Oak Park’s local band, Cheach Billin

Cheach Billin releases EP on streaming services


Anoushka Jasuja

Pictured: Jaden Blank on guitar, Logan Postmus on bass, Liam Case on saxophone and Bob Emrich on drums. Members are jamming to their single “Say So.”

When the time came to interview the members of the band Cheach Billin, each Zoom Meet square was filled by a face of the band. Trumpeter Vir Kolpe, ‘silly saxophone’ Liam Case, previous bassist Ali Wilson, trombonist Daniel Conway, ‘keyes’ Nate Trux, guitarist Amit Maish, drummer Bob Emrich, guitarist and lead singer Jalen Blank and manager Katie Inthavong each sat on their respective side of the screen. 

Most were on mute for the entire interview session except for Blank. Kolpe, Case, Emrich and Maish sat patiently, unmuting their mic when they had something to say. Wilson moved around often, and Inthavong was writing periodically. Trux was jamming on his keyboard with his back towards the screen, chiming in when he had something to say, and Conway was in the shower away from his computer for the first half of the interview. 

Those involved in this unique virtual dynamic were the eight members and manager of Oak Park’s very own band. 

In October of 2019, Blank convinced nine students to play their respective instruments at the Battle of the Bands, a competition held at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center every year for groups of teenage bands. Cheach Billin sold the most tickets out of any of the bands by an incredible margin that night — it sold 60 tickets total, in stark opposition to the 30 tickets sold by the second highest seller. One of the original nine, previous trombone Logan Postmus recently rejoined Cheach Billin as their current bassist.

“Nothing really happens in Oak Park, so the fact that the school has this entire band [is really neat]. Like that’s a thing, we’re a thing, and that’s pretty cool,” Emrich said. 

Blank recalls their first live performance from October.

“I was like to [the crowd] —you gotta sing this note, this note, this note, and this note, and Nate played the notes along on the keys and the crowd did it,” Blank said.

Jalen Blank plays electric guitar and Liam Case plays saxophone at band practice (photo courtesy to Anoushka Jasuja).

Cheach Billin played their original song, “Strange,” at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center with the crowd singing four notes repetitively in the background. 

“I remember thinking, if we’ve existed for a month or less – around a month – and we can do this to a moderately sized group of people, I feel like there is something worth continuing here,” Blank said. 

Since that performance at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, Cheach Billin has organized gigs and rehearsed for 11 months. After the Battle of the Bands, Cheach Billin performed live at a New Year’s party with a fellow band from Royal High School and at OPHS’ spring rally before quarantine. 

Two months prior to April, each member was overwhelmed with school work and prepping for their two upcoming performances. One was meant to be in Simi Valley, a school gig. The second was going to be the Oak Park Music Festival. 

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic threw an unanticipated challenge that disrupted the routine of each of the members. When quarantine took place, the plans for Cheach Billin were abruptly put on hold. 

COVID-19 forced the band to adapt and they did so. A month ago, Cheach Billin released their first ever complete EP, much like an album but a few tracks smaller, named “Simple Songs.”

“Now we have this EP with a track of songs that wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for this whole thing and we would be recording much less good songs, for a much more expensive price at a much different place in a completely different fashion. I don’t know, everything kinda worked out in an interestingly positive way,” Blank said.  

Navya Batra / Talon

Before releasing the EP, Cheach Billin recorded and released two singles “Say So” and “Gospel John,” both released under the single “Say So,” this year. 

“We have our absolutely five-star, outstanding single ‘Say So.’ That was recorded in very choppy fashion,” Blank said. 

Senior and trumpet player Vir Kolpe later clarified the two tracks on “Say So” were recorded either in Blank’s garage or on phones in the member’s own bedrooms.  

Following their struggles to get high quality recording, Emrich searched for a better solution for their upcoming EP.

“I remembered that KC Staples, the owner of the Record Outlet on [Thousand Oaks] Boulevard, liked to do recording. I didn’t know if he did it professionally or not — or just as a side hustle, but one day I went in with Jalen and we asked if he still did it. And he said ‘yeah, I do it, but I kinda wanna keep it like a side hobby,’” Emrich said. 

Navya Batra / Talon

After listening to the music of Cheach Billin, Staples agreed to help the group record their EP. Over the span of three to five days, all members of the band spent around eight hours each day in the recording studio, perfecting each track on their EP. 

“Hanging out with them and doing the recording reminded me a lot of my friends when I was that age – being in high school, being in a band, all that kind of stuff. It felt really comfortable being with them,” Staples said. 

Staples, who played the guitar for his highschool band Magic Love Bag, graduated from Westlake High School and recently recorded and released the album Gaslight Symphony with artist Anchor in Bear. In Gaslight Symphony, Staples is featured on drums, keyboard, guitar and “other sprinkles.”

“Working with other bands, especially younger bands like Cheach Billin, I find that they have that enthusiasm and drive and I really enjoy that,” Staples said. “Their music is like a collision of many things going on: pop and rock and the horn section. Someone at the store asked me about one of their CDs and I described their music as the ‘Chicago’ but with balls.”

Audiences can listen to their complete EP on any music streaming app, buy their CDs or record online or at the record outlet in Thousand Oaks for $9.99. If buying online, Cheach Billin wants to emphasize, do not select the $27.00 shipping. 

“We had around $600 in revenue [from selling CDs]. Profit I want to say about — and I’m totally flexing — but probably about $370. I don’t know that’s only a rough estimate; it might be a little less than that, but something along those lines,” Emrich said.

With their EP, their two singles and every live performance, Cheach Billin has formulated a strong bond with each other. 

“I feel like I lucked out to play with these people because it just so happens that all my good friends from this program all knew how to play the instruments that would lead to us making a band. Who would have thought we would have two guitars, bass, drums, keys, trumpet, saxophone, and trombone — and we would be a big whole ol’ band?,” Blank said.