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Four Against One: Who knew Los Gatos could be so traumatic?

Invisible Touch

Los Gatos' latest major-label export Trapt is determined to find success on its own terms

By Sarah Quelland

WITH THE determination, stubbornness and idealism afforded by youth, Trapt is paving its own road to success, but not without some potholes. The Los Gatos band refused to "sound more like Incubus" for Immortal and turned down a demo deal with Elektra. The band members dropped out of college, moved to L.A., lost their original drummer and watched as the biggest tour of the band's career--an opening stint for Filter--fell through when Filter frontman Richard Patrick checked into rehab.

Through it all, Trapt has powered forward. The group releases its self-titled debut on Warner Bros. on Tuesday (Nov. 5), and its first single, "Headstrong," is already being pumped over the radio, featured on Fox Sports and used in video games NHL 2003 and Legends of Wrestling II. Trapt is preparing for a headlining club tour, which plays the Pound in San Francisco on Nov. 15.

Trapt got its start at Los Gatos High School. Inspired by bands like Papa Roach and LGHS brothers dredg, Trapt wrote songs and played high school talent shows. Soon Trapt played the Cactus Club, sharing bills with Snot, Spike 1000 and Papa Roach. Like so many San Jose bands, Trapt started out doing the rap-core thing but soon switched gears. Now heavy and clean, with melodies and sincere vocals, Trapt should appeal to fans of bands like Hoobastank, Alien Ant Farm and well, Incubus.

Vocalist Chris Brown, 21, grew up in Los Gatos listening to Genesis, Tool, Pearl Jam, Korn and Rage Against the Machine. Genesis? "Toward the end of my senior year and my freshman year of college, I started getting really into Pink Floyd and newer Genesis," Brown tells me. "When Phil Collins stepped in, the songs went from being really experimental to really solid."

He elaborates: "I like a lot of structure in my music. I don't try to write poetic lyrics. I just try to write concrete, to-the-point lyrics and have a song that kind of rocks through it and gets the point across with as much melody as possible."

But if Brown appreciates structure in his music, he doesn't like it in his life. "My experience is you go to high school, and they set your whole four years out in front of you, like 'This is what you're gonna do, and this is how you're gonna do it. And then you're gonna go to college, and then you're gonna do another four years.'"

The track didn't fit into Brown's plans. He dropped out of UC-Santa Barbara during his sophomore year to focus on the band. His dad, upset with this decision, cut him off, and Brown took jobs making sandwiches, telemarketing and selling lollipops. The frustrations come through on songs that spill over with rebellion, pity and uncertainty.

There's the desperate longing for independence, to break free: "I can't escape walking through these halls / Hard to find a place where there are no walls / And no lines begging me to cross / Only straight ahead, better move along" ("These Walls"). Who knew growing up in Los Gatos could be so traumatic?

Brown explains, "All the lyrics on the songs are about feeling like people are trying to maneuver your life and the way you're thinking so that you're doing it the way they want you to do it. That's what 'Headstrong' [is] about. It's pretty much that message of 'Go out there and be yourself and do your own thing and listen to yourself and make your own mistakes. If you follow what everyone else says, you're making their mistakes, not your mistakes."


Trapt took that attitude into the studio with producer Jim Wirt (Hoobastank, Incubus), whom the band worked with early on. "We did two songs, and then the label that had us record with Jim Wirt [Immortal] was like, 'Oh, it doesn't sound like Incubus enough.'"

Later, when Wirt was working with Elektra, Brown says the label offered Trapt a demo deal, but the band turned it down. According to Brown, Wirt did not approve. "Jim Wirt was a little ticked off by that and totally yelled at me. He's like, 'You're an idiot! You don't know what you're doing to your career!' He was totally bitchin' me out, and I was like, 'What the? What are you talking to me like this for?'"

Not long after that, Trapt got a manager, cut a four-song demo and attracted the interest of three more labels: Atlantic, Priority and Maverick. The band almost cut a deal with Atlantic but backed out at the last second because of issues of creative control. In the end, Trapt signed with Warner Bros.

"Warner Bros. signed us off the songs that we wrote," Brown says. "They felt like we were writing good songs with good structure and good lyrics and good melodies."

In winter 2002, Trapt spent 10 weeks in Vancouver, B.C., recording its album with producer GGGarth, a.k.a. Garth Richardson (Rage Against the Machine, Mudvayne, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kittie), who is notoriously meticulous in the studio.

"GGGarth's whole thing was making sure that everything was really in tune with itself," Brown explains. "If you laid down one guitar track, the other guitar track that you would lay over that would have to be exactly perfect tuning. So the first two weeks were really slow and carefully planned. That was kind of frustrating. Then, toward the end was crunch time. We had to totally get everything at the last week, which kinda sucked. But everything came out good."

The commercial potential for this South Bay group is high. Trapt's debut contains 11 tracks (plus an untitled dark, eerie instrumental that's hidden at the end of the album) of passionate, melodic rock that should have teenagers snapping up copies. Trapt is taking a different route than dredg, with a style that fits in easily and immediately on today's mainstream radio. Unlike dredg, Trapt broke out of the South Bay before a lot of people got to know the band. And where dredg is moody, cinematic and atmospheric, Trapt is hurt, confused and disillusioned.

Brown says, "I feel that when you're making music it's really important to have a message to give your listeners. Mine's not a preaching message. I think I'm just a normal person that goes through the same stuff that everybody else goes through. So I try to be as honest as I can."

Trapt performs Nov. 15 at 8pm at the Pound, Cargo Way at Third St., San Francisco. Tickets are $8. (415.826.9202)

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From the October 31-November 6, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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