Cancer, chemo and multiple surgeries can't hold Clubhouse back

The Los Angeles-via-Ohio indie-pop band performs at A&R Bar in support of new EP 'Are We Going Too Slow?'

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive

A year ago, Max Reichert knew he was in for a difficult autumn. Like the rest of the country, the Los Angeles resident and Central Ohio native was navigating a still-raging pandemic, which disrupted all sorts of plans for Clubhouse, the indie-pop band Reichert, a singer/guitarist, launched with his childhood friends, brothers Ari (guitar) and Zak Blumer (drums). 

On top of that, Reichert was also battling a type of bone cancer that showed up in 2018 and led to grueling chemotherapy treatments and surgery to remove a tumor from his left leg. (“Half of my femur is now a metal rod, and I also had a full knee replacement,” Reichert told Alive earlier this year.) The cancer returned in the fall of 2020, which led to surgeries to remove a tumor from his right lung in October and his left lung in November. 

But that wasn’t all. In between the two lung surgeries, while Reichert and his Clubhouse bandmates were having a drink locally at Seventh Son, another injury arrived out of nowhere. “I sat down and everything felt fine, and I went to cross my leg and it snapped — the metal inside of my femur snapped somehow,” Reichert said early this week. “It was so painful. Zak and Ari carried me to the car and took me to OSU, and I had to get surgery. I was already sore from my lung surgery, and then that happened.” 

In June, after six more months of chemo, Reichert had a third lung surgery, and a biopsy revealed the tumors to be dead. "Normally it's pretty hard to find a treatment that can actually get into the lungs and be effective, so the fact that the chemo worked that well was amazing. I just had scans last week, and they're clear, so I'm still in remission. Everything is going amazing,” said Reichert, speaking by phone alongside his bandmates just after touching down in Columbus for a Clubhouse show at A&R Bar on Wednesday, Dec. 1, with Adam Melchor.

The band is touring in support of its new seven-song EP, Are We Going Too Slow? (AWAL Recordings), which Clubhouse somehow managed to write and record amid chemotherapy treatments, multiple surgeries and a pandemic.

It helped that all of Clubhouse, including Forrest Taylor (keys/synth) and Michael Berthold (bass), now live on the West Coast and are pursuing music full-time. Prior to the move, a month-long writing retreat in Los Angeles was instrumental in putting the EP together, allowing the musicians to work on music all day, every day.

The resulting songs deal with difficult topics like toxic relationships and mental health struggles, but the silky synths, bouncy guitars, radio-ready choruses and head-bopping beats give the EP a light, breezy vibe.  

“Sit in my room all day/Wondering when will I feel OK?” Reichert sings on opening track “Flipside,” which serves as a commentary on his recent health ordeals and also a more universal take on the importance of mental health. “I think we can all relate to 'Flipside,' especially with COVID, just knowing when to take time for yourself when things get too stressful,” Reichert said. 

The EP’s title comes from a question the band continually asks itself. “Another day spent in your head/You're taking life too slow,” Reichert sings on the title track’s chorus, again referencing an internal dialogue. “We are always asking ourselves, are we doing enough right now? And am I a loser for not having a solid 401K by the time I'm a certain age?” Reichert said. "I think it was the simplest way of explaining what we were trying to get off our chest, and some of the best choruses are able to convey the most in a simple way.” 

Clubhouse’s show on Wednesday will be the band’s first in Columbus since August of 2019, and only its second show since the pandemic began. The first came in September in New York City, which was helpful in shaking off the rust. “I think we all were a little more nervous than we thought we were going to be. … I couldn’t feel my legs,” Reichert said. “But once we got the first song under our belts, it started to feel more natural again.”