Ten years ago, Charlie Woods was sitting in German class, looking ahead at the teacher talking about different variations of words as the world passed by outside the classroom doors on another day at school near Brighton, when a kid stumbled through the door.
“We were both 14,” explains Jake Mac. He’d been moved from another study group after being, well, a bit naughty. “Charlie had just moved back from the States and was this kinda cute chubby rocker kid, and I was like this hard school rude boy like…”
Charlie intervenes: “Not hard. Not hard at all,” he laughs.
“Yeah, you’re right, not hard – just a bit of twat,” he cracks. “I got moved to his group and got sat next to what should have been a guy who kinda diffused me, or I wasn’t going to be naughty with, and that was Charlie. It was a very first natural meeting of sitting next to each other and becoming friends over music rather than the stereotypes of being a 14-year-olds”.
“You massively snaked me there, Jake!” cracks up Charlie. “Oh – ‘Charlie was some fat kid, and I was this hard cool guy with an attitude’.” The laughs ring out. “Oh, he needed cooling down, that’s for sure!”
Chappaqua Wrestling is built on the pair’s undeniable friendship, and their almost telepathic ability to weave and create the sort of warm and immediate tracks that invite you in for more. Sitting in that German lesson, Charlie and Jake would chat and bond over the bands that connected them – whether it was Foals, The Maccabees, New Order or whatever, it set the path for the next decade of their lives.
Warm, insatiably immediate and dripping in the sort of effortless charm that would make a cute dog wearing a tie look like a bag of stones – Chappaqua Wrestling already feel commanding in the tracks they’re putting out. Blending 90s/early 00s alternative-rock with rich songwriting ease akin to The Beach Boys or The Beatles, there’s something already classic about them yet distinctly fresh and invigorating.
“There’s always that feeling when you’re growing up; oh imagine you being in a band, starting a band and it all just happening,” elaborates Jake. “Like, what is ‘happening’? What is that ‘happening’ thing? The last few months we can definitely say – yeah, it’s starting to happen a bit. It’s been nice”.
Since that fabled day in school, Charlie and Jake have been entrenched in making music and seeing where it could take them. Both grew up in musical families – Charlie’s grandad made a name for himself as a big band leader, while his father was a jazz musician who would sing with Charlie from an early age. Meanwhile, one side of Jake’s family was incredibly operatic, while his Dad was a rocker, into Wilco and Steely Dan. It was the groundworks of what would come down the line.
“I remember we were in Year 9, the talent show was coming up, and me and Charlie were in the same music class,” explains Jake, looking back to when they first played together. “I was having drum lessons at the time, and Charlie was putting together a band to perform ‘Superstition’ at the talent show.”
“Fuck knows what I was trying to show myself off being talented in,” laughs Charlie. “From what I remember, your drummer pulled a sickie one day. Charlie was looking for a drummer and I was like, ‘I can play, I can do that’.”
“Can I add,” Charlie interjects. “Jake had come in and said that he could play drums and I was like, fuck that; I don’t want this guy on drums. Then this guy Will was like – ‘Naah, he’s my mate, and he’s going to play drums’. I was like, ‘Okay, fair enough’. Without him, we might never have started.”
“It was the talent show, which I think we won, where we kinda put our swords down and accepted that we loved each other.”
Playing in various bands together over the next few years, it was when Charlie and Jake moved to Manchester for uni that they truly pulled together – crafting the songs they wanted to make after not finding the sort of people who would fit into the music they were writing together and creating.
“Prior to going up, we were making very pedally and lush sounding music – the sort of sounds you make when you’re 18 and drinking a lot of beer,” explains Charlie. “And that was cool! In Manchester, we weren’t playing in a band and couldn’t find the right people to play with us, so we started writing together with just two nylon guitars. We would play them so much because we lived together and were always writing for this band or another. Eventually, we were like, you know what? This sounds fucking great. We were writing very much to how those guitars would let us play and that naturally brought out some inspirations, but really we were going just real fundamental songwriting that strips it all down. That foundation first.”
It’s that sound that rings out from the tracks they’ve put out so far. ‘Cry Every Time’ is an almost sugary sweet ode of love that builds majestically with its instant hooks jumping out, while ‘Plant Trees’ bounces between singalong harmonies that sit in your brain from the first listen to almost slacker-esque breakdowns. It’s taken them to Abbey Road, across airwaves and into venues up and down the land. That freedom to try new things and explore every facet of what they do, all as two songwriters forming a collective home for their spellbinding worlds is what makes Chapaqqua Wrestling so special.
Recording their EP together and putting it right out to the world, they immediately saw a reaction. “Within a couple of weeks we were getting thousands of streams, and things popped off a bit,” remembers Jake.
“Before, there was always something that got in the way,” adds Charlie. “Whether that was uni or just some bollocks, and then by the time we were ready to really push on, it was like three or four years down the line. During that time, me and Jake had naturally finessed playing this stuff and were like okay, let’s get something together and get it out and see what happens. It took off nicely, and now that’s our sound and what we do.” He pauses. “It’s weird, it feels like there would have been a transition band, but we just didn’t find the people so we just kinda naturally found that groove.”
Chappaqua Wrestling are playing to their own rules. It’s something they’ve felt since they were first starting out, carving a sound that when looking out on the field around them – was never the norm. “We went up to Manchester because of New Order, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and all that stuff,” says Charlie, “but we didn’t really experience any of that unless it was on buses or at indie nights. It was only when we got booked at Jimmy’s in the city that we were like ‘ohhh, there’s a scene right here’, and we got it.”
“What we were inspired by about Manchester was the way we were living, being away from home, living together, the people we were hanging out with and the city itself,” continues Jake. “I think what’s important with what we’re doing – like there’s the Manchester scene, the South London scene, the Brighton bands scene, the Irish scene… we feel detached from any particular scene. People like to say we’re a Manchester band or a Brighton band – we don’t feel like we’re either. We don’t feel like we’re in a group of bands or a scene.”
Charlie picks up. “You can’t put our music into any of those scenes, and that’s a positive thing. It doesn’t need to be attached to other bands and certain places, and it seems to work as well, especially with the reaction we’ve got so far.”
With alternative pop songs at the heart of what they do, it’s only a matter of time before thousands will be singing along with them, joining two best mates in facing the world with a smile.
“We’re still at quite an early age as a band,” admits Jake. “It was only a year and a half ago that we knuckled down and put our heads together as Chappaqua Wrestling, and we have quite nice ideas of where we want to take it. We’re thinking maybe becoming a five-piece, stripping things back with the set even more…
“A lot of people perceive us as just a rock band, or an indie-rock band, or a surf-rock band, and we don’t want to be that. We want to be taken in as a duo of songwriters where we have a whole range of artists around us creating delicate sounds but with very big pop songs. We have so much headroom on how it’s going to grow and no real ceiling at the moment.”
“A lot of the songs we’re putting out at the moment are songs we wrote years ago,” recalls Charlie. “It’s great to get them out, but the songs we’re writing now are of the same ilk, but I think we’re much better now.”
“Yeah,” adds Jake. “There’s a song we have at the moment which has elements of all the songs we’ve had out, but has this different essence to it which is very forward. Without a doubt, our funnest and most hooky song.”
What started out as another day in a German lesson at school has turned into best mates thriving, with the world in front of them. Prepare to whack on those shades, Chappaqua Wrestling are here.
Taken from the August issue of Dork, out now.
Words: Jamie Muir