and, in a world of super-high-produced videos and studio things where people shell out tons and tons of money on giant video setups, it’s endearing to have something where we’re sort of saying, “Yeah, we just set up our camera in front of our wall.”

How do you think your dedication to DIY art influenced the artistic choices you made for the music on Constellations?

Chmielinski: The thing that really resonates with both me and Martina is intent. I think there’s a really easy route to take in jazz where you can kind of do a set of things that have just been done before many, many times and you will achieve some target audience. [But] there are plenty of times when [Martina and I] challenge each other. There’s an element of trust that just exists between me and her. I think that communication and that trust really does extend to barriers as well. When we have things where we disagree or we have things that come up, we tend to work through them pretty quickly, and I know how Martina thinks; she knows how I think.

What do you feel is most important for listeners to take away from your self-driven approach to writing, performing and interpreting jazz?

DaSilva: I just want people to feel connected to [our music]. I want it to feel cathartic. You know, Constellations was very much a pandemic album. We chose songs, and I brought in songs that just resonated, and that we had a connection to at that point in time. [During lockdown] we were making these remote videos, and we couldn’t see each other and [were] feeling super claustrophobic. I found myself thinking about space a lot, and [making videos] was a way of escape for me — it’s like we were making connections from far away. So I hope Constellations makes people feel closer to each other, and I hope there’s comfort in loneliness, because we definitely all experienced that over the pandemic.” DB

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September 2023
Kris Davis
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