by Alan Sculley & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & "H & lt;/span & eadstrong," a hit single from Trapt's 2002 self-titled debut CD, did more than give the group a major presence on modern rock radio. It also offered a window into the mindset of the band. The song, written about a record producer who wanted to reshape the group's melodic hard rock sound, also made a statement about Trapt's determination to follow their own musical path. "Allowing people to sway what style you want to go in and what songs you should write and all these other things, all you do is you just confuse yourself," said Trapt singer/guitarist Chris Brown. "Those [record label] people won't be there all the time. In the end, you've got yourself and you've got your band, and that's it."
Brown can talk with some authority about having to stand up for the kind of music Trapt wanted to make, because on a couple of occasions, the band ran afoul with the vision people outside of the group had for Trapt.
The band got an early chance to land a record deal with Immortal Records in 2000, only to see the label pass on signing the group because their sound wasn't enough like the label's most prominent signing, Incubus.
An opportunity to sign with Atlantic Records a couple of years later went south, Brown said, after the company insisted on using a producer who had differing ideas for how Trapt should sound. Despite the pair of setbacks, Trapt soldiered on, eventually finding the right match in Warner Bros. Records, which Brown said has made no attempts to get involved in the band's creative process.
"They knew we wrote good songs, and [that] we write all types of songs," Brown said. "We write hard songs and we write soft songs, and they're like, 'We don't even know what kind of hard-rock band is Trapt. They write acoustic songs, they write real hard songs'...They just know we write good songs. So they just sit back and let us write good songs and then they take it and do what they're going to do with it."
The extent to which the four members of Trapt are involved in the making of their records is apparent just in looking at the production credits of their two CDs. In both cases, Trapt had co-production credit alongside the producer hired for the projects -- Garth Richardson on the self-titled CD and Don Gilmore for "Someone in Control." The latter is something of a coup, as it's the first time Gilmore (whose resume includes producing albums by Linkin Park, Pearl Jam and Good Charlotte) has agreed to have a band co-produce a record with him. "It was cool that he knew that we were just as involved as he is in producing records, and he let us do that," Brown said.
On "Someone in Control," taking charge of the music meant solidifying the strengths of the first album more than trying to reinvent the band's sound. Once again, Trapt fashions a crunchy hard-rock sound that fits comfortably alongside the likes of Disturbed, Staind, Default and Nickelback.
What helps set Trapt apart from that pack is the group's emphasis on melody within their music. "Stand Up" (which was a top 10 hit on "Billboard" magazine's mainstream rock chart) uses a particularly aggressive set of guitar riffs to house one of the CD's most potent vocal melodies. "Repeat Offender," meanwhile, injects a bit of a pop flavor into its hard-hitting sound with a soaring chorus and a plenty of catchy guitar work.
Brown said audiences can expect an improved version of the band onstage. "You know, playing for two years straight is going to make you better at what you do," Brown said. "We're all better musicians, and my voice is a lot stronger than it was when we first started. That helped with the tracking of this record as well. We were able to express ourselves in the way we wanted to because we were better musicians, and the things that were going on in our heads we could express onstage with guitars and vocals."
Trapt at the Big Easy with Shinedown on Tuesday, May 16, at 7 pm. Tickets: $22.50. Visit www.ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.