Q&A: Psych-rock band CHAPPO discusses influences and latest record

Jenna Million

Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Space and time have always been part of New York-band CHAPPO’s aesthetic. The four-piece band, which Alex Chappo leads, fuses psychedelia and rock to create a dreamy outerspace wonderland for listeners. Prior to the band’s Thursday performance at Stubb’s, Chappo spoke to the Daily Texan about the band’s inspirations and latest album, Future Former Self.

Daily Texan: CHAPPO has a very distinct sound. Where do you draw your influences from? Do you find that the music must evolve and progress with time?

Alex Chappo: We draw our inspirations from a bunch of different bands and swirl it together like a giant multi-rock flavored jawbreaker. There might be a groove in one tune we like or a rhythmic guitar part in another we want to mess with.

The album has ’70s West Coast kind of guitars and grungy pop mix that can get a little funky at times — and just a splash of psychedelia usually too. Song to song, there are a wide range of influences from Dr. John, Talking Heads, Sebastien Tellier, Beck.

We definitely put the CHAPPO stamp on each of the different styles we play with, so it all feels in the same universe. It's pretty natural for the music to evolve as our tastes evolve and as we transform as people and a band.

DT: The concept of space seems like it's been a big part of CHAPPO. Is this theme special to you or the band?

AC: Parallel universes and spacetime have always been a part of our band’s world and the songwriting process. We're just interested in some of those ideas and how they affect consciousness or at least our perception of it.

Time is a big central theme in Future Former Self. The dichotomy between what is, what isn't, what could have been and what could be are great questions to dissect and contemplate. We are rediscovering and redefining who we are as a band, so it's a parallel in that sense.

There's a story behind the album and a story behind us that points at each other like that famous MC Esher painting of a hand drawing the hand drawing the hand.

DT: Future Former Self is a concept album involving space and time travel. Can you tell more about that?

AC: I came across the idea of what would happen to your perception of reality as you travel to a black hole? Future Former Self starts with the realization that Earth is dying with massive explosions and volcanic eruptions.

We get a signal coming from a black hole outside our solar system and believe it is a parallel universe trying to communicate with us and help save mankind. Rene Cogito is chosen to travel alone on a five-year mission to this black hole, and he must say goodbye to his wife.

As he gets closer to the singularity, a million distant dreams merge into his waking life, his perception of time becomes a transparent flip book shifting in and out of focus, and the constant of his reality combusts and melds together. Staring infinity in the face, will he fall into madness or glimpse the constancy of his own self?

DT: How do you approach a concept album when you're writing?

AC: We stay away from using the term "concept" because it feels too heavy and has too many connotations behind it. But I think the story helped tie all the different sonic landscapes together. It gave it a focus and helped influence how we brought it back into the CHAPPO world. It's just an organic process; you have a few song ideas that feel like they belong together, and you have this story that helps direct it.

DT: People say your live shows are an experience on their own. What do you bring to the stage that sets you apart from other bands?

AC: Our live shows are all about having a party and taking the audience on a weird roller coaster. We invite our crowds to let their inner shaman out for a little adventure. We've got some lights, smoke monsters, confetti, a lava lamp swirl of a moon and some giant mushrooms to help you get in the spirit.