Shortly after appearing to hit their stride, Brooklyn’s psychedelic garage trio CHAPPO were hit with band-shaking tragedies– three, to be exact. In short succession, the band separated from their drummer and producer; guitarist David Feddock and his wife lost their young son; and frontman Alex Chappo’s best friend committed suicide. After a period of mourning, Alex, David and keyboardist Chris Olson found their way back to each other, and began digging deeper into the joyous corners of their songwriting. They ended up touring with Flaming Lips and Mac DeMarco, and are announcing today that they’ll play more dates with Flaming Lips in March.
Their new record DO IT, out Feb. 23 on Votiv Music, is almost as a rebellion to the notion that music made after trauma must reflect those feelings. Instead of approaching LP3 with the same sonic density as their previous record, 2015’s slick and conceptual Future Former Self, the trio headed to Tiny Telephone, a boutique analog and tape recording studio headed by John Vanderslice. There, the prolific and influential producer put the band through disciplined “love it or leave it” recording sessions, distilling 10 tracks to their most freewheeling, hook-minded essences.
The second single off DO IT, “White Noise,” jolts itself alive with a sliding guitar riff carrying through a groove of distorted bongos. While not overtly political, Chappo’s lyrical shrapnel speaks to the daily bombardment of information and self-doubt around every fact and rumor, something that has become a uniquely modern stressor. But, as with life, when you cut through– or embrace– the buzz on “White Noise,” you’ll find a wealth of head-nodding joy you didn’t know was there.
Play the track while reading the B+B Q+A with Alex Chappo below. CHAPPO tour dates are at the end of the conversation.
It came from feeling bombarded, having information overload. Everything feels hysterical all the time, so I kind of wanted to play with that idea. Rhythmic shapes and little scratch paper ideas of things were hitting me day after day, so I had this feeling of being overwhelmed. I respond to a lot of headlines or soundbites with these primal instincts of, “Am I being a exploited by that?” or, “Is this actually grounded in something that I should be scared of?”
I think in the last couple of years just with just the movement of technology and the combination of everything happening socially and politically I was sort of forced [to write with a socially conscious intent]. I felt like, “Man, I just feel like I should be writing about this kind of stuff,” but without having necessarily pointing a very specific a finger to anything or necessarily like casting it in a certain light. Instead, I let it seep into my subconscious and let it come out however it does.
We already knew going into the album that we wanted something with simpler ingredients that wasn’t super buffed out, but there was something about working with John Vanderslice. In the past, we would really get analytical about listening back through a take immediately and deciding whether or not we got it. Oftentimes being overly critical and analytical or being real meticulous can kind of kill some of the spirit within that moment that you’re trying to capture in the recording. So one thing that was cool about working with John Vanderslice and recording to tape was not having that freedom. We didn’t get to sit back and listen to everything because we didn’t have time to do it. We either saved [the take] or we burned it and started over.
The tour with the Flaming Lips and Mac DeMarco was an awesome time. I will say it was totally different vibes, Mac DeMarco was super chill, as you know, but he’s also playful. [His band] could do anything on stage; they just go crazy and make it go in any direction, you know? I’ve seen him do almost like a stand up act for like 15 minutes and then go into this crazy freak out jam for like 20 minutes and then go back to their songs. Then the Lips come out and have their crazy show that they put together that just is this insane live spectacle. We thought, “You know what, this is the perfect time to just try these new songs, a new audience, and we feel really good about them. These songs were kind of written to be played live.
Making an album like DO IT can be a double-edged sword for artists; there’s this expectation from listeners that the music speaks to the same struggles they’ve gone through, which can be a heavy cross to bear. Do you have any feelings about representing that for your fans?
I don’t know. It’s one of those things where it’s just part of life. So if somebody can relate to it and it helps them, then I think it’s a good thing. It’s not like the wound is ever going to fully go away, but you can notice it and see it and appreciate it and just recognize it and not be like necessarily terrified of it or allow it to be something more than what it is, which is just, you know, part of life.
For my life, what I’ve gone through personally, there’s nothing I can do now except for try to make the most of each moment and appreciate the ones we had and have. I guess that was part of the question, is: “Is it going to be weird that people might come up to you and be really intense all the time with it?” I don’t know, you know, we’ll see where that leads. But for now, I think it’s okay.
CHAPPO Tour Dates: