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ESGAR FROM CHAPUTA! RECORDS - The Maharajas are one of our favorite bands


Following our posts to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Chaputa! Records, one of the boss of the label, Esgar, has kindly answered our questions 

First of all, happy anniversary to Chaputa Records, you've been around for 10 years, how does it feel to be starting to belong to the "old labels" ;) ?

Ahhh... this is a very good question, right from the start... Let's try to define "old"... 10 years may seem like a lot, and it indeed is, but it also depends on your perspective. For someone who is 20 years old, 10 years is half their life, but for someone who is 100, it's just a bit. Let's say the founders of Chaputa! are now at an age where they consider 10 years as "a bit." 🤣 But if the question is about the fact that we've been established for a few years, well, it's a great joy to know that we've been able to maintain this project for a decade and that we're among the "old labels."

You're based in Portugal, so can you tell us a little about the Garage-Punk scene there? Is it alive and kicking, and are there any bands who deserve to be better known? Are there any fanzines devoted to this music?

The Garage-Punk scene in Portugal is very limited. The country is small, both in size and population, and Garage-Punk is not a top concern for local young musicians. There are a couple of bands you might have heard of, like The Dirty Coal Train, Parkinsons, The Brooms, or The Act-Ups, but it's a very small scene. Maybe in 20 years, with the help of our editorial work, the scene will be different...

Let's go back ten years ago... what was the idea that prompted you to create the label?

Themoteo had played in a couple of bands, and I - Esgar - had run another label in the '90s called LowFly Records, which had been put on hold due to other projects. In 2010, with El Mariachi (António Manzarra), we used to DJ in bars and saved up our fees. Chaputa! started that way, as an investment of those savings. It wasn't a significant amount individually, but it was enough to make a record. And that's how it all began.

Can you introduce the members of the label and tell us where their taste for Chaputa's excellent music comes from?

Wow! Excellent musical taste?... Thank you. Where does our taste come from?... How do you explain it? From what we listen to?... From what we see?... It's hard to explain. It's what we like to hear. Chaputa! is run by the two of us: Themoteo and Esgar. Many of the album covers have been designed by Rui Ricardo, an illustrator and friend we've been working with for many years. He's an honorary "Chaputero."

Esgar (left) and Themoteo

Who came up with the name of the label and what does it mean?

Chaputa!... It's a fish. A cheap and not-so-good fish – the only way to eat it is deep-fried with tomato rice as a side dish... It's popular in some regions here in Portugal. We had a list - a long list of names, you know, the usual stuff, song or band references... But we decided to choose something that has nothing to do with rock and roll. It's just a fish. A "marginal" fish, you could say. It sounded good in any language, which was important because from the very beginning, the label wanted to focus on the international market. We added the exclamation point for aesthetic and affirmative reasons! It works well as a brand. Try saying "CHAPUTA!" out loud with an exclamation point at the end. It's impeccable, isn't it?... How can you not buy a record from a label that sounds so good?!

The first achievement was the Maharajas, who are still on your label. Can you tell us how you managed to get hold of them?

Oh, it was very, very simple. An email with an invitation and a positive response. The Maharajas are one of our favorite bands - of all time - and when we started the label, we immediately thought they would be one of our potential releases. Things are often much simpler than they seem. Working with the band was straightforward - I think we understand each other very well, and there seems to be the same spirit between what the Maharajas are as a band today and what Chaputa! represents as a label. Maybe that's why the working process is so simple and fluid. Despite the 10 years that have passed, we still haven't met them in person – Themoteo has seen them in concert, but I - Esgar - haven't. There have been a couple of opportunities recently, but they were impossible to fulfill. Maybe we'll have to make a trip to Sweden to meet them at the legendary Loch Ness pub?...

One of your most popular bands at the moment is Les Courettes, and you've also released one of their albums and a single. Tell us about this one.

We met Flávia Couri at Autoramas' concerts in Portugal. Groovie had released an album by Autoramas and promoted a couple of shows with the band. When Flávia moved to Denmark, married Martin, and The Courettes were born, we did what we did for many other releases: we asked if they wanted to release a record, as simple as that. It was a somewhat "complicated" release in terms of getting the right artistic vision for the cover, but the entire process ended up with a beautiful graphic image created by Chris Sick Moore, as suggested by Martin Couri. The release of volume 4 of the DoubleFeature series with The Jackets also happened naturally - we showed them the previous volumes and asked for a couple of songs. We were lucky they accepted!

Chris Moore designed the cover, and you also work with the other excellent artist Rui Ricardo and João Pimenta. Where does this taste for high-quality illustrations come from?

We know that the "packaging," the album cover, is very important in conveying what the music is about. When we started Chaputa!, the idea was to combine illustration and music - two things we love, and we wanted each record to be worth it for both. We have a critical eye towards other labels, and sometimes we don't understand how records from bands we love have such poorly designed artwork, as if the concern ended with the music. We've always wanted something more. These names, Rui Ricardo, João Pimenta... they are people close to us - it was natural to start with them. But over the past decade, many other artists have joined our ranks: Mik Baro, Chris Sick Moore, Hollywood Guthrie...

