Baton Rouge native Alex Chappo is the namesake member of Chappo, a Brooklyn-based psychedelic-garage-rock-pop band that just released its first full-length album.
Chappo, the band, issued two EPs independently — 2010’s Plastique Universe and 2011’s Plastique Universe II: Pisces Princess — prior to this year’s Moonwater. The album appears on Majordomo Records, a division of the Sony-distributed independent label Shout! Factory. While Shout! Factory is best known for compilations of vintage music and reissues of retro-TV shows, Majordomo’s roster features indie-rock bands the Airborne Toxic Event, the Von Bondies, Earlimart and reissued recordings by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
A performance in Los Angeles brought Chappo to Majordomo’s attention. The label made contact with the band that night and discussions between the two followed.
“We were still mixing our album,” Alex Chappo said from Brooklyn last week. “We were trying to figure out what direction we wanted to go in.”
Shout! Factory’s hands-off approach appealed to the band.
“On the creative side of things,” Chappo said, “they weren’t going to bully us around, make us do some sort of Britney Spears dance-pop tune or something. At the same time they were gonna get us into people’s households in ways that we hadn’t been able to get in before.”
In the spirit of indie musicians everywhere, Chappo in its pre-Shout! Factory days did everything on its own. No professional publicist, marketing or radio campaigns, not even a manager.
“Everything that we’ve done up to this point,” Chappo said, “all the little successes that we’ve had, was grunt work that our keyboardist, Chris Olson, and I did, with the help of the other guys in the band.”
Releasing songs into the blogosphere was a big part of the band’s informal marketing campaigns. Chappo sent songs to 100 blogs and, typically, got about five responses, such as, “Oh, cool. It sounds great. Can I post it?”
The band caught an unexpected break when Chappo received an email message from an obscure company called Apple Inc. He assumed it was spam but, acting upon the advice of his father back in Baton Rouge, replied.
“I got a phone call in two minutes,” Chappo said. “The guy was really nice. He said, ‘Listen, we might have a cool opportunity for you. I can’t promise anything until it airs, so it’s in your best interest to not tell anyone.’ ”
Chappo and his bandmates lived in suspense for about a month. The secret was revealed to the band and world with the unveiling of a new iPod Touch commercial featuring the band’s song “Come Home.”
“That was great for us,” Chappo said. “It helped us get a manager and lawyer and booking agent. It helped us build our team, which you definitely need in this day and age.”
A remastered version of “Come Home” is among the 11 songs on Moonwater, released May 15.
Following his 2005 graduation from the University of Evansville in Indiana, Chappo, a 2000 graduate of Baton Rouge Magnet High School, worked by day for his parents’ landscaping business, Juliette’s Gardens, and by night at DeAngelo’s Pizzeria. He used his earnings for his long-planned move to New York City, making the leap from the Red Stick to the Big Apple in February 2006.
“It was in the coldest month that I’ve ever experienced in my life,” he recalled. “It was a slap in the face, like, ‘All right, if you’re moving to this town, you’re gonna have to deal with it.’ ”
Six years later, Chappo and the bandmates he met in New York — Olson, guitarist Dave Feddock and drummer Zac Colwell — are seeing multiple firsts,, including their Majordomo/Shout! Factory debut, bookings at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wis., and tour dates with Of Montreal.
“We’re really trying to take these opportunities and build on them,” he said. “It’s a really exciting time for us.”