‘Exciting and Terrifying’:
Alex Chappo Talks Life, Death, And The Era of ‘White Noise’
Words by Audra Tracy
Photo Credit: Drew Reynolds
If great art comes from great pain, then CHAPPO is about to drop a musical masterpiece. After experiencing multiple tragedies in a short period of time, bandmates Alex Chappo, Dave Feddock, and Chris Olson channeled their collective trauma into the creation of their colorful new album, DO IT. Produced by John Vanderslice (Mountain Goats, Spoon), DO IT is set for release this February 23 via Votiv Music.
Just weeks away from a string of tour dates opening for The Flaming Lips, singer/songwriter Alex Chappo discusses life, death, and the ‘exciting and terrifying’ times in the Trump era…
*You guys recorded your new album, DO IT, at Tiny Telephone, an analog recording studio in San Francisco. What was the vibe like in the studio when working with your producer John Vanderslice? Is that analog charm an important part of your sound?*
AC: John’s vibe is so warm and full of energy. I think he infuses it into the studio somehow. He is immediate and full of joy; it’s infectious. I think his attitude mixed with the organic nature of analog was really exciting and a new experience for us. There is a fresh and open sonic quality of tape that really fits the character of these songs. The process is different than how you tend to approach recording in the digital age. There’s something satisfying with working with machines that have moving parts and can break and have to be tended to with tender love and care.
You also have different things to consider, like the time it takes to rewind tape and how wasteful it is to rewind and listen back to take after take. The studio forced us to work with a sense of urgency. And we had to make tough choices in the moment and either choose to go with a take that felt like we got it, or burn it and try another one. We didn’t get the luxury of listening back to endless takes and obsessing over perfection.
*Tell us about your song “White Noise”…would you say it encapsulates what many Americans are feeling in the Trump era?*
AC: I think so. We all are feeling socially and politically amped up. Everything is exaggerated daily. The pace of technology, phones competing for our attention 24/7, and the ‘hysteria/sound byte/what’s the next psychotic thing that happened media’, fake news vs fake reality and the collected sense of being gaslit by the man. It feels like our capitalistic society is coming to a natural conclusion. Corruption, money, greed, megalomania, delusion, conspiracy, one scandal after another, it’s exhilarating; it’s exhausting. We’ve got political PTSD. We’ve got a reality show life unraveling in this bizarre meta reality day after day. And then sprinkle in altered reality and virtual reality and you wonder: ‘Are we in a simulation?’
Elon musk thinks it’s possible we are, and just launched the most powerful reusable rocket. The
present is cray: exciting and terrifying.
*We’d like to imagine that people-watching in New York has got to get those creative juices flowing for a band. Do you think the energy of Brooklyn living has an influence on your music?*
AC: People are bizarre! There isn’t any shortage of weirdos in New York City that’s for sure. They are everywhere resonating their beautiful weird energy. I see many everyday on the train.
*Do you envision your fans enjoying the album in a certain setting? Can you paint us a picture of the ideal listening environment?*
AC: Feels like a good record to blast on a Pacific Northwest road trip or while enjoying some epic sunset on an exotic beach with a couple cocktails on hand.
*CHAPPO has been through a lot emotionally, and you seem to have turned life’s lemons into some freaky psychedelic lemonade with the creation of DO IT. With the album release date on the horizon, does it feel like your collective suffering did not happen in vain? How do you stay positive in the midst of tragedy?*
AC: Well I often think life is sort of indifferent to suffering. Life and death happen, love and loss happens and you find ways of getting through those experiences. You try to grow and learn from it all but you also just “be” with those experiences and appreciate them. Kind of like, “This is life and we’re here now.”
In a strange way the suffering can be beautiful and perfect just as some imperfection or blemish on an album or a painting can be what was necessary and reveal a truth. Sometimes you find a deeper purpose when working through a tragedy and sometimes you just feel lost. I that’s part of being human and working through trauma. I know we are all proud of the album we made. We weren’t even sure that was going to happen at times, so to have it completed and be something we are really proud of means something we were feeling and resonating with was important and necessary. At least for us. Hopefully other folks can relate to it.
*Your band is opening for The Flaming Lips for a few shows this spring. How does one prepare to join the musical circus that these icons bring, night after night? Have you ever donned a costume and danced onstage during their set?*
AC: We toured with them recently in September with Mac DeMarco and it was really cool to see how all the moving parts of their show work together. We haven’t yet jumped on stage with them, but there’s always time to get in a bunny suit, blow some bubbles, dance with rainbows and shoot off some confetti.
*What’s next for CHAPPO in 2018? Can fans anticipate more tour dates?*
AC: Got some more touring happening in the Spring and working on some summer festivals. Coming soon!
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