Alan Chapell is a unique character – even by quirky the standards of the West Village, NYC. The product of years of traveling the world, honing his craft and moving through several musical genres, Chapell’s lush sonic pallet falls somewhere between the progressive pop rock of Bryan Ferry and pre-indie rock nuance of 10,000 Maniacs.
Growing up on the “mean streets” of Stamford, Connecticut, Alan was something of a musical wunderkind – playing piano and trumpet before the age of six. He recorded with the legendary producer Jimmy Ienner at age 15, and more recently with Talking Head Jerry Harrison. He’s played to jam-packed houses around the world from Mumbai to Managua. It took Chapell a while to get to this point, but audiences across the U.S. are starting to take notice in a big way.
What’s perhaps most interesting about Alan is that, along with his musical success, he’s carved out a niche advising tech companies on privacy issues. When the producers of HBO’s Silicon Valley consider creating a character to lampoon your role in the tech space, you know you’ve made it. Chapell is now drawing comparisons to Roger McNamee’s Moonalice as each have one foot firmly planted in both the tech and music worlds – and each are vocal critics of the privacy practices of Facebook.
CHAPELL’s newest LP, Penultimate, is the closest he’s come to bridging his innate musicality with the perspective gained wading neck deep through the rise and fall of the Internet age. Chapell’s music evokes the naïve optimism of the early Internet age and juxtaposes that with the more current reality as we approach constant surveillance. “Ride,” the first song on Penultimate, somehow manages to be both optimistic and dark – asking “if you’re hanging on just long enough to watch it all burn down.” Similarly, in “I am Zuck” Chapell parodies the never-gonna-happen confession of Mark Zuckerberg – at times using Zuck’s own words to take him down. And if you’ve paid any attention at all to what’s currently taking place in the tiny Central American country of Nicaragua, you’ll find “Sandinista” to be nothing short of chilling.
Chapell balances dystopia and totalitarianism with an almost child-like sense of fun on tracks like “the Radio” (“I kissed the DJ”) and “Yes We Can.” And Chapell delves deep into the past in “The Girl with Blue Eyes” – a song that opens with a shoegazer groove that would make the Cure’s Robert Smith proud and ends in a cacophony of post-punk noise.
On making music in 2019 Chapell now says, “I feel like I’m discovering myself as an artist in a way I never could have earlier in my life. For too long, I bought into the notion that I couldn’t become a successful artist in my 30’s – and it was liberating to recognize how foolish that was. The most invigorating thing is that I don’t feel I’ve written my best song yet. I know who I am now and I am excited that I am nowhere close to my peak.”