5 Minutes with Chappaqua Wrestling: The Brighton rockers on their politically charged debut album, ‘Plus Ultra’
HUNGER catches up with the band to get the low-down on their newly released project.
Brighton four-piece Chappaqua Wrestling released their first single way back in 2017, but all good things come to those who wait, and last month (April 14th), the band finally released their debut album, Plus Ultra. Formed by childhood friends Charlie Woods and Jake Mac, the pair bonded over their love for bands like the Foals and later recruited drummer John Paul-Townsend and multi-instrumentalist Coco Varda.
To say the band’s patience paid off would be an understatement. The project displays exponential evolution, confidence, substance and artistry from Chappaqua Wrestling, touching on varying elements of political unrest in their home nation. In a time when artists are so quick to throw out as much music as possible, the band’s approach is nothing but refreshing. Spanned across just 11-tracks, the project has no room for filler, and every lyric, chord, melody and key is thought out with meticulous and lush detail, creating a soundscape that’s just as combative and grunge-filled as it is hopeful and tranquil. Given its quality, it’s unsurprising that Plus Ultra was snapped up by a major label, EMI Records, who showed no hesitation in recruiting the group onto their roster. They may be six years deep into their career, but there’s no denying that the band are now fully immersed in their most exciting era yet. Here, HUNGER catches up with Chappaqua Wrestling to discuss Plus Ultra, the importance of getting political and much more.
How did the creative process for your album ‘Plus Ultra’ differ from your previous releases?
Jake: It’s our first album, so our approach was naturally very different to previous releases. Everything we had done previously was just singles, and then all of a sudden, we were thinking about a narrative, track order, sleeve artwork etc. We loved it. We always have felt like an ‘album band’, where a body of work suits us better. There’s more space for us to show our dynamics that way, as we like to go hard but then also reveal a softer side. Plus Ultra has both sides of that coin. It’s also, without doubt, the first collection of songs we’ve made, which have a set of conversations we feel strongly about; society, cultural appropriation, social media… things that we see and feel angered by or inspired by. Don’t let that scare you off, though; there’s a lot of fun in there too.
Was there anything in particular that influenced the direction of the album?
Jake: For sure – at the time of collating the tracks for the album, we were in quite a transformative stage of our music, let alone a stage in our lives. We were post-university and moving back from Manchester to Brighton, where we are from. Suddenly, the world flips, and Covid-19 breaks out. We naturally became angrier and had far more to say about what was going on around us. Living under a tory government on a small island during a global pandemic is no place to be. This period is where we went back to our teenage routes and started to become heavier. Our lyrical voice matured a lot. And our cynical voice…
What do you hope people will take away from the project?
Charlie: Well, the biggest thing is that we want people to really connect with the songs and come away as a fan of the tunes. I also think what’s important to us is to create a sense of optimism through music, as it’s in these dark times that art provides a healthy escapism or a perfect outlet to shout about how wrong the world is. We would love to provide a space where there is community, energy, and a lot of fun.
You’re not afraid to get political in your music; do you take pride in that?
Charlie: We’re proud of it to the extent that we believe art is a place to start conversations and unite people of a common cause during tough times. But I think where we’ve got political in our songs is where it feels almost unavoidable, given what is going on around us and how the music we’ve been writing seems to naturally lead us there. I honestly don’t think we could have avoided it for some songs. ‘Full Round Table’, for instance, when I had that intro-bass riff over the sustaining chords set up, my mood just took me to one lyrical place only without thought. It felt instinctive, so I’m not sure how much pride you can take from that.
You’re also embarking on your biggest headline tour to date in support of the album; how would you describe a Chappaqua Wrestling show?
Charlie: Lots of energy thus far, some really amazing fans. We love them so much. On our last tour, we had a lot of people singing gibberish along to unreleased album songs, so our next tour will be particularly special, as it will be the first time ever that we’ve played a whole set of released music. It’s a huge next chapter for us and will create so many new memories. We honestly have no clue how it’s going to play, but if it’s any development from our last tour, it’s sure to be huge.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Jake: Schofferhoffer and lots of shouting. We love Schofferhoffer, it’s a low ABV grapefruit beer, so we can drink a bunch without getting well-cut pre-show. Other than that, lots of psyching, press-ups, and dodgy vocal warmups. There’s normally a last-minute set list getting written as well.
What’s been your favourite gig in your career so far?
Jake: There’s been a few, but one stands out. Our last headline tour, which was also our debut headline tour, was amazing. But the last show of that run was in our hometown Brighton. It was crazy, lots of crowd surfing, people singing along to unreleased tracks, moshing, all sorts. It was a great show; sadly we had to leave straight away as we were playing in Amsterdam the next day. Next time, we’ll be staying to party.
If you could collaborate with any artist/band right now, who would it be?
Charlie: Tough one; there’s so much amazing talent at the moment and a great crop of artists. Right now, I’d probably go with Dev Hynes. I recently saw his classical music at the Barbican, and he is incredible. So versatile, but always so vibey, and a great songwriter. Would love to see where he’d take Chappaqua.
What’s been the biggest pinch-me moment of your career so far?
Jake: There’s been a few recently. But I think the biggest was having a track on FIFA 23. ‘Full Round Table’ made the cut, and we were blown away. We didn’t really realise how much good it would do us at the time. Since then, we’ve had a flurry of footie-related goods, Soccer AM performances, tracks on MOTD, and featured in the Brighton match day programme. We’re certainly not a cricket band.
What would be your advice to an up-and-coming band trying to make it in the industry today?
Charlie: Get a day job you actually enjoy and do as many gigs as you can possibly do.
What’s the goal for Chappaqua Wrestling?
Charlie: The goal is to do it all: more albums, bigger shows, bigger tours, tour the US, tour Europe, tour Asia/Aus, and eventually find ourselves decrepit in a hammock getting concussed by a coconut. But the holistic goal is to carry on believing in what we’re doing, staying lyrically grounded to what is important to us, and most of all, writing good music. Also, it would be nice to play at the inaugural burn the Tories fest, but we can only dream.