Alan Chapell is a unique character – even by the quirky standards of the West Village, NYC. The product of years of traveling the world, honing his craft and moving seamlessly through musical genres, Chapell’s lush sonic pallet falls somewhere between the progressive pop rock of Bryan Ferry and the jangle 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 Managua to Mumbai. 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.
One of the more interesting things about Chapell is that, in addition to his musical successes, 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 as chief privacy guru for dozens of tech companies, you know you’ve made it. Chapell has started drawing comparisons to Roger McNamee’s Moonalice as each has a 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 of the Internet age. Chapell’s music evokes the naïve optimism of the early days of “new media” and juxtaposes that with the current state of constant surveillance. “Ride,” the first song on Penultimate, somehow manages to be both optimistic and dark. Similarly, in “I am Zuck,” he 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.
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 after age 30 – 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.”