“We love ‘90s dreamy rock”: Chappaqua Wrestling Talk Through the Release of Their Debut Album ‘Plus Ultra’

Chappaqua Wrestling © Henry Dean
Chappaqua Wrestling © Henry Dean
Brighton band Chappaqua Wrestling sat down with Atwood Magazine to discuss the making of their new Britpop-inspired debut album ‘Plus Ultra’, the uncertainty along the way that saw them finish recording in an astonishing amount of time, and the excitement behind their eleven-show tour in May.
by guest writer Owen Cummings
Stream: ‘Plus Ultra’ – Chappaqua Wrestling

Starting out is never easy in life — no matter what it’s in. But trying to make a name for yourself in the music industry is a whole different ball game. Up until this point, Chappaqua Wrestling had an EP and a string of singles to their name alongside an ever-growing, loyal fanbase. Now it’s time for the next chapter, having launched their debut album Plus Ultra on April 14th via EMI Records / Universal Music Group.

Plus Ultra - Chappaqua Wrestling
Plus Ultra – Chappaqua Wrestling

The aim when making the record was a simple one: Give people a distraction and something to enjoy amidst all the chaos currently going on in the world. What’s there to possibly dislike?

“Turn it up, listen loud, buy a ticket and a copy of the album. Enjoy it — it’s rock music for our generation” —  that’s the message that lead singer Charlie Woods sends out, whilst speaking to Atwood Magazine.

Influenced by a range of rock classics from Oasis and The La’s to The Beach Boys and Steely Dan, the band’s early music taste mainly stems from driving to the football with their dads, however, it all started for guitarist Jake Mac back in year one of primary school when his class got sent home for lunch for an entire term due to a student’s peanut allergy, allowing him to open his ears to the music surrounding him in his home.

Chappaqua Wrestling © Henry Dean
Chappaqua Wrestling © Henry Dean

Since that time, the world has been constantly changing, not always for the better, with it slowly adding more fuel to an increasingly frustrated Woods: “We wanted to talk about some wider things [in the album] and we do tweet about it every now and then. It’s weird because you get branded a political band sometimes but we’re definitely not a purely political band. These things are happening but you can still enjoy some other things like the music.”

“We’re aware of how fucked up some things are around us but at the same time, we can’t say we’re activists. We’re not going to stand around here and say nothing’s wrong, however, we haven’t got the answers to the problems.”

It’s certainly been a case of building up to this moment their entire lives, with both Woods and Mac maturing as songwriters and becoming more familiar with writing lyrics and meaning. And now, having just released their debut record (on 14 April), Mac understands the difficulty of releasing your first album and the challenges that come alongside it: “We can’t judge it on stats, listeners or sales. The real judge of it is when we go out on tour later, and see it connected face to face. People singing things back to us is what we play for.”

We love ’90s dreamy rock. We also just love big rock. We naturally just have very good chemistry doing that heavier style together.

The Brighton quartet have released a string of singles since last summer, including “Wide Asleep,” which was brought out at the beginning of February.

Mac, 28, explains how the tune unintentionally came out sounding like a Britpop anthem: “The way that the chords work and the way that the melody locks in with the kick drum — it can’t not sound a bit northern, baggy and a bit like 90s Britpop I guess. People have since called us a bit Britpop sounding or grunge. It was one of those songs that came together really quickly. The way the lyrics fell together, we weren’t ever really able to consciously make it sound like something, so when we went into the studio and recorded it, it sounded straight as it was.”

Highlighting the importance of their drummer John Townsend throughout the recording process Woods, 27, said: “John has a lot to play in that [the tempo of the songs]. Our demos were quite often ambient and dreamy, but then we played it as a band, and John had his wicked way with it. He just shreds those tubs so hard that it just always sounds good.”

Woods, Mac, and the rest of the band relished the opportunity to work with former Ocean Colour Scene bassist Damon Minchella, who produced the album, as well as Tom Mani, whom Mac describes as “big legends” and “pretty much other members of the band.” He thinks they’ll “probably do album two with them because people are loving it,” adding that it’s a case of, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it!”

“It’s felt like a long, long process getting to this stage to actually get it out, but now that it’s happening it’s like, can we have a bit more time, please?” Mac explains, laughing, “We’ve had highs and lows along the way. Hopefully, there isn’t a World War fucking III and everything erupts again!”

