Josh Simkowitz has written fifty songs in the year and a half since he took up the moniker Chaucer. "I have a song in my head, but they usually come out as a different song than I thought they would," the ultraprolific Palm Beach native tells New Times.
Inspiration can come in odd places for Simkowitz. He chose the name Chaucer while watching the U.K. version of The Office. "Ricky Gervais is looking at the camera and he just says 'Chaucer' to the camera to show how smart he is."
Comedy is a big influence on Chaucer's music, with songs on his lo-fi second album, ICED, bearing titles like, "Achoo, Achoo (I Don't Know What to Do)," and, "Abraham Lincoln Ate Carbs, and So Will I." But don't expect any Weird Al lyricism on the LP. "Music comedy is usually corny," Simkowitz says. "You can only hear a comedy song once, and then you're like, 'I get the joke.' I just don't take songs that seriously. If you want poetry, go read a book."
ICED was released on July 1 via New Los Angeles, an indie label out of Hollywood that's run by former Miamian, Luis Blanco.
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One L.A. music blog, L.A. Record, compared Chaucer's sound and humor to the Dead Milkmen, an '80s joke punk band Chaucer had never listened to before the comparison was made. When New Times mentioned outsider musician Daniel Johnston as perhaps a more apt comparison, Simkowitz was flattered. "I love Daniel Johnston. He's brilliant, but pretty troubled. I'm neither. Daniel Johnston has schizophrenia; I have allergies." Simkowitz instead lists his musical touchstones as ELO and Jonathan Richman.
While he works 40 hour weeks at a screen printer, he spends every minute off work writing songs and occasionally starring in their accompanying videos. He just finished his second video for "Chompers (Let Me See Them)," a catchy song filled with silly homages to teeth filmed at a friend's house in West Palm. "My buddy, Ates Isildak, directed it. It was all his idea. I said no party scenes, no bands playing, and no lip syncing. We argued a bit, and then he got me to lip sync."
With a third album titled Beds! Beds! Beds! already in the can waiting to be mixed and mastered, Chaucer can't imagine his well of creativity ever running dry. "I like making full albums," he says. "I don't want to put out singles. Often I lay around and a tune comes to mind. They're usually about nothing. Are they fantastic? Yes. Are they dumb? Yes."