Breaking Through | 7 Questions with Chappaqua Wrestling

Leading a nomadic existence musically and geographically, Chappaqua Wrestling mix British folklore and sentiment with the attitude and aesthetic of grungey, alt-rock artists of the 90s, drawing from sounds synonymous with MTV during that hallowed decade for guitar music.
Posted: 12 November 2020 Words: Tom Curtis-Horsfall

FFO: DIIV, Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr.

A lifelong friendship that evolves into a creative hotbed is a tale as old as time when it comes to bands; born into families of opera singers and jazz musicians, Chappaqua Wrestling's principal members Jake Mac and Charlie Woods' respective backgrounds provided an eclectic basis of music for them both to bond over, before their enduring friendship eventually became a two-person nucleus for the budding shoegazers. 

Despite originating in Manchester where the both studied at university, a city rich in unique culture and prestige in it's own right, Mac and Woods also took cues from American 90s alternative rock bands Pixies and Sonic Youth when forming Chappaqua Wrestling, merging Mancunian folklore and sentiment with the attitude and aesthetic of grungey, alt-rock artists synonymous with MTV during that hallowed decade for guitar music. 

Both leading a nomadic existence (musically and geographically) the now-five-piece are settled on their sound and the city in which they call home, piquing the interest of DJ's and playlisters worldwide without being afforded the opportunity to prove their mettle live since Covid-19 outbreak. 

With their promising debut album in the works, and buzz ever-building, we spoke to band's core songwriting duo about their influences, origins, lessons learned, and burglaries:

Did you both meet through music, and what inspired Chappaqua Wrestling?

We met at school, socially in polar opposites. Got moved to sit next to each other in German (as a punishment intended to distill any sort of misbehaviour), both of us begrudgingly made chat and came to quickly realise our sharing of the exact same music taste. All of the teenage tensions went away, and we just connected. Had a series of shoegaze bands before we went to Manchester for university together. Then we started getting into some more Americana rock, which we subconsciously mixed with the Mancunion influence we were sucked into. Throw in some savage university burglaries, then here we are.

Which music influenced you both, in terms of either specific artists or genres?

As mentioned, shoegaze was a huge influence in our teens, it brought us into creating soundscapes over more traditional songwriting which we got from our first childhood loves like The Beach Boys, Steely Dan, and Oasis. There’s no doubt that without the Manchester music scene we wouldn’t do what we do - New Order, Joy Division, and Happy Mondays pulled us into the city and its creative outlook, and we went there to immerse ourselves in that. What came out sonically was somewhere in-between those influences, lyrically however it takes a different angle I’d say.

‘The Rift’ was inspired by Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘The Masque of Anarchy’. Why this poem in particular?

'Masque' (see below) was written after The Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in 1819, where peaceful protesters were violently attacked by soldiers for wanting democratic representation; Shelley created it for those who felt powerless against what seemed like overwhelming odds.

Obviously the poem had a strong political subtext when it was written, and that is definitely still relevant. But it’s also about keeping each other empowered in many different ways. When you read the poem, it screams out at you that its broader lessons are just as important today. Why 'Masque' seems so relevant now, and why it inspired The Rift, is that today so many people are feeling powerless, alone, and overwhelmed by life, in a pandemic context and in just ‘normal’ life; the divisions we’re seeing are everywhere. The Masque of Anarchy makes the least powerful feel empowered. It reminds us that when we stand together, we are strong - but we have to wake up from our 'lonely slumber' to realise that power within us. If we’ve learnt anything this year, it's been the strength that ordinary people can have when they come together to empower themselves and move forward as a society:

Rise, like lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number!

Shake your chains to earth, like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you:

Ye are many—they are few!"

Does your music incorporate a broader range of influence from poetry, literature and art generally?

Most definitely. We both draw on abstract art and poetry for lyrical influence and artwork. We’re both very visually inclined with music in general and believe that artwork goes hand in hand with how a song connects with you, so take huge influence from artists as a result. 

You’ve moved around the UK, but settled in Brighton. What was in about Brighton that appealed, and how has it affected your craft?

There’s a bit of confusion here and it’s our duty to clean it up. So we are actually from Brighton, that’s where we met and that’s where the members are from. We then moved to Manchester as we wanted to be somewhere we could fall into the music scene and also study. We did exactly that for four years and that’s where we formed Chappaqua Wrestling. Manchester was massively influential on the band. We moved back to Brighton temporarily before moving to London. We are now based around Peckham. Growing up in Brighton meant we got to see so many bands, and there’s so many venues in such a small place so you get to know each of them real closely. Really hope they can pull through this period as they’re crucial to the city.

What’s your favourite local venue, and how do you think local music communities can support each other during the current crisis?

Some of our favourite venues might actually be The Prince Albert in Brighton, amazing pub, or the Castle Hotel in Manchester. To be honest, they very easily could be the same place. They are real pubs with real people but the venues inside them are just awesome. We played some of our first ever shows when we were kids at The Albert and hopefully play some of our last shows there when we are 70 year old codgers.

The music community has well and truly had its legs removed because of the current times and it’s horrible to see. As a musician, it’s hard but, you can still exist, writing, recording etc, but the venues and the crafts that come with them, sound engineers, lighting and more, can’t survive. The government needs to support these people more so that they are still there on the other side, other wise, we’ll have no music venues. Any thing we can do to help the venues we will. 

What’s the biggest lesson you've learnt as musicians so far?

To listen to people and that good things take time. The song writing process can be crazy for us. Sometimes we finish something in a day and sometimes it can take a year. When we communicate with ourselves and others properly we get great stuff done. But as songwriters it’s easy to go down rabbit holes and get lost. We both always think we know what song is best to play/record but sometimes we are wrong. Like any craft, you gotta take time and make mistakes.

To hear more from Chappaqua Wrestling, click here.

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