Baton Rouge native Alex Chappo is the namesake member of CHAPPO, a Brooklyn-based psychedelic-garage-rock-pop band that just released its first full-length album.
CHAPPO, the band, issued two EPs independently — 2010’s Plastique Universe and 2011’s Plastique Universe II: Pisces Princess — prior to this year’s Moonwater. Their song, Come Home was featured in a recent Apple ad, which leads to the inevitable question: will Apple commercials kill the radio star? Their unerring ability to pick some great songs comes with a downside. It’s pique’s interest in the band, but does it create interest in an album? Dave Feddock, Chris Olson and Alex Chappo answered these questions and more.
TDOA: There’s definitely been a subtle shift in the style of your music from Plastique Universe to Moonwater. What influenced that change? To what extent do you listen to other bands and what impact does that have on your own writing?
Dave: Well, mainly the band went from being a duo to a 4-piece collective. Everybody in the group has a slightly different bend on how we relate to and hear music. I think that definitely tugged at each of the songs in a variety of ways on Moonwater. We all listen to a lot of other music for inspiration. When something excites us, we try to figure out what it is, exactly, that’s cool about it, then figure out our own way of doing it.
TDOA: From what we’ve read, it sounds like the recording of Moonwater was in some ways, a “lo-fi” experience. Would you consider recording in an environment like that again?
Dave: Hell yeah. I would trade that over some sterile professional environment any day. None of us are closed off to recording in a fancy hi-fi studio though. As long as we can make it feel like home and do it on our own terms.
TDOA: I absolutely adore the guitar sounds that you’ve come up with on Moonwater. Can you satisfy the guitar geeks among us and talk about the set-up you used on this record?
Dave: It was really basic. Alex and I both used little tube amps with a single twelve inch speaker. I know we both used delay on most of the songs and crappy cheap distortion pedals. I had just bought an old uni vox hi flyer which definitely contributed to the “Lo Fi” sound on 5-0 and Hollywood. We also owe Zac a lot of credit for guitar tones though. He found some really cool filters to run the guitars through as well.
TDOA: A lot of the songs on the album are around 5 minutes +, yet this album doesn’t sound like a “jam” record. When a song is a bit longer, it generally is the result of a band combining parts of multiple “songs” and ideas that they were working on. Or it is just a song that organically grows in length. Are we on the right track?
Dave: Well yes and no. The coda on M.O.O.N. W.A.T.E.R. Is definitely another riff that was tacked on after the song is basically over. There are some elements that hang over and connect the song with the jam. We like to fuck around sometimes…The other longer songs like Don’t and 5-0 we used layering as a way of sustaining interest during longer sections.
TDOA: Having “Come Home” featured in an Apple ad exposed you to a lot of people. However, we’ve talked to some bands who felt that they had trouble getting people to listen to anything more than the single. Did you have any concerns?
Dave: No, not really. We’re optimistic that enough people will be interested in listening to the album as whole. People who like the band live I think definitely will.
Alex: I think that’s more of a result of the Internet age we live in and our a.d.d. society. It’s really outside of our control. It’s kind of up to the listeners to decide if they want to give their time to the entire album, the way we intended and hoped people would listen to it.
TDOA: Certainly we exist in an age where singles have become more important than albums. Your new album is brilliant and needs to be listened to as a whole. Over what span of time did you write the songs on this record and did you make a conscious decision to try and create a series of songs that meshed together?
Dave: I’d say half the album consists of songs that were tried and true songs from our live set. The other half we put together in about a month. The weeks leading up to recording we hashed out about half a dozen songs that were just sketches really. We hadn’t been playing very long at that point and I was really amazed out quickly it all came together.
As far the songs working together as a whole: that may be the result of the level of focus he had an the sense of urgency we all had. We knew we had a small window of time that we were all free to get it done.
TDOA: Please tell us about the experience of making the video for Come Home. To what extent do you get involved in the process of storyboarding and creating a video? WIll you do more videos for the new record?
Alex: We hope to inspire creativity from our fellow artist friends. When we decide to work with someone, we give them freedom to add their slant to a project while also making sure we give some direction to the vibe we would like as a whole. For the come home video, Naftali came to us with an idea that was loosely based around the EP concept of dimension traveling shape shifters. We were all excited to use real life couples who were connected to CHAPPO in one way or another (one couple met at our show on a first date and is now engaged. Another couple has sense gotten married and have helped support us all along our journey, the older couple let us use their house for the shoot). We also like how Naftali wanted to film in Brooklyn neighborhoods. We definitely expressed that we wanted this video to be surreal and somewhat perplexing. We didn’t want a traditional straight forward linear story. As far as the idea , story boarding, the little details and putting an awesome crew together and doing it with no budget, that’s all Naftali. And yes we have videos for Hell No, What Are You Kids On?, 5-0 coming out soon and more to folllow.
TDOA: From MTV to Maxim to Alt Nation, you’ve been getting some well-deserved publicity. Can you talk about the sensation of having to focus on the business side of music and how you feel about having to do a zillion interviews, answering the same Craigslist questions over and over?
Dave: We’re getting better at balancing it all I think? It can be a little stressful at times. We’ve all given up a lot of what we used to call free time.
Alex: Yeah. In this era, artists of all walks of life have to be able to wear a billion hats. It can be draining at times and also feel like the work day never ends. At this moment, we’re answering these questions on our phones as we head to rehearsal. Haha. Then we are off to feverishly negotiate the buying of our first band van, which is a first for us and stressful. Throughout the week we’re coordinating with production managers, video peeps, doing some minor HTML editing for our website, ordering merch and confetti, designing t-shirts, self-promoting our shows, and the task list continues…you really have no choice but to be a DIY band in the city. But we’d rather be busy than bored.
TDOA: What was your favorite moment of South By Southwest? Did you get a chance to check out any other bands?
Dave: Well for me getting to open for of Montreal was really cool. We played with them at the Scottish rite theater( which is the oldest theater in Austin for you history buffs.). All these hippie kids started to descend upon the the theater an hour before the first band went on. It felt like something different and unique.
Alex: Agreed. We also played the biggest outdoor stage up to date. It was cool to have a dozen stage hands to help you set your stuff up and make sure you could hear everything. That was a first.
TDOA: Between touring for the new album and playing Bonaroo (congrats!), you’re going to be on the road quite a bit. Do you expect that you’ll be able to write new songs while promoting the new album or will you wait for a vacation?
Dave: I hope we get through it without killing each other. Haha. I think we’re going to be pretty dang busy. We’ve already have some new ideas in the oven though. When we’re back home is when we’ll get a chance to get some real work done.