Now living in East London, the pair of songwriters have built a tight bond and a clever understanding, having been playing together, even going back before their university days in Manchester. So much so, in fact, that it allowed them to record ten tracks (nearly the entirety of the album) in just twelve days.

“We’ve been playing together since we were 14. We’ve done so much creatively with each other — we even played in a band before Chappaqua Wrestling when we were just in uni but with the formation, we have now, our chemistry is so good. It feels good in the room, which is fucking fun. And I guess that is why the album is what it is.”

Chappaqua Wrestling © Henry Dean
Chappaqua Wrestling © Henry Dean

The real judge of it is when we go out on tour later, and see it connected face to face. People singing things back to us is what we play for.

Coincidentally, Plus Ultra has actually been finished for about a year and a half, but due to issues that came with joining a new record label, it got delayed. The recording process started exactly two years ago, with the album itself completed three months later — some of it was written when they were as young as nineteen years old, such as tracks “My Fall” and “My Fall II.” Woods admits that “some people may look at it and think ‘you cheeky gits, that’s one song!’ But they’re very much different. It was written in our previous band. Year after year after year, it would always crop up and we always played it because the outro is just so big, which made it unavoidable to leave off the album. The crescendo at the end of part two was a big part of the decision to include it.”

For anyone growing up in the UK, the video game FIFA is an enormous part of everyday culture. Chappaqua Wrestling’s single “Full Round Table” is part of this year’s soundtrack, although the Brighton & Hove Albion FC-supporting indie rockers are yet to have even played the game, “We don’t have a console! It will feel weird when we get around to playing it.”

You and me both feel the world’s too weathered
You and me warm then it rains all the time
You and me both feel the stress and tether
Shake your thoughts and we’ll float away
You and me both need a new direction,
In 15 years will our wages change?
The papers give our hopeless preview,
There’s no luck on the young folks side
We won’t have a house or a car that’s brand new,
The diesel tax is a constant fine
So there it is, the tragic realisation,
Our penny drops and falls down the drain

Mac also recalled a personal encounter a friend faced on a night out in Liverpool: “My work colleague was talking to a random guy about FIFA 23, and this guy just started singing ‘Full Round Table.’ I thought that was so random but amazing.”

Talking about the south coast origins, Woods feels like everyone is in a band back home, despite that, it seems to him that the band have a bigger fanbase in northern cities like Liverpool and Manchester. He also doesn’t feel the band are particularly affiliated with one scene either, admitting it’s made them more versatile in a sense.

There has been a bit of a discussion on social media on how to pronounce the name ‘Chappaqua Wrestling,’ with the band even labelled by Radio X presenter Chris Moyles as a “great band” with a “silly name.” Their singer concludes that it has helped in a way to get more people talking about them, as he recalls a strange occasion at Great Escape: “This guy said Chappaqua right but completely fucked Wrestling up. How has he managed to get the simple bit at the end wrong? Wrestling’s easy.”

Touching on the hit or miss aspect of it, Woods joked, “Old blokes tend to hate it,” whilst Mac added, “We can’t argue. If you’re an old geezer who likes simple band names like Oasis or The Jam, then you obviously take a look at our name and think what a bunch of idiots. We can’t change it now.”

Chappaqua Wrestling © Henry Dean
Chappaqua Wrestling © Henry Dean

Deciding on which songs to bring out as singles is never a straightforward process for any band, and this was no different for Chappaqua Wrestling.

“When we signed [the record deal], our A&R guy said, ‘You’ve just got an album with eight singles on it, so I don’t think we’re going to have any problems.’ We’ve gotta take it if he says it’s eight.” Not a bad position to be in.”

Plus Ultra feels like a success to us because of how it sounds. It exists. We want it to do well and go around, but no matter what, we will always have this album. We’ve made it and put it into the world.”

What you see is what you get’ is a lyric from ‘Opaque’ (track seven on the album), and that certainly sums up the band in a nutshell. They’ve made it this far—and they’re certainly not going away anytime soon…

Chappaqua Wrestling kickstart their tour on 15 May in Southampton, playing a mega eleven shows throughout the UK. Their last appearance comes in Manchester at Neighbourhood Weekender on 27 May.

Buy tickets for their upcoming gigs here.

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Owen Cummings is a Herefordshire, UK-based freelance music journalist, sports writer, broadcaster, and guitarist. Specialising in modern rock bands, he is also an upcoming local musician and gear expert. Reach him on Twitter: @OwenCummings0!

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