There’s a lot to be said about the spirit of punk and whether it’s dead or alive. If it’s the brash, insightful and critical strain that Poly Styrene’s X-Ray Spex propelled that you’re seeking, then CHUPA CABRA are likely to be right up your street. In the vein of punk, music’s importance to the trio stems from its ability to provide a space for them to express themselves that comes free from societal norms and expectations, as guitarist and vocalist Hayden explains: “I love performing because I spend the week working my shit job at a certain French-themed chain restaurant, but at the end of the week I can lose my shit on stage saying whatever I want without a shirt on, because doing so is considered normal in that context.”
Music also represents one of the best ways of communicating things that are difficult to put into words, and bassist Nathan perceptively points this out: “It says what you can’t say. Like when Morrissey says ‘Everyday is like Sunday’, we’ve all felt that, that’s bang on. But I’d probably have expressed that like ‘Oh, you know, Wednesdays are shite, but like sometimes so are Saturdays,’ and no one would understand. Music says it for you.” Aside from lyrics that know life well in a post-industrial town, they sound nothing like Morrissey – you’re more likely to hear the influence of the short-lived Scottish sleaze rockers The Amazing Snakeheads and punk innovator Richard Hell in the Trashmouth Records signees’ short-but-sweet tracks.
The Deeside-based trio’s lyrics, especially on Cow and Assembly Line, tackle rampant, conveyor belt consumer capitalism and the lack of a fulfilling-jobs-for-all, post-industrial promised land. Cow is particularly hard-hitting – take it from their drummer Tayt who professes “I’ve never been so upset after playing a song [live] every single time.” Explaining a bit more about those two tracks in particular, Hayden says, “Assembly Line is about the appropriation of subcultures and post-industrial decline. That’s something I express a lot; Cow is about a similar sentiment, probably because I’ve seen the town I live in decay over the time I’ve spent there.”
Despite their generally heavy subject matter, humour is definitely not lost on Chupa Cabra. As for influences on their songwriting, Nathan cites “Johan Cruyff, Shakespeare. Just people that are the business, out there on their own. People you just look at and think, ‘I wonder what they smell like, I bet they smell great. I wanna smell like them.’” Jokes aside, they’re more than happy to champion other acts who are flying the flag for in-your-face garage punk too. “We are good friends with a band called Prowles. They are really great, really nice lads, great tunes. Really nice van too. I’d recommend them. Also got a lot of love for Wild Fruit Art Collective, cool Liverpool ruffians.”
The band take a short trip to Wrexham for Focus Wales in May, which is fast becoming one of the UK’s most renowned showcase festivals, bringing in a host of talent from Wales and the wider UK, as well as international showcases. The town is fostering some exciting prospects in art and music too, as Nathan is quick to point out, “there’s a venue in Wrexham called Undegun. It used to be a JJB Sports and now it’s just this really mint place for gigs, art installations and all that. I’d go.” We would too.
Chupa Cabra play Focus Wales on 12th May as one of three artists presented by Bido Lito! at the festival.