Debut CD propels Trapt to success
No one can accuse Peter Charell, Chris Brown and Simon Ormandy of Trapt of not being practical when it came time to make the decision many young musicians face at the end of high school — go to college or devote their energies to their band.
They opted for college, hoping to find spare time to keep the band together. So singer/guitarist Brown and lead guitarist Ormandy headed to the University of California at Santa Barbara. Bassist Charell enrolled at the University of California Santa Cruz. Trapt's now-departed original drummer, meanwhile, went to California Polytechnic in San Luis Obispo.
Band members quickly realized that being full-time students didn't leave much room for the band. And before long, the future of Trapt was very much up in the air.
"We didn't really get to rehearse very often," Charell said. "We'd be like one weekend or two weekends per month where we'd spend the whole weekend playing and writing. We'd play a couple of parties in college, college parties or whatever. But it was pretty rough — like we were kind of falling apart at the time. We were at the point where we can either stay in school and not like give this 100 percent and see what happens," he said. "Or we can drop out of school and really focus on it (the band) and like give it our all."
What helped the band, which formed in the mid-1990s in the Los Angeles suburb of Las Gatos, make that difficult choice was the tangible possibility that pursuing the band might have a big payoff.
"We recorded a demo, like a five-song EP our freshman year of college, and it started, we got it on Web sites and people started becoming interested in it and labels started showing interest and talking to us," Charell said.
What Trapt didn't anticipate was that this early interest would turn into the start of an alternately hopeful and frustrating period for Trapt. In 2000, the band seemed on the verge of signing with Immortal Records, until the label, Charell said, decided that Trapt's music didn't sound enough like Incubus.
Elektra Records then offered Trapt a demo deal. The band passed on the offer, knowing there was no guarantee Elektra would like the demos enough to sign the band to a full-fledged record deal. Along the way, the group's drummer bailed on the band. The slot remained vacant until 2002, when Aaron Montgomery joined.
Despite having lost a drummer and two potential record deals, the band pushed forward. A break came when the group signed with a manager who also represented record producer Warren Riker. Riker was willing to front Trapt money to record a new demo and then shop the recording to record labels. Trapt took him up on the offer.
"Knowing that a couple of labels had already shown interest, we knew that if we could get our demo out there and shop it to all labels, someone would want to sign us," Charell said.
Finally, the group's perseverance paid off, and Warner Bros. Records stepped up to sign Trapt. The group's self-titled debut was released in the summer of 2002, and fittingly enough for a band that seemingly has never had things come easily, the CD didn't make a big initial splash.
But extensive touring started to generate CD sales, and then last spring, a single from the CD, "Headstrong," started to catch on at radio. By May, it had hit No. 1 on the modern rock and active rock charts. By July, the CD had been certified gold, with sales of 500,000. A second single, "Still Frame," went top 10 at modern rock, and now a new single, "Echo," has cracked the top 20 and steadily is climbing up that chart.
It's easy to see why Trapt is finding a home on radio. "Headstrong," sets the tone, balancing catchy jagged hard rock riffs in its chorus with a smoothly melodic verse. "Still Frame" also connects on a melodic level, with its soaring chorus, providing a nice counterpoint to the urgency and agitation of the verses.
These singles aren't the only strong moments on the "Trapt" CD. "When All Is Said and Done" is a solid straightforward rocker, while "Made of Glass" and "These Walls" also boast potent hooks and some enticing shifts in tone and intensity.
The strength of the songs was one reason the band was able to land Garth Richardson — known to many by his nickname "GGGarth" — to produce the CD. Known for his work with Rage Against the Machine, Richardson has become one of hard rock's most in-demand producers.
"One thing he told us was pretty much: 'The songs are there. I want to get them on tape and make them sound huge and amazing,'" Charell related.
That's not to say that Richardson didn't have some impact on the creative process, though. Charell, said Richardson, curbed some of the band's tendency to overstock its songs with musical parts and lyrics.
"A lot of what he did was he told us to simplify parts and kind of focus on tightening it up and playing it together, not trying to walk all over each other's parts," Charell said.
Trapt headlines the SnoCore tour, which comes Tuesday, March 30, to Pop's, 1403 Mississippi Ave., Sauget. Other bands are Smile Empty Soul, Finger Eleven and Strata. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show cost $16 in advance and $18 the day of the show.