Do your artists have a say on the covers, or is it up to you, like the legendary 4AD label?

Each record is a different project. We like the art direction work, and sometimes we have a clear idea about the artwork, sometimes the band has an idea, and we work with them, sometimes we leave it to the illustrator's creativity... It depends on many factors. But all parties have to be satisfied. There have been a couple of releases that didn't move forward because we couldn't get the right illustration for the cover. We're very picky about that, but it's a point of honor that the band is satisfied.

You also have quite a few split records in your catalog, including one with the Nomads. Why do you like making them so much?

These split editions are very special to us. They were born not so much from the usual concept of a split record with one band on each side but as double releases for each band, double 7" records with a gatefold cover, somewhat inspired by double feature cinema sessions. Hence the inspiration for the cover illustrations, B-movies/Horror films. It's a collection. We like the idea of it being a series to collect, like a magazine but on vinyl with music. And they are very beautiful records! No doubt about it!

We see that most of the artists in your catalog remain loyal to you. What's your secret?

Despite all the work at Chaputa! being done in our spare time, we try to do things well. I think the bands recognize our effort and the love we put into what we do.

Do you have a collaborator in Helsinki? The Flaming Sideburns and the Toxics come from there.

No, and we've never been to Finland. The first Chaputa! release was The Maharajas from Sweden; at the beginning, we also had The Flaming Sideburns from Finland... I think word spread in the far north of Europe that there were guys in the far south releasing records, and things just happened...

With Curlee Wurlee, you've also touched on France. Cécile, their singer, is from our beautiful country. Do you also have any French artists that you appreciate and would like to include in your catalog?

We confess that we don't know the French scene very well... sorry. We met Cécile because, besides being in the band, she had her own label. We exchanged releases and invited her to release a record with us. And we liked the music, of course! It's not the usual "garage"... but it's very appealing with that special French touch.

Is there a Chaputa Rds identity? Which bands best represent what you like about your label?

Since there are two of us, we have some (slight) differences in musical taste. Sometimes a release aligns more with one of us, and sometimes with the other... But in general, what we both like is garage-punk-rock in all its forms.

Can you tell us what's easiest for you to produce, a single or an album? Is it profitable these days to have a label, and why don't you release CDs?

The production work for a 7" or an LP is almost the same. Of course, it's different for the band to record two songs or fourteen, but for us, the production part is similar regardless of the format. Releasing a CD doesn't make much sense - except when the band requests it (as was the case with The Strengsbrew), mainly for the object - a CD is not a "musical object" that appeals to us, and it's not a suitable format for our cover illustrations. Over the past decade, we've managed to work in a way where one release pays for the next one. In that sense, Chaputa! is not a serious label that can support a professional team. But we never wanted to be that; we just want to release the records we love.

Do you also organize concerts?

No. Although we've done it in the past, running the label takes up a lot of our time, and we don't want to divide our energies with organizing concerts. Besides, we prefer to stay true to what we do best.

What are your best memories of the label, and were there times when you felt like quitting? If so, where did you find the motivation to continue?

Of course, there have been sensitive issues and doubts at times, but we've managed to overcome them. The motivation comes from seeing that our editorial work has been recognized, so we must be doing something right.

Is there a band you haven't released that you regret not having done so? A missed opportunity that you regret.

Yes, but we prefer to keep that a secret.

What do you consider to have been the label's most important moments?

The first release, the start of the Double Feature series, and the creation of Isco Phonographics, our sub-label dedicated to reissues - The Maharajas, The Flaming Sideburns, The Makers... And this interview!

How did you get in touch with all your bands? If a young band wants to join your label, what do they have to do?

Releasing records at this moment is not an easy thing. Production costs have more than doubled since we started the label... Launching a record from a new band is much riskier nowadays. From the perspective of someone with a limited budget, why would they risk spending their money on something they don't know with so much music being released? New bands can only be released if they play, play, and play a lot. Or by taking a different approach - our "Monster Parade" series is an attempt to release new bands or projects, or at least at the entry level of the label. In this case, we decided to create a triple cover, one image that is only complete with all three releases in the series.

What are your projects and new releases?

We prefer to talk about these things when they are already a reality. But we can say that there's another series of singles with triple covers on the way - after "Monster Parade," we're preparing the "Robots Parade" series, also with Rui Ricardo designing the covers. We have another Chaputa!'s Double Feature coming, Volume 6 - at the time we're answering this interview, Volume 5 with Marcel Bontempi and Lola Lola is about to come out of the factory... and, just to put some pressure on the band, we'd love to release an LP by Lola Lola!

Thank you very much, Esgar !