White Apple Tree, self proclaimed as “the lovechild of determination and boredom,” is the brainchild of founder Ryan Marshall Lawhon. Originally destined for the NBA, Lawhon quickly switched gears when he was asked to play bass for his local youth group.
The musical journey outlasted that of the church, as Lawhon digested one instrument after another in a fevered attempt to master them all. Indie rock was the next logical step, and so a Tree grew in this SoCal forest in the form of Lawhon’s brother, Taylor and their good friend, Stefan Mac on skins.
With curious album titles such as Peach Hat (their latest) and Zombies Can’t Dance, White Apple Tree is a surprisingly energetic little bunch live – with dance-y beats rounding up a score of eclectic sounds, ever-changing and always soothing.
Ryan and I exchanged pleasantries recently on the eve of their “Peach Hat” release earlier this month – check it out:
Were there any incidents in particular that inspired the single “As Seen On TV?” Did something happen to someone you know?
Actually, my then six year old sister and I were watching T.V. when some crime show commercial came on (probably CSI,) and while not offensive to me, it crossed my mind that it was a bit intense for such a young person, and that twenty years ago, those images would never have been shown during a six o’clock commercial on network television.
Has the “Gossip Girl” appearance turned out to be a blessing or a curse? I mean, it obviously resulted in the Shiny New Guns tour, but does accessibility like that also set you up for the dreaded "sellout" accusation?
I would say both a blessing and a curse, but not necessarily in the “sellout” sense – we haven’t had that label thrown at us yet. It is positive in the sense it opened our listener base quite drastically, and still garners attention. The negative, at least for me, is that “Snowflakes” is not one of my favorite songs – though it is for many others – and some of the fans want us to essentially write more music that sounds similar, which I have no intention of doing.
Do you ever still play for the Church? What do they say about your newfound success?
I haven’t played for the Church in some time. White Apple Tree has never been a Church band, and won’t ever be. I played worship in the church before I started WAT and it was a great learning process – and I may return to it at a future date – but for now, I’m perfectly content playing with White Apple Tree.
How’s the tour circuit been? Any particularly brilliant pranks, spectacularly desperate for food on the road combos or interesting fan moments that you’d like to share?
Haha, we are not huge pranksters – I think because we’re not clever enough! I respect anyone who can pull of a great prank. Touring has been fantastic. Shows are as good as ever right now, despite the record industry’s tanking. All these college kids that are illegally downloading our album and others are all aware when these artists come to town, and they really do a great job of supporting them in that way, for the most part. I don’t think we have ever – nor will ever – have a desperate food instance, due to the fact that our bassist, Alex, seems to know the location of every fast food location in the U.S., along with any deals they have going at the time. We’re not sure what age his heart will hold out till.
Did I detect a decided religious slant to the “Youth HD” video?
Not anything that we intended.
You’ve stated “Rakehead” has a vibe like you haven’t reached your full potential; can you expound a bit on this?
I believe that as an artist, I’m still a great distance from reaching my pinnacle artistically, and I feel like “Rakehead” was a large step in the right direction. We listen to a lot of ambient, ethereal music and “Rakehead” is the closest we’ve come toward taking those sounds and concepts and translating them into cohesive pop songs. Nearly all of our new songs come from this mindset in one way or another, though most of our new songs are a bit cheerier than “Rakehead.”
Goals for the year, both personally and professionally?
To release our new EP, “Peach Hat,” on digital and vinyl and tour in support of it. I’m extremely proud of the four songs on this EP. I love “Velvet Mustache” as well – some of my favorite songs that we’ve written are on it – but the songs on “Peach Hat” are more in the style of what we listen to and the direction that we’re striving toward, so naturally I’m very excited about its potential, and in particular our new single, “Passed Out